Or in violent, defensive love of the Richard Armitage fan.
I’m going to quote Wikipedia here. Before you judge, first note that my reasons for quoting aren’t based on the historically factual definition of a word, but using the aggregate’s best definitions of what the word has actually come to mean in today’s world.
What is a Fan?
“A fan, or fanatic, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something or somebody, such as a band, a sports team, a genre, a book, a movie or an entertainer. Collectively, the fans of a particular object or person constitute its fanbase or fandom. They may show their enthusiasm in a variety of ways, such as by promoting the object of their interest, being members of a fan club, holding or participating in fan conventions, or writing fan mail. They may also engage in creative activities (“fan labor”) such as creating fanzines, writing fan fiction, making memes or drawing fan art.”
Since becoming a Richard Armitage fan—a word and term I wholeheartedly embrace—I have come to feel a wide variety of emotions, some of which I have expressed here and elsewhere. Many of which I have not. Of those is the negative that stems from the judgment that surrounds publicly declaring oneself a Fan.
I’ve grappled with it. I have seen others ashamed by it. I have trekked through miles of commentary throughout social media condemning, often quite hypocritically, the existence of fans or a Fandom. And I have also seen the media use, or attempt to, those of us who step out (and step up) as Fans.
Even Richard Armitage doesn’t like the word. And I think he should.
Nothing is wrong with Well-wisher. It’s fine. It’s like one of those softer words for sex that you use in public when you don’t want to use a clinical term. But, let’s face it, well-wisherdom doesn’t seem to work, does it?
What is a Fandom?
Fandom as a word is neither soft nor hard. If you were to base it on the definition found in Wikipedia, Fandom most accurately describes that which a community-entity (how’s that for an oxymoron?) can truly become, and in the best sense.
Substitute the word Community for Person and look what happens:
“A community who is enthusiastically devoted to something or somebody.”
“Collectively, the fans of a particular object or person constitute its fanbase or community.”
Same for Fan club:
“[Fans] may show their enthusiasm in a variety of ways, such as by promoting the object of their interest [and] being members of a community.”
Wikipedia also encapsulates the literal definition of Fan found in universally accepted publications:
“Merriam-Webster, the Oxford dictionary and other sources define “fan” as a shortened version of the word fanatic. The word first become [sic] popular in reference to baseball enthusiasts. Fanatic itself, introduced into English around 1550, means ‘marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion’. It comes from the Modern Latin fanaticus, meaning ‘insanely but divinely inspired’”.
Aside from the association with “Fanatic”, a word associated with “Zealot,” I don’t see anything wrong there as well with the word Fan:
“Marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion” and “insanely but divinely inspired.”
These are definitions I would not be ashamed to attribute to myself in my admiration of Richard Armitage and my support of his career, his life decisions, and most of his character and project choices.
I am often “excessively enthusiastic” (read: very happy), commonly feel “intense uncritical devotion” (read: unconditional love and admiration here) and am often “insanely but divinely inspired” (read: the entire contents of this blog, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the occasional private email or message.
Intense uncritical devotion
In my case, that might well apply. I like to see the better, and emphasize the better, especially publicly. But privately…well let’s just say it often has to do with an odd piece of clothing choice, which, let’s face it, happens to the best of us in our life times. (I too once wore denim culottes and the odd poncho top.)
“Uncritical” cannot be said of even the very best and most devoted of Richard Armitage fans. There are numerous blogs and social media comments by his fans—well-wishers and career and life event followers all—who are not averse to speaking in the contrary on things Richard may do, say, wear, date, befriend, act, dance, sing, film or stage.
You know that best friend you have? The one who gives you honesty when you need it and you love them all the more for it? Yes, that one. Same concept.
The thing is—and my real point—no one gets to define what it means to be a fan but the Fan individual. No one else has the right to say what actually constitutes being a fan—or that worst of worst fan-on-fan insults, a “real” fan.
The ugly side
Yes, ugliness happens in Fandoms. Like in any community, or family, disagreements, gossip, squabbles, side-taking, policing and even mini-wars. And yes, some take a turn south, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. They might even cross boundaries (both physical and non) in ways that are meanly unattractive, tasteless, and possibly downright dangerous. But that can’t actually be controlled. Nor is it any one person’s responsibility to police. Aside from the moral aspect of such censorship, in my experience, telling someone they can’t do something will often result in a contradictory action. Also you could produce flames that burn in ways you’ve never imagined. Trust me.
Voicing an opinion is often confused for policing. Opinions are good. Opinions rule the blogs. And they matter not for any Fandom’s sake, but for the sake of the soul who seeks an outlet for the love that dare’s not speak it’s name in public—a FAN.
But it’s the opinions littered with flames, threats and mean-spirited attacks that deter straight, well thought-out opinions. Many won’t speak up, either at all or any more, because they fear being criticized and bullied. The result in the Richard Armitage fandom has been some fans walking away and, worse, deleting their entire blogs.
The beautiful side
Thankfully there are many fans and bloggers who are tenacious. They they do it for themselves. But often, they do it for each other.
Fans of Richard Armitage are Fans of Richard Armitage fans.
In the Richard Armitage Fandom exists an entity of love, devotion, creativity and sharing that I have never experienced anywhere else. I am not just talking for Richard Armitage, I am talking for each other.
Richard Armitage fans give. And they give a lot.
They create and share their art with each other. They take their time to make custom quilts , share ideas and gift them to each other. They give each other books, write poems and songs.
They give for birthdays, anniversaries, and causes.
They are compassionate and show support. They honor each other’s lost loved ones in memoriam and organize in charity.
They craft, go on vacation together, they create joint travel logs, they help each other through hard times, they share their best, watch each other’s backs and generally Spread the Love.
They give in behalf of each other’s children and they give to others’ children. And give. And give again.
They celebrate when Richard gets a new project, wins an award, and endorce and support a project.
The become webmasters or bloggers who go out of their way to be supportive and catalog and share articles and
They donate to charities, both Richard’s and their own to support communities and community wellness.
They share and report on each other’s blogs, interview other fans, create networking opportunities, and watch television together.
They give to each other. They give to each other. They give to each other.
They also fight fiercely to defend other and the community they belong to. (There will be no link here.) One that I call myself a card-carrying member of.
And we don’t have cards. We don’t. We have buttons. Several. And a Coat of Arms. But no cards. Well…maybe.
You say you’re not a fan
If there is someone out there reading this who has ever caught themselves in the process of slamming, criticizing, insulting, condemning, turning-their-nose-up-at, showing overall distaste for a particular fan or fandom, or are using the word Fan in its most derivative and derogatory form, please ask yourself this:
What actor, personality, film, TV show, sport, sports team, video game, politician, cause, art, music, books, authors, vocation, community, family or ancestral connection or otherwise worthy past-time are you “excessively enthusiastic” about, “insanely but divinely inspired” by, or “intense” or “uncritical” in your “devotion” to?
If you have your answer in just a few seconds, congratulations! You are a Fan!
If you said nothing, well then perhaps you should look up the work “passion” and maybe see about that.
To the Richard Armitage Fans, will you be my Valentine?