Chances are that, if you’ve been on the internet, you’ve heard of the phrase fandom. A fandom is defined as “the state of condition of being a fan of someone or something”, or “the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture”. Whether you find yourself as part of a fandom, or simply viewing from the outside, there is something clear about fandoms. Their naming habits.
From Ariana Grande’s Arianators to the infamous Superwholock, names are vital. They provide a sense of identity for the individual fan, and a sense of community for a group of fans. However, how does one fandom collectively agree on one name for themselves?
Many fandoms in popular cultures have names that distinguish them from other communities. These names follow movies, television series, videogames, singers, and much more. Some names are made by fans, while others are made by the media itself.
K-Pop is an example of fandom names made by the company/celebrity. Many of these groups will have fandom names released for fans to identify with. A prime example of this is BTS and the fandom name “A.R.M.Y”. A.R.M.Y stands for “Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth”. A.R.M.Y also gives the idea of military. Fans took this name to show that they were loyal to BTS, and how they would always stand by them. According to ARMYPEDIA, a digital archive for everything BTS, A.R.M.Y is only one of the many names chosen.
This idea of fandom identity was furthered by BTS when fans could buy A.R.M.Y membership. Purchasing membership would mean access to special events, limited merchandise, as well as a membership card.
What About Fan-Nominated Names?
The thing with fandom names, is that their origins are not always clear. More often than not, it’s like a snowball effect; one small start grows bigger until a whole community is using it. This is the same for the infamous fandom of Superwholock.
For those that don’t know, Superwholock is/was the collective name used for the crossover of shows Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock. It was quite popular on Tumblr in early 2013-mid 2014, though it almost vanished after that. While it isn’t entirely clear when the phrase Superwholock came to be, the first post using the tag is said to be August 10th 2011. However, considering this was over ten years ago, it is likely posts have since been deleted. Given Tumblr’s platform and influence, it has always been a space for fandom. Once the tag was used and started gathering notes, artwork, fanfiction, and other posts soon followed. All three fandoms were also hugely popular on Tumblr at the time, so anything to do with any of these three were enough to gain attention. All of them combined really gained interest on the platform.
Interest in Superwholock continued from there. The tag was then seen on websites such as LiveJournal, Wattpad, and other fandom-fueled websites. Then, from the umbrella term of Superwholock, came subgenres of Wholock, Superwho, and Superlock. This meant that, even if someone didn’t like one particular part of Superwholock, a fan could break off into one of the sub-fandoms, but with some homage to the original name.
Does Every Fandom Have A Name?
Surprisingly, no. Some media just doesn’t have names that catch on with fans. An example of this would be Steven Universe. Though fans have given affectionate names to the characters, abbreviations of titles, and filled tags with a million and one posts like every other fandom, there isn’t such an easily recognizable name for it. The fandom has been given the title of “Steventhusiasts”, but some fans describe it as “closest to” rather than identifying with the term fully. This doesn’t make a community any less of a fandom, however. Some fandoms have other defining quirks, like niche references and jokes, which bring the community together. Some fandoms don’t at all need a name to be seen as a group – and to some, it may be better to not have a name at all.
All in all, it’s the fans that make the fandom. There wouldn’t be anyone to name if it wasn’t for the community that the fans make – and that’s what counts. No matter if a fandom has a name made for it, created by it, or no name at all, it’s the sense of belonging to a group of like-minded people that matters most.
Are you part of any fandoms with an unusual name, and do you know the story behind it? Would you rename a fandom something else, or do you even think fandoms need a name? Let us know in the comments!