Fandoms can be found virtually anywhere. No matter whether it is a movie franchise, a music genre or a solo artist, there will be a fandom for it. Although the members of such tight-knit communities feel a sense of belonging in their new found families, the initial struggle to fit in might be tough for a newcomer.
In the past, the major conflict associated with fandoms revolved around the internal and the external parties. The internal forces, namely the fans, took pride in being different while the external outside world felt alienated by those who did not conform to the standard lifestyle of a non-fan. People who did not understand fan culture found the passion for a strange person or a franchise unsettling, to say the least. The obsessive fascination with something, in most cases fictional, has always caused a split between believers and non-believers, as can also be seen in the religious discourse. In fact, some fandoms, like The Star Wars Fandom for instance, do perceive themselves to be a sort of religion with their own commandments, their own moral values and their own rituals.
Apart from minor troubles among members of a fandom which may stem from personal differences, one of the primary conflicts that can arise in such a group is based on knowledge and experience. Individuals who have belonged to a fandom for several years often feel irritated by the inexperience and insecurities of so-called newbies. Of course, in some cases, old fans welcome the new ones warm-heartedly and with open arms. This however is often superficial mannerism. Just like in high school, cliques and squads will form in these tight-knit communities. Gossip about a newcomer will stir up even the most loving fandom’s harmony, if a newcomer is said to be unfit or out of place in the club.
“Fake Fans” as the Personified Evil
Cultivating hatred against newcomers is when fandoms go wrong. Whether it is the Premiere League or Star Wars, Oldies often directly associate negative changes to the influx of new and allegedly phony fans. In soccer for example, a club’s growth does not solely equate to success on the pitch. It also means more international fans who are not aware of ancient, local traditions. When merchandise and fan chants start catering to a broader spectrum of new supporters, the Oldies may feel left out and alienated in their own club. Naturally, they will load all of the blame onto their unwanted peers. They may even go so far as to blame lost matches against arch enemies on those who are merely sitting on the bleachers, watching and cheering.
A very recent divide within a fan community could be observed when Star Wars Episode VII came to the theatres. The overall tendency appeared to be that old and true Star Wars lovers neither hated or loved the new movie, while new-found Star Wars fans left the movie theatres star-struck and in love with the fictional world in Outer Space. Fans who have been supporting the franchise ever since the first movies came out started uttering comments such as “These fake fans manage to sit through one episode and think they’re one of us” or “Now they’re turning Star Wars into a feminist saga. They’re taking away from the old, true legends of the universe!”.
When Change leads to Growth
What old fans, new fans as well as non-fans need to remember is that change will ultimately lead to growth. Overcoming emotional obstacles, embracing new members into a community and stepping out of one’s comfort zone will broaden an individual’s social horizon and be highly beneficial in countless ways. Life is never static, it is ever-changing. And that is precisely why holding a grudge against those who are less knowledgeable or others who choose to follow a different lifestyle as one’s own does not do anyone any good. Members of a large community will not always get along and new innovations may fail when they are first introduced to an audience but that should not stop anyone from trying to venture into the unknown – be it a fandom or a continuation of an old movie franchise.