Informative Speech: Fandom

Okay, show of hands – who here has ever heard of 50 Shades of Grey? Everyone, right? If you have, you’ve inadvertently stumbled across fandom. Today I’m going to explain what exactly fandom is, how it started, and how it has managed to make its very own subculture, complete with its own language.

First, it must be said that there is a difference between being a fan of something and being part of a fandom. Fans are casual in their interest – they will tune in from week to week to watch the show or pre-order the next book in the series, but they don’t devote any more time to it than to set their DVR or actually enjoy the material.

A member of a fandom is an entirely different story. For a member of a fandom, they invest their time and emotions to their interest. And it’s a phenomenon that’s been going on for over a century.

One of the facts I find most surprising about fandom culture is that it’s not new or recent by any stretch of the imagination. Though I only stumbled upon fandom in the last few years, fandom culture has actually been around for decades.

The first modern fandom is considered to be Sherlock Holmes. That’s right, there were fans sitting around as early as 1887, writing about these beloved characters in the first recorded cases of fan fiction. In 1893, fans of Sherlock Holmes even held public demonstrations of mourning when the titular character was “killed”.  Let me do the math for you – 125 years this has been going on. And for the record – Sherlock Holmes is still being written about today. I saw a story about him that was updated this morning.

The thing about fandom is that it can be for fans of literally anything. The most common and mainstream fandoms tend to be related to television shows, movie franchises and book series. They even have nicknames – you’ve probably heard of some of them:

  • Twilight fans are Twihards,
  • Firefly fans are Browncoats;
  • for Star Trek there are Trekkies
  • and Dr. Who has its Whovians.
  • Janeites are those who adore Jane Austen
  • Whedonites worship at the alter of Joss Whedon – figuratively, of course.
  • And yes, there are even Bronies – fans of My Little Pony.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

But there are less mainstream fandoms as well – for musicians and bands, anime, plays and video games. Even celebrities.

And when I say that fandom is a culture, that’s not a lie. It’s so expansive it has grown to have its own language. My friend Diana and I, though we have zero fandoms in common, can hold an entire conversation about the phenomenon without anyone understanding. It’s not their fault, they’re just not part of the culture.

So if you hear a strange conversation about a new ‘fic’ someone read, know that they’re probably talking about fanfiction – or fictional stories – anywhere from a few words long to a few hundred thousand – about a show or movie or book. In case you didn’t know – that’s how 50 Shades of Grey was born. It was originally published – probably on a site like or Archive Of Our Own as Twilight fanfiction.

Or maybe you’ll hear the word ‘ship’ but no context clues to think the conversation could be about boating. They’re probably talking about two characters being in a relationship, or wanting characters to be in a relationship.

And beyond that, there are OTPs, or One True Pairings – the couples a fan thinks should belong together.

These ‘ships’ or OTPs may or may not be canon, which means they take place in the continuity of the fandom’s universe or ‘verse. If something is ‘canon’ it means it happened on the show, or in the book series, et cetera.

But something may also be ‘fanon’ or “fan canon”. That means that a fact which doesn’t necessarily exist in the universe or continuity of the show has been accepted by the fans as fact – such as minor character backstory or the first name of a character.

I know this is a lot to hear, especially if you’ve never been exposed to fandom before. Believe me, I understand. The first time I stumbled across a fandom I was googling every other word to understand this new language.

The thing about people that take part in fandoms is that you may never know that it’s a hobby of theirs. While I’ve always been a television addict, I’ve never had anyone that truly shares my passion about the same shows.

But then I joined Twitter and could follow the writer’s room of my favorite show. I thought – no big, I love to write, I wonder what their process is. And then I started recapping television shows for a small blog. And then I befriended THOSE writers on Twitter. And then I joined tumblr and all bets were off.

It grew slowly, and steadily, my delve into fandom. And now, after watching an episode of my favorite show, I no longer turn off the TV and get ready for bed. Now I log onto Twitter and see what is being said about it, and complain about how many FEELINGS the show has given me.

