I was 15 when I discovered Queen, via Freddie Mercury’s untimely death. My friend Kate was full of enthusiasm when she heard that I didn’t know who he was. Thanks to her, they became my all-consuming obsession for most of high school. Through them - and said friend - I also discovered the existence of the movie Highlander, so I rented a VHS copy from the video store and decided to watch it one night when my high school BFF was over to spend the night.
She was not impressed. At all. Which maybe should have given me the first inkling that our BFF-ness wouldn’t last forever. “Admit it,” she said, “the only reason you like this movie at all is because of Queen, and Kate.” Which made me grumpy as hell, because a) no, Highlander is AWESOME, fuck you - my love for cheesy genre movies has a long and storied history, and b) even if I discovered it because one of my friends liked it, what’s wrong with that? But, because my self esteem was less than zero in high school, she succeeded in making me feel ashamed of my love for that movie for several years.
I spent a few years post-high school obsessed with Natalie Goldberg’s books about writing. They’re really good at prodding a beginning writer into action, but there were some things in there that I internalized either in the wrong way, or that were straight-out harmful. Like the exercise that prompted you to think of something you enjoy “just as yourself,” eliminating anything that you enjoy because someone else introduced you to it, or enjoys it, or anything like that. I spent a lot of time sitting and thinking, but couldn’t come up with much of anything that I discovered all on my own, without having someone else introduce me to it. At the time, I thought that was a flaw, a weakness - that I was too dependent on others, What I took away from that exercise was that I needed more independence, more interests that nobody else shared.
I wish I’d asked myself what the fun was in that at the time.
The acronym “MSF” has popped up in fannish circles in recent years - it stands for “Migratory Slash Fan.” It’s not a compliment. Part of me understands the frustrations of the people who use this acronym - I know the sort of people they’re talking about, the ones who wander from fandom to fandom, imposing their favorite character archetypes onto all the characters whether the characters canonically fit them or not. It can be maddening … but at the same time, it’s not hurting me any, so what’s the point in complaining? If a fandom consists of nothing but those sorts of people, then clearly it’s not the fandom for me, so my time is better served looking for one that does fit my own needs than complaining about one that doesn’t.
But I do rather hate the “MSF” complaints, to be honest. Because they tend to be rooted in the same thing as the first two stories. “BNF X decided they liked Fandom Y,” they complain, “so everyone else decided they liked it too!”
… so what?
Being a fan is a solitary thing. Being in a fandom is a community experience.
You come to fandom in the first place because you love something so much that you need to share it with other people. But once you’re there - once you’ve experienced the kind of community fandom can be, the kind of amazing things it can produce - most of us, I think it’s fair to say, want to continue to be a part of fandom, even if the canon that originally pulled us in fades away. So it’s only natural to say “okay, this person over here writes really great stories, and she’s now writing for this other fandom I don’t know about, but maybe it’s something I’d like?” Or perhaps “all my friends stopped talking about X and started squeeing about Y - I like talking to my friends about fandom, so maybe I’ll give Y a shot.” Because fandom becomes your community, your social circle. We give such lip service to the idea that online interactions are just as valid as in-person interactions, but we can sometimes be really dense about thinking of online life as a real, valid social life. It’s natural to want to participate in your social circle. That’s how new experiences happen, a lot of the time.
“But they’re ruining our fandom with their terrible ideas/characterization/whatever!” I know how it feels when a fandom turns in a direction you don’t want it to go, trust me. (Ask me about SGA fandom and Shepard/McKay shippers sometime, if you’re in the mood to hear me get really pissy.) But in the end … so what? People will always have different ideas than you. People will always like different things than you. People will always have fun with things you don’t understand. Welcome to life. It happens everywhere, even in fandom. Being bitter and angry in public isn’t going to change a damned thing, except your reputation, in that people will start to think of you as “that angry person who doesn’t seem to like fandom that much.” I get it. You love a thing, you want a community, but the community doesn’t seem to love the thing in a way that you can deal with. Or, they all love a thing that you don’t understand, and everyone wants to talk about it instead of this other thing that makes you happy. It sucks. But when has anger and bitterness over this particular subject ever changed anyone’s mind? Made people leave the fandom and go have fun somewhere else, sure, it can accomplish that in no time. But has it ever made people say “oh, you’re right, I’m doing this wrong and will change to doing fandom your way right now?” Has that ever really worked?
No matter how long you’ve been in a fandom, no matter how many fics or pieces of art you’ve created, no matter how much time or effort you’ve put in - you don’t get to dictate how anyone else engages with the source material. You don’t get to dictate what people find fun or interesting. It sucks when tastes change and drift away from what you like. But that’s life, and you really just need to move the fuck on. Whether moving on means “I’m going to keep playing here to the people who are still with me” or “I’m going to find somewhere else to have fun/other people to have fun with,” it doesn’t matter. You’re never going to change anyone’s mind by being pissy about the things they love.
So don’t listen to anyone who complains about migratory fans or bandwagons or anything like that. You don’t have to be the first person to discover something to belong in the fandom. Finding a fandom because someone else dove into it is a perfectly awesome way to get into something new. Fandom is for community, for connections and fun and escape. Don’t let anyone shame you into thinking otherwise.