Fandom, the YouTube Movie

By | Wednesday, February 07, 2007 Leave a Comment
I found on YouTube a documentary called, simply, "Fandom" by Edgar Monetjano. (Uploaded just last week.) First off, I am thrilled that there's more attention being paid to the notion of fandom itself. I think there's a lot of interesting ground to cover that hasn't even been touched yet, so I'm always happy to see people exploring the notion of comic book fandom.

The film-maker talks one-on-one with several fans of comics books and one comic shop manager about what a comic book fan is made of. They even follow one of the fans into a comic book convention and talk with Andrew Crosby. I've got a few criticisms, but take a look a Part 1 (of 5) first...

Let me state that this is, according to the author, for a school project. I think that's important because it shows that A) this is largely a one-man job done on small budget and B) being done by a student, he's still in the process of learning and we shouldn't expect something that's ready for The History Channel.

That said, though, I'll make a few critical comments. Not about the film or sound quality or anything like that -- I don't know the circumstances around or requirements of the project -- but about the content. Monetjano starts with, I think, something of a faulty/out-dated premise. The idea is that he's trying to dispell the myth that comic book fans are all geeks who live in their mother's basement with no social life to speak of. The problem, as I see it, is that that myth doesn't really exist any more. At least, not outside of comicdom.

Take a good look at pop culture references to comic books. Sure, you can point to Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons as a negative stereotype of a comic book fan... but isn't Bart a big comic book fan, too? Gus and Jess from Psych were both shown to be normal comic book fans. Stephen Colbert, the media persona, is a comic book fan.

And what about real-world celebrities? Kevin Smith is an unabashed comic book fan, and Quentin Tarantino isn't that far from the scene either. How many fans followed Joss Whedon or J. Michael Stracyznski over from their TV work to comics? And you have to figure Guillermo del Toro and Robert Rodriguez are fans to a degree. For that matter, SOMEBODY has to be green-lighting the slew of comic book based movies!

Oh, there are still "geeks" out there that hold that negative stereotype -- The 40 Year Old Virgin seems like a prime example. But even the incredibly campy Who Wants to be a Superhero? showed a much greater breadth and depth of character in all of the characters -- even the arguably geeky Feedback showed there was more to him reading comic books all day.

It would seem that American society has accepted that being a comic book fan does NOT equal being a geek. Being a part of comic book fandom can almost be cool in and of itself. Further, it would seem that American society has defined two types of geeks: the dorky "classical" geek who's social awkward and quotes Star Wars ad nauseam, and the hipper intellectual geek who's comfortable with their self-image and knows when it's appropriate to make Star Trek jokes.

From THAT standpoint, I think Monetjano has a faulty premise. One, perhaps, that isn't fully recognized yet inside the comic book fan base. Whether that stems from a long collective memory of fans, or the insular nature of the industry, I don't know. Either way, I'm still thrilled that Monetjano made his film -- it shows there's more interest in the subject matter and can elicit conversations (assuming someone responds to this) like this one.
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