Why do we watch Sherlock while other of our peers are perfectly happy with American TV? Why does our culture make this collective choice. “It’s a really good show” is not the whole reason, it never could be. I think it’s because we want our choices to define us, and by choosing Sherlock we get to say more about who we are.
We say that we’re willing to work for our enjoyment. We identify with the culture of the fandom. We convey our ability to utilize the internet to access content that otherwise we wouldn’t have access to. We’re identifying ourselves not as citizens of a country but as citizens of the internet.
A great deal of fandom has to do with ownership. If “being a fan” is about enjoying something very much, “fandom” is the version where not only do you enjoy it, but you engage with it, and with other people who enjoy it. Fannishness was around long before the Internet but the Internet has given it a warm, dark place to grow, and to mutate, and to often become something wholly different. It is the changing of the thing that supports these feelings of ownership. Sometimes this ownership is good, it is like the ownership of one’s own self in a very good relationship. I don’t just love this thing, I love it as a part of me. But sometimes this ownership is bad, it is a guarding, a possessiveness, an entitlement. It is the feeling that as an owner of your experience, you are owed an experience.
Here are some completely hypothetical examples.
1. I like a television show so much that I write fanfic about the characters. In my fanfic, the characters follow arcs that they wish I would follow. I find now that when I watch the television show and the characters follow different arcs, I am displeased. I actually do not like the show very much any more at all.
2. I like a band so much that I bootleg the live shows. I pay a lot of money for my equipment. I carefully catalog my recordings and I trade them with other fans. When I go to shows and the band plays a set that I have heard before, I get irritated. I want them to play rare songs and b-sides, I want my archive to have variety.
3. I like an actor so much that I read all of the interviews with him, and I watch all of his movies. I even find a way to watch this one movie he did in Australia a decade ago before anyone knew who he was. I write about him on the Internet and I stake my claim as the person who knows the most about him. Then he does a movie that gets a good deal of attention and he is nominated for an award. Suddenly he is in GQ and I am torn between being embarrassed that I ever liked him as much as I did and constantly reminding everyone that I saw him first.
In these cases, there is a crack in the line between the fan’s identity and the object of the fan’s affection. The divide becomes faint. The cold, uncaring universe becomes a very personal one. A personal universe is one that feels fought for, and so, the fan continues to fight.
I find it hard to begrudge fans their fandom ways, because I have been those fans and often I am still those fans. I have downloaded shows that weren’t going to air for months, I have bootlegged, I have pouted during Oscar speeches. I don’t so much anymore (I have chosen to wait for Sherlock S2 to air on PBS), but that’s for other reasons. Hank’sstatements I think are very strong, very worth considering. Fandom may be a space where ownership evolves, but have you ever met the Internet? It is a place where people invent ownership. Devalue ownership. Ignore ownership completely. What we must have, what we are going to have to have, in the world in general and not just in fandom, is a culture of support. I support this show, I support this artist. I understand that the ways by which my support is counted may not be the ways by which it is easiest to enjoy something. Hopefully the metrics evolve, the technology evolves, the models evolve, but you know. Fandom fans have always been savvy. Certainly we can learn to be savvy about this.
So at work it came to pass that I could no longer pretend I didn’t need to at least have a mild understanding of what it is that Pinterest is, because there were questions and I have business cards and so, so a couple of weeks ago I started doing this, and honestly I’m not un-proud of it. It’s a funny thing about Pinter plays, that when you’re looking at production photos from many different productions and many different types of theaters, you nearly always know exactly what moment is being photographed. The similarities make them Pinter, the differences make them theater. Plus doing this really contributes to the overall masculinity of Pinterest, which, thank god, am I right.