Film & Water #111 – What Is A Fan?


Episode 111: WHAT IS A FAN?

David "Ace" Gutierrez is back with Rob for another round of Movie Talk, this time discussing the concept of being a "fan"--of a movie, TV show, comic book, or musician. What does it mean to be a fan? Is there a test to being one? And if there is, can you fail it?

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17 responses to “Film & Water #111 – What Is A Fan?

  1. I consider my self a big Star Trek fan but not necessarily of the shows or movies per say. I have seen all of TOS, TNG (depending on the day I go back and forth between TOS and TNG as my fav.), DS9 (always my second fav), and ENT but could only get myself to watch the first 2 seasons of VOY, I have seen all of the prime universe movies and 2 of the 3 JJverse movies (couldn’t get through into darkness), but I don’t really consider the first two new movies Star Trek (I even kinda like the movie Star Trek). That is not to say that I have any problems with people who like it because each there own but for me at the heart of Star Trek is holding a mirror up to humanity and asking what does it mean to be working towards what is the best. And if Discovery can do that then I can consider it Star Trek. Though probably still not prim star trek.

  2. You hit on something that’s been a topic of discussion for years – what does it mean for something to be a Star Trek show? Like you, for most fans of the original series (and TNG to an extent), the ‘truest’ of Trek shows and films holds up a ‘mirror to humanity.’ I think DS9 did this best because nothing was off-limits. Even the Federation’s goals were scrutinized. No other show would deliver something like ‘The Wire.’

    I hope Discovery attempts to be more ‘Trek’ than most.

  3. Great discussion. I’ve been on all sides of these fences at one point or another, but I’ve found myself unclenching a lot lately and just judging everything product to product. It took a long time to get here, though.

    Look, I’m a huge Batman fan. I have a house that could be considered a shrine to Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s creation. But I haven’t bought Batman or Detective on a regular basis for about 10 years. Didn’t care for Grant Morrison’s take, and everything followed that. I have read things here and there, but I just don’t enjoy it in general, so I just spend my money elsewhere. I no longer feel beholden to “collect them all” either in comics, toys or even TV shows and movies. The DCAU movies turned a corner a long time ago that I didn’t care for, and I’ve pretty much stayed away. And that’s fine.

    We’re living in Nerdvarna. We can pick and choose what we want and still have more stuff we WANT to watch than we’ll ever get to in a lifetime. We don’t have to substitute semi-comic-like sci-fi films for true comic book-based movies anymore. There’s one every three months at least!

    Then there’s the creators, and their changed perspectives. I have to disagree with David (imagine that) on ST: TMP. It’s the closest to Roddenberry’s LATER vision of Star Trek. Roddenberry went all humanist in the late 60s/early 70s, and TMP is his most pure examination of the purging of all emotions. Spock may have failed the Kohlinar (sp), but the movie went through it, and Roddenberry’s next Star Trek project, TNG was the result. It is sad that both Trek and Star Wars have flourished when they were taken OUT from under their creators, but those guys changed their ideas of what made the product what it was…while the fans remembered. That doesn’t give them ownership, or the right to say “YOU CAN’T DO THAT!”, but it does make them know that spark better than those who generated it, in a lot of ways.

    As for sequels skipping installments…it’s part of that notion Rob brought up that these old franchises just won’t get out of the way for something new. Hollywood is perhaps more creatively bankrupt than its ever been. So it’s much easier to go back to a franchise, throw out what is collectively known as crap, and start from there. I think the lack of any strict continuity in modern comics has helped me to deal with this notion, so I’m far more accepting of it than I would have been otherwise.

    Lots to chew on with this one fellas. Keep this type of stuff coming!!!


    1. Your point about Roddenberry and Lucas makes me think about the tension that I believe exists between creators and fans. Creators generally want to explore new themes and ideas as they grow and develop. At the same time, fans generally want more of what first attracted them to the creator’s work. I think this tension and the different ways creators and fans choose to respond to it underlies much of this discussion regarding fandom.

    2. Re: ST:TMP – I can see what you’re saying. I just think TMP was a bit closer to the show than the later films.

      I forgot to bring up Terminator. That’s picking and choosing now, too. In all their spinoffs and sequels!

      As for the creative bankruptcy in Hollywood, I think it’s more laziness and fear.

      But thank you for you listening.

  4. Excellent discussion, gentlemen. I feel like I could go off in a dozen different directions when it comes to discussing different aspects of fandom, but I will attempt to limit myself to just one.

    That one would be the difference between loving something and knowing a lot about it. Often the two go hand in hand, but I believe that fandom is ultimately based on the former rather than the latter. Case in point, I fell in love with Aquaman as soon as I encountered him on the Super Friends as a kid, but did not read comic books with any regularity until my teenage years. So I knew next to nothing about Aquaman’s life history, family, friends, and enemies for the longest time. But I didn’t need to know any of that to know I was a fan. I would willingly argue his merits with my friends, and I rarely set foot in a swimming pool, pond, or lake without imagining that I was the Sea King swimming with my finny friends and battling Black Manta. All that to say that I agree with the idea that one’s fandom cannot be measured with a knowledge-based test.

