Every so often, I come across a TED Talk which really resonates with me. Back in August, I was on Twitter (when am I not?) and I came across a TED Talk from Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, entitled ‘Why Government’s should prioritise well-being’. It got me to thinking about what this means in terms of fandoms. I am part of so many fandoms, so many that I can no longer count. Some of these are large fandoms, like fans of Marvel Movies, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and some of these are smaller fandoms, like Wynonna Earp and Carmilla. Why is the success of these fandoms marked solely on its numbers and on its marketable success? Haven’t the smaller ones contributed just as much to the world?
Nicola Sturgeon, TEDSummit 2019, Why governments should prioritize well-being.
A small disclaimer before we start, all of the comments I make are based on my own experiences and no one else’s. If this has not been what you have experienced, that is fine but it is simply what I have experienced and is my comments alone on those.
Let’s look first of all at some of the ‘larger’ fandoms. The first fandom I ever really remember being a part of was the Harry Potter fandom. It is filled with a ton of people like me: the outcasts. But it is now also filled with almost everyone. It some days feels like if you are British, you are a Harry Potter fan by default. I have a lot of Harry Potter merch. I have all the books, the DVD’s, a Wand, a Funko, and 10 shirts/sweaters. I have even played Muggle Quidditch. But even with all of that, I sometimes don’t feel like I am part of the fandom. The fandom doesn’t really represent me anymore. I don’t know if it ever really did. And now, there isn’t really a lot of Harry Potter things near me for me to interact with. If I want to go to Universal, I have to save up for a big vacation. If I want to go to the Studio Tour, I can’t just do it on a random weekend off. It involves months of planning because tickets sell out way in advance. Sure, I could arrange a re-watch with friends or family, or just read one of the books to feel more ‘involved’, but because the fandom is so vast, its hard to arrange something together with other ‘Potterheads’.
I’m not saying that the Harry Potter fandom hasn’t been great to me, it has. It was a book I turned to when times were tough. It’s a movie I still love to watch. It’s the series that ignited my love of writing and of fan fiction. But in terms of fans, I just don’t feel connected to any of it anymore. There are so many ‘Potterheads.’ There are so many people throwing money at it that it’s never been a fight to be a fan. It has never been something that we have had to fight for because all the big studio bosses love how much of a money machine it is. Take clothing into consideration here. For a while, the only places I could really buy clothing was through official channels like the Warner Brothers site and pay a stupidly crazy delivery fee and then an import fee on top of that in order to get ‘official’ merch. Now all I have to do is walk into Primark on any given day of the week and there will be some clothing in there ready for me to buy. I can go into specific Harry Potter shops now to buy ‘official’ merchandise because the fandom has become so global that it is a huge money-making machine that everyone is looking to cash in on. Let’s use Harry Potter as the America of this analogy that we are creating today. Let’s say that Harry Potter (in light of the video above) is a fandom with a massive GDP.
When we look at this in contrast to smaller fandoms, we can see a clear difference. Let’s look at one of my all-time favourites, Wynonna Earp. The Earpers are such a close-knit family. I have so many stories and fond memories with Earpers, but sometimes we are seen as being such a small group of people that we maybe don’t matter as much as the Potterheads. Sure, Wynonna Earp has been getting bigger and bigger as the years have gone on, but so does every fandom, and so does every country for that matter. Earpers have created their own conventions on the back of this show, some of which I have been to. As Earpers, we have had to fight so much for this show that we love. We had to fight for 131 days in order to get Season Four of Wynonna Earp, a season which was announced seven months prior during the opening of the show’s panel at SDCC.
We not only fight for the show as Earpers, but we also fight for the whole world. One of the main cast members, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, has created her own movement called ‘Start The Wave’ which has taken the fandom by storm. It is all about sharing love and positivity with the world and for the world. Before conventions, clean-ups are arranged, 5k runs for charity raise thousands of dollars each time one is set up. ‘Earp-It-Forwards’ are gifted as well as countless giveaways for fan art and convention staples like photo ops and autographs. The fandom itself spreads inclusivity and love and acceptance for all no matter where you come from, what gender you are, what sexuality you are. Everyone is loved, everyone is valid. In this analogy, Wynonna Earp is the Scotland of the fandom world.
I am not saying that the larger fandoms do not so this, but it goes largely unnoticed from the smaller fandoms unless you are a part of it. The Earper Fandom is leading the way (in my most likely biased opinion) in terms of spreading love. The success of Wynonna Earp is not just in how much money it can churn out. To the fans, the success of the show is in the friendships we have made. It is in the time we get to spend together. It is in the love that we all share for this show.
I fully understand that a show or movie or anything that is consumed in a public forum has to be economically viable. That is just the type of society that we live in. What we need to put greater importance on with everything that is out in society is on the overall wellbeing and impact. Looking at the monetary income from media is all too easy to use for statistics on how well it is doing. What is not necessarily looked at however is the global impact, the impact on mental health, on tackling societies major issues. In the words of Adam Smith, we need to look at the totality of the impact which a particular fandom has to measure its overall worth. We need to focus more on the Well-being Fandom Economy and less at the Monetary Fandom Economy were we put greater importance on the natural world, on charity work, on love and on acceptance for all.
-Written by Christine