Unapologetically a Fan: Be Confident About What you Like!

 

There’s so much discourse nowadays about loving yourself, body positivity, mental health awareness. We put so much effort into trying to lift people up and create spaces where everyone is welcome. But what about taking down a construct present in everyone’s lives that can constantly make one feel lesser? The structure of popularity and liking. The oppressive and life-directing discourse of what’s cool and what isn’t, what is acceptable to like and what is not.

I’m sure we’ve all heard these words before: guilty pleasure. We all have one, something we love but can’t bring ourselves to admit. We all have something we genuinely like but know wouldn’t be accepted as cool or suitable to ‘fangirl’ over. It’s hard trying to decipher fan codes. Dropping subtle buzzwords from a TV show hoping your new friend will know what it means. Seeing someone with a t-shirt of a video game and getting excited because you love that game, but not wanting to say anything and ‘out’ yourself as a fan. As college and university students, this pressure is more noticeable than ever. You meet new people every day that know nothing about you. Now’s your chance to reinvent yourself! Take control over your image! But how do you decide what to include...

What’s even worse than navigating the uncool and unacceptable? Trying to navigate the popular. What’s popular one day is obsolete the next. It’s okay to like more ‘indie’ or ‘niche’ music artists like Phoebe Bridgers or Rina Sawayama, but you better not take it too far lest you risk seeming pretentious and unapproachable. You must also cater to your audience that’s ever-changing. Cards are kept close to the chest until a difference in opinion or knowledge is revealed. An everyday person might not know much about RuPaul’s Drag Race, so you must refrain from talking about it too much and seeming weird, in order. But you’re not a ‘real’ fan if you can’t remember every queen and winner from each season, Red text neon light sign Photo by Mohammad Metri from Unsplash

 

There’s always a subtle boundary being delineated, and it’s exhausting to keep up. We’re pressured to simultaneously know and engage with what is popular to achieve a high social status and be able to talk with others about these topics while also determining just what exactly falls into this popular category. We don’t know what someone likes until it’s spoken, and until it’s spoken, we all play a touch-and-go game of deciding what characteristics or interests are okay and popular to talk about to be cool and fit in. We try to play by everyone’s rules, like hiding the posters in your room on zoom lest a random classmate discovers you’re still a fan of One Direction.

There’s also gatekeeping within fan communities. Announcing your liking for something is often connotated with wholehearted obsession. You aren’t a real fan unless you know every character, every song, everything. There’s a threshold of knowledge demanded, required for truly liking something. If you finally decide to go for it, you must go for it all the way, lest you never be accepted in the fan community. The world may see BTS fans as crazy, so you head to Twitter to find fan communities that feel safe, only to feel unwelcome when you don’t know Jimin’s full birthday, zodiac sign, favorite animal, favorite food, the exact quote of that one thing he said in that one interview five years ago. It’s scary to admit you like something to the outside world, and it can be even scarier to try and find others with the same interests to confide in. Yet amidst this, you also must avoid being that fan, the one that’s unapproachable and ‘crazy’. 

But why should one feel guilty or embarrassed about what they like? If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to be a fan unapologetically. Never apologize or explain why you enjoy something, or make excuses for not knowing enough about something you like. I’m over feeling embarrassed for liking things that bring me happiness; I think it’s time society gets past judging people for their interests. It would be a lot easier to find like-minded people if we were open about what we like! I’m not usually one for New Years Resolutions, but in an act to strengthen my mental health and be happier, I’ve been focusing on being more confident in 2021, and being unapologetically a fan! A character* once said “I realized that I can keep going if I don’t worry about how stupid I look”, and I think this is pretty great advice.

Euphoria Zendaya Dancing Giphy

Different people inevitably like different things. Some things will inevitably be more liked than others. But these inevitabilities don’t need to lead to embarrassment, shame, and toxic communities. There isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to be a fan of something, just as there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ interests. Don’t feel pressured to keep up with the trends; don’t pressure others into liking what you like and dislike what you don’t. Watch that movie you want to watch, read that book you want to read, and don’t hide it! I promise that you’re not alone, or isolated, or weird. Other people like it too - they’re just too scared of societal pressure to admit it. So let’s change that.

 

*Yes, this is Leorio from the anime Hunter x Hunter, and no, I’m not ashamed to admit that I watch it!