The fandom society

They came from all over the world. They took time off from work and from school. Some left their families behind. They planned months ahead of time. Just for this day. This is what many of the 2,500 fans who had been camping out in downtown Los Angeles had to do for a chance to see their favorite stars at the world premiere of the last installment of the “Twilight” series, “Breaking Dawn: Part 2.”

“Twilight” is one of innumerable fandoms that have brought legions of fans together for years to celebrate their favorite movie, book, TV show, comic book, superhero, or character.

Fandoms consist of various forms of media and entertainment whose fan bases passionately promote and sympathize with their subject. These fans feel a sense of camaraderie among their fellow fans, aided by access to social media, allowing fans from all over the world to connect with one another.

Holland native Laura deLeeuw met Tracy Cappocia for the first time in person when she flew to meet Cappocia in her hometown of Boston.  They flew together to L.A. for the chance to be there for the final “Twilight” film.

“I met her on Twitter,” said deLeeuw. “It’s the last movie, the last chance to do this.”

“I think the best thing for a lot of us is, even if we haven’t met already, a lot of us talk to each other through Twitter and social networking sites,” said fellow fan Shannon Carlton, who flew in from Washington for the premiere. “It’s being able to meet up with everybody you’ve already talked to for years, that have the same passion and love you have.”

Another fandom with a passionate following is the Batman franchise.

The Dark Knight has been around for well over 50 years, yet has maintained a very passionate and devoted fan base.

“I swear there’s not a day that goes by that somebody comes in and tries to have a conversation [about Batman],” said Santa Monica College student and Dreamworld Comics employee Ronald Williams.

“I think everybody can connect with him because he’s still human,” said Williams. “He doesn’t have any superpowers or anything. I think everyone can relate to him on that level.”

Fellow Batman fan and founder of the website Batman on Film, Bill Ramey, agrees. “Batman is the most ‘real’ superhero.  He has no powers,” said Ramey. “One can always think, ‘You know, if I train real hard, maybe I could be Batman.’ You can’t say that about Superman, Spider-Man, etc.”

John Bierly, a comic book reviewer for Batman on Film said “This is our modern mythology. I think that’s why the character is so popular today.”

Like Twilight fans, Bierly echoes the sentiment of camaraderie that comes with being part of a fandom.

“Movies and comics and all these things are great, but when you make life-long friendships with great people, and you see those people succeed because they worked hard and believed in something, that’s incredible,” he said.

Anime has an equally large, united fan base. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Anime is a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots often with fantastic or futuristic themes.

Shirley Jalmaani, current Cal State Northridge student and SMC alum, has been a fan of anime since she was a child living in the Philippines. “Most cartoons over there were anime,” she says.

Jalmaani recalls watching the popular 90’s anime cartoon “Sailor Moon” and the effect it had on her childhood.

“The girls were independent, strong, intelligent, and so different yet very similar,” she said. “It also helped that they showed that they were equals to males. It helped keep me from that mindset that girls had to have a guy protecting them and that we were always ‘the damsel in distress.’”

Now a young woman in college, Jalmaani appreciates the variety of the genre. “It’s not just the strong, independent women that have kept me interested, it’s the fact that anime is starting to show more strong women in male dominant anime’s,” she explained.

Jalmaani mirrors the sentiments of other fandoms and the sense of community with fellow fans. “I do enjoy the whole bonding experience with other anime fanatics when I go to big conventions,” she said. “[The conventions] allow fans to meet others that are just as interested as them.”

The universal appeal of these fandoms is not lost on those in the educational community. “It is clear that the variety of media forms and social media in particular have enabled fandoms to proliferate and cross geographic and national boundaries,” said SMC Communications professor Bobby Simmons.

“I guess you could say the demand among fans to connect and interact is helping various media industries by giving them consistent audiences and users,” he said.

Professor Simmons says the societal influences of fandoms are apparent. “At some level, fandoms remind us of our need for community, especially as traditional institutions like family, church, school, military, government are either in flux, or have failed, or seem insufficient to our needs,”

“Connecting with other people who have a shared passion for something gives us additional communities--additional alliances, however specific or partial--that augment or sometimes take the place of the historical institutions like family, school, etc,” he said. “In that sense, it can be good, but it can also indicate the failure of those traditional communities.”

In the end, each individual member decides what their fandom means to them. Many devote their lives to their passion, embracing the sense of community that’s included in a fandom, while others aren’t as zealous in their devotion. The fandom community is just that — a community, united in one universal thought.

“We just have a love for a story,” saidCarlton.