Fandom can be a bit of a life ruiner, but at the same time it’s rewarding to connect with people about my interests. It’s nice to live in a world that makes it easy to connect, and make friends. Now you don’t have to trek to San Diego to take part in Comic Con or Austin to go to the Austin Television Festival. Now if I want to talk about my crazy theories about ANYTHING I can take to tumblr or twitter, and immediately find some camaraderie.

Fandom is a strange concept to some. It’s even a strange concept to me, and I take part in them. But they can also be rewarding. And if you’re still lost, think of it this way – do you have a sports team that you’re devoted to? Do you take part in fantasy football or baseball? Then you, my friend, are also part of a fandom. Welcome.


Gambino is a Mastermind

For as much as I love music, I never go to concerts. Honestly, I’ve only ever been to two in my life. One was in August of 2008 when I went with my brother to see Radiohead at Blossom Music Center. The second was Sunday night when I went with Amanda to see Donald Glover / Childish Gambino at the Black Cat in DC.

Even though I finished with finals on Thursday of last week, I stuck around DC three extra days so I could see the sold-out concert. It was a great decision. He delivered a nice blend of stand-up with rap.  Donald Glover spent about a half an hour doing jokes about Justin Beiber, Reggie Bush, and being co-workers with Ken Jeong and Alison Brie.

The second part of his act, after a brief interlude of a couple videos reminiscent of his time with Derrick Comedy, was his music. He rapped and sang for a solid hour. Most of his songs were tracks from his self-released EP.  The nice thing about a Childish Gambino show is that it’s not just him standing up with a producer on a computer in the background making beats. Instead, he’s got a drummer, bassist, violin player, and guitarist/computer mixer. His clever lines make it pretty obvious he’s got a brain in his head. I mean, the guy did graduate from Tisch School of the Arts with a degree in Dramatic Writing. He also had a job writing for 30 Rock before he was 25. A fact which he references during one of his songs.  A lot of people give Glover flak for being a “white rapper.” And, while he did write a lot of material for Jack Donaghy, and despite a pasty-skinned girl from the suburbs like me liking him, the crowd was pretty diverse.

In the end, he performed a high-energy show. I laughed, I danced, I sang along. Okay, and maybe I ogled a bit, too. What’s a girl to do? But all in all, he put on a great show. I’d go see him again in a heartbeat. A very quick, fluttery, excited heartbeat that belies how very in love with him I am.

It’s fine.

This is a video of him performing at the Black Cat during the encore. No, my spot wasn’t quite as good. I was about three rows of people back and stage left. And, yes, he did the entire encore shirtless. It was the best going away present ever.

Midterms Are Here and I’m Still Smiling

Despite that it’s midterm season, I’m in a pretty good mood. I’ve reconciled with the fact that I’ll be spending most of this evening reading, underlining, highlighting, memorizing and, quite possibly, flash-carding. It’s fine. I’ve also got to come up with a paper topic and clear another with a professor. Then study some more, write a literary review, yadda yadda yadda, no one cares.

You can’t bring me down. The weather is perfect: it’s 60 degrees and raining with a dash of thunderstorm thrown in. I couldn’t be happier. Also, we’re getting a dorm guest at the end of this week. Amanda’s best friend is spending his spring break in DC and staying in my room. It’s basically going to be a week-long slumber party. I couldn’t be more thrilled. And, while he really get’s here on Friday, it’s not actually that far away, because, as Amanda edified me: Tuesday’s doesn’t count, because sometimes it’s a leap year. Perfectly logical.

But maybe my favorite thing that I’ve discovered recently is this site, Save the Words. It’s basically a project trying to keep more obscure words in use. You can adopt a word, get a word on a t-shirt, learn stuff. It’s just the best.

Generation X, Y, Z… HP?

I’m 19 years old and I never received my letter from Hogwarts. I’ve been waiting for 8 years. I’m starting to worry that I might actually be a muggle. I’d settle for squib at this point.

