The Fandom Phenomenon

On Thursday, March 24th 2016, I attended my local cinema’s 7:30 PM IMAX 3D premiere of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. The early negative reviews did not deter me from seeing the Caped Crusader (Batfleck edition) take on the Man of Steel. I’d eagerly pre-ordered my tickets over a month in advance and had been counting down the days. When Thursday finally came, I put on my trusty Batman T-shirt and went with my best friend and my parents to the theater. My dad, also a big Batman fan, wore his Batman hoodie proudly… and we certainly weren’t alone.

There is something unique about seeing a film on the night of it’s release; especially a film with such a passionate, dedicated fan-base. Thursday night was no exception. As we waited in line for overpriced snacks, we watched the crowd flow in, chattering excitedly about their expectations for the movie. The sold-out theater was full of people in Batman and Superman T-shirts, with the odd Wonder Woman and Aquaman scattered throughout. Fans of all ages came out; kids, teens, adults, entire families. A grown man dressed as Superman walked into the theater and asked, “This is the premiere of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, right?” which prompted laughter.

That is why I love seeing films on opening night – the sense of belonging from being in a place full of people who are there for the same reasons you are. The anticipation and the excitement is palpable, and it makes the event all the more special for everyone. I remember 2012, when I saw The Dark Knight Rises at midnight, in the days before my local cinema started doing 7-8PM premieres the night before. I got a photo in front of the cardboard cutout advertising the film in my official TDK shirt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen more Batman T-shirts in one place, and when I cried at the end of the film, as my favorite film series came to an end, I didn’t feel embarrassed, because at least ten other people around me were crying too.

In 2011, I made the front page of the newspaper with my best friend when we showed up 4 hours early to the premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II. It was the days before assigned seating, so we had to go early in order to ensure good seats, and it was my first time seeing an HP film at midnight. When talking about passionate fans, it’s difficult to top the HP crowd. I’m a big fan, but not the most overzealous… and yet, even I dressed up as Severus Snape for the event. And the place was full of fans of all kinds. Cosplayers, adults, kids, families, casual fans and ardent fans. Despite all the differences, we all had one thing in common; a love for The Boy Who Lived. Or, in my case, an accompanying appreciation for the work of Ralph Fiennes and Alan Rickman, but I digress. Watching the conclusion to a wonderful series in a theater full of fans (and seated between two sobbing friends) was a marvelous experience.

Even though I didn’t see Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening night (accursed overnight holiday shifts), I did go on Christmas Eve, and the result was mostly the same. Fans of all ages in Star Wars tees and hoodies. Mutual cheering when the film concluded.

Fandoms are an amazing and occasionally terrifying, phenomenon, when one thing, be it a book, movie, television series, or video game, can bring so many people together in mutual appreciation. Even seeing the last Hobbit movie at midnight – the final film in a series that had a polarizing reaction from fans and critics – was a pretty special experience. The Tolkien-purists were respectfully quiet and the more lax Middle Earth fans were allowed to enjoy the film in peace, because really, everyone was there to see the magic of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth one last time, as Billy Boyd serenaded the theater over the credits.

Once, my best friend and I were out seeing a Marvel film (I want to say it was The Avengers, but it may have been Thor: The Dark World, I honestly can’t remember but it was definitely Marvel and it wasn’t Iron Man 2) and we were waiting in line in front of a girl who was at the theater by herself. As it happens, we had all brought our Nintendo DS’s along and ended up exchanging friend codes in our respective Pokemon games, then, when we were allowed into the theater, we all sat together. We saw the same girl again at the next Marvel premiere and waved at each other. Yet another example of members of the same fandom coming together, simply because of mutual interest in one or multiple areas.

Most premieres in the MCU are like this, in my experience; an overwhelming camaraderie. For the second Avengers film last year, it was astonishing to see so many people representing their favorite character. I had my Cap Hoodie and Avengers shirt on, while my best friend repped Iron Man, and everyone giggled at the folks who left the theater before the inevitable post-credits scene, sighing and muttering, “Must be their first time…”

Each time something like this happens, I’m more and more amazed. Midnight book releases, night-before film releases, day-of video game releases, multi-day conventions… they are all part of the growing fandom phenomenon. And while there are negative aspects to fandoms (including a “mob mentality” which can become quite dangerous, depending on where it is directed, not to mention how vicious and ridiculous shipping wars can be) the positives are often a unique and awe-inspiring experience, and each time, I’m glad to be a part of it.

And now, I look forward to May 5th, 2016. I have my Captain America hoodie ready to go!

 

 

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