You’re a comics fan and/or a comics pro, that’s real cool, congrats!
You arrive at a social gathering where you’re mingling with your peers who are also (presumably) into comic books. You’re amongst your people. Inevitably, one of your peers brings up Sandman, an iconic book by most people’s standards that changed the game for many. Everyone excitedly chatters about the series, singing the praises of Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg for their brilliance.
They turn to you, looking for your input after several minutes of nodding along enthusiastically, agreeing wholeheartedly with what the crowd has been saying. What’s your take on Sandman, they ask you.
A small amount of sweat starts dripping down your forehead as you try to “Ummm” and “Ahhh” your way out of the situation. No one comes to save you from this conversation, and there is no reprieve.
Finally out of sheer panic that you might otherwise insult these Sandman fans, you breakdown in front of them, waving your arms at them pleadingly, “Okay, so I’ve always meant to get around to reading Sandman but like, it’s just never happened… I will someday because, boy howdy, everyone sure does love it, but it hasn’t happened yet…”
You smile in a panic. Surely they think you’re a fraud now (this is extra relevant if you’re a woman in fandom or any kind of minority…) and they’re going to kick you out of their club.
They stare at you for a moment. They’re confused. They don’t compute the words that you’re saying. Haven’t read Sandman? Surely we didn’t hear that correctly. SURELY.
The tension and awkward silence is killing you. You look away and scratch your head hoping that they’ll change the subject.
“So like, you’ve never read any Sandman. Like, anything? Ever?”
You nod. They continue to look at you’re speaking Klingon to tell an inside joke about a movie you’re watching but that film happens to be The Force Awakens.
How dare you.
You brace yourself because you already know what’s coming. The next undefined period of time will be devoted to them trying to convince you to read Sandman immediately. Like, go home right now and read it level stuff. Sure enough, it begins and you begin tuning them out and focusing on other things going on around you. It’s almost like an out of body experience. You have no idea how much time has passed before you simply just walk away towards the snack table because you’re hungry after wasting all that energy on trying to have a conversation on – god forbid – something you haven’t read. They call after you because they were only a quarter of the way through with their TED Talk on Why Choose Sandman but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Here’s the thing though: this doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be a panic situation. We need to evaluate how we react to people who don’t love the things we love. Physical media and collections exist so that people can come to these properties at any time that they want… or never if they so choose.
I’m guilty of having this mentality surrounding things that I’m passionate about. I’ve definitely screamed “WHAT?! HOW?!” when someone has told me that they haven’t watched one of my favourite TV shows or haven’t sat down to watch one of my favourite movies. But the thing is, I’m the person on the other end of that a lot as someone who didn’t really grow up with comic books outside of Archie and various manga, and didn’t have a TV for the most part growing up. I don’t get your Simpsons references. I didn’t watch endless reruns of Star Trek as a kid. I watched Star Wars but I didn’t grasp that it was the pop culture phenomenon that I know it to be now.
Without fail, it always makes me feel dumb and crappy, even if the person is framing it in a “Oh man, you’d love it – you have to watch it!” because there’s a good chance that I know I should watch it (or read, play, consume, etc.) and I’ve been told by other people already.
I haven’t always been as busy as I am nowadays but there’s never been enough time to get through all of the things I want to. The fact is that I pick and choose things to enjoy based on my mindframe at the time. Do I want something lighthearted and chill? Yes. Pretty much always at this point. Which rules out a lot of stuff that is considered Must Read/Watch/Play content that exists in the world.
I hoarded a lot of comics and movies over the years thinking that I would get around to certain things someday. I came to the realization that I might never make it to a point where I want to read all of Sandman. I might not ever watch any of the Star Trek TV shows. Maybe I won’t ever love Star Wars as much as many of the fans (although maybe this is good thing). But the fact of the matter is, that is okay.
It’s okay for us to have different favourites and different things that brought us to fandom in general.
One thing that I’m trying to do going forward is not impose what I love onto others. If someone hasn’t seen something that I’m smitten with, I want to try asking alternatives to “WHAT?!” and “HOW!?” such as:
- “What are some of the things you’re enjoying right now?”
- “What’s one of your all-time favourites?”
- “Who is one of the best characters ever made?”
I think a conscious effort from all of us to change how we interact with each other when it comes to our fandoms would go a long way in not turning people off of them. Sure, I’d love to magically find the time to read everything that I’ve ever wanted to but that’s not realistic. I make time for what brings me happiness and what I want to consume at the time without worry about what someone else will think if I don’t make time for something else.
Let’s create more positive conversations around what we love. What I love isn’t necessarily going to be something that you love…. and that’s okay.