I’m familiar with the pressure that friends and family can put on someone to leave behind hobbies that might come across as being fancies of the immature. Mass-produced fare like The Big Bang Theory only reinforces the idea that geekery and fandom are fodder for the emotionally-stunted and inexperienced among us. Even in fandom-positive spaces, though, it can be difficult to distinguish between the things that we like and want to do, and the parts of fandom that we need to help define ourselves.
A few years ago, I was at a con which was being held only a couple of blocks from a major sports stadium. The home team lost, and the fans emerged from the stadium in a palpably bad mood — so much so that when I left the convention center and walked the block and a half back to my hotel, I hurried so that I wouldn't be in anyone's way. I wasn't in costume, but I had to wonder what might have happened to those who were.
It took me a while to not glean only the most superficial points possible from this incident and many like it. To wit: Sports fans may paint their faces and overturn cars if their team loses (we saw the former, but mercifully not the latter, while in town), but that's all OK because it's baseball. The folks at Comic-Con dress up as their favorite characters, which is just weird and creepy. Why? Because the former has decades if not centuries of social sanction behind it and the latter does not.
To my mind there has to be a better way to react to such a thing other than simply inverting the equation and saying "hooligan sports fandom bad; comics/anime/pop culture fandom good". That's just as emotionally immature as the problem it claims to solve.
People who get an emotional satisfaction out of fandom and geekery do so largely because they don't find that any other part of what's going on around them speaks to them in the same way, if at all. The rest of the culture around them offers them no sense that they belong, and provides them nothing to latch onto for such a belonging in the first place. Small wonder they turn to each other for such succour, or build what they can from scratch. It's less about trying to impress other people than it is about trying to find some place that welcomes them for the things they can't help but be.
Those things seem childish to the rest of the world, but only because the rest of the world doesn't know their real significance. At the last con I attended, I stood in line for over an hour to have a few things of mine signed by some people whose names would barely ring bells even in the circles I already travel in. I didn't care if anyone knew who they were; I knew doing that was my way of paying homage to people who had put something good into my life, when so many of us don't even bother to sit through the end credits of a movie.
For anyone who thinks such things are childish, let me take a page, and a favorite quote, from Frederik Pohl's "Day Million": "Balls, you say, it looks crazy to me. And you—with your aftershave lotion and your little red car, pushing papers across a desk all day and chasing tail all night—tell me, just how the hell do you think you would look to Tiglath-Pileser, say, or Attila the Hun?"
(For the record, I despise The Big Bang Theory. I should not have to explain why.)
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