  5. Thanks for a thoughtful discussion. I guess the thing that is most indicative of fandom is the sense of (fun) passion that one has for whatever the object, character, or franchise may be. For example, lately I’ve been listening to the “Scooby Doos and Scooby Don’ts” – an oddly specific podcast that’s chronologically covering all Scooby Doo media. I grew up with the Mystery Inc. gang and enjoyed the cartoons as a kidbut never really thought that much about them again. Well, one day I by chance came across a reference to the “Doos and Don’ts” podcast where a millennial couple watches and discusses every episode in the franchise in great detail. Their enthusiasm is infectious and it’s just a hoot to hear them comment on the merits of Scooby Dum vs. Scrappy Doo even if I never saw that 1983 cartoon they are delving into. Turns out there are more Scooby podcasts out there than you might think!

    In a similar vein, all the F&W programs are filled with the joy of fans/friends just talking about stuff that makes them happy.

  6. It’s alright, Rob. I don’t begrudge your dislike of my second favorite Indy film after Last Crusade.

    You are right: there is no straight line. I consider myself a Star Wars fan but the 1st and 2nd trilogies aren’t really my pillars. My fanfare stems from video games like the Knights of the Old Republic RPGs and Kyle Katarn Jedi Knight series. The current Rebels cartoon is my best reason to keep tuning in, even though so many trolls berate it for not being the previous Clone Wars series. But the older me feels something very familiar there, all the times I went to war in the DC message boards against Kyle Rayner’s tools. I guess some of us eventually get the wisdom to pick our fights, allegiances, and words more carefully.

  7. Another great discussion guys.

    As said, I consider myself a fan of a number of things that I would fail a quiz on. I like Trek (but mostly TOS and TNG and movies). I like Star Wars. I like The Twilight Zone. I am a fan of Hitchcock. I am a fan of the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics. I am a fan of Robotech, Dragon Ball Z, and Miyazaki. I love comic books.

    But, I haven’t seen all of Hitchcock’s films. I couldn’t tell you all the Sox’ bullpen pitchers right now. I haven’t seen any of DS9, Enterprise, etc. And I know I can’t talk deeply about the anime stuff. I know just about nothing about current Marvel books.

    So maybe there is a line between fan and fanatic?

    I can talk to you comfortably about any of those above topics. I am a fan. I know more than the average person.

    But as adult life has taken up more of my time, I can’t devote a ton of time to all these interests. I follow those teams. I watch Hitchcock on TCM. I peruse the other stuff and watch the sports teams.

    I guess the only thing that I reach that crazy level of fandom is Supergirl. I keep up on all the news and can really provide lectures on most anything about the character.

  8. My takeaway from is is that Disney refers to Marvel as their “IP acquisition for the boys’ line.” Depressing last night, but I woke up this morning remembering that the Marvel Universe wouldn’t exist at all if the publisher hadn’t told Stan Lee to make him a super-team book like DC was selling. Maybe there’s a secret there: one eye on the audience, and the other (sometimes in a different head) looking beyond, to sneak in something the fans didn’t know they wanted.

  9. I’ve been working through some of the questions put forth in this podcast as they’ve intersected with other recent events in geek culture that have troubled me. Up at 5:45 a.m. and unable to go back to sleep as a radioactive truth bomb keeps formulating.

    One of the only Jon Sable comics I’ve ever read (shout-out RaD!) was the second half of a two-parter called “The Fan.” In it, a rival freelancer wants to solidify his credentials and pay homage to Sable’s career by assassinating him, and Sable notes that the term “fan” is originally an abbreviation of “fanatic.” It stuck with me because I was annoyed that it felt like an entire story had been built around a pedantic observation.

    A theme I keep coming back to in blogging and podcasting is surrogacy. I spent my formative years raised by working women of two very different generations and mindsets. Much of that time was spent at daycare or with sitters, followed by all of us getting lost in our entertainments after settling in at home. I believe a driving force behind my comics fandom was a search for role models, mostly male. I’ve often referenced Captain America as a father figure, which would make Indiana Jones an influential uncle that stumbled in once every few years to demonstrate a potent brand of intellectual and physically demonstrative masculinity. In later years, after the early death of my grandmother and increasing disappointment in my mother, I cleaved to Wonder Woman even more strongly than I had done with Cap. As my nomadic parents moved us all over the greater Houston area and parts well beyond looking to be gifted a better life instead of working toward one, I increasingly favored the friends that could travel with me: books, movies, games. In my teen years, as circumstances got worse and led to disillusionment & disaffectation, I embraced surly antiheroes like Wolverine, The Punisher, Grimjack and Marshal Law. All of these characters were totems for my changing concerns and salves for the unconscious deficits in my life.

