Surviving the Fandoms of Others
by Emmi Miller
So your partner wants to be Tyrion Lannister. That's great, but you don't know who Tyrion is. How do you deal with it when you don't share fandoms?
In 1893, one of the earliest public expressions of a modern fandom reached an impressive, if obsessive peak, with public demonstrations of mourning for the recently deceased fictional investigator, Sherlock Holmes. Whilst some people clearly got carried away, writing letters of condolence to the equally fictional Doctor John Watson, it paved the way for the huge fandoms of today to become as big and as intense as they are. Indeed, the sustainable energy of people’s love for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation has lasted over a century, with people still pouring their money and time into TV and film adaptations, fan-fiction and merchandise.
Star Wars, arguably the most expansive and financially lucrative of today's fandoms, probably accounts for the largest portion of fans who have more than a casual interest. The franchise, on the surface a pair of film trilogies, goes much deeper than a brief glance can give credit to. The extended universe includes several novels, countless works of fan-fiction, games, spin-off TV shows and as many products as you can stick a lightsaber on: from fast food to the sticky Jar-Jar tongues that were banned from my primary school after someone got hit in the eye with one. A quick search on Youtube will reveal the thousands upon thousands of contributions and expressions of devotion.
Photo: Anthony Georgis at anthonygeorgis.com. Nice one, sir.
And now fandoms are springing up left, right and centre. You can be a Bronie, Potterhead, Twihard, Trekkie, Whovian... if you can find out more information than what's shoved on the screen, you'll probably stumble across a dedicated group as well.
I don't 'do' fandoms.
Probably something with the fact that I don't really do television, and the amount of fiction I'm actually reading is surprisingly small. So I, like a proportion of people out there in the media-soaked world, don't have a fandom... but plenty of people around me do. This can affect my relationships in one of two ways. I can let it divide us, or I can just endure their obsessions.
Fandoms make giving gifts easy
Look, just get them the throne and get it over and done with. Only ten thousand dollars on Etsy if you search for ASOIAF. What are you, a cheapskate?
Assuming you pick the latter if you're in the same place (or if you're in the similarly unpleasant situation of loving someone who is invested in a fandom you hate), here's a few tips you might find helpful. Fandoms, especially ones a friend is really interested in, can make life a lot easier when it comes to gift-giving. Books, mugs, clothes... all the standard stuff but a little bit better. If it has Darth Vader on it, it suggests a small amount of thought. And it's the thought that counts, right? Cheaper options than the expensive branded merchandise can still be had. If you're creatively minded you could draw their favourite character (bonus points for drawing their favourite ship) or write them a short piece of fan-fic. Even if you're not THAT creative, what Harry Potter fan wouldn't love a printed, bound and decorated copy of My Immortal (supplied with a red pen, so they can 'fix' it when they get bored)?
Dip your toe into fandom... the water's warm
If you can bear it, do it to see them smile.
If you want to, ask them to show you their favourite episode/book/film. It's a great bonding experience for couples, and they'll probably love the chance to share all the extra knowledge they've obtained. Of course, if you don't want to watch the films, don't suggest it. Even as a joke. Even as part of a deal to get your boyfriend to watch the Korean horror film you've been wanting to see. Not that I made that mistake or anything...
Fandom quotes will make others happy
Remember that time when the Sherlock fandom got bored and started replacing essential words in Sherlock quotes with 'pancakes'?
Accept that they're probably going to talk about and make references to their fandom a lot. Make your peace with it. And it wouldn't hurt to remember a couple of things so you can make references back to them. If it really annoys you that they do it, by all means ask them as a friend to tone it down. But if it doesn't harm anyone, you might as well get an unexpected smile because you quoted a famous line at an appropriate moment.
Keep your eyes peeled. The internet is full of fandom related nonsense, and no matter how hard your dear one tries they will never find it all on their own. Sharing pictures and videos that you think they might like can be a great way to cheer them up after a rough day.
They've got their thing, you've got yours.
Accept that as you don't have to do everything together, this can be one of their 'things'. This is especially true if you're in a romantic relationship with the dedicated Game of Thrones fanatic. Let them have their time with it, and take the opportunity to do something they wouldn't want to do.
Costume parties FTW
Everything about this is brilliant. Skill. Dexterity. Creativity. Redface. Binbags. Binbag costumes are cool.
Costume parties can become so much more fun. If one of you is fairly creative and the other fairly obsessive, magic can happen. For example, a uni Star Wars night, an hour, two red lipsticks, an eyeliner, four bin bags, a stapler and a double ended lightsaber yielded a charming Sith costume. I'm not sure what a Sith actually is. But it seemed to impress everyone else there, and was one of the better costumes; not counting the people who have clearly spent months of their lives and hundreds of pounds of their student loans gathering 'proper' costumes. (I almost went to that club night in a pair of Disney Mickey Mouse ears, but the chances of being lynched were too high for my liking).
Fandoms lead to skills...
Fandoms can sometimes lead to some strange places. They're little gateways into wider worlds. You might have a friend who is awesome enough to be able to write in Elvish. You might have a flatmate who has accumulated enough Harry Potter spells that they're suddenly conversational in Latin. You might have a friend who has spent far too long pretending the mop is a lightsaber. That one is a hoot at parties: less so when they're supposed to be cleaning the kitchen. Even if you're not interested in the intricacies of the stories, you can still have some fun chasing them around the flat with a broom and making zoomy noises. Bonus points if you can beg/borrow/steal a black and a brown bathrobe for the occasion.
Most importantly: don't expect them to 'grow out of it'. If obsessions with Sherlock Holmes have been creating such passionate reactions (and probably irritating a few spouses) for over a century, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, My Little Pony, Twilight and all the thousands of other fandoms to stop and decide that they're not that interested anymore.
Now please excuse me, I'm off to twirl a roll of wallpaper around like a lightsaber and referee another debate about which person belongs on the Iron Throne.
Fire and Blood, or something like that...