Fan-favorite Star Wars artist (and friend of the show), Dave Dorman, poses with some young fans of the franchise at a recent San Diego Comic-Con.
Imagination Connoisseur, Jeffrey Mao, presents his hypothesis about how age affects a person’s fandom and interest in genre entertainment. How old were you when you became a member of the Post-Geek Singularity?
Your recent musings and discussions about the beginnings of what we know now as modern “fandom” got me thinking about who the oldest fans are and how that has impacted the passing down of fandom across the generations.
So, much like sports fandom has been passed down from generation to generation, popular culture ‘genre’ fandom has started to be passed down from generation to generation. But when did this start? The one article that you read from argued that it started with Star Trek, and I would be inclined to very much agree with that. I could also argue that it was the beginning of the Marvel comics universe.
However, I don’t think that the interest in Marvel comics was strong enough and powerful enough to warrant that that started the fandom phenomenon. Star Trek probably more certainly did in that it created the concept of community among the fans, and a world related to the property outside of the original work. Now, naturally, there was a lot of cross-pollination between comic fans, Star Trek fans, and fans of other genres, but it was Star Trek that more than anything created enough momentum to keep it going and growing.
I know you didn’t watch Trek in its original run because you were still a baby, but let’s say that you did and you were around the same age as you were in reality.
So, say you’re 7-8 years old watching the first season of Trek. You watch Trek for three years and then it goes off the air. So, let’s say, for all intents and purposes your fandom continues the same. The only difference is that you encounter the later fan milestones at an older age.
Hypothetical Rob watches Star Wars at 17-18 instead of 10-11. You watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture at 19-20. You get my point. Would you still be the same massive fan as your real self?
I guess, my point is how old can you be while still staying the same kind of fan? I know we have a couple 60-year-olds in the PGS. But, clearly, they’re in the minority. Could you still be the same fan, say, if you were 63-64?
I’m thinking, what if you were a young teen watching Trek. Because I feel like even though there were a lot of adult fans of Star Trek and later Star Wars, how many of them became fans like us?
Say you’re 25 watching the “original” Star Wars (STAR WARS: EPISODE IV – A NEW HOPE). By the time STAR WARS: EPISODE VI – RETURN OF THE JEDI (SW:ROTJ) comes out, you got a job, married, kids, whatever, there isn’t as much other stuff around, and you have lots of adult concerns and problems to deal with. I just don’t feel those adult fans were sticking it out.
I think Andre from Midnight’s Edge is dead on about needing to be young enough to become a fan. He has no love for Star Wars because he never saw it as a kid. You’re right about your fandom needing time to marinate and germinate and take hold. Preferably the longer before puberty the better, because that’s when everything changes. I’m sure if you were to poll people about when they stopped liking the stuff that they liked as kids, they would say it was when they hit puberty.
I mean, you obviously met a lot of adult fans at conventions and at movie theaters and the like. But how many of them are still fans now? I have to imagine most drifted away.
So, I’ll put down, mid-60’s max as the oldest age for a fan, which would put you at 12-13 or so when first watching Trek. That puts them as probably the oldest people to have kids to whom they would have passed down their fandom. So that makes their kids more than likely at the oldest, early 40’s? I think that makes you and I, people in our age range, as first generation “fans.”
I mean, our parents weren’t interested in the stuff that we liked. My parents didn’t know anything about that then and especially not now. But now, my son’s growing up, and everything he likes, I like also for the most part, and I’m passing it down to him. My relationship to my son concerning this stuff is completely different than it was with me and my father. Also, I don’t feel that I’ll ever stop being a fan.
Like you, my interests have remained the same since I was a kid. Sure, I’ve added other things in. Also, it’s not like you can’t start liking things as an adult. I didn’t like motor racing as a kid as much, but when I became an adult, I started following it, and I applied the same intense interest to it as I did for genre media. However, I don’t think I would have that same intense fan interest if it didn’t develop as a kid.
So, those are my thoughts, and I’d especially love to hear the other Imagination Connoisseurs’ stories about when they became fans. Was it from a parent, an older sibling, cousin, friends?
Thanks, and see you in the Singularity,
– Jeff M.