How did you get involved in the fandom? What do you get out of attending cons? One of our contributors Shani Irvine shares her answers in this essay. She describes a lot of what will be shared in the book. To read more of Shani’s work go to thewaywardwriting.wordpress.com and look for her contributions in CONventional Wisdom.
I have been called many different names in my 30 years. My real name is difficult to pronounce, so there are all the different attempts that people have made. I am a woman so there are all the names we get called, I was 10 years old the first time someone called me a slut, thank you society.
I suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder and depression so, of course, crazy and nutcase are names I have heard often.
And of course “freak”. This is one that I am ok with, in fact, I’m kind of proud of it. Who wants to be normal anyway?
I get called a freak and told I am obsessed by family members. It’s not just random people, these are people who know me, so it must be true, right? But, why do they call me these names? Yes, I don’t mind, but still, why? Why is my love of a TV show less valid than theirs for a football team? Why is my convention going more wasteful then year-long membership to a sports team? What makes Supernatural (SPN) fans open to ridicule? Nearly every person I have told that I am an SPN fan has responded in the same way. It’s either laughter or confusion.
When I told people last year (2017) that I was going to Washington D.C from Australia for a SPN convention, everyone wanted to know why what was the big draw? I spent months trying to justify it. And now that I am approaching my third convention, all be it a local one, I am again faced with people wanting to know why I am spending my time and money on this tv show. I try and find reasons that might make sense to people. – it’s a good excused to travel, my friends are going, I like the karaoke party at the end of the night. And while these sometimes satisfy people, not one of them is the whole truth and often I find myself having to come up with further arguments.
Supernatural has not taken over my life. I do have other interests. I am a huge fan of the band Louden Swain (haha). I enjoy reading books, I still like to write and everything I used to do in the past. But none of this is enough. I have slipped down the fandom blackhole and no matter how hard I try, I can not explain to outsiders why I don’t mind, why I like it here. Why I feel more at home here than anywhere I have been my entire life.
It’s not a short answer. Sometimes it’s not one I can even articulate without sounding like a crazy person/ but I’m going to spend a few moments (least it’ll seem like that to you readers) and try and explain myself. – not that I need any other explanation other than I like the show. I mean isn’t that enough?
In the beginning, I was just a watcher of Supernatural. Each week I would sit down and watch and then I wouldn’t think about it, or the actors, until the following week. It was just a show. It wasn’t until season two that I dipped my toes into the online world of SPN, but still on the edge. I read fanfic, but I didn’t write it. I joined message boards but I wasn’t as involved as some fans. I went unnoticed. Even after I got a Twitter and a Tumblr and fell down the social media hole, I still seemed to be on the outskirts of the fandom. Part of this is location, yes the internet can cross distance but when you are apart of a fandom that airs in another country, you risk spoilers each time you log on. And once I started working part-time it became a real issue, I could no longer watch once a week and had no access to online ways of viewing. I had to wait until the end of each year for the DVD release. I withdrew from my tiny exploration of fandom life.
I think I partly resisted the pull of the fandom. I kept myself on the edge on purpose. This is because I knew where it would end up. It was always going to end with me having to explain myself to my family. I couldn’t see the benefits, I could only see the endless judgement from people on the outside.
Things changed during season 11. Between 2 and 11 I had ventured in and out of the fandom, never really getting in too deep, it seemed too hard, everyone was established, and I was a newcomer. I was content to just watch the show and annoy my family with my fangirling. And then season 11, I had received spoilers and knew Chuck was coming back and knew he was to finally be revealed as God. But then I saw the episode. And he sang.
Part of why I jumped back into the SPN fandom, head first, unable to make a rational decision is because of Rob Benedict and Louden Swain.
After I watched “Don’t call me Shurley” I threw myself into discovering what I could about Rob and his band (and that only sounds a little crazy). I downloaded their catalogue from iTunes and this eventually lead me to Jason Manns and the station Breaks.
I needed an outlet. I was fangirling all over the place and my family was sick of it. They didn’t care. They thought that Rob was a decent singer, but they didn’t really like the music and it didn’t move them as it did me. I couldn’t explain it to them. I needed someone who understood, who cared as much as me. I went online and found them.
They were everywhere, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and they were like me. Here were people that I would never meet, who had different life experiences but who I could relate to. It’s the people that SPN have lead me to that makes me spend the money. Yes, the merch is good. I mean sitting here typing this I am looking at a demon knife replica, and that’s just cool. But going to conventions, it’s not just about the actors anymore, it’s about the fellow fans, the friends that I have made and the family that I have chosen.
I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I am the youngest of 7 children and I often get lost in the noise that is a large mixed family. I’m not girly enough for the girls and I’m too girly for the boys. Friends over the years have been the same. While we shared a common interest, I was still more into books and music (and SPN) than I was into dressing up and partying.
By attending conventions, I finally felt like I fitted in. I was surrounded by hundreds of other people who had spent too much money, travelled too far, for a tv show. When I attended the Hub Productions All Hell Breaks Loose Xmas 3: Krampus even in December 2017, I didn’t expect to make four wonderful friends, but I did. I have spent the last five months talking to these women online (in fact, I have three chat windows open now.) and I cannot wait to see them all again at June’s All Hell Breaks Loose event.
To me, a convention is a combination of the actors I pay to see and the friends I get to hang out with. I have discussed this at length with my therapist, why I spend so much time on a tv show, why I spend so much money to see the stars, to get photos taken with people I don’t really know, why?
It has so many benefits. I have had six months of excitement for the June convention, and get 10 months for my con in Vegas next year (2019). This is six months of planning, of daydreaming, of something to work towards, of discussions with friends. Then there are the actual benefits of attending such an event. I get travel experience, I get to see friends, the social benefits are incredible, especially for someone with generalised anxiety like me. I would spend all day in front of my laptop if I could. By attending cons, I get to get away from real life for a little bit, to pretend everything is fine. And finally, I get the memories. I still smile when I look at my convention photos, and photo ops. I still remember the feeling of amazement when I made Jared laugh, I still grin whenever I think about it. If you see me in a daze with a smile on my face, it’s con memories that’s doing it.
People say that you can’t choose your family, but that’s not true. The Supernatural fandom has a saying, we all know it. “Family don’t end with blood.” This is the family that we have chosen. We all ended up here for a reason. Perhaps we were lacking something in our real lives, maybe not. It’s a show about demons and monsters, but it’s also a show about fighting and beating those demons and monsters. That’s why I am here. I can’t always beat the demons in my real life, the monster that is my struggle with mental health, but once a week, or at a convention, I can overcome them.