    In Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation, the Donald Kaufman character makes a speech toward the end about having been in love with a girl when it was broadly understood that it was unreciprocated. Donald tells his brother that it didn’t matter if everyone made fun of him and the girl didn’t care about him, because he still embraced the love he felt and how good that made him feel. At the time, I thought that was a beautiful sentiment, and may have even teared up over it. Today, thinking about it more critically and with a greater awareness of the toxic behaviors women face (especially online,) I’m not so sure. It takes me back to the agenda-based criticism of the premise of Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes a Village, that we’re not just raised by our parents, but by everyone in our environment. So what happens if we’re formed not by people, but by premises and properties? What if fandom is a construct that distances us from actual people? What if, societally, we’re all increasingly Donald Kaufmans espousing one-sided love not even for an actual person, but a commodified property?

    That rabbit hole dropped me all the way back to the industrial revolution. We moved away from the agrarian diaspora of small, close-knit, limited, oppressive communities to the freedom of individualism and opportunity. The old ways led to homogeneity; to large intolerant groups of a similar stripe worshiping the same god in the same place in the same way, that was itself often a representation and reinforcement of patriarchal rule. Or you could go to the city, and be different; empowered and independent, following your on path. But without a built-in support structure, isolated, manipulated, and exploited. Look at the rise in geek culture and note that it parallels the industrial revolution, filling in the gaps when immigrants migrated away from their ancestral culture, demonstrating a wealth of other options. But you see, they were often written by others lost in a new world order, working for commercial interests, invested in the modern way of things.

    As someone with a great love for and dependency on media, I’ve always been a vocal opponent of censorship. Yet, as we are increasingly beset by bad behaviors seemingly unmoored from a common reality, and recognizing the role of media in the formation of my identity, I find myself in existential crisis. I used to think geeks were more moral than average, or at least comparatively harmless. Obviously that’s not true, with the rampant misogyny, racism, and other phobias directed at all non-CIS male fans. When notable geeks get jammed up in allegations of sexual assault, it becomes obvious that they were never better, they just lacked the power, the “hand,” to act on the base instincts more associated with so-called “alphas.” At the same time, I bristle at feminists who come hard at former allies over breaches in the social contract. Monogamy is another concept that has value and relevancy, but is not a universal virtue and when misapplied creates another toxic owner-property dynamic. Conversely, there’s a whole generation coming up on a lifetime accessing internet porn who are far more interested in their own hands than putting them on other human beings. What happens when we’re so divorced from one another, on our own internal islands, that some will take up arms to kill children or “the other” to impose their ideals and wills over the very existence of their victims?

    All of this keeps bubbling in my brain and manifesting in half-measures. I spend hours if not days of my week constructing podcasts dedicated to lionizing intellectual property controlled by corporate interests that increasingly displace commonly held folk heroes and even deities in favor of idols they can profit from exploiting. When the Nazis get their own Captain America, is it the formation of another denomination, or even a rival faith? Is it any wonder that, when a corporation owns our ideals, we as fans feel entitled to possess and manage and direct proper tribute to the new gods? If I find doing a DC or Marvel show like pulling teeth, but throw myself into shows about properties owned by an accessible master rather than an elite board of directors, do I gain any moral ground? Are we “fans” or “fantatics,” and is one all that much better than the other? Am I wallowing in a decades old substitution for real life, and is that even a bad thing, given some of the dire alternatives illustrated on a regular basis?

  10. When I think of fandom in terms of comics, I tend to go straight to the Legion of Super-Heroes. Between the “Legion Outpost” and voting for new leaders, Legion fans were ahead of the game as far as organized and vocal comics fandom goes. I struggled to get into the Legion for decades, as I always found the stories so steeped in continuity that I just couldn’t break through. It seemed that the stories were being told for the long-time fans and not the newcomers. I finally found my way into the Legion when Mark Waid and Barry Kitson launched the much-maligned Threeboot. These stories gave the impression that they were written with new readers in mind. This, of course, drew the ire of long-time fans who felt Waid was deviating too much from “established continuity” and that he wasn’t showing proper respect to the fans who had put in their time.

    This has most likely been discussed in an interview or an article somewhere, but I wonder how much impact a strong fan community has on creators. It seems that the only way the most vocal of Legion fans will be happy is if DC were to re-release “The Great Darkness Saga,” and the earliest of the Jim Shooter stories every month until eternity. The only interest they have in new stories is so they can complain about how great the Legion used to be. The problem is, these fans will always buy the book, whereas new readers are more of a gamble. Thus, I wonder is it more important to keep the already established fan happy, or to bring new readers into the fold? Is it possible to do both?

  11. Wow! Really great episode. I hate giving David Ace Gutiérrez a compliment publicly, but Rob and David are deserving in this case. I don’t have a lot to add, but I found your comments very insightful. Especially the parts about being a huge fan without being amazingly knowledgeable or even invested in every iteration of something. In my own case, I feel I’m a huge fan of the Legion of Super-Heroes. However, I’m not very knowledgeable outside of my fandom period of 1989 thru 1997. Beyond that, I’ve just read WHO’S WHO entries, and don’t know much of the history. Yet I feel I’m a big fan. Thank you for making me feel better about my fandom!!

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