By Shalini Banerjee:
I am probably part of one of the last generations that spent summer afternoons scrounging for Tintin comics, pouring over events at Malory Towers and St. Clare, hooked on to Shaktimaan and sang the Jungle Book title track with such piousness every Sunday. Life had so been much simpler back then, with literary worlds created long before we were born. Fear Street, Goosebumps, Nicholas Sparks and hidden copies of Mills & Boon exchanging hands. The thought of the existence of such a thing called “spoilers” and “fandom” never entered my mind. All of this was before Harry Potter came into my life. Suddenly I was part of a culture that was taking shape as I was growing up. I was not among the lucky few who could camp outside the bookstore, eagerly waiting to purchase the latest book Rowling had blessed us with. And so I ended up being the kid who runs around the school hallways, fingers in ears, singing loudly to ward off spoilers.
However, being a fan is no longer a simple job and neither is warding off a spoiler. Before I could properly grasp the difference between Muggles and Wizards, and the presence of the Ministry of Magic, I already getting pulled into a magical land accessible through a conspicuous little cupboard (Narnia, thank you very much), and then equally soon I was reading about werewolves and vampires fighting over a human girl (Twilight takers anyone?).
Dear readers, do you see what a whirlwind pop culture has landed us in? Novels nowadays no longer end with the last page. That is where the fandom starts instead. You have cartoons, fan arts, alternative endings, alternate universe, heaven scenarios, interviews and what not! How does one keep up? When I was young, being a fan meant getting lost in the imaginary world and taking a break from the mundane reality of life. But now peer pressure is what propels you into a brand new fictional universe, faster than the speed of light! I have a friend who has never read or watched Harry Potter and another who has vowed never to watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. And then there is me, who has no idea about Game of Thrones! Does that mean we should be ridiculed for our choice and our decision to say no to something? In reality, though, fandoms are rarely forgiving. There are people who will jump down your throat in an attempt to make you swallow the latest and trending fictional universe. Until you spit it out, screaming that it is too much!
The era of Door Darshan was one thing when everyone was watching the same thing and with the wonderfully limited choices, there was hardly any chaos. Back then one really asked Chandrakanta who? But now we do and it’s not just one name, it’s a million – Jon Snow, Castle, Jessica Jones, Walter White. This list can go on. It is this abundance of choice that has complicated everything. If you aren’t following, you are a grey image with a question mark for face (like those dreadful offline avatars). Pop culture is more and more becoming a part of who we are and a decisive factor in choosing our friends, partners, clothes and much more complex details of our lifestyle. This then brings up another question. Do we guard what’s ‘ours’ and refuse to part with it, very much like Gollum? Or do we let it all go? Keep what we have and take more of what we can? And also, with so much option available does anything matter anymore? Is anything coveted after all? How can I be a fan of something new every other month? What is it about this era of disloyally fanatic fans?