I just got back from a super big conglomeration of nerds. I admit, that the vast majority of fan interactions I had were really great. I got to chat with other people who liked the same things I do, and it was great deal of fun.
However, I’ve heard some talk around the interwebs that there were some fan-fan interactions that were less than stellar. I think the sort of hazing that goes along with old fans interacting with young fans comes with how hard it used to be to be a fan. Some of the properties that are mainstream (THANKFULLY!) were really hard to get a copy of. In college, I was part of the anime club strictly for the anime showings because they often ran stuff I couldn’t find (and I went to some shady places in Los Angeles to score copies of anime, it was like heroine dealer, coke dealer, anime dealer--no really). I know more about torrents and streaming from my love of properties not sold in the US 20 years ago than seems healthy for someone on the anti piracy side of the equation.
So yeah, I’ll admit, it was hard to access some anime compared to the kind of access that people have now.
And I’m going to say: I’m glad it’s easier to get the kind of movies that we love. I’m glad I can walk down to the book store, buy manga and browse the anime section at the local video store. And really, old fans―yes, I include myself in some of these properties, but obviously not all―should be really happy that a bazillion teenage girls (and boys) are super stoked about a previously obscure fandom.
You know why, right?
The more fans, the more stuff. More movies, more merchandise, more creators at cons. More.
So, how do you make a new fan feel welcome? Try this:
Fan A: “Yo, I see you have a Groot on your bag. That’s pretty awesome. Have you been a fan for long?”
Fan B: “Nah, but I LOVED the movie. Groot is my favorite.”
Fan A: “It’s great to have new fans. You know <awesome comic book writer> had a great feature of Groot. You might enjoy it. Welcome to the club. You know, the more of us there are, the more Guardians stuff we’ll get―like movie two!!!!”
In short: all fandoms need new fans otherwise they die. The way to make new fans feel welcome in a fandom is to acknowledge their enthusiasm, and if they ask, or there's an aspect near and dear to your heart, you can direct them towards some of the facets of the property that you think are fantastic. (hopefully, the new fans won't just blow you off, but it's a possibility, because, you know, human)
The thing not to do to new fans is to be judgmental about the properties and the way the new fans find them.
Example: I love Green Lantern. I never knew the property existed until I saw the movie. I loved it so much I made a costume for it for my first dragon con. At that Con, I bought every GL comic book I could get my hands on.
I told no one of my ignorance for fear of being judged, and because the movie had just come out, there were GLs EVERYWHERE. Out of fear, I completely isolated myself from this vast group of people who love what I love.
The only person who I talked to about it? A bartender. He asked me if I thought the movie was as horrible as everyone said. It was the only part of that fandom I had experienced―And I’d LOVED IT. Yes, I thought the movie could have been handled better. Yes, the plot had MAJOR problems, but honestly, I sat through a full-priced showing of Batman and Robin, GL was at least firing on all cylinders, even if there was a knock in the engine.
So I made up something politic and slunk away determined to not be judged.
Try not to do this to new fans. It’s a horrible feeling. Ask them how they found out about it, and if they’re over the moon about one aspect of it (I’m looking at you MNight Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender), don’t rip on it. People can be a Star Wars fan if they love Clone Wars but haven’t seen the movies. They might really enjoy the movies, and you, as an older fan, might recommend those movies to them, but just because they haven’t seen them, doesn’t mean they aren’t a “real” fan.
Okay, this could go on forever, so I’ll stop there. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments. Or, if you feel like having a flame war: state why your favorite comic book hero is the best and defend it with nothing more than your biased opinion. Extra points for dissing both the major comic houses in the same post.
Joking! But, if you want to take this opportunity, recommend a comic book property to me (please include the writer and the issue to start with, but be aware, I've read a crap ton of obscure comic books), and I’ll see if it’s my jam or not (extra points if you recommend something I like as much as GL).