Wednesday, 31 July 2013

A follow-up from yesterday

(This is a post I made over a year ago, at one of my now-defunct blogs.  It is a post I made about my experiences within fandom.  And considering the flame-war I had yesterday with some randomer, I thought it was time I transferred it over here.  I have added/taken odd bits out for the purpose of updating, but the bulk is as originally written)

Let me just preface with:  I love fandom.  As a social phenomenon, it’s fascinating.

Fandom (consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in kingdom, freedom, etc.) is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of sympathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates “fannish” (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest.

Back in the mid-norties, I was right in the middle of one particular fandom.  That being “the Josh Groban fandom”.  I met many fascinating people.  Many weird people.  Many down-right mental people.  I ran a large and somewhat controversial fan forum on, which was aimed at, and populated by, fans of my age (late teens to early 20s).  For a period of about 3 years, within the sphere of my age group (in a fandom largely populated by much older women, mostly nearing or at retirement age), I was reasonably well known figure within my sub-group, and any well-known member within a fandom is able to play a large role in dictating the direction of the fandom, what’s cool, what’s not, who’s in, who’s out.  Should they wish to do so.

And as the fan sub-group closest in age to Josh himself, we had clout.  After all, if Josh wanted a long-term career, it was those fans who were going to grow up with him that were most important.  Not those fans currently in their 60/70/80s.  Because, let’s face it, in not so many years, they were no longer going to be able to be serious economic contributors towards maintaining his career.  It was those of us, in his age bracket that would ultimately keep this ship sailing.

Looking back, do I think his management have always targeted him effectively?  And at the right markets?  Nope.

Did us 20-something fans miss the opportunity to exercise a real voice within the fandom?  Yes.  Reason?  We were too young to realise we had a voice worth listening to.


This went on until around 2009, where “real grown up life” started to happen and I just didn’t have the time, resources, inclination to care much any more.  As a result, because myself, and my peers in the forum, were growing up and out of fandom, the forum pretty much died.  We went from up to 10 posts a day to zero in the space of 18 months.

Then I discovered Tim Minchin.

Now though, I am older, somewhat wiser, with a much more skeptical head on my shoulders.  I won’t get into the whys and wherefores of why Minchin is awesome (that’s what YouTube is for), so let’s just assume that he is.

Now though, I have the inside track on fandom.  I know how it works.  I may be new to the Tim Minchin fandom, but I’ve been round the block enough times as a big-time-fan to know how the shit undoubtedly goes down on any forum.  I know this because THEY ARE ALL THE SAME.  Seriously.
Spend enough time in one fandom, transfer to any other, and you’ll quickly realize that you just need to replace a few names and you’ve got the same thing.

I really don’t need to do the fannish thing any more.  I’ve been there, done that, and quite literally “have the t-shirt”, and don’t have any desire to watch it all go down again.  This time around I’m completely content to watch as something of an outsider.

Today, this kicked off.

Tim, in his infinite wisdom posted this to Twitter.

“I signed (I inserted – autographs, posed for pics, chatted after) every gig for 5 yrs. Happily. But now I choose not to. I’ve never met someone I’m a fan of, nor expected to.”

Oh ho.  Cue indignant tears.

The type of “I owe him my life…!  I just want to thank him…”

Oh purleeez.

I advise a swift course of “getting out more”.  That’ll see you straight.

I watched and read the shit-storm with interest…  To be fair to the fandom, most people responded with humility and resignation.  People who pulled the “but he owes us!” card were shot down pretty quickly.

Now…  Here I hold my hands up.  I can be something of a trouble-maker on the internet.  I deliberately like to flit through threads online, such as this, posting slightly provocative comments, to see the response I get.  I choose my words extremely carefully.  And went with this:

“I’ve been a Tim fan just over a year now (having discovered him on the Comedy Prom). I’ve never met him, or even had a chance to go to one of his shows…

