Fandom: A Family You Choose

FanExpo Convention Floor
Photo via FanExpo

We’re all passionate about something. Cars, travel, music, cooking, animals, you name it. At the end of the day, we’re all fans of something. For those of us with a penchant for the fantastical — be it comics, movies, games or cosplay — annual celebrations of our fandoms take place all over the country. I’m talking about conventions (cons for short): days-long celebrations of all things nerdy, where you can dive deep into a passion that any other time of the year would seem novel. It’s a time to mingle amongst a community of fellow fans.

“I think one of the greatest things about fandom is the way it can give and build. It’s an opportunity for people with mutual interests to come together and find community … [to me] fandom isn’t trivia or know-it-all-ism, it’s a shorthand to communicate ideas and substance. It’s about crafting a tribe where the inherent meaning is custom-made and open-sourced, and while it can be informed by where you were born or what you look like, it celebrates those perspectives rather than pitting them against each other.”Michael (he/him), 39

Cons come in all shapes and sizes, but are often one of two types — dedicated or multifaceted. A dedicated con is designed around one form of fandom or genre, for example, Monster-Mania in Cherry Hill, NJ. It’s a weekend dedicated to all things horror. Multifaceted conventions (like the upcoming Fan Expo Philadelphia) are often larger and encompass a broad range of fandoms and media. You can spend your entire time searching for back issues, getting autographs from your favorite ’90s TV stars, walking around taking pictures with anime characters made real or sitting in panel after panel about the deconstruction of a 40-year-old film series. Cons can be hyper-specific or broad, intimate or massive, but no matter what, they are all filled with one thing … fans.

“I think my favorite parts of fandom are when a group of disparate people all love the same characters so much, that we need to create, share and expand on the world they came from in the form of art. Either because we have hopes and dreams for their futures or because we’re not quite ready to let them go when the story ends.”Syd (he/they), 29

You may not share the heightened levels of passion that other con attendees do, but nearly everyone can relate to being a fan. Possessing shared interests with one another is the foundation of nearly all of our relationships in life. Our interests can lift us up, teach us lessons, tear our hearts out and even inspire something more within.

“[Being in a positive fan community] can reinforce and strengthen the love of a mythology, while drawing out earnest and honest deconstructions of the stories we tell ourselves as a society …”Chuck (he/him), 40

Being amongst fellow fans can feel like a warm blanket. Few things bring us together faster than similar interests. Even more so, fewer things can bring so many different types of people together more effectively than shared fandom. No matter who you are, where you live or what you worship, a bond among fans often bridges all differences. Don’t believe me? Attend any Eagles game parking lot and tell me I’m wrong. No matter their walks of life, people become fervent compatriots for the rest of their days — over the course of one Sunday afternoon. Doing the same thing over strategic card games is not so far-fetched when you think about it.

“The Yu-Gi-Oh! fandom has given me many things over the years … It taught me humility, sportsmanship and strategy. Most important of all, it game me comfort. That may sound strange, but no matter what happened in my life, the game and the community were there for me. When my parents got divorced, I went through a break up, didn’t get into medical school, you name it, I could go to the card shop and commiserate with my friends. Lose myself in the game. Being part of a fandom can be such an amazing experience … no matter where I was, I had a place I could call home.”Amy (she/her), 28

It’s very easy to diminish the validity of entertainment. For generations, it’s been described as brain rot and wasted time. It’s been used as the scapegoat for tragedy, the epitome of indecency and the anathema to education. All short-sighted dismissals. In reality, we’ve been telling each other stories since the beginning of time, and being a fan is merely connecting with versions of those stories. Stories meant to teach lessons, share histories, and bring us closer to one another. A convention is just another, very opulent, way to celebrate that. Basically, you should go — I’ll see you there.

Fan Expo Philadelphia; Fri April 8, 4-9 p.m.; Sat April 9, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sun April 10, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19107

    • Portrait of Noel Bartocci

      Noel Bartocci (he/him) is an eclectic writer who’s called Philadelphia home since 2010. He creates content and marketing materials for the healthcare, financial, commerce, and higher ed spaces professionally, but prefers to write about what he loves–art, comics, movies, music, craft beer, and boujee coffee.

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