Yesterday was Impossible Astronaut Day, or, for those of you who don’t watch Doctor Who, the day when a bunch of Whovians went around with tally marks drawn all over their arms to celebrate the anniversary of the airing of the episode The Impossible Astronaut, which introduced a particularly scary monster into the Doctor Who canon (you don’t remember the Silence after you look away from them, hence the tally marks, to keep track of the ones you’ve seen).
So yesterday I drew a bunch of tally marks on my arm. It was fun, and I got some strange looks, and freaked one girl out, and got to explain Doctor Who to a couple people who otherwise wouldn’t have known about it.
The way this became a thing is almost as much fun as the actual event. Here, have a link:
Basically, a fan on Tumblr told a story, and other fans saw it and thought it was a great idea, someone else added a date, the official Doctor Who Tumblr got hold of it, et voila – hundreds (maybe thousands?) of perfectly ordinary people walking around with tally marks on their arms, scaring the shit out of each other.
And this is why I love fandoms, and why the internet is such a great thing for fandoms.
A lot of people look a little askance at fandoms and fangirls, assuming that they are crazy/obsessed/antisocial or otherwise not-good things. I think this is grossly unfair. Of course, there will always be people who take things too far, who are a little over the top. There will always be trolls, and people who like to spread hate and feel the need to bash someone else’s ship or show or whatever to make themselves feel better. People are people. But on the whole, these people are in the minority.
At its most basic a fandom is a community of people who say, “You love this thing? I love this thing too! Let’s get together and talk about it and make fan art and celebrate this thing we love together.” Which I think is fantastic. And with the internet it’s never been easier. Instead of wandering around wherever you live hoping to run into someone else who happens to watch that show you like or read the book series you’ve been obsessed with, you can go online and find a ton of people who are into the same things as you, and who are excited to talk about it. It’s one of the reasons I love Tumblr, despite all the crazy, strange stuff that goes on there–there’s a ton of people getting together sharing the thing they love, and the things they have made–whether fanfiction, fanart, spoofs, crafts, cosplay, a deep analysis of an episode or character–inspired by the thing that they love. For every silly internet meme post, there’s another post of some really fantastic creation someone made based on their favorite show/book/movie/whatever. It’s truly amazing.
As great as the internet fandoms are, my favorite part is when this community extends off the internet into real life–like the Impossible Astronaut event. This sort of thing, much like wearing a Doctor Who shirt or having a sonic screwdriver keychain, is a great way to draw Whovians around you out of the woodwork. One of thing things I love about the Doctor Who fandom, at least in America, is that we are all so excited about it and so excited to meet another Whovian and talk about our beloved show. Maybe this is because for a long time not all that many people (relatively speaking) watched Doctor Who in the US, so when you found someone else who did it was like “OH MY GOD you watch Doctor Who? Let me talk to you about all the things I’ve been dying to talk to someone about!” There’s a feeling of instant connection because you’ve found something you’re both really enthusiastic about. There have been plenty of times when I was sitting around at some social gathering feeling awkward, only to find that someone else in the room watched Doctor Who (or was an Eddie Izzard fan, or a Joss Whedon fan, or what have you), and instantly felt at ease, because we had common ground, we had something to talk about.
I guess my point (if I ever had one), is that fandoms are like any other group of people who get together to share their common interests (think book clubs, knitting circles, bike clubs, sports fans). We go through life looking for ways to connect with other people, and sharing our love of the same TV shows or movies or books is just one of those ways.
Also, the look on someone’s face when you freak them out with tally marks on your arm or a picture of a weeping angel? Priceless.