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Riding on the excitement from Anime Expo this weekend, I kind of wanted to talk a little bit about the fandom experience. I’ve touched on the subject a little bit before in a general sense (see: Why I Cosplay), but I think it’s important to share the feeling of having what I call a “fandom family”.
If you’re not in the cosplay scene, and/or are otherwise unfamiliar with the term, a fandom is a group of people (aka nerds) who are all interested in the same thing. Game of Thrones fans, Star Trek fans, etc. are all fandoms. These can be huge fanbases like the aforementioned, or all the way down to the most obscure, niche thing you just happened to find on the internet and show your friend. If you’re part of a group that likes a thing, congratulations: you’ve joined a fandom.
I’m in a lot of different fandoms, and each of them have their own unique vibe from the people in it. It was a bit of a culture shock going to a comic book convention after having exclusively attended anime cons for a couple years; the energy in the hall was completely different. Some fandoms are loud and boisterous, others more laid back. Every fandom basically has its own dynamic and culture, and not all are created equal.
Fandom families are what I call it when you join a fandom and it just… Clicks. You really start to feel like not just a group of people that like a thing, but people who have bonded and developed friendships. Your fandom family are the people you miss after the con ends, the ones who develop nicknames and inside jokes, who burn cupcakes in your oven and who your cat probably loves more than she loves you.
My first fandom family was the Hetalia fandom. I’ve known some of my Hetalia friends for almost 10 years now; they only knew me as Hungary when we first met, but a lot of us have gotten to be super close personal friends. The other day, I saw a post I made on Facebook just after I met my cosplay husband eight years ago (love you honey <3 ). I had no idea back in 2011 that all the people I’d met then would end up becoming so incredibly important to me. In cosplay or out, these are people who have become a regular fixture in my life. Even when I started branching out and cosplaying other fandoms, I always found myself migrating back to the Hetalians’ domain at the end of the day; years later, going to a Hetalia gathering still feels like coming home.
As I said, not all fandoms are created equal. I’ve made friends and had good times with all the fandoms that I’ve been in, but most are not what I would consider a fandom family for me. That’s not to say I disliked any of them, on the contrary; I love each and every one of my fandoms, and have represented all of them with pride. It’s just that I didn’t feel whatever it was that kept drawing me home to Hetalia, and for the longest time I assumed it was the nostalgia for my first fandom. There was just something special that made it stand out, and I couldn’t even figure out what it was.
As I sat at another fandom’s gathering recently, I took a second to look around. There were perhaps a couple faces I recognized from here and there, but the only person I really knew was the friend I had come with. When I joined that particular fandom, I remember more of my Hetalia friends had been into it, but they had long since migrated to other things. I came to realize that while I liked the fandom and the media it was based on, it lacked the connection I had felt with my Hetalia friends. I had fun, but it wasn’t a fandom family.
Now, who wants to take a wild guess as to what my newest fandom family is? Drum roll, please……………….
If you guessed Castlevania, you are 100% correct. Gold stars all around 🌟🌟🌟! I was honestly a bit intimidated stepping into the Castlevania fandom. Everywhere else I’d been, I had either my main circle with me or overlap from the Hetalians. I was the first of my friends to stumble across this franchise, and didn’t know what to expect from the fanbase. As I fell in love with Alucard and began work on his cosplay, I prayed that the fandom would be kind; I didn’t want to be called a “fake fan” for not having played the games (gatekeeping is bullshit by the way, let people enjoy things), and I was afraid of the fandom being super elitist or something.
Boy, was I worried for nothing. I’ve only been cosplaying Alucard for a year now, and already I can feel the unmistakable pull of another fandom family. These are my people, no doubt about it. From the minute I stepped out in Alucard’s costume, I’ve received nothing but love from all the new friends I’ve made here. Castlevania came to me during a really hard time (not going into the story again, as you’ve all probably heard it by now), and I was honestly stunned when I had people who had only just met me say “hey, I’m here if you need someone.” I’m fortunate to have a huge circle of support from family and friends around me, and it makes me so happy to see that circle ever growing.
And that’s what fandom family means to me; we’re not just a collection of geeks who like the same nerdy thing. A fandom family are the ones who stand apart from the crowd trying to force their way through the artist alley. They’re the ones who cry with you when the escalator eats your costume, the people almost as excited about hosting your first gathering as you are, and whose arms you run into yelling “MOMMYYYYY!!” the minute you see them.
If you’ve never had a fandom family, you are missing out. It’s really hard to describe accurately the love I have for these people. It’s a bond that goes deeper than simply “hey, we like x thing!” It’s knowing that even if you’re dressed like dorks and crammed like sardines into a convention hall, these people care. They’re with you through the highs and lows, and they make your life and your fandom experience richer. It may be a different fandom for everybody, but once you find it, you’ll know. And if you’ve found a fandom family, hang on to them; I know I will.
Also just a note: this isn’t a comprehensive list of everyone in my fandom family! For some reason I don’t have pictures of everyone.