In the English language, we have only one word for love. But we do accept that we feel many different kinds of love depending on its direction—religious love, familial love, friendly love, romantic love. Fandom, too, is a kind of love although it is often mistakenly spoken as if it is a monolith. Our love for movies, television shows, video games, and books takes many forms because media plays many roles in our lives.
Below are four kinds of fandom one person may experience, as they may experience relationships with people. Any of them sound familiar to you?
The bud from childhood
This film/TV show/video game/book was important to you as you were growing up. It had the first character you got a crush on as a pre-teen, introduced to you the concept of feminism, and/or left you a sobbing, heaving mess because of its traumatic finale (which makes you cry every time years later). Looking back, it was never perfect and had some weird storytelling problems (did the writers’ room have an obsession with creepy frat boys?? Also that rape subplot was a TERRIBLE call), but they’re wrapped up in a cast iron shield of nostalgia. This media contributed to who you are today as a person and you would never change that.
The fluctuating FWB
This fandom is one of your present-day fandoms and it is a lot of fun with no commitment! The passion you feel for this work ebbs and flows. Sometimes, you go on week-long fanfiction binges all about your OTPs and trawl through the deepest corridors of tumblr to find memes that make you laugh until you can’t breathe. But for the most part, the fluctuating FWB fandom lives in the periphery in your life, ready for you when it’s convenient for another tumble in the bedsheets.
Just because this fandom is an FWB doesn’t mean you don’t have a deep relationship, though. The fluctuating FWB can give you a kind of pleasure you’ve never experienced with any other fandom and every time you meet up again, you’re sent spiraling into a whirlwind of passion.
The fast and furious fling
The fast and furious fling very much resembles love at first sight. The work this fandom is based on may have everything you’ve ever wanted—the right aesthetics, the right character relationships, your favorite themes, all wrapped up in writing and production styles that make your heart sing. You fall in deep. Real deep. As passion consumes you, you in turn consume everything about this work available like you’re starving. You spend hours at night awake, thinking about the three different meanings behind a single sequence. You transform your living and work spaces into shrines to your beloved. For weeks, you live on a high—every day burdens and anxieties decrease in impact, because you’re too obsessed about this piece of media to care.
And then one day, sometime after you finished that last episode or last chapter, you realize something. You’re not in love anymore.
Perhaps you burned out all your affection at once. Perhaps it’s just that there’s no new material to fuel the flames. Either way, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Having a fast and furious fling with a piece of media is one of the most magical experiences a fan can have. Although you may miss the peak of excitement that came with the newness of the relationship, you still look at the work fondly, like a very, very dear old friend.
The OTL (One True Love)
Your love for this work is not predicated on how much new material comes out. It does not always happen at first sight, like with the fast and furious fling. Its presence in your life doesn’t fade, as it did with the bud from childhood and inevitably will with the fluctuating FWB. Your love for this work is for life.
You celebrate its characters’ birthdays, you religiously run one of the bigger fanblogs, you write essays on its relation to culture (or maybe even get hired and write new stories yourself, if you’re ambitious enough). Its little moments still leave you screaming with joy and you adore its flaws as much as you adore its strengths. This isn’t a matter of putting the work on a pedestal because to put anything on a pedestal is to fictionalize and idealize it. No—you see this work for what it is in every angle. At its worst, you forgive it because you know how it is at its best. And at its best, you know what magic is.
Not everyone has an OTL because an OTL means devotion. Devotion means effort and time, far beyond the amount of work an average fan volunteers. However, if you are one of those willing to invest pieces of your soul into a fandom, you get back an immeasurable amount. A safe space, a community, undying passion. A lifetime of love.