Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Anna: Well, to be a fan of something is just… you’re into something, for instance a movie. You just love that movie so much that you would cosplay for it, you’d buy all the merch, you are… you name it. Everything related to that, you would be so in love with. You would just… want it. I don’t know how else to describe that. You’re just so into it. Like, for instance, I go through periods of [liking something]—if I watch the whole Star Wars saga, I’m like, “I love Star Wars so much! I need to wear the shirts. I need to bring back all my Funko Pops. I need to watch it all over again.” And then, after a week or so, I’m like, “Oh, okay, I’m not into it anymore,” and then weeks later, I’m back into it. I don’t know. So, [being a fan is] when you’re into it, I guess. You want to be a part of the movie or you want to dress up as [a character], you wanna buy all the merch. [You’re] being supportive of it, I guess. If you think about sports and stuff—if somebody really loves college football, they’re gonna get all the sports gear and go out to the game and cheer them on. I don’t know how else to describe it. That’s what I would think of because, for instance, I saw The Rise of Skywalker, and there’s all these Baby Yoda memes and all these Star Wars TikToks, and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I just love Kylo Ren,” and I need to go to Disney World and build a lightsaber. I just want to do all this and get a new shirt and buy the Baby Yoda, and a new Funko Pop—which I did, and I can’t wait for it to come in—and just… how hot [Kylo Ren] is… Adam Driver is hot.
[For a monologue/debate about Adam Driver/Kylo Ren, see Interview Extras & Bloopers.]
Is it a different experience being a fan of the character and being a fan of the celebrity that played them? Or, how different are you a fan of Kylo Ren than you are of Adam Driver?
Yes and no, because, for instance, when I think of Adam Driver vs. Kylo Ren, it’s like… when I first watched The Force Awakens, when he first appeared, I was like, “Oh, I don’t really like the dark side that much, he’s kinda cute as a villain,” but then I’m like, “Oh my gosh, he’s cute as an actor.” I guess when his newer movie came out, Marriage Story, it’s like a yes and no kind of situation. As each of the newer [Star Wars] movies went on, I’m like, “He probably has a good side to him. I like a bad boy going good sometimes.” That redemption. He was starting to realize and have that character development, and I’m just like, (sigh) I just love ya. Once [the character] got more appealing, I liked the actor.
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
The way I see a fan community is like AnimeNEXT, getting together with a group of friends to watch the premiere or next episode of a show or creating group chats and following pages online… So, I guess, in online terms, I’m part of certain Facebook pages. I liked The Flash page, because that’s one of my favorite shows, and I sometimes read the comments and share some of the posters for when they’re renewing the show. I don’t keep up with it too too much, so I’m kind of not really [in a fan community]… but yes, in that way, so more of a no than a yes.
So is it more in online spaces that you interact with these communities or offline?
Some of my friends are into the same things, so we talk about it, like, “Oh, the next episode’s coming on tonight,” and then we’ll watch it together. So, it’s one on one. And then, online, I just watch the comments. In that way, I’m just a scroller. I don’t really comment myself, just watch.
In that realm, how often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
Not very long (laughs). I just look and go on to the next thing. Now that I think about it, I’m not really a part of a fan community. I talk about it when the time comes or when someone [brings up or asks about shows I like]. I’m like, “Of course,” and we get into a big conversation about it. We talk and talk, but not like in big groups. It’s not an ongoing thing—it’s sporadic or when the topic comes up.
You did do this already, but if you would like to expand on the topic, please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces. I suppose if there are any positive or negative experiences that came up, for example.
If one of my friends [and I] are in the middle of an episode, or after the episode, and we just have to talk about certain parts. For instance, there was a crossover with The Flash recently. They brought in Ezra Miller, who does Flash in the movie Justice League, and I knew that was coming because I saw a spoiler online. When my friends and I got back over winter break, we had to talk about that part and how funny it was. Spoiler alert, if anyone’s listening. So we talked about all the specifics and geeked out a little bit, cried a little bit when we knew some characters weren’t returning…
[For a Live Fandom Interaction example, see Interview Extras & Bloopers.]
It was awesome because we were catching up, and it was just… Ugh, when I was by myself watching those last two episodes, I was like, “Fuuuuuck, my show’s not coming out for another two weeks.” Anyways, so that was a typical interaction. We just get into specifics, have mixed emotions, and it’s just a thrill talking about certain details and, moving forward, what’s gonna happen with the show. You could say this about anything—The Bachelor, I guess, or Supernatural, or comic books, or books. Anything like that. Something you’re so into and it’s… (sighs) it’s fulfilling.
