Sunday, 31 January 2016

Yes, They’re Real: Our Fandom Friendships Across Time Zones



If, like me, you've ever tried to explain to an ‘outsider’ how our fandom friendships work, you'll know that few people truly understand. Well, practically nobody.


How do you explain that your friends are real friends even if they live in a different continent and you only see them once a year (if you’re lucky)? The overwhelming perception from colleagues and ‘civilians’ is that if you can’t physically hang out on a regular basis, those people cannot possibly be real friends.


Every fan knows that this is simply wrong. And I mean all fans - whether it’s our band or not, whether it’s a cult TV show or a fantasy book series, we all inhabit similar worlds, with similar rules and similar conventions.


The other Frequently Asked Question is ‘do you and your friends just talk about [insert fandom here] all day?’

How do you reply to that, other than in the standard, sarcastic way - “sure, what else would we have to talk about?”. The truth is that, once someone becomes your friend, it makes no difference if you met them through the Hanson forum or down your local pub: you’ve connected, and everything else follows. You discuss your lives, your family, your children, your work. You send each other Christmas cards and birthday presents. It’s like any other friendship: why shouldn’t be?


At this point, if this was an academic paper, I’d say let us discuss subcultures

Fandoms and subcultures have a lot in common, but fandoms are centred around one specific interest (a band, a TV Show) whereas a subculture revolves around a specific set of beliefs and behaviours, as well as the rejection of the prevailing current mainstream culture. In other words, if you’re a goth, you’re buying into the whole package: the music, of course, but also the clothes, the lifestyle and a certain subversive stance to differentiate yourself from the rest of the world. You want to be recognisable to your peers as a goth and you want to make a statement to others saying, ‘I’m not like you’.

Goth is a sub-culture


If you’re a fan, however, you might look totally different from your peers, and have diametrically different political views. Save for the occasional wearing of fandom merch, you’ll probably be wearing totally different clothes from each other. Appearance wise, a fandom is a heterogeneous group. On the other hand, a fandom’s focus is much narrower than a subculture’s, and, especially if your subject of interest is small, niche, your fandom becomes a microcosm, a surrogate family, an alternate universe.


‘Microcosm’ is perhaps my favourite definition of a fandom’s world. It’s like a small slice of society, and operates within similar rules. Someone is looking for a roommate for a forthcoming Hanson event? Behind the scenes, fans will contact each other to find out more about the prospective roomie, effectively taking up references on one another in the same way as employers do with job applicants (“Oh no, I can’t possibly room with her. She’s friends with Nutcase Nancy, who got banned for touching Taylor's butt last year”*It’s networking at its very best, and its effectiveness would make LinkedIn pale in comparison.
[*This example is entirely fictitious and offered for illustration purposes only].


Just like the traditional group of friends who have known each other since kindergarten, we have complex dynamics, fights and feuds. We have our regular events throughout the year, and whether we can go or not, these events mark our calendars in the same way as Christmas and other festivities: January? BTTI. May? Tulsa. Autumn? There might be a tour, or you can get yourself to Epcot and enjoy the band and meet Mickey Mouse at the same time.


Hanson at Epcot 'Eat to the Beat' Festival
Let’s not kid ourselves though: a fandom is still a crazier, more intense version of the real world. Who else, in real life, would not bat an eyelid at the thought of sharing not only a room, but a bed with a complete stranger for a whole week? And who would plan their time off for the next 2, 3 consecutive years, according to the band’s movements, hedging their bets based on the frequency of previous tours? We do.


I sometimes think of my B.H* (*Before Hanson) life. How things used to be simpler, easier, normal. I didn’t live in this state of perma-worry about taking time off work at the least convenient time, and I didn’t have to budget for holidays in the Caribbean (something which anyone who knows me will testify to). But I also remember how things used to be so terribly dull. The truth is, I can’t imagine going back to my old, pre-fandom life. My life has been enriched in so many ways I can’t even tell you: not just by music, but by friendships and travel. I enjoy myself a lot more, even when I’m just  sitting at home behind a computer screen, chatting to my friends on the other side of the world, dissecting our most recent adventures and plotting the next ones.


