A Beginner's Guide to Fandom: A Fangirl's Perspective

Ashley Flattery is not a groupie.

The 20-year-old French major at the University of Florida, a friend I met nearly a year ago, is involved in bandom, a subset of general fandom that follows bands instead of a TV show, book or movie series. She follows Panic! at the Disco, but general bandom also includes Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, Cobra Starship, The Hush Sound and The Academy Is… [Note: the ellipsis is part of the name].

Ashley Flattery

Ashley Flattery

“If you divided up all the bands, you’d have crossovers all over the place, so it’s just simpler to say bandom,” she said.

Her activities in bandom include reading fanfiction, following blogs of both band members themselves and other fangirls, and doing internet memes. She also goes to band performances when she can.

“Since bandom does have a live show component, you can meet up to go to a show together, and I’ve met a few friends that way,” she said.

According to Flattery, bands often cater to members of bandom because they became popular in the first place largely due to their internet following.

“They play it up,” she said. “It’s kind of a marketing ploy for them.”

Bandom is different from the nature of other fandoms because they are based on real people rather than fictional characters and situations.

“It’s a real person fandom, so generally we’re considered the creepy stalker person in fandom,” she said.

She feels this characterization is unfair, however.

“With regular celebrities, stalking kind of implies showing up at their house at 3 o’clock in the morning with a video camera,” she said. “Stalking in the context of bands involves keeping up with blogs and Twitter.”

While there are occasionally people who fit that stalker stereotype, Flattery said they are shunned by the rest of bandom.

“Because bandom doesn’t have the fourth wall like others do, we try to create one,” she said, “and that includes not showing up at people’s houses at 3 o’clock in the morning and not mentioning fanfiction to the artists.”

While people in fandom may write or create things that aren’t rated PG, Flattery said fangirls often have a strong sense of what is appropriate when interacting with band members. For example, she cited the case of a fan comic called The Gay Starfish about an obviously fictional relationship between two male My Chemical Romance members.

“It was extremely popular to the point that the author published it online,” she said. “However, she found out that a fan took that comic and made the band members aware of it. It’s at that point that she basically shut it down.”

Flattery said what she enjoys most about bandom are the amazing people in it. She feels the online community greatly enriches her life in unique ways because of the solid relationships built over the years.

“It’s a dimension that most people who aren’t in a fandom don’t understand at all,” she said.

While the bands were the fangirls’ catalyst, bandom continues because of the people involved.

“Originally, it was just the shared interest of the band, but now it’s become more about the community.”

et cetera