Today I had a mini-kerfluffle on the internet. The topic doesn’t matter, really. But in that kerfluffle I was accused of not being a “real” fan because I hadn’t watched all of a particular show. I found myself bristling at the accusation even as I acknowledged that the opinion of some person on the internet as to the realness of my appreciation for a certain thing was a non-issue.
The contrast between the feeling of having to defend one’s fandom and the knowledge that it shouldn’t matter is something that I see myself and other fans struggle with all the time. Recently I even had a friend tell me that she was nervous to start watching the Star Wars franchise movies for the first time because she worried that she “wouldn’t like them right.”
I was aghast.
What is the “right” way to like something?
Listen, I know that there are a lot of people who froth about this thing or that thing not being canon and not really wanting to deal with certain aspects of a fandom. I have been guilty of doing that. I hated the treatment of the second trilogy of Star Wars films, for example.
But even I acknowledge that things change. And that people who did not grow up with the Star Wars films of my childhood are not going to bond with them in the same way that I do. That’s just the nature of the beast. It’s the nature of time and childhood and loving things differently than other people do.
And here’s the thing that I have learned over the last couple of years: It’s really awesome when other people love things in a different way than you do. Because I would never think of publishing a cook book based on a fandom that I love. I would never think to make little plushies or dress in costume or do any of a number of other awesome things that other fans do. And the fact that they do those things makes me endlessly happy.
Even more than that, when I introduce someone to a new thing that I love, I’m guaranteed to find out something I never knew about the person I’m introducing. I’m also guaranteed to be introduced to a new way of looking at something that I love. And that’s a GOOD thing.
The pressure around being “real” extends beyond just fandoms and nerd culture and what have you. Take it from someone who took forever to figure out her sexuality. For a really long time, I wasn’t sure if I was a “real” queer person. Even now there’s a whole lot of baggage that I’m sorting out around being a “real” lesbian. It’s hard. And it only gets harder when other people call your identity into question.
So here’s what I’m going to say.
You’re real. You are whatever you feel like you are. And don’t let anyone tell you any different.
P.S. Being creative this week has been super hard. So thanks for reading. Struggling with the whole “real” writer thing over here. Sigh.