This one is special and contains a message from a dear friend of ours.
Last week a blog called citypages ran an article identifying the “Top 7 Scariest Fandoms,” warning the rest of the world about fandom with derisive comments about fans of everything from Harry Potter to John Lennon. Not only did they toss around the derogatory words fans have (unfortunately) come to expect, like obsessive and crazy, they also linked (we assume without asking) to fanworks which were included for the sole purpose of ridicule. “Remember, you can’t bleach your eyes,” is provided as a cautionary statement — which undoubtedly ensured that everyone followed the links. The blog also managed to conflate so-called ‘super fans’ who “will cut you if you’re a hater” with someone writing Avatar fanfiction. The line between fantasy and reality seems a little blurred there, don’t you think? And people accuse fans of not being able to tell the difference!
At the same time the citypages blog was running, we were – fittingly enough – at a fan convention in Vancouver. The Supernatural fandom was miraculously not included in citypages’ list of infamy, but has garnered ‘scariest’, ‘most obsessive’, ‘batshit craziest’ and a variety of other colorful titles in the past. The accusations may seem benign, even silly, but our three years of research on fans and fan psychology point in a different direction – one we could clearly see at the con. In a packed auditorium full of enthusiasm and excitement, fans repeatedly got up to the microphone and asked actors who had guest starred on SPN an odd question.
“Before you got the part on Supernatural, did anyone warn you about the fans?”
Warn them? To the guests’ credit, they all seemed rather mystified as to why they should have been warned. Warned that the show is wildly popular and they might end up with 50 times more followers on Twitter or Facebook, absolute PR gold for an actor? Warned that if the fans like them, they might be cast in more episodes, thereby earning more handy dandy residuals? Warned that if the fans really like them, they might be paid thousands and thousands of dollars and flown halfway around the world to answer questions at a convention??
As Matt Cohen aptly answered, “It’s because of you guys that I get to work — And I don’t need a warning, you guys aren’t nearly as crazy as me!” He went on to say, “I feel like the luckiest guy ever, and I have no career, no job, without you guys, so thank you,” bowing to the fans before he left the stage.
Even Jared and Jensen got the ‘fan shame’ question – what’s the worst thing a fan has ever done? While Jensen’s request not to send unusual things to his mom was eminently reasonable, he took pains to challenge the internalized shame that runs rampant through fandom.
Jensen: I gotta be honest, I think the fans of Supernatural are pretty cool…. they have some self respect and they respect the show and the guys that work hard on the show, and so I think we’re lucky in that aspect that we’ve got really cool fans.
Jared: I think we lucked out with y’all guys.
In fact, everyone we’ve interviewed for Fangasm – including many of the guest actors, as well as Jared, Jensen, Misha and Jim – have expressed their sincere and heartfelt gratitude for the loyalty, enthusiasm, energy, creativity, curiosity and affection of the fans.
We would be woefully inadequate researchers if we didn’t explore the wank that sometimes seems to pervade fandom everywhere you turn, from the infamous flying fangirl of the SPN fandom to BNF power struggles in all of them. But it would be just as irresponsible to ignore the flip side – fandom as supportive, fandom as community, fandom as a positive force. An unexpected incident happened at the Vancouver con which reminded us of the real life counterpart of our academic musings. As citypages was running their “fandom-is-crazy-yo” blog, we were listening to the talented Jason Manns in concert, along with several hundred other Supernatural fans. In the middle of Jason’s set, one of the fans suddenly collapsed. At first we thought well, Jason is pretty charismatic, and it’s been a long exciting day, so….. then we realized it was Sandra. Sandra is one of the first fans we ever interviewed for Fangasm, and we’ve stayed close ever since. She’s what citypages would likely call a ‘super fan’ – and one of the sweetest, most unselfish, caring people we’ve ever met. She brings joy wherever she goes. She also has a life-threatening medical condition.
Moments after Sandra collapsed, fans swept into action. Several medical professionals in the audience came forward to help, taking turns assessing her condition and keeping her calm. Jason jumped from the stage to offer support. After the paramedics arrived and transported Sandra to the hospital, a visibly shaken Jason went on with the show. The next day, just before Misha’s Q&A Gary, from Creation Entertainment, announced that several fans who were close to Sandra were asking for contributions of whatever anyone wanted to donate to help out with the serious financial burden. Without hesitation, fans all over the packed auditorium got out of their seats and headed over to the women taking up the collection. People opened their wallets for a fellow fan they didn’t even know. Within minutes – literally – the $500 needed was raised, just like that. When Misha Collins took the stage he also made a contribution – as only Misha can. He auctioned off the bandage on his finger (complete with a dab of genuine Misha blood) and added the proceeds to Sandra’s impromptu medical fund.
We offered Sandra a forum to express her gratitude – we’re including her message to fandom here:
For my Supernatural family – a heartfelt thank you!
From the very bottom of my heart, a sincere and emotional thank you.
I am the person who collapsed during Jason’s concert last Friday evening at the Supernatural Vancouver Convention.
I’ve made it safely home now and wanted to send a message of love and gratitude to everyone who came to my aid during this time and after it.
I had really hoped during the concert that the pain would have stopped and my breathing would have returned to normal. I felt terrible about getting up during one of Jason’s songs, but I really thought I would be okay once I got out into the hallway. I never expected to collapse. What a terrifying feeling.
The best way I can describe what happened after I was on the floor, is like looking up through a rain splattered window. Everyone was visible, but somewhat blurry at times.
And this is where the gift of the angels come in.
It’s a horrifying feeling not being able to breathe properly at the same time as experiencing significant pain. I felt myself fading in and out and despite my internal struggle there was no way I could get up.
The value of soothing words and touches from those who came to my aid, including a nurse and two medics, who were able to help me out when I needed it so much, loving friends and new made friends and everyone in attendance that evening were heaven sent for sure and I’ll always be eternally grateful, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be here writing this, without each of you.
The hospital I was taken to was St. Paul’s and the paramedics and ER staff were fantastic and I owe them a debt of gratitude.
This is where I learned from a dear friend that a collection/auction had been taken up on my behalf. I was and still am overcome with emotion. Thank you everyone so, so much for your kindness and goodwill. I cried pretty hard when I learned of this and my heart fills when I think of your generosity.
St. Paul was all about the angels and how at times they masquerade as humans and come into a person’s life when they are needed the most. Well, I believe St. Paul had it right.
With the unexpected medical expenses and no sick leave benefits, your incredible generosity has ensured that things will be taken care of. Thank you all ever so much for this cherished blessing.
I also wanted to let you know that the financial goodwill extended to me by each of you, will also be shared by assisting some very marginalized people in my community, through my outreach work. Winters can be very harsh where I live and to be able to provide warm winter clothing and full tummies will help tremendously.
To everyone, from my dear friends and fellow attendees, wonderful Chris, Jason, Jared, Jensen, Misha, Clif, all the special people who made up the guest panels (and who I wish I could have thanked personally), Creation staff and the security guard, thank you so much for your love, gifts, care and friendship.
Upon my return home, I had to attend a medical appointment. While I was in the waiting room, a man asked me what I could possibly be smiling about.
I then proceeded to tell him about the blessings that happened in Vancouver.
As Jared reminded Sandra, “Take care of yourself – you’re family.”
While media disparages fandom, Misha Collins is running 50 miles and earning almost $100,000 in fan contributions for charity through his RandomActs nonprofit. Sandra is home safe and sound, thankful for the generosity and support of the fandom community. Maybe the next time we go to a con, someone will get up and ask “Before you got the part on Supernatural, did anyone let you know how awesome the fans are?” We hope the answer will be ‘yes.’