I’ve seen this comic going around, and I like it and think its pretty accurate. But I want to add one more panel- one where the fan comes back out of the Tardis, and starts walking toward that big messy ball of conflict and says something like “ok, I’m back, and now I’ve got some ideas on how to deal with it all.” Even better if the art shows him seeing some other fans who weren’t able to get away from the conflict the way he did.
Escapism can be pretty great, and is often a pretty basic need, whether you’re escaping the troubles of the world, or just your own home. As a kid, I would re-read roleplaying books or re-watch my favorite scenes from Star Wars as a way to drown out my parents fighting. To this day there are movies and TV shows I will turn on because the conflict between the Vorlons and the Shadows makes more sense to me, and feels less hopeless, than what I read about in the news. And when I need that, I do my best to let myself have it without shame, or judgement, something I still struggle with. Nor is anything I write here meant to shame others who need that escape- this is about my own feelings only.
But time and again I find that the fandoms I love most are those that don’t just offer me an escape into a different world, but that help me find a better way to live in my own. Whether it was Yoda helping me better understand how anger and conflict is rooted in our fears, or Batman reminding me of the need to seek justice instead of vengence, or the crew of the Enterprise making me look at my own prejudices and challenge myself on them, the things I’m a fan of help me make sense of the big ball of angry chaos I started out trying to escape from. Watching and reading and then thinking or writing about the questions they bring up, or talking about them with others, helps make that big angry ball seem more managable, and reminds me that I’m not alone in taking it on.
My fandoms give me hope, and inspiration to get back in there and fight. If Hydra can be taken down, do I really think the NRA is unbeatable? If the Serenity crew can let the universe know about a governmental conspiracy, do I really think there isn’t a way to get around corporate media? You can’t stop the signal.
My fandoms remind me of the people who don’t have the same ability and privliege to escape that I do. I can turn on an old episode of Battlestar when reading about police violence gets me down, because I’m not black, and I don’t have to worry if I’ll be next. I can pick up an old D&D book and think about fighting orcs instead of Trump, because I’m neither Muslim nor an immigrant, and so I’m not going to face the same personal dangers they might if Trump wins. But if Han can give up on his plan to just take care of himself, and came back to help Luke and the Rebellion, who am I not to do the same?
This is also why I care that the movies, tv shows, and other things that I’m a fan of not just celebrate people who look like me; straight, white, male, and all the rest. One of the reasons that fandoms allowed me not only to escape, but to find inspiration to go back into the world, was because of how easy it was to find heroes I could relate to. As this story board about Rey from The Force Awakens so well demonstrates, that’s why we need women to wield lightsabers and gay guys to fight for S.H.I.E.L.D. and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. So that everyone can be reminded that they too can be a hero, and be inspired to go back.
Because at the end of the day, I don’t want to live my life with my head in a sand of fandom, hoping that I can turn up the TV loud enough to block out the the world. I want my fandoms to give me a place to hide and escape for a little while. A place to relax and recharge and remember that life isn’t just conflict and chaos, and that its ok to laugh about Odo’s frustration at Quark’s latest antics, even while the world is in pain. But then I want my fandom to start giving me a gentle nudge. A nudge that starts by telling me a story set a million miles away but with parallels to my own, that make me stop thinking about how overwhelming that ball of chaos is, and instead about how break it down, make it more managable and take it on. A nudge that becomes a push and that eventually becomes a call to action.
That’s why I’m a fan.