Though senior Shreyas Shastri doesn’t particularly enjoy meeting new people, once he started thinking about how different college life was going to be from high school, he knew that he would have to find an entirely new group of friends once he got there. Though many people’s first conversations with attendees are about majors and hometowns, Shastri uses his love for Harry Potter to start off discussions online and make new friends.
Shastri’s interest in the Harry Potter series began growing in middle school when he wanted to find new interests other than school. Already a Harry Potter fan, he reread the books and began to appreciate the series more and more, and started delving deeper into the fandom by reading— and attempting on a few occasions to write his own— fanfiction. He later found that his talents were not suited to writing, and chose to read the writing that others created.
A fandom is a fan community that is based off of a book series, television show, video game or anything else that people enjoy. Fans can contribute to the fandom in an infinite number of ways; some write fanfiction, which are stories set in or based off of the universe, and others create fan art.
“[J.K. Rowling] makes [Harry Potter] a really large setting, but the story doesn’t encompass all of that,” Shastri said. “You only see the story of one guy in one school in the entire world. So you can have a lot more going on, and she doesn’t elaborate on all of it.”
In this way, it is possible for fans to come up with their own ideas and theories, whether they’re canon— the official content— or based on other characters and storylines that fans create.
Though some fans enjoy expressing their love for the fandom by creating fanfiction, fan art and countless other forms, many other fans are satisfied by simply enjoying and absorbing the original media and the fan-made content.
Freshman Yoanna Lee is part of the K-pop (Korean pop music) fandom, but isn’t committed to any one K-pop group. She prefers enjoying the music K-pop idols make and sharing it with others rather than trying to post her own fan videos or dance covers. As a Korean, K-pop is ingrained into Lee’s background and culture. Lee’s older sister and brother listened to older K-pop idols, but it wasn’t until later on that she realized it was K-pop and not just other genres of Korean music.
But unlike the Harry Potter fandom, which only focuses on the books and movies, Lee considers K-pop a unique fandom because K-pop idols are artists in that they produce music and perform on music shows, but are idols in that they appear on variety shows are also seen as TV personalities.
“You get to see so many different aspects. You see [the K-pop idols]onstage being really cool, and you seem them outside being really dorky. It’s like a vlog of a celebrity, almost,” Lee said. “If you just follow a celebrity fandom, it’s just their music, or maybe some of the scandals or dramas they go through, but K-pop is so deep and integrated within.”
Being part of the K-pop fandom means that there is always content to catch up on— new music, new live performances to watch and new discussion about what the K-pop idols are doing when they are not training or performing. Though there are hundreds of idols in the K-pop fandom, Lee believes that the best part of the fandom is the fact that it’s a community where everyone can share their thoughts.
A fan of the TV series The Vampire Diaries, sophomore Sara Goel’s favorite part of the fandom is getting to fangirl over the characters that she ships together (her favorite ship is Damon and Elena) and how it gives her something to talk about with her friends.
“Online, I see a lot of accounts that post about [“The Vampire Diaries”], and then I sometimes interact with them and follow their posts to see their thoughts on it,” Goel said. “It gives you something to bond over with your friends sometimes, and it’s something to get excited about.”
There are fandoms for everything from anime to Marvel superheros, and they all consist of fans from all over the world. Regardless of how dedicated the fans are, fandoms are communities where everyone is welcome, where individuals can find others who share their interests, where everyone can contribute and enjoy both the original and fan-made works. The purpose of a fandom is to show how far people can expand on original ideas. Being part of a fandom allows people to realize just how much a story or an alternate universe can mean to them and many others.
“All [levels of interest in the fandom]are still contributing towards the overall benefit of everyone,” Shastri said. “So you can be just a casual enjoyer… or you can be the complete nerd who lives and breathes [the fandom]. All of those people are still appreciated within that community, which is really nice.”