Me: What does it mean to be a fan of something?
Kris: So I think there’s a difference between being a fan of something and being in a fandom. So I think “fan” is purely just enjoying something—I think it could be anything—[but] being in a fandom, I feel like it’s some kind of popular culture or something that you find interesting that you then seek out more about, whether it’s reading fan fiction, or creating something about it, or interacting with it outside of just the original piece of whatever it is.
Have you been part of a fan community? How so? Please describe.
Yes. I feel like there’s… a ton of them, and there are some that I still am a part of and some that I’m not anymore. For a very long time, I’ve been a fan of Marvel movies, pretty much anything sci-fi, movie-wise. I’m obviously a Harry Potter fan, and you know that (laughs). I used to be—ashamed to say this—a Twilight fan. And SuperWhoLock… [which] is Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock, the three shows. Although I don’t watch Doctor Who anymore and I haven’t finished the most recent Supernatural season, but mostly that’s because I don’t have time to anymore (laughs). And then, mostly how I interact with them is, mostly I don’t really go back to the original sources anymore. With Harry Potter, I actually like the fanfiction more than I like Harry Potter, especially because of how I’m now able to address… So like, I read the original books and watched the original movies when I was a child, so I just took it for what it was, and it was entertaining and I enjoyed it, but now looking at it and being like, “Wow, that theme is really a problem,” like, it’s really problematic. I enjoy less that and more the nostalgia, and then enjoying fanfiction, just the general themes… I made my parents take the Pottermore quiz (laughs), y’know, so stuff like that.
In terms of fan fiction v. original content, what are you seeking in the former that you’re not getting in the latter?
So, I think the number 1 thing is usually the fact that something happened in the original—whatever it is, book, movie—that I didn’t feel was written well, so a lot of the times I go for the “fix it” kind of fanfictions. So like, fanfictions that start before whatever that thing is—that is usually something that a large majority of the fandom doesn’t like—and tries to figure out, “What if this had happened instead, and how would it have continued?” And then, also, queer representation, because that just never happens. So, I think seeking that out… Also, a lot of fandoms that I’m a part of are not very “female main character”-heavy, so a lot of times I’ll go for fanfictions that focus more on female characters. And in general representation like… a lot of times, I like reading fanfiction that has—because Harry Potter is basically whitewashed—so when there’s more people of color in the story, and just more variety of people instead of… very cookie cutter, just placed where they needed to be to make the story work… and see how people would react in that situation and how it makes the story more rich. And then also, part of it is, to me at least—I mean I’m sure [the authors] have no idea and it doesn’t really help them, but the only thing that I do on fan fiction sites is [give] kudos when I like something, because I do like that it’s writers. A lot of them are usually young people who write, and they’re aspiring to write, and whether it’s just that they want to stick with fan fiction for the rest of their life or if they want to write in some other way in the future, and I like that it’s helping them and giving them an outlet, and so I like being able to take in what they’ve created and see them grow as writers.
How often and how long do you participate in these fan communities/fandom spaces?
So I think that, since I’ve been a child I’ve always felt connected to things that are “geeky,” I guess (laughs). I remember as a child going to see the Lord of the Rings movies with my dad, and even now I’m still interested in Lord of the Rings, same with Harry Potter.
In the fandom spaces online, how often do you interact with those spaces?
So, with other people in the fandom, pretty much never. Even not within a fandom, I’m more of a lurker online. I’ll read other people’s stuff but won’t talk back. But only because I’ve been so busy with school and everything, only once or twice a week. In the past, maybe once or twice a day (laughs).
Please describe a typical interaction or experience within these spaces.
Like I said, mostly reading. Reading a fanfiction and reading the comments on it. Reading threads or articles about [fandom]. I have two books that are about the psychology and the philosophy of different fandoms, so I like trying to find articles about that online, like analyzing it.
Describe your ‘history’ with a fandom. What made you join? What made you stay?
