Content & Community
This section has all 'C' headings for the sole purpose that it was almost entirely coincidental and made me giggle.
The relationship between a content (be it book series, boy groups, BDSM, Beanie Babies, whatever) and its community as a whole is often one of reverence, as I’ve seen. Makes sense that a fan community for a thing would hold the thing in high regard, huh? I’d make an analogy to religion and followers, but let’s save that precarious argument that could get me in trouble for my interview with Arya and a future, well-versed discussion, maybe. In the meantime, let’s look at some different elements that can exist in the space between the two.
Canon vs. Fanon
This theme encapsulates the creation and distinction between the actual aspects of the content (canon) and expansions of the content (fanon; fan works, theories, “head canons,” etc.). A fan community could have multiple sects (depending on size, complexity of the content, etc.) that focus on or believe different fanmade concepts regarding that original content. Sometimes, the line between the two can be blurred, as is discussed in Mandark’s interview, while other times, discussions of canon vs. fanon content, as well as different elements of fanon content, can spark disagreements and animosity amongst fans. Or it could be a pretty benign time where people speculate who in a ship would be the one to kill the spider. ((Useless Note: wouldn’t be me.))
The age of social media (in its many [plat]forms) has allowed for fandom to exist in a massive, amalgamative… mess… with everyone feeling the need to shoot their own opinion into the void of the internet. Which. Is fine. But as was discussed in Joanne’s interview, all those opinions readily available, as well as the functionality of Twitter, Tumblr, etc., leads to fans curating the content they view. (And that’s with anything, really, not just fandom.) Doing so, while being well within a person’s right to filter out content deemed triggering or problematic or just… unwanted, creates this filter bubble of only the content that person wants to see. It’s an echo chamber. You got your pros and your cons for this theme. A… dichotomy, if you will.
I’m gonna put this in big capital letters. YOU CAN BE A FAN OF SOMETHING AND WANT IT TO BE BETTER. It is a common misconception in fandom that a person critiquing or criticizing an aspect of a content is a “hater” and therefore deemed “not a fan.” If a content has elements or themes that seem like they could be improved upon, constructive criticism is certainly a thing. That’s how content grows with time. Becomes more inclusive. Has less terrible tropes. Doesn’t adhere to society’s heteronormative misogynistic gender conforming trends of—you see where I’m going with this? Creative works—hell, and even fandoms of stuff like… shoes, for instance—benefit from the type of criticism and feedback that their fans or consumers bring to the table. That’s economics, baby. … How’d I get here? Oh, yeah. Fan communities’ relationship with their revered content can take a “lemme put my fave thing on a pedestal bc it can do no wrong and anyone who thinks it’s less than perfect can die” turn or a “I think my fave thing can be approved upon bc I love it and want it to be the best it can be” turn. And several interviewees absolutely vented about that. Understandably.
Let’s talk about those fan works I mentioned earlier. They’re more concretized byproducts of the community’s interaction with the content. It’s a simple formula of inspiration, influence, and production, done for as many different reasons as there are different fans. Several interviews discussed fanart and fanfiction, and Ito et al. describe in Affinity Online how spaces specifically for creative subcommunities thrive (Hogwarts at Ravelry, Animemusicvideos.org, etc.). And if all that weren’t rad enough, many of those creatives take their fan works and either make bank or utilize that experience to get a job and make bank. Or they do it for fun, which is also valid.