Servetus finished a four-part series answering a sentiment expressed by the confession on the left. I also felt the confessor’s loss and wondered how the legacy fans will fare with the expected influx of new people after The Hobbit debuts. Then I read Servetus’s series and her hypothesis that problems in this fandom occurred because it is too small. I agree, but there’s a corollary: it’s also too callow.
My impression has been that the legacy fans were mostly older, educated, literary women who never experienced any other fandom, and therefore knew nothing about how such dynamics work. They clamored over an actor relatively late to success who suddenly had fans. Thrilled over finding each other, RA and his fans commenced a honeymoon, and proceeded to reinvent the wheel, as it were, just like any other new fandom the world over. Then, Things Happened. RA learned, like every other crush, that sending frequent missives and closely interacting with fans allowed some people to presuppose they have relationships with him, which created expectations and a certain sense of obligation and possessiveness, both of him and the entire fandom. The entire fandom became the fans’ identities. The squabbling and policing began. So RA distanced himself. People still point fingers over When RA Got Burned, but actually, it was bound to occur sooner or later. There is no”if X and Y hadn’t happened, he would still be sending us silly messages.” Nobody is to blame. Human nature being what it is, social interactions will develop and evolve until an advantageous point for everybody concerned is reached. RA had to withdraw to the point where he could maintain his own equanimity and still satisfy his fans. Although it might feel differently to many here, there’s nothing unique or special about anything that happened then, or that other fans wanted to expanded their boundaries within the fandom now. This is the common cycle of individual-based fandoms. The problems have been that many lack perspective and self-awareness of their inexperience, magnified by being such a small group, as Servetus said. For example, a lot of the extreme vehemence over the real person fiction topic would a) never happened or b) been dismissed, in a huge fandom like the Tolkien universe. Have a pet peeve or like?; there’s a subset of a subgroup for that. There’s a lower level of personal identity politics because the universe is so big and diverse.
Having been been a fan for almost two years (I use the term loosely because I’m more an observer) and coming from two major genre fandoms, I’ve sensed wistful longing for the good old days when RA dashed off frequent reports while sweltering in Hungary. While I understand the sentiment of the confession, “will you look back at us the same way?,” I wonder if the author, as a legacy fan, still has not stopped grieving for the past. If I read it to mean, “will you still think we (particularly the legacy fans) are special?,” then generally speaking, I believe RA will always think all of his fans are special. After all, we have the good taste to pick him as a crush and support his career; he will always be grateful. However, I suspect the confessor is really asking, “will you treat me the way that made me feel special?” The answer is: no, he can’t because he understands the dangers of cultivating a sense of specialness that closer interaction engenders. I’ve no doubt he’ll think of the first fans fondly and gratefully, but those days are gone. In a way, that Armitage has been lost. He has moved on to the next level, and so should we.
The influx of new fans from a big old fandom will be a shot in the arm for ArmitageWorld, and I welcome it. Our little world has reached a point in development when it needs an infusion of new viewpoints and perspectives before it either stalls or squabbles itself to death. We need new energy and vitality. We need broadening by more viewpoints. Arguments and flamewars will never cease to exist because the potential for disagreement in groups is always present. However, the dissension will attract less attention and acquire better perspective in a larger arena. That’s not to say that a burgeoning fandom won’t bring new challenges. But if this one is to mature and thrive, we have to let go of the lost Armitage and welcome the new Armitage as he emerges. I anticipate some fans will need to carefully assess whether to stay in ArmitageWorld. Maybe the influx of fans will change dynamics and affect personal tastes too much to stay. Then we must wish them well, let them go and remember that things change.
Servetus ended her series by reminding us not to forget that we share RA as a focus when times get tough. I would add one more thing: we also need to remember that RA has changed, is changing, and will continue to change as an actor and person. To be content here, people will have to acknowledge and accept the evolution in both their fandom and their crush. The confession makes me wonder whether some will find it easier accepting the former, than the latter.