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The fandom: it’s tentatively called this by millions of people from brace-faced middle-schoolers to middle-aged 9-to-5ers who need a name that sounds a little more mentally stable than “obsession”. It exists in all corners of the arts, from those frantically blogging Gossip Girl fans to message boards begging the eternal question of who is ruining Saturday Night Live this season, but is an especially prominent in the theater community today with the expansion of technology and the ability to find people… well, just like you.
In my era, the fangirl thing to do was to see RENT around its ten-year anniversary… a lot. So my brace-faced, back-braced, bespectacled (triple threat!) self followed the casting tour that hit New England as far as my mom could possibly take me and to wait, wait, wait by the stage door as if my life depended upon it. It was certainly an experience that spiced up an otherwise unfortunate junior high experience, but in the RENT “fandom”, I and my fellow braced companions were greeted as strangers in a heavily established following—we had only figured out Larson’s musical existed because of the 2005 movie, and knew that admitting this was to be dead in the rush line. Why? Devoted followers will know that fandoms, while fun and enthusiastic, are understandably defensive of their source, and become the groupies of a show rather than of this or that ratty rock star.
That all said, what are the rules of being a fan like this? Now that the braces of all sorts are gone and I’ve discovered the magic of contact lenses, and the rules are looking a little clearer:
So where does that leave us with the mystical, digital world of the fan? Does it ruin How to Succeed in Business when a Jonas Brothers fan is more busy fawning than paying attention? Is everyone who didn’t know Chicago existed until after its film spectacle was released undeserving? It’s a kingdom of your own construction, much like the theater. Though — let’s be honest— it’s a little less structured, but just as enthusiastic. So fan on and keep writing all that fiction, members of the fandom! At least you’re not Beliebers.