Any negative experiences that come to mind?
Personally, I haven’t had any negative interactions, but I would think if two people were really into the same thing and they [debate over aspects of the content]... a negative interaction would be differences in how you view a scene or how you view a character… Like, “Oh, Kylo Ren is such an asshole,” and then some are like, “No, I think he’s very cute and I think he can redeem himself at one point.” Different viewpoints. There’s multiple viewpoints on one thing. To answer your question, I feel like [the different viewpoints] could create tension between friends, or any fans or people into the same thing. It’s a common one.
But, it could turn out positive, like a healthy debate, like us! (thumbs up) Boom. We fistbumped.
Yeah, that’s what I mean! A healthy debate. But some people are like, “I don’t wanna be your friend because you don’t like this. Fuck you. You don’t understand what I understand.” That’s with anything, not just fandoms. Different views, too. Foods, colors… Cats vs. dogs.
Describe your ‘history’ with a fandom. What made you join? What made you stay?
I guess if it piques interest, knowing what you like. I had no idea I would be big into superheros until I related myself to The Flash. It’s my big one because I have always wanted to have that time management skill and be [able to] just roll out of bed and (snaps fingers) I’ll be in that spot in a flash. I won’t have to worry about traveling in the morning or getting breakfast. I’ll have all the time in the world. So, that’s a good example because, I dunno, I wish I had that power, and he uses his powers for good. You find things that pique your interest. I also liked Avatar: The Last Airbender and [The Legend of] Korra. I liked the idea of bending the elements. Just like… I figured out myself a little bit. Like, for instance, music—alternative music like Foster The People and Maroon 5. I like that type of upbeat music. Until today it just gives me stress release to watch those shows a little bit in my free time, [away] from stressful adulting.
Is that what made you stay? The stress release?
Well, besides wandering all over YouTube and Facebook and all the socials… yeah. People make funny videos and you just see everybody else’s work out there. I’m trying to think why I stayed [with that]. [It’s] just stuff I like. It’s just a like, not… People consider it a hobby. Just tells me that I’m different. These are things I like, these are my set of things. On and off I find people wearing a Star Wars shirt or see a Star Labs sweatshirt—which, most people I know … like certain things, and I like these things. It makes people different—the things they like.
If you knew then what you know now as a fan in this community, would your fan experience be different? Would you join it again?
If I knew [about Flash], I probably would’ve binged it much sooner, and then I would be empty inside much sooner (laughs). I guess my thoughts would probably stay the same. It would get me more excited, but I’d be like, “Where’s more content? I want more content.” Yeah, I would want more from it. The show’s gonna end in May. If I jump forward to May from now and watch all the episodes, I’m like, “Fuck, it’s over.” The struggle of being a fan of something is if it dies off or if it ends for some reason, [you] feel like you need to find something else. Another thing to fill this gap, or just not fill it and be stressed, or get involved in some of the [fan content]—rewatch the episodes or do art. I’m just thinking of what I or anybody could do. Participating in the hype. I rarely rewatch episodes. Maybe it’s because I love enjoying them once and I want to see if the story’s going to keep going. To answer your question, I don’t think my view would change. Maybe if it’s a series where I was a little bit disappointed, like it was great in the beginning but it declined after that. If I knew that I’d be like, “I don’t know, maybe I’ll keep up with it for a certain point, then I’m gonna stop.” If it got really terrible, like Teen Titans GO!!!... Everybody talks about that. I don’t think people are joining back up after that [sequel show]. My point is that sequels just ruin the whole thing. If the story drags out or they remake it for no reason but a different cast and music, (sigh) I would watch the original and that’s it. Not gonna waste my time. I’ll get into something else.
How important are your fandoms to you? Why are they important?
It’s important to me to relieve stress and if I don’t get that, I build up more stress. This semester, I want to leave time at the end of my night or day to watch something I like—a show, or a movie I’d like to rewatch. Maybe I’d like to rewatch one or two of the Star Wars movies this weekend. Yeah. I want to give myself that time or else I’m not gonna be productive. I won’t be productive in my daily activities if I don’t have that self care.
You did kind of mention this, but has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so?