Yeah, I love his music, he makes me laugh out loud, I think he’s incredibly talented in areas that keep surprising me often, I think he’s easy on the eye, and he’s given me an awful lot to think about in terms of science and religion, which has helped me to define my own views.
I enjoy so much of what Tim does because, just by chance, he does lots of things and has lots of characteristics that appeal to me. Mostly his musical talent, comedic timing and massively articulate brain. At the same time though, he’s done stuff I wasn’t that excited by.
While I’d have loved to have seen Tim live, it just hasn’t been possible because Real Life gets in the way. For instance, for me to travel to Birmingham to see him in JCS, I wouldn’t have got any change from £100+. That might be small change to some, but for me at the moment, that’s the difference between being able to pay my bills and not. Yes, that is disappointing, but not Tim’s problem. He doesn’t owe me anything. He could probably quit his career tomorrow and live quite comfortably. He doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to, or owe “fans” anything either. If he wants to sign autographs after a show, great. If he doesn’t, okay. Yes, it would be great to have a chance to chat to Tim about all kinds of things, but that isn’t going to happen. I’m personally not too interested in rushed scribbles/photos at stage doors late at night. I’d rather go home to my warm bed and reflect on an evening of being thoroughly entertained.

That being said, I think EVERYONE goes through a stage of being a “Super fan!” at some point in their lives. They put a certain performer up on a “can do no wrong” pedestal and find themselves all-consumed in the world of “fandom”. I’ve been there myself. 4-5 years ago I was a MASSIVE fan of the American singer Josh Groban. Like, “go to all the gigs I could, wait at the stage door until midnight” type fan. Yes, I ended up with a few photographs, autographs, fun memories. In fact he recognised me when I saw him last year in Birmingham, which was funny. 5 years ago I would have FREAKED THE F**K OUT at being recognised by the subject of my adoration. But times change, I changed. When I was recognised, I was just like “Cool” That’s all.
It’s TOTALLY okay to be a Tim super-fan, and if I hadn’t already done it, and got it out of my system with Josh Groban, I’d probably be right with you on being sad over this.

But you know what? Just enjoy what you can, get what you can from your experiences and focus on the stuff in your life that is “real”. As awesome as Tim is, he’s just a regular guy who just happens to be quite famous now. He’s just getting on with his real life, as we need to do with ours. We have every right to have our needs respected, and so we need to be able to offer Tim that right. And if his needs for the moment are just to be left alone after a show for a few months/years, then we need to respect his right to do that.
Yes, you are entitled completely to feel disappointed, but that’s not Tim’s problem. Nor should we expect it to be.”

Followed up with:

“For what it’s worth, I’m not excusing his tweet.

Was it a bad idea? Probably.
Should he not have said anything? Possibly.
Does it read a bit passive-aggressive? A bit.
Does he come off sounding a bit of a dick? Kinda.

But his intention and his desire still stands.”


“It must be frustrating for him to read Tweets from moaners. So I can imagine him responding in a fit of annoyance. Not really considering the fact too well, that although there are some dicky people who will moan at anything, there are a lot of fans (like the guys here) who just wanna say “thanks, I really enjoyed that.”

I think it also wouldn’t do any harm for people here to remember that, by the very fact that we write on a fan forum, we are the more “serious” fans, with a lot more personal investment in Tim and his career. I’d actually be interested in knowing the stats on… for instance… the audience of the Heritage Orchestra DVD… how many of them have ever even read this forum? I’m going to take a stab and say that it’s probably vanishingly small. Then times that by all the audiences he sees over the course of a year… Those “fannish” enough to post on a fan forum, possibly do not represent the majority of people who identify as “Tim Minchin fans”. So we have to bare in mind that our responses to anything from Tim are potentially more extreme than the majority.”

It is incredibly interesting to observe a fandom from a more outside position and to be able to comment objectively.

Seriously though, I’d love to carry out that audience survey I mentioned above.  I think it would be fascinating.

And please, if you aren’t familiar with Tim Minchin’s work and identify as an atheist or skeptic, please do look up his work.  Good places to start with might be “The Good Book”, “Thank You God” or “Storm”.  All of which can be found on YouTube.

And if you should ever happen to meet Tim at a signing, please do tell him I said hi.


1 comment:

  1. Oh dear. You are clearly your father's daughter! When I read what you write I hear it inside my head - but in my voice rather than on yours! For Tim Minchin read "variable stars" or "South African postcards" or "the postal history of Guyana" or "Pink Floyd".