I think you get the best sense of a person when they are deeply engrossed in something they love. That relentless passion can inspire the most intense behaviors — good and bad — that are mostly explained away with a shared understanding of infatuation. Creating a deep, friendly connection with someone as you navigate your chosen fandom is one of the greatest ways to receive love at your best, your worst, and — in some cases — your weirdest.
I owe all of my closest friendships to fandom.
The earliest memories I share with my tightest group of friends — the ones I regard as my second family — are of us lounging in a collective heap on someone’s bedroom carpet, committing the Avenue Q original Broadway cast recording to memory, track by track.
Last year, I traveled to New York to see Hamilton with a woman I initially bonded with over fan fiction for The Mindy Project. Our connection only intensified as we swapped Lin Manuel Miranda’s lyrics, his genius completely commandeering our lexicon. Every single creative partner I’ve ever had — whether they co-host podcasts with me or patiently read work I’m afraid to share with anyone else — was birthed from an intense love of entertainment.
These experiences have yielded bonds that I can’t create with anyone else – even people that I’ve known for literal decades – because they’re rooted in something deeper.
These people are now so woven into my life’s fabric that reducing our closeness to mere common interests feels strange. I like to think that we crept into each other’s lives while our guards were down, unknowingly building this awesome thing with our squeals, fan theories, and oddly specific rants.
Deciding to elevate a friendship beyond your common fandom(s) can be tricky. Loving anything publicly – be it a person, an artist’s work, a show, a comic book universe – is an act of vulnerability. And while being transparent with somebody about your passions can be so affirming, no genuine friendship can sustain itself on one single thing. It’s up to us to look past the ~shipping~ and the fan art, and acquaint ourselves with the individual behind it (if that’s something the other person wants, too).
I’ve fallen out of love with things. When I’ve exited those corresponding fandoms, certain short-lived friendships have fizzled out. That’s okay, too. Some bonds, regardless of their origin, are meant for a specific time and place, fading away once their purpose has been exhausted.
But if you’re fortunate enough to meet your newest friend via a Twitter chat about film, or find your next brunch buddy at a Yankees game, regard that relationship as valid.
Fan-driven communities can be an oasis of acceptance and support, and the reward of new, lasting connections should be celebrated. Ignore the outside perspective that tries to delegitimize these spaces.
They’re as real as you want them to be.