There is little I love more in life than fan culture. The real world can be a harsh and unforgiving place, but in fandom, there is acceptance, there is passion, there is joy. And while this can be seen on the internet (thanks, Tumblr!), there is nothing greater than seeing this in real life.
Supanova is the perfect place to see the magic of fan culture. There’s not many other places (in Australia, at least) where you can see a toddler dressed as The Doctor, a family in perfectly matching Star Wars costumes, or an outcast who has found belonging (ha – hsc english) through cosplay and a TV show.
While I was at Supanova, over a month ago now, I took time to talk to people in especially awesome cosplay.
To people not in fandom, cosplay can seem like a bizarre activity for nerds with nothing better to do. But for fans, cosplay is the ultimate representation of love. After all, they say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and so by portraying their favourite characters, cosplayers are screaming their love for all to hear.
The people I spoke to at Supanova told me of their love and passion for fan culture. Some had spent close to a year working on their costumes. For others, the character they were dressed as that day were just one in a huge arsenal of costumes they switch between. Some just cosplay at Supanova. Others cosplay at numerous cons throughout the year, and often at general meet-ups.
I attended the con in regular dress (although most consider it okay to cosplay on the job) and I found the comments about people like me, those not in costume, particularly interesting. On the tram on the way there, a teenaged cosplayer noticed my phone case (it’s a TARDIS) and told me it was cool. Her friend looked shocked and said “OMG you can’t interact with normal people!” While cosplay is in no way compulsory at cons, showing up in a dress like I did is almost breaking an unwritten rule of fandom.
As much as I’d like to deny it, there’s often a very “us and them” mentality in fandom. There’s the diehards, and then the people who couldn’t care less. And as fans are often judged by “regular society”, by making themselves vulnerable through cosplay, they become weary of “the other”, even if that other is still at the convention. I found this to be especially true when it came to associating with journalists, and when there’s a Supastar who is outside the traditional fandom circle. Case in point: Tom Felton’s appearance caused swarms of teenage girls to invade the con. Cosplayers, of course, felt weary around these people, as they do not necessarily understand the depth of fan obsession.
I noticed this weariness in myself today in my media lecture, which was on fan studies. As someone who has dedicated my teenage years to fandom, and who is deeply interested in fan studies and culture, I knew I would have a lot of opinions on what was being said. And I also knew there was the great risk that things would be said that would frustrate me. In a perfect world, everybody would understand fandom on the level which I do. But our world is not perfect. However, surprisingly, the class went a lot better than expected. That said, I did most of the talking. But still, nobody spoke out in disgust about slash fic, or called made fun of particularly nerdy fans. It’s small steps, but we’re getting there.
I am on the high end of the outspoken fan scale. I have so, so many opinions on fandom, and I’m never afraid to talk about slash fic, and participatory fan culture in general. I even spoke about how I used to collect rubbish with expiry dates that matched the Jonas Brothers’ birthdays, on national radio. Many of my friends, however, are silent fans, content to fangirl in silence but not to speak in public for fear of being ostracised.
It depresses me that fans still risk being ostracised. Yes, there are still weird fans out there (girl who got Darren Criss and Chris Colfer to sign a fanfic, I’m talking to you), but for the most part the world of fandom is a magical, beautiful place of intellectual discussion, friendship, and thorough enjoyment. And I just wish everyone could see it like that.
But until that magical day where fandom is as accepted in the mainstream as it should be, and where fans are treated as people with amazing ideas and potential rather than as novelties, I’m content to enjoy enough fandom for everyone.
frangipani princess xoxo
ps. Tickets for Sydney and Perth Supanova are on sale now!