Fandoms and Universes: A Quick Essay

151784Recently, I took stock of all the various fandoms of which I am a part.  Here’s the list: Harry Potter, Whedonverse, Supernatural, iZombie, and Veronica Mars.  Probably Marvel if you only count the MCU, not the comics.  Some of the DC CW shows almost made the list too.  I’m not a member of the Star Wars fandom, although I’ve seen all of the movies at least once (not Solo).  I’ve never seen the Star Trek shows or movies.  I’ve seen a handful of Dr. Who episodes at random but I keep hesitating to dive into that intense fandom.  There is too much content to devour it all.

The worlds are too big!

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Many of the fandoms I joined when they were just beginning.  I read Harry Potter as it came out.  I watched the Whedon shows on DVD (before Netflix was a streaming services).  I began watching Supernatural and iZombie when the first seasons aired.  I was two seasons late to Veronica Mars but soon caught up and finished before the last (at the time) season aired.  I went to my first Marvel movie because I knew that Joss Whedon was directing The Avengers, which would be the final team-up movie featuring all of these new characters (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America).  I’ve seen every Marvel movie since then (Curse you, Whedon!).  But, in short, I joined these fandoms on the ground floor.

Why do I avoid new fandoms?  Why doesn’t I just watch Dr. Who or Star Trek already?

The simple answer is that I’m afraid.

To be clear, I’m not afraid of the fandom itself.  I’m afraid of diving face first into a deep pool of content.  Dr. Who is a huge series.  Where would I start?  The rebooted seasons?  The older seasons?  What about Star Trek?  Do I begin with the original series?  In what order do I watch the Star Wars movies?  This doesn’t begin to include the expanded universe of all these fandoms.  That’s too much homework for one lifetime!

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In other areas, I’m more selective.  I saw the DC movies Wonder Woman and Shazam in theaters and rented Aquaman.  But I avoided Suicide Squad, Batman Vs. Superman, and Justice League (which I actually forgot existed while writing this post).  Continuing with DC, I’ve seen all of The Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow (which I love).  I’ve only watched half of season one of Arrow though.  It doesn’t grab me as much.  Barry Allen is more watchable than Oliver Queen, in my opinion.  I prefer Grant Gustin’s Barry to what I’ve seen of Ezra Miller’s portrayal, although I loved Miller in Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Like I said, I’ve seen all the Marvel movies, but I didn’t watch Agents of Shield.  I enjoyed Jessica Jones on Netflix and liked Daredevil, but I haven’t watched Iron Fist and wasn’t drawn in by Luke Cage.  My fear with the new Disney Plus streaming service is that the new content featuring Marvel movie characters will be required viewing to understand the movies.  From what I’ve heard, this will probably be the case, namely with WandaVision and the second Dr. Strange movie (LINK).

b6c2f9925ae1d585576022bc06a20832.jpgThe MCU is becoming far too big, and frankly, I’m losing steam.  I’m a dirty casual viewer, so they have to take it easy on me.  (I’ve never read a Marvel comic and I’ve barely read any comics.)  But I know Marvel and Disney will not slow down anytime soon.  Marvel movies like Avengers: Endgame are now cultural events.  The comic book movie has come a long way.  What would Christopher Reeve think?  DC and Marvel, no matter the setbacks, are in it for the long haul.  They are not going away.

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What does that mean for the viewer?  Well, we have to learn to be more selective.  I’m not going to become a part of the Star Wars fandom, but I’ll go see The Rise of Skywalker in the theaters.  I’ll probably never watch Star Trek or Dr. Who as a whole.  I’ll continue watching the CW shows (except iZombie, which is in its final season) and go to see the Marvel movies.  I’ll wait for a week to see the next DC movie, if I go at all.  I’m not planning on seeing the next Fantastic Beasts movies after the dud that was the second movie.  Basically, I’ll seek out the characters I find interesting (like Legends of Tomorrow, seriously, go watch it now) and ignore or miss the characters or content I don’t find compelling.  I know fans of the properties I avoid probably don’t like everything I find enjoyable.  It’s a free world.  But we can both enjoy our respective fandoms without swaying the other.  I’ll praise the likes iZombie and Veronica Mars because fewer people know about these shows, but that is becoming rarer.  Everyone knows about Star Wars and Dr. Who.  For the most part, I’ll trust the recommendations of myfriend and family, but that doesn’t mean I’ll watch everything they suggest.

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The sheer amount of media in the world today (movies, shows, books, etc.) is too much to take in and not feel exhausted.  Modern media is overwhelming.  The viewer must decide what to filter out to avoid a never-ending list of shows on your chosen streaming services.

Don’t mindlessly consume.  Use your judgment and narrow the flood of media to a stream.

Good luck, fellow viewer!enhanced-17040-1446660609-11

Why Study the Humanities?

My friend is a doctor.  She saves lives and delivers babies on a daily basis.  I study literature and went to college to earn a BA and MA in English (with an emphasis on creative writing).  More than once, she has asked me what I do and why it, whatever “it” is, is important.  This question stumps me a bit every time it comes up.  I give a response, after a pause, boasting the need for analysis of art, media, literature, politics, etc.  Then I let my voice trail away and there is a thick silence.  Usually it is followed by some weak muttering.

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I haven’t read a piece of critical theory since I graduated over a year ago in May 2018.  On a whim, I picked up a book (Culture by Terry Eagleton) to warm up that dormant part of my brain.  The subject of Eagleton’s book wasn’t causing much response in me, so I let my brain drift.  I landed on the curious question, not meant to be harsh or probing, from my doctor friend.  I don’t think she even expects an answer.  But this is my attempt at one.

What is the point of studying the humanities?

I hate to admit that when it comes to the minutely detailed arguments, it maybe doesn’t matter as much.  The wider world does know one scholar from another (with some exceptions like Freud and Marx).  The general population doesn’t contemplate Raymond Williams or Slavoj Zizek or Jack Halberstam.  Those names probably mean nothing to them.

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But on a larger scale, I think theory (the act of examining something critically) promotes critical thinking and allows us to analysis the world around us.  In this way, theory and the humanities are key to human life and existence.

Life without art would be blank.  I use the word “art” as a catchall.  Like porn, you know art when you see it.  Life without expression is nothing.  This expression is art.  Art, via media, is everywhere because media is everywhere.  We consume media on a daily basis.  Thus, we should be mindful of what we are consuming.  Lindsay Ellis’s video essays (especially on Disney) are a great example.

Be critical of everything (within reason).

Media is everywhere: the device in your pocket or purse delivers media directly to you at any moment.  It is unavoidable.  And we should be critical of it.

The humanities foster this critical muscle.

What my friend sees me and other scholars doing is the nit-picking stuff—the micro level of theory and thinking critically.  On the macro, however, we are employed in critical work, dissecting the world around us.  This still is vital to modern human life.

Think of Facebook and your crazy, conspiracy-spouting aunt.  Do you believe everything she posts?  I hope not.  And that is critical thinking.  The same applies to all social media.  And media in general.  You shouldn’t be paranoid that everyone is lying to you, but take claims with a grain of salt, especially if they lack evidence to support their claim.

In short, in order to think critically, one should study the humanities.