Time zones on my phone

So next time someone laugh at you condescendingly and questions if your friendships are real, nod wisely and move on.  Do you really care about the opinion of someone whose friends all live within a 20-mile radius? Can you really connect with someone who can’t envisage travelling halfway around the world for their favourite band? Why would you even want to?

The dreaded after-work drinks

I know for a fact that I’ve had enough of soul-sapping after-work drinks with people I have nothing in common with; life really is too short to spend even an hour of your free time wishing to be elsewhere. Besides, I’m too old to care. So if you’ll excuse me now, I have to go: my friend from California has just woken up and we have serious business to discuss.


Until next time -
Come
on this musical ride
with me


It might just change the life you think you're gonna lead
If I'm right you might just stop and see
It might just change your life

It might just blow your mind

Hanson, 'Musical Ride'

16 comments:

  1. NAILED IT!!! It's truly the most Ride or die/crazy group of fans I have EVER met in my life .College sororities have nothing on this fan base , this "sisterhood" runs deeper. <3 <3

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    1. If you're talking about sisterhood, I can't help thinking of ....SISTER ACT!!! #wecanrockthisplace #Ilovehim

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    2. #IwillfollowHim (At least I didn't start singing the Mickey Mouse club theme .....again hahaha)

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  2. you put that across i a great way i have round the fandon scene for many many years and have made so many friends over the years some who i have been friends with for over 30 years because of fandon , a band and music and traveling ..... and as old as i am i love it even more the friends i have made the places i have seen the things i have done the friends who i have been blessed to now have all down to Fandon , a band there music and i look froward to many more years to come of this , but i have one thing to ask who will be willing to push my wheel chair for me when im to old to stand around hrs on end ? love this @asphodelia well written as always , hope to see you soon xx

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    1. Shazie, we'll be rockin' it together soon! You were one of the very first people who made me feel welcome in this crazy, crazy world - to new adventures!

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  3. This is the greatest blog ever. Our friends in the fandom are true friends in every sense of the word. I'm very proud to be able to call the people I've met though Hanson my friends. I look forward to many more great adventures. <3

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    1. 'The greatest blog ever' - I'll have that ;)
      I'm looking forward to insomniac nights....!

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  4. Yesterday one of the girls in our group had her birthday celebration, and we were lamenting about how we couldn't all be together. You could not have posted this at a more perfect time.

    Since college I've found the idea of fandom fascinating. I think it's a way for us to find a sense of community - it's a family outside of our blood relatives and school/work friends. It gives us a whole other life, just as you said, to experience and enjoy. Fantastic read, Paola.

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    1. I keep saying to people, if I were an academic I'd write a PhD on Hanson, on fansons, on fandoms in general. It's a fascinating subject and clearly it resonates with a lot of people. Thank you so much for reading!

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  5. I enjoyed reading this and can definitely relate to it all! I always get asked if I'm "going with" anyone when I tell people I'm going on a trip, and it's hard to explain that I'm technically going by myself, but I'm meeting up with someone else...who doesn't live here or in the place we're going and never has, but yes, we're good friends. Oh but how do we know each other, then? Well, we met in this entirely other location where neither of us has ever lived either. That clears everything up, right? :-p

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    1. This is it - people look at you as if you're weird, or nuts - or a bit of both. I've really given up trying to explain, and now I actively pity those people who will never experience what we have!

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  6. lovely text. congratulations <3

    IsaSafira

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  7. I spot the Buenos Aires time zone there ♥
    Living with someone those moments of happiness, sometimes one of the best moments of your life is timeless. I doesn't matter if you meet the person a few hours ago, it's equal to days, months of year or other friendships you have.
    See you next year ♥

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