Being born in 1991, I am technically on the cusp of belong to both Generations Y and Z. In reality, however, I belong to the Harry Potter Generation.

Sure, I’m fluent in text-speak, can’t remember a time without cell phones or laptops, jump to the internet for the most basic queries, can barely remember using a modem for the internet… hell, I can barely remember not having the internet. Regardless, I’m not truly a member of Generation Y (1982-1994) or Generation Z (1991-2009).

~            ~            ~            ~           ~            ~          ~

I was 7 years old when the first Harry Potter book was released in the US. I picked up my first copy when I was 9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the first book I can remember buying new from a bookstore – it was a present from my mom to read in the car while moving from Alabama to Ohio. This is a boy – a complete set of extended family, friends, enemies, mentors and teachers – that I’ve grown up with. While Harry Potter does get credit for re-engaging an apathetic generation in reading, that’s not why it’s famous to the kids who read it.

I started reading Harry Potter when I was 9 and he was 12. He was only ever a couple years older than me, in print. In the movies, we were even closer in age. I’ve literally grown up with him; I’ve snuck down the 3rd floor corridor on the right hand side, traipsed through the Forbidden Forest, punched Draco Malfoy in the face, cowered from the Death Eaters, cheered from the stands of the Quidditch World Cup, sobbed when Sirius, Dumbledore, Hedwig, George’s ear, Fred, Lupin, Tonks, and even Snape died – any emotional high or low that Harry’s been through, I felt it too.

I’ll forever resent my generation for regressing in terms of vocabulary, but I’ll champion the word “muggle” being added to the international lexicon. I won’t forget standing in a parking lot at 2 am with my friends, pretending that Roman Candles were actually wands, and that the sparks shooting out were actually related to the spells we shouted. I’ll still try to “accio” a book from across the room, “muffliato” when I’m trying to tell a secret, “sectumsempra” my brother when he gets on my nerves or “levicorpus” my roommate on April Fool’s Day.

The thing about Harry that bothers me the most, though, is that his age is a lie. Not in the sense that he’s timeless – though he is – but in the fact that this past July 31, Harry actually turned 30! In reality, he’s 11 years my senior. It feels like, just a little bit, Harry betrayed me. It’s like that episode of Friends: The One with the Ick Factor in which Monica, at 26, starts dating a guy she thinks is 22. She, lies, telling him that she’s also 22, before finding out that he’s actually only 18 – resulting in an eight year age gap.

I’m just saying, Harry, you took advantage of me a little bit. You cheapened our relationship. Regardless, you could pull a Malfoy – stomp on my face, cover me in an invisibility cloak, and leave me on a train for God knows how long – and I’d still find it in myself to forgive you. Because, Harry, you’ll always be my Chosen One.

A Ghost is Born

Today was one of those days that rendered me completely unproductive. At least I have the excuse of being sick. So, between cooking dinner, making cookies, lounging around, watching re-runs and reading, my mom and I had a heart-to-heart about life choices. You see, the other day I started  my study abroad application and it’s kind of freaking me out. As sure as I am that I want to study abroad and that I want to go to Sussex, the broader task of planning out my future is kind of overwhelming. Case in point: I just spent the last couple of hours researching the possible law and graduate schools I might want to attend. I sussed out what classes I want to take during the rest of my undergraduate work ages ago. The problem is, for all the time I spend meticulously planning my future, I can’t seem to put the effort in to making sure these future possibilities will happen. And I can’t help but feel that that’s maybe because I keep re-evaluating what I want to do with my life.

It all comes back to the most poignant lyric I’ve ever heard:

His goal in life is to be an echo.

That’s always resonated strongly with me. It’s my goal, too. Now when I question what I want to do, I fall back on that one simple line. My cousin asked today for the deeper meaning of it, and I couldn’t quite phrase it properly for her.  It has to do with my desire to be remembered, to have made a difference during this life. It’s not that I want fame, because I don’t. Not at all. But I do want to have some lasting effect on society or someone once I’m not around any longer.