I would say that Flash, Avatar, and Spongebob, and all these things, make me think I’m a kid at heart. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m this age. When am I gonna grow up? Is this normal? Is this how it should be?” Not that I don’t keep it to myself, but it just makes me feel like I’m different and that the music I like… I feel like everybody likes the same music. You never hear too much of Foster The People, which is an alternative band, unless you go onto Spotify. I’m talking about the radio. You either hear today’s top hits or rap or religious music—that’s all the stations around me—and it’s very rare that I hear one of Foster The People’s songs. I guess I just feel different, and when someone brings [something I like] up briefly, I can relate to that. I can relate to you on a deeper level like that. I define it more as being a kid at heart.
When you first mentioned “being a kid at heart” you made it seem like there’s a stigma for liking this kind of stuff. Is there a worry you have over that?
I’m just worried that when I have my own family, I won’t be able to keep my stuffed animals anymore (laughs). Like, I’ll have a partner to snuggle up with instead of my stuffed animals, y’know? That’s a joke (laughs). But it gives me the opportunity to pass it on to my kids, the things I was into, and say, “Hey, I don’t know if you’re into sci-fi—typically things like Doctor Who—” I have a worry that if you’re not a child at heart, you take things too seriously and you stress out over life and you’re not enjoying yourself. I’m trying to think of the definition of being a child at heart. Like, things that I’ve watched my whole childhood, like Spongebob, and it never gets old to me. Not everybody’s a child at heart, which is fine, but people who are, try not to let that go too much, because then you’re letting a part of yourself go. Like, I know I’m very energetic and bubbly and optimistic, and I’m just excited when I see Flash and Avengers, and… I’m just like, “Damn, I wanna geek out over this.” Internally, I’m like Yessssss!! So the stigma… stigma being “is there a negative view on being a child at heart[/energetic/a fan]”—I would say yes because people are judgmental about everything. You can say it with everything, but with this, they’ll see you as not too serious, or “Oh my gosh, you’re just gonna say inside all day and do this? That’s not cool.” Like, “popularity”... I was never popular in high school. I was into Spongebob and all these cartoons after school. I preferred to watch cartoons over reality TV, even today. I mean, I also watch reality TV—I keep up with The Bachelor—but if I had to choose Bachelor over Spongebob? Uh-uh, I would rather watch cartoons and YouTube or Avengers. So yeah, [there’s] a negative view where people are like, “When are you gonna grow up?” But it’s okay, as long as you don’t let that affect your personality. Do more of what makes you happy. As long as you’re happy, I’ve always learned throughout life, don’t give a shit about other people’s opinions. Like, who the fuck cares as long as you’re happy and you’re being yourself, your true self. I’ve tried to please so many people, fit in, and it’s all gotten thrown back at my face, and I’m like, “Who the hell cares? Why am I looking for validity? Why am I looking for ‘fitting in’? Why?” Like, I’m my own person, I’m a leader. I know that. I’ve tried to lead people—marching band and stuff back in high school—and… they didn’t like my personality at all. They were all in their cliques, is what I’m saying. Everybody’s in their own cliques, and I don’t like that judgmental [attitude]. Everyone’s gonna judge, but you have to have the mentality of “I don’t give a fuck what you think as long as I care. It’s important to me. It’s what I think. You do you.”
Do you create content as a fan? Please describe.
Not really. I think of creating content as in art or… I don’t really know. But, I know the answer’s no because I just keep up with it. I consume it.
Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your experiences as a fan?
I like this page called Every Spongebob Frame In Order on Facebook, and literally it’s every Spongebob frame in order. It’s really funny. So I guess I liked a bunch of the stuff in a couple days, and they named me the Top Fan. There’s Top Fan badges you get to display. And then you lose them because you take a break from the page for a little bit. So yeah, Top Fan Badge—I’ve been offered that.
Put that on your resume (laughs).
(laughs) I’ve been more of a top fan for other pages, like guinea pig pages. Ooh, that could be a fandom. I’m in the fandom of guinea pigs! I love guinea pig memes. I miss my animals so much at home.
Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences?
I think I partially answered this earlier. I was into Supergirl at some point, [and] I saw Flash, and I’m like, “I need to watch Flash.” So that led me to Flash, and it led me to Spider-man and all these other heroes. So I would say it’s led me to other things. Avatar led to Korra… My music on Pandora led me to Of Monsters and Men, Two Door Cinema Club… I made a playlist of liked songs on Spotify and it led me to all these other songs recently over the break. It just keeps leading to more and more songs. I like a lot of acoustic.
