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The Paradox of Fandom

May 7, 2012

On Saturday morning, I went to see the earliest matinee I could find of the Joss Whedon-helmed film adaptation of Marvel’s The Avengers.

Now, first and foremost, here is what you need to know about me: I am a Joss Whedon FANATIC. Not in the I-want-to-stalk-him way, but in the I-love-your-work-more-than-words-can-say way. I’m pretty sure if I ever met him, I would be lucky if I could utter the words “Thank you,” to him. And really, that’s all I would want to say. Because there aren’t any other words to describe what I feel about his work.

When I walked into the theater at 11:30 AM, it was filled with middle aged fanboys rocking their respective vintage character tees, probably seeing the film for the second (or perhaps third) time, a number of families with their kids, and a few scattered singles who got themselves out of bed early enough to make it to the first showing on a Saturday morning.

I was ecstatic. Like, bouncing up and down in my chair and trying not to cry. I realize this is not a normal reaction to sitting in a movie theater. But I’d been so looking forward to this film and so thrilled that Joss was directing and writing it, that sitting in the theater, preparing to see it, made me giddy and nervous.

So the nice dad of two little boys next to me said, “Are you ok?” He probably thought that I was about to go into some sort of shock or have a fit due to the amount of fidgeting I was doing. And I said, “Yeah, I’m great. Sorry about the bouncing. I’m really excited for this  movie.” And he said, “Us too. My boys have been talking about seeing “The Movie with the Hulk” since the Super Bowl [when the first national trailer aired].”

Which lead me to then tell him about how I grew up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how, though I was excited to see the movie because I do enjoy superheroes, I was really there because of the fact that this was a Joss Whedon project.

He was like, “Um, ok.”

And that led me to realize how ridiculous I sounded.

Who CARES why I’m excited? And who’s to say that my excitement is better/worse than the excitement of the two little boys pretending to Hulk Smash things and making their own sound effects next to me? Fandom shouldn’t be about who knows the most and who has the longest history of liking something and who can tell you the timeline of every iteration of the thing without stopping for a breath. It’s about being excited and going out and whole-heartedly giving support to something you love.

And as I sat there watching, and yes, crying through parts of The Avengers, (which is really great. Really. You should see it.) I realized something. There were several places in the film where I found myself completely transfixed or laughing or crying from dialog or shots or one-liners that were particularly Whedonesque. And they were things that not everyone else laughed or gasped or shed a tear at. But then there were other things that happened in the film, that I didn’t laugh or gasp at, but other people did.

And that’s when I realized what the paradox of fandom is. (I promise, this isn’t anything new or something someone else hasn’t said before. And probably said it better.) I feel a very personal relationship with Joss Whedon’s work. And that personal relationship makes me possessive and selfish of it. While I want others to love and appreciate the thing I love and appreciate, I feel that no matter how much they say they love it, they don’t love and appreciate it the way that I do.

Which is ludicrous.

The beautiful thing about fandom is coming together with other people who also love the thing you love, and sharing it with them. And going to see The Avengers is something I shared with all those people in that theater. And I realize some of them were only there because they were bored, and others were there to keep their kids preoccupied for a couple hours, and others were there because they have pain-stakingly acquired every single Iron Man comics book ever published and have a personal narrative with that character. We all came for our different personal reasons, and then shared watching, laughing, clapping, cheering, and crying with everyone sitting in that theater with us.

But! This is where it gets paradoxy again. Even though we shared that together, when we walk away from it, it devolves back into a personal experience.

The movie worked for me because I love what Joss can do with characters and a script and bringing in human emotion. When I walked out of the theater, the things that stuck out to me about the film were the small moments Joss so beautifully curated—the pain in Thor and Loki’s brotherhood that they feel in very different ways, Joss’s small nod to Kenneth Branagh via a one-liner uttered by Tony Stark, Natasha Romanov’s nearly crippling desire to wipe her Red Ledger clean, and the very human moment Agent Colson has with Steve Rogers. Those moments made the movie great for me.

And though I will hold onto them and treasure them and put them in my Reasons I’m a Joss Whedon Person folder, I also recognize that some people just wanted to see Hulk smash spaceships.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2012 12:29 PM

    Great blog, thanks for share this article with us

  2. onlymystory permalink
    May 7, 2012 3:17 PM

    It may have been said before but you just put the joys of fandom and experiencing something I love with other people into perfect words. Seriously that exactly captured the experience a truly great piece of work gives me.

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