**Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Many people were expressing different types of love over this past weekend with Mardi Gras, Valentine’s Day, Singles Awareness Day, and a relaxing President’s Day off on Monday, for some. Many indulged their whims and desires for revelry, costume, food, chocolate, stuffed animals, and other people. Not ones to be left out were ardent fandoms around the globe.
Many days out the year people devote their time, passion, and monetary resources to expressing their deep commitment to the characters and worlds of books, movies, sports, music, art, and the lives of individual celebrities. That ardent desire to emulate and keep track of events dealing with a specific outlet of entertainment is called fandom. According to Merriam-Webster, “[a] fandom is a group of ‘all of the fans (as of a sport)’ or ‘the state or attitude of being a fan’.”
Perhaps the most relevant example would be the large drove of excited, curious readers packing out theaters this past weekend to see E. L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The first installment was brought to life on the big screen. Various news outlets quote financial forecasters, predicting a box office record-breaking $80 million plus grossing for the “Fifty Shades of Grey” opening weekend. According to USA Today, the studio kept it modest and predicted about $67.9 million. Although the audiences were not limited solely to fandoms, the devotion displayed is an excellent testament to how much support goes into being part of a fandom.
What probably first comes to mind when people think about fandoms are fantasy football matches, cosplayers elaborately decked out in costume at anime or manga conventions, people spending hundreds of dollars on robes, replica wands, and butterbeer at Harry Potter World in Orlando, or even something as tame as writing or reading fanfiction. Perhaps an apt synonym for fandom would be a subculture. Some people periodically act out the daily lives of characters or a world that captivate them, but all of the aspects of fandom participation are not quite so modern.
The concept of fandoms is not really new. Although few official studies have been conducted on the matter, fandoms are popularly recognized as dating back to the early 20th century. Some of the earliest labeled fandom activity arose in response to the original publications of Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories (1890-1928). According to a piece from www.denofgeek.us, a site monitoring popular culture’s reactions to genre television, movies, comic books, and many other forms of major entertainment. People began writing letters to enlist the help of the famous Sherlock Holmes to, “help them find their purses,” and hire them to be the detective’s housekeeper. Apparently, people even began sending letters to his fictional dwelling of 221B, rumored to secretly exist. (No time or funds are currently available to travel to London and find out.) Once author Arthur Conan Doyle attempted to kill off Sherlock in “The Hounds of Baskerville,” but people began producing their own continuations of the character in what would now be termed, fanfiction.
Whether 1890 or 2015, people have clearly found an avenue to express their love for something or someone in traditional ways: love letters, special outfits, and near obsession being some of the most familiar methods of exchanging valentines. Fandoms are often called subcultures, but really they are just another celebration of immense love.
(c) The Current 2015