Is it easier to have that kind of transition into new interests with technology?
Yeah, that makes the transition easier because, if you think about it, [you] could replay all [your] songs over and over and over and never get sick of them, which is crazy. So, if that wasn’t an option—if it didn’t keep throwing in songs you’ve never heard of before, you’d just still be stuck on the same thing and be like, “What else is out there and how do I find that?” It’ll find similar things. Netflix is good for that. If you watched Avengers: End Game, they’ll find detective shows or action-packed thrillers. It led me to Justice League and all these other Marvel movies at the time. Blacklist was a match with Flash. So yeah, it makes it easier.
Do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
If the topic came up—because I know some people at my work [will bring up shows and movies]—I would just jump in the conversation and just say my point of view. So, I guess you could say a lot of people are into the same things. And if I [just] meet someone, no, but if I get to know them more, I’ll be like, “Oh my gosh, do you like this show?” or “Have you seen this movie? It’s out right now.” When I get to know people, [I’ll ask about their interests], like getting to know a person.
Would the stigma you mentioned earlier play into that?
For Foster The People, I don’t always tell people, I would just put on the music and see what they think, if they like the music or not. Not too many people I know are into the same music. I wouldn’t say, “Hey, I love this song,” but not everybody likes that song. Like, that kind of deal. So yes, there’s stigma, because somebody’s like, “Oh, I have a different view of that.” I guess the example I’m looking at is if you first met the person, like a roommate or a [new] significant other, and you’re trying to get to know them and you really like this one thing and don’t know how they’re going to react to it. So you kinda wait it out a little bit, and I guess when you really know the person is when you… say you like Spongebob. I’m saying this is a yes and no question. So that’s the yes, but no because of what I said earlier about “Don’t give a shit” sometimes. If you kind of know that person, who the fuck cares? That’s you. Say you like Maroon 5. Say you like Supernatural. Say, “Hey,” if it’s a roommate, “I’m gonna watch my favorite show this time, this night. You can join me or not. What’s your favorite show? We’ll watch that together, too.” And, just in general, there’s stigma around everything regardless because everybody’s different and has their opinions, own views. So, with anything, there can be sarcastic judgments.
[For an example of Discourse/Stigma/Judgments, see Interview Extras & Bloopers.]
Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
Like, if somebody comes up to me and says they love Avengers or if I hear them talking about Avengers and they love it so much, would I say that I also like that? Yes. [If I saw someone with a Star Wars shirt], I’d compliment them like, “Nice shirt, great show.” I’d comment, and then the comment turns into a conversation. You kinda know from the hints of shirts—like I was wearing a Detective Pikachu shirt to class last night. I also have an Avengers shirt, Justice League—people were like, “Cool shirt.” I more or less comment and wear merch, and then if somebody comments, I’d be like, “Yeah, I like that stuff.”
Would there ever be a moment where you wouldn’t approach?
Hmm… I’d kinda just let it be. I don’t really ask people, I’d just let it be. I’ll do me, and I’ll look cool. I dunno, I don’t really catch myself, really. I don’t think about it.
Alright! Well, that’s all the questions that I have. Was there anything you wanted to circle back to or continue to rant about? Or something you want to say to the world?
I guess you could say that there’s always a balance. Everyone should have a balance and not sweat the small stuff—
How dare you quote me from yesterday. (laughs)
Shhh. I appreciate when friends tell me advice I’ve told myself thousands of times. Seriously, I’ve told myself, “You need balance in the world, like Avatar.” (laughs) Don’t let people dampen your style. If you’re into… I dunno, if you’re really into guinea pigs like me, don’t let someone who’s a non-pet lover be like, “Oh, they’re gross. They’re glorified rats.” Don’t let that ruin your liking and passion about things you like, like drawing, music, stickers, technology, hobbies in general. Sports and whatnot. Just do you and do more of what makes you happy, I guess. Yeah. [Also], the “fandoms” as you define it—I say they are my likes. I define fandoms as my likes. My likes are my likes. When you talk about them, somebody else will think about them and be like, “Hey, I’m gonna watch that, too. I’m gonna try baking. Gonna try this like of yours. This fandom of watching baking shows. I’m gonna try that.” Spreading [fandom] to everybody, I guess. I don’t hide what I like, I just don’t [broadcast it]. People see what I wear and comment, and it’s cool. My shows are for any time of day and my free time is well spent.