So I think my longest running is Harry Potter. I was in… I wanna say the summer between first and second grade. The library near me had a book reading, and we were supposed to read a certain number of books for the summer, and if we got enough stamps then we would get a prize. They would hand out a free book. And so I read, like… triple what they expected, and I brought in my list and they were all about the same length, but one of the books was the first Harry Potter book. And it’s distinct in my memory because they told me that they didn’t believe that I had actually read it, because they didn’t think it was my age group’s ability level. And so, I guess that would be when I first started with it. And then, my second grade year, my class had a writing contest and we could pick whatever book we wanted to, and we had to write about the characters in the book and us interacting with them. I ended up winning my school’s contest, and then the same piece got sent on to a regional contest, and I won the regional contest, and then I got sent on, and I got runner-up for the state. My first fanfiction! (laughs)
I was just gonna say that, “Your first fan fiction!” (laughs)
And it’s funny because, thinking back now, I don’t think I still have the actual paper I wrote, but I remember in it that I was writing about dorming with the characters in Harry Potter, and totally missed the fact that in the dorms they were separated [by gender], and so we had bunk beds and I was the top bunk and Harry Potter was the bottom bunk (laughs).
Just jumping back to the question, you mentioned what made you join, but what made you stay?
I think… support from my family. My family would always buy me things that had to do with it or ask me questions about it… And then, just the fact that it was something that was unique to me, because my friends at that time were not into that kind of stuff, and so it was something that was “just for me.”
If you knew then—when you joined the fandom—what you know now as a fan in this community, would your fan experience be different? Would you join it again?
So, like I said, I feel like I’m more connected to the other pieces of it than the original source, so… I love what I have with the fandom, and so I don’t think I would ever not want to be a part of it, but I do think that I would’ve approached it differently. And, with Twilight, I don’t think I would have ever been a part of it. I mean I enjoyed—I did go to a release party for one of the movies… I think it was New Moon? At that point… (laughs) I was too old for Twilight and didn’t want to admit it. I was at a BlockBuster for a movie release, and it was after the BlockBuster had closed, and they had set TVs up in the aisles and we had brought sleeping bags. Me and two of my friends were there watching it, and we’re chilling out, enjoying it, but then we looked around and realized that we were surrounded by 12 year olds.
How old were you at the time?
Like… I was in high school.
That’s not too big of a difference.
Ehhh, I think I was… a junior maybe? (laughs)
… Not too big of a difference… (laughs) I’m trying to help you out here!
(laughs) And that was when I was like, “Okay, this needs to stop.” Yeah, I mean, I still watched all the movies and finished all the books. But, yeah, I didn’t go to the spaces as much as that anymore. But I still went to other fandoms’ release parties. I went to a Harry Potter one. I was in Washington state visiting my uncle, and my cousin was there, as well, and we went to… It was this big party… I think it was for the fourth book, and it was behind a library… or maybe a bookstore? And they had just set up tents everywhere, and everyone was in costume, and there [were] just people at each tent doing craft things that had to do with Harry Potter, there was a woman doing tarot… It was really cool, yeah, and it’s something that sticks distinctly in my mind for that fandom.
How important are your fandoms to you? Why are they important?
I think they’re incredibly important to me, especially… so partially the nostalgia, but also they’ve been a part of my life for so long that they’re a part of my identity now. They have helped me to become who I am and I have no idea where I would be now if I didn’t have them, like I don’t know what kind of person I would be because they’ve been with me so long.
Kind of goes into the next question. Has fandom experience played a part in your identity/how you identify yourself today? How so? Do you wanna expand on that a little more?
Yes! (laughs) Um… I don’t know, I think just the fact that it’s been with me so long, and so the things that I enjoy affected my experiences, my choices in life, like choosing to stay home and hang out with friends at home rather than go out to parties in high school. That made me a different kind of person than the people who might be going out to parties. Just the things that I enjoy and choose to do, and the friends that I’ve made, and the connections I’ve made with other people… Not necessarily that I seek out people who enjoy the same things as me, but I feel like a lot of times, I just naturally end up drawn to people who enjoy the same things as me, or similar things. And so, my friends have helped me to shape my identity and I don’t know if I would’ve found those same friends, and therefore, shaped my identity the same way that I have.
Do you create content as a fan? Please describe.
I have. So I have written fanfiction before. I have crafted things. I remember I made… I crocheted gloves, but they were, like, the fingerless gloves that were like the Iron Man—(holds out hand)... I’ve made plenty of things that are Harry Potter… Just in general, crafting things. I’ve written analysis papers on different fandoms…
That’s fair! I’m doing a whole thesis, so (laughs).
Yeah (laughs). In high school, I convinced my theatre teacher to add a—so we were doing something called Broadway Nights, and so it was scenes from different plays, mostly musicals—and I convinced her that we should also include Rocky Horror [Picture Show], so we did “The Time Warp.”
Nice! Are you a fan of Rocky Horror?
