When does fandom end? Does it ever end? What age do you stop being part of fandom? Online culture nowadays seems to dictate that fandoms have age limits. We have to start thinking about fandom beyond age.
My grandma, who is in her 90’s, is obsessed with Outlander. She has seen the entire series at least five times and is totally in love with Sam Heughan. A couple weeks ago, she was even speaking about the show’s reach in terms the younger generations would use. “It has a large fandom,” she said to my aunt on the phone. I was taken aback at first, though, thinking about it she has always been part of fandoms, even before the term was born.
Before fandoms there were fan clubs, where fans could interact with each other on a particular topic, band, artist, etc. We have to look at the larger scope of things. Our parents and grandparents were part of fandom life way before we were, they just called it something different.
My mom has been a classic rock fan since, well, forever. When she was pregnant with my sister and I she would only listen to the classic rock station and I gre up listening to it al the time. This was her fandom. She loves Eric Clapton and I would even classify her and a fangirl of him, at least in one point of her life.
My mom and grandma have always been parts of fandoms without any of us even knowing it for as long as I can remember. Even my grandpa could be classified as a “fanboy” nowadays. He loved Frank Sinatra and would always listen to and sing his songs.
Each generation before us has had their idols and the things they loved. The age of the internet was not the thing the birthed fandom and I think we should all take a step back to really see that. Especially since fandoms are used as an escape and a form of entertainment, no matter what age.
My grandma has made several comments, even amongst the teasing we give her for having a crush on Sam Heughan, like “I have to get my kicks somewhere.” After my grandpa died, she became lonely, and her friends are dying, and her body is getting to the point where she cannot get out on her own and do things. So Outlander is her outlet for fun and happiness. She uses the show like how I use my fandoms. It’s an escape from reality and from the boring walls around you.
So, how do we move forward from here? I think the key is to keep an open mind and be an active advocate. If you see someone online or hear someone in real life saying something negative about older members of fandoms, ask them if their parents or grandparents are fans of anything. Maybe it will get the wheels turning.
I also think it is important to validate the older fans in our lives. Make sure that you make them feel welcome. Let them know love they have for something is just as valid as their younger counter parts. It is easy to remove any humanity from our elders when their bodies start to fail and they need to be more reliant on others. Their brains still need stimulus and happiness outside family and friends just like you and me.
In the end we all want to show support of the things we love. Don’t forget, the older nerds paved the way for us!