So, I’ve seen a bunch of posts going around (especially among my fandom friends) talking about how last night was “a really important episode of football” and “the season finale of football” and things like that. And I laughed, of course I did. But it strikes me that these are actually a very interesting type of post, and I want to try to think about it for a minute.
Among a certain variety of media fan, particularly those with a feminist-ish bent, it’s a bit of a truism to say that, when men engage in fandom, particularly sports fandom, they’re lauded by culture, and when women do, they’re derided. Men can paint their faces for football games, where their favorite teams’ jerseys around, play fantasy football (or any other sport), spend tons of money on season tickets, whatever—and that’s cool, that’s ‘having a hobby,’ that’s ‘being a dude.’ And, more to the point, entire cities and communities get into it—I have a friend who is a hardcore Pats fan, and she reblogged a ton of things that the city of Boston did to encourage the Pats going into the game. So, whereas female media fans (the type who go to cons, do cosplay, write fanfiction, etc) get told we’re immature or pathetic for our actions, male sports fans get culturally validated.
On a basic level, I agree this is a reflection of the genuine misogyny that dominates our current society. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily think pointing this out is often that productive; surely there are other ways to point out that woman-and-queer-person-driven fanworks producing fandom is just as valid as other forms of social engagement other than complaining about other people’s fannish behavior being accepted?
But what I love about the “season finale of football” joke is that it translates the affective power of the Super Bowl into media-fannish terms. We understand the power of the season finale—how often have you seen joke posts being passed around saying “are you OK right now, XXX fandom?” after a season finale or when particularly intense bouts of flailing are happening? (I hang out in Sherlock fandom; we need to be asked if we’re ok practically daily, and the answer is usually NOPE followed by more fish gifs.) So we’re relating to football fans (which may include some media-fandom participants, of many genders!) on terms we get, saying that this is a big deal, and we hope you enjoy your season finale. And, at the same time, we’re reducing the huge cultural monstrosity that is the Super Bowl down to the size of something that can fit in our fandoms. Billions of dollars poured into this, so much effort, for…a season finale? Well, yeah, I guess, hope you guys enjoyed it. It turns the moment from a cultural common touch-stone to something that some people like. I like the idea of scaling down sports fandom until it matches up with media fandom. I also like the idea of making sports fandom legible to media fans so that we can wall ourselves off a little less from the world around us. Because (as my friend acafanmom and I keep saying to each other), fandom really is about cultural modes of affective engagement, regardless of the nature of the fannish object in question.
“The Season Finale of Football,” ©ajnabieh, originally posted on 2 February 2015