I am. I have gone to many midnight showings. My first midnight showing, I went with my dad, actually, because… He had told me that he loved it. He went with my mom when they were first dating … They almost didn’t continue dating after that (laughs). My mom is not a fan of that kind of stuff, she thought it was really weird.
Ooohh, was it the first date?
No, the first date they went to an AC/DC concert. My dad was a metalhead in high school (laughs). And so he pulled up to the house and he had, like, shoulder-length hair, and my grandfather yelled at him to cut his fucking hair (laughs). Yeah, but the Rocky Horror date did not help. But, yeah. I’ve introduced other people to it. Some people enjoy it, some don’t. Like I said with how it helps me to connect with friends—so [FRIEND] and I would not have been friends if it had not been for Rocky Horror. So at work, we were allowed to wear whatever we wanted for a while, and so I happened to be wearing a T-shirt with Rocky Horror on it—it was the one with Tim Curry sitting on the lips—and so we’re both super socially awkward, and… I don’t know why we decided to forget about social awkwardness for a few minutes, but we both started talking about it.
I feel that… the lapse of judgment (laughs).
I’m glad I did, because it ended up working out, but this is not something I would normally do. I was just like “Do you wanna go one time?” and she agreed, and so we went, and we became really close friends.
Have you ever had career or professional opportunities open up for you as a result of your experiences as a fan?
No…? … (pauses for thought) No.
Fair enough. Have you ever discovered new interests because of your fandom experiences?
Yeah, absolutely. I think part of my fandom experience has been connecting with people in real life who are also fans of that or something else that’s similar. I don’t find that I share with people online who are within fandoms, but in real life I do, and they often will suggest, “Oh, you should try this,” or “You should look at that,” and I’ll end up finding things that I like from that.
Do you tell people outside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean it’s not like I introduce myself, “Hi, I’m [NAME], part of this fandom,” y’know? But I’m not trying to hide it or anything, either. I just don’t see why there is a reason to hide it.
Do you tell people inside of the fan community that you're in that fan community? Why or why not?
It depends (laughs). There are certain people in fandoms who are gatekeepers, and so they will determine if they think you qualify as an actual fan of whatever that thing is. Sometimes it’s, “Oh, well, you’ve read the books but not done this,” or “Oh, you’ve watched the movies but haven’t read the comic books,” y’know, so, “You don’t know enough.” I will avoid people that give off the vibe that they’re gonna be [like] that. Not to judge ahead of time, but a lot of times, it’s guys in the community who end up that way (laughs).
Why do you think it’s like that?
The fact that there’s gatekeeping? I think for a long time—recently, being “nerdy,” being “a fan of something,” is a popular thing, it’s “cool” to like that. But it hasn’t always been. And the people who, for the whole time, were fans of things, experienced a lot of, like… being separated, [and] isolation from it, I guess? And so I think there’s kind of like a “You didn’t earn your place here” kind of thing. Part of that, and then I think also just… people sometimes feel like they’re “special” because they know a lot about something and aren’t willing to allow others to share, and forget that they were once also new to something, and it should be a fantastic thing that you’re finding someone who doesn’t know something about something, because instead of making fun of them and being nasty to them, why not share and teach them, y’know?
I feel that… That’s all the main questions that I have. Is there anything you want to circle back to or that you want to Defiantly Rant About For The Public To Know?
(laughs) … The only thing I can think of is the whole thing I was talking about with gatekeepers. When I was younger, my brother was a very big gatekeeper in my life. So, my brother, as a young person, liked a lot of the things that I like now, and sometimes he delved more deeply in them, and he [had] a habit of being like, “If you know something, he’s louder and more right than you” (laughs). And so there were many times that I didn’t share with him what I knew and avoided talking to other people about it because of how he reacted and how he was almost putting down what I knew about it, but he’s a lot better about it now. Yeah, he’s gotten better at accepting that you can have a different opinion about something.
Is that where gatekeeping in general is heading?
No (laughs). There’s a lot of gatekeeping, and not just… I don’t know if it’s not always been in other places, not just fandoms, or if it’s the fact that I’m a more well-rounded person and see more things a bit, but gatekeeping is everywhere. And I don’t think it’s something that’s ever going to completely go away. I do think that it’s something that, if there’s enough people in there, it can become that there’s this small group of people who are annoying—“they exist, but we ignore them and let them sit over there” kind of thing, rather than making it so much harder to enjoy whatever your fandom is.