Today, in class, we talked about fan cultures. When I get tired of researching gender and weddings, I'm going to start writing about fanatic behavior, so I was really pumped up about the lesson today. One of my students made my point brilliantly for me today - and it was even more brilliant because the students are way more likely to listen to each other than me.
We watched a scene from Trekkies, as well as a video clip from a recent Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Everyone laughed at this guy. But as we discussed just how strange some people can behave when they're huge fans of various things, one student (Katie) chimed in with a very bright analysis: we do the same thing for football and basketball games, yet no one thinks it's weird. A-ha! Welcome to an impromptu discussion on subcultures (also brought up by Matt - thanks guys!). We paint our faces for UK games, we can spout of a list of stats about the individuals and the team, we cheer wildly, we bond over our love of the team, and no one thinks anything of it. It's "normal." Just like it's "normal" for those who maybe aren't part of the dominant group but are equally as passionate about something. Who cares that it's Star Trek?
What matters is that fandom can bring us together, provides a sense of community (see Baym, 2000 and anything by Hebdige), and a sense of belonging. As long as it doesn't involve harming any other person (Shawn Johsnon case, for example), I think fan behavior is perfectly acceptable, and really cool to analyze from a critical perspective. As one Trekkie put it on the video today: at Star Trek conventions, you belong. You're family. Everyone is equal. No one is judged. It's normal to walk around dressed like a member of the crew. Same thing happens on any given Saturday at Auburn. And Kentucky. And anywhere else you see people dressed like you, with smiles on their faces, showing up to support a cause or team or event that has meaning, for whatever reason.