The measure of the fan is sincerity. Sincerity has many means of measure. Time spent or insight into a chosen area or artist are certainly ways to show devotion. These however are surpassed in the early 21st century by objects. How many box sets and collectors editions, how many restored texts or retrospectives do you own? Do you have a special shrine set up in a den or rec room to the item of adoration? Do you drink from a decorative glass in a commemorative t-shirt? If not, your devotion is suspect: the sign of the dilettante is a severe shortage of merchandise and a distinct lack of uniform. To live to the full extent of the definition, to earn the rest of the word fanatic, it is necessary to have the complete works. No gaps, every instance or appearance, all the best of compilations, every figurine, and shot glass. Websites and mailing lists are maintained to make sure that when you are away from this ever growing stack of memorabilia items, it is never far from your thoughts. Besides lines of information must be maintained to keep aware of new releases.
Now it is not that bad all the time, of course. We can connect with other lovers of the things we love at conventions and through correspondence. We can use mutual adoration to locate people like ourselves, holders of shared interests and values. There is certainly a joy of meeting those who are in the know. To adore a book or movie with family and/or friends is an incredible bond. It sets our lives in sync, it gives context.
It is in these deep roots that works of art, popular or obscure, where the insecurity sets in. No matter what or who you love, there is a sense of exposure in the identification. Easing up on the defenses, admitting to the emotional connection, often makes us aware of how out there on a limb these affinities make us. And with that new merchandise we are required to accept, that certificate of authenticity has been re-issued. It becomes less a matter of are we still in on that unique reality principle than it is about price. The more investment the more justification is required. Don’t believe me? Just ask anyone who has ever snuck another graphic novel or box set into their own house to avoid questions from a loved one who doesn’t have the “bug”.
In the collection itself is the confusion. The Marketplace consistently tries to pander the discernment of the fan, that at the heart of it, the fan is the archivist. That it is in the progression of works, in the creative choices made and discarded, that the superfan truly knows the totality of love. And what a miserable love that is. To accept this point of view is to be forever isolated, forever casting yourself onto even more distant islands of exclusion. Yet many of us have done it in the past. As children, we knew a select group of people as clueless based on entertainment choices. Not that this game of brinksmanship ceases with age. In this media saturated world it is known as buzz, a tension based in anticipation of the current new. The way that anticipation plays out is the basis for many a personal story. I’ve seen cassettes half listened thrown from moving cars as a final review. It’s not always a negative thing for the fan either. Often the success of genre franchises is based on delivery of the expected to the audience. I have seen serial fiction scooped off the shelf by the armload without even looking to see who wrote it. In our entertainments, it is often about approximation of the tingling nerve or emotional rush of that first flight of fancy. To pay again and again for that is a price of admission. We are willing to make that purchase as long as we feel treasured and not taken advantage of by market forces. To consider this ‘plight” a burden is to live in a rarified state, a private amusement park where all the rides are always closed for repairs.
As I stated earlier there are other ways to show devotion to these articles of imagination. When these means are embraced fully, a less stressful means of appreciation is possible. I have to constantly remind myself that the engineered culture clashes of the entertainment complex are more about them than they are about me. Enjoying the abundance is about engaging the extremes of head and heart not just adding to the pile. Without having others to enjoy the works of wild dreamers and talented craftsmen, what is the value of our collections? To share these special things that we have uncovered is to give of ourselves, to issue guest passes to our most prized dreams. To do otherwise is to mistake wealth for riches, to see pricelessness as cheapness. As a hobby shop owner from my childhood used to say, it’s collector’s market and things are only worth what a collector is willing to pay.