I want to be a photojournalist, regular journalist, translator, novelistpress secretary, proprietor of Spines & Crusts, lawyer, speechwriter? I can’t even keep track half the time. Arabic is proving much more difficult than I ever initially imagined. The last time I took a language it came naturally. I expected the same to be true. New language, new set of rules, huh? I think part of the challenge is the fact that this is the first time I’ve ever really needed to put effort into learning and that kind of scares the crap out of me. Because now I’m not just learning, I’m learning how to learn.

It seems like with the end of this school year Arabic and I might make our fond farewells. There will be plenty of time to evaluate that decision in the year off I will inevitably take from the language (partly because of the semester during which I’ll be abroad and partly because GW doesn’t offer the next level of Arabic I’ll need the following spring). That’ll be good for me, I figure. Let me sort some stuff out. I know I’m sticking with politics for the long haul, and media/communication as well. I think my focus will turn from the language aspect of Arabic towards national security and defense. But, hey, I’ve got plenty of time.

Listen well, and you’ll hear my aspirations:

I Dreamed a Dream

Aaaah! I did so much today! Not really, but it seems like it!!!

So, I went to Congressman’s office today, like normal, and it was fairly straightforward. Sorted some mail, forwarded some faxes, saw some Air Force officers (in their DRESS BLUES!!! Do you know how much I love Air Force dress blues, ’cause it’s a lot. And, yes, that appreciation can be blamed on Stargate SG-1.) Hmdmdm. Oh, I went to a hearing that Congressman was chairing about mental health and suicide rates in veterans and there were a bunch of neuro-scientists there. Oh, yeah, and Patrick KENNEDY!!! And Walter Jones from North Carolina. But still, I was in the same room as a Kennedy (Unfortunately dubbed the “ugly duckling Kennedy by friend.)!!!

Most importantly, however, is the fact that I drafted a statement today. No matter that it was about arthritis. No matter that a lot of the writing was rewording a previously written response to constituents on the subject. No matter that I only had to weave in information about the bill itself. I WROTE A STATEMENT FOR THE CONGRESSMAN TO READ ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE!!!! This is officially my first foray into political speechwriting. I really wanted to share the news.

On a sadder note, housing confiscated the extension cord that runs from my wall outlet over the door to my power strip. I now have no access to my tv, vcr, or printer. The cable for the tv that was strung between bedrooms, however, seemed to have been perfectly acceptable. So it goes. I’ll get a surge protected extension cord tomorrow. After my Arabic test that involves drawing pictures of crocodiles. Ain’t college grand?

Don’t Stop Me Now

“You must all go to Brighton. That is the place to get husbands.” Lydia Bennet, Pride & Prejudice

If all goes according to plan, this time next year I’ll be moved into my new dorm at the University of Sussex. See, this past weekend was move-in for students at the University of Sussex, which marks the time for me to get ridiculously excited.

For me, though, move-in will occur in early September. From there I’ll take one 3-week course before moving on the the fall semester starting in October. I’m already spending way too much time poring over the Sussex website trying to decide which classes to take. While I often chastise myself for not choosing to go to Egypt to practice my Arabic, for me going to England feels right.

I’m a self professed anglophile, but that’s not the only thing that draws me to Brighton. The school looks fantastic; the location splendid; and the atmosphere perfect. One of the great things is that I’ll be able to get out of the city. As much as I love DC, I kind of miss grass, trees, wind, color, silence… The other day I had the urge to run around in a field and then climb a tree. You really can’t do that here without crossing state lines. Oh, hey – that’s actually in my weekend plans for once.

One of the other many draws of Sussex is that it’s in the UK. I’ve travelled so little in my life that being only an hour from London means I’ll be able to hop over to mainland Europe fairly easily. I’ve already started my list of places to see, most of which are cliched. But that won’t stop me from going anyway.

Aaaaaaaaaaah, the accents. Swoon.