Part of the Magic: The Fan Experience We Create for Each Other
The passions of Once Upon A Time fans run deep and swift. The miracle of fiction allows us all to meet each other in a common place of interest and intrigue. A TV fandom, not unlike a kingdom, is an extensive network of people held together by a common theme, but, instead of a ruler at the center, it is a work of art. Yes, Once Upon A Time is somebody’s art project, a lot of somebodies actually.
The experience of the fan does not have to end with the fan’s solitary ingestion of the piece of art. In fact, the fan-created world surrounding the official Once offerings is rich and diverse. A marvel to behold. With the advent of the Internet, a global choir of fans are now all able to sing together in ways we never could before. Fan communities extend Once Upon A Time far beyond its TV boundaries. They create a space for fan participation.
We members of the fan community ARE a part of the making of Once Upon A Time even if we never see the set in person. Every time we hit the like button as a meme floats across our e-desk, every time we post a bit of snark, we are creating the experience of Once both for ourselves and for everyone who sees what we have done.
Once is not solely in the hands of its originators.
It is lovely that fans can participate as much or as little as they feel comfortable. Some fans just call their family members after they see an episode to discuss and that’s the end of it. They are content with that. Other fans pay large sums of money to fly across the country, the world?, in hopes of meeting their favorite star and mingling with the roiling hordes of others doing the same. Their smiles are, dare I say, fanatic. Imagine that we all have a filing cabinet in our brains labeled Once Upon A Time. Some folks have a single folder which contains only the episodes they have seen and their personal reactions. There are other folks who have moved on to needing a Dewey Decimal System for to catalogue their acquired memories.
This teeming ocean of fans is beautiful. A piece of fiction has inspired millions to conversation. And many others to much more than conversation. Once has given rise to a wellspring of fan creativity. What we may not realize is that fan sites, Facebook groups, blogs and Twitter groups don’t just bubble up from the earth by magic. All of the infrastructure is run by real people who put their time and effort into making something great for everyone to enjoy. A lot like Once itself.
I am certain that some content providers (folks who make the clever memes you like and the articles you share) have figured out how to get paid for their efforts. The popular press certainly has. But a huge chunk of the fan-made content (which I think is arguably better quality that most of the popular press) very likely do it only because they enjoy it. They give their time and efforts freely to the fans for little aside from the hope of perhaps attracting new fans to the show and, more personally, a smile, a thank you and maybe a few more hits.
Once is so much more than a TV show. Once provides a jumping off point for thoughts, hopes, friendships, discussions, projects, art, writing and much more that I am certain never to be able to list. The social value of Once is enormous!
In addition to the fans having relatively easy access to the stars through Twitter, following is just a click a way, the creators of the show can actually hear the fandom and its vacillating moods. Anyone can tweet, post, share or comment on anything that they want. And some of the stars seemingly spend quite a lot of time with their fans on Twitter. That means that our rumblings actually make it to the ears of those who provide us with the art we love.
We the fans have a mighty megaphone.
That begs the question: what message are we shouting at the people giving us this incredible gift? I hope that what is coming through the strongest is our message of passion and engagement. Someone said recently that the way to know your work is making a splash on the internet is to acquire some haters. At face value that seems like a dreadfully negative metric. But it isn’t. Think about how many millions of posts you scroll by, read or not, for the one comment you leave. Many people are quite busy out in the world so their time spent on a fan site or Facebook group is limited. If someone actually takes the time out of their day to tell you they don’t like what you did, you know that they are engaged enough, noticed you enough, to care deeply enough that they were willing to go so far as to disagree with you to your face.
Yes, there are trolls who make a profession out of crapping all over the Internet just to get attention. But that’s not most people. The mark of having made it is when someone leaves you a genuine note of dissent. It means they didn’t just scroll by or decide you weren’t worth their time. It means they are thinking about what you made.
That’s why I hope that the creators of Once, when they hear our pain over this character or that story arc, grin fiercely and know that they have engaged our passions. And we Oncers have SO much passion! But I also hope that they hear all the wonderful things we have to say. That they see all the fan-art, all the memes, the brilliant (and not, self included) articles we have written. That they know that Once is number six on the list of TV shows on fanfiction.net with 40.7k stories. That says a lot! That says passion!
I hope you will join me in committing to creating a positive message of adoration and appreciation for our mighty megaphone. That doesn’t mean not expressing our angst, our concerns or even our doubts, but it does mean doing so from the frame gratitude for the enormous gift that is Once.
While on the subject of gratitude, I wish to express mine toward all of the administrators of our Facebook fan groups. There is a symbiotic relationship between content providers, like myself, and those who take the time and effort to run fan groups. They gather fans together and give the content providers a place to share their thoughts and feelings while the content providers give the fans a reason to stay in their groups by providing new material for discussion (good, bad, or otherwise). Neither would be half as neat without the other. Echo chambers are only fun for about five minutes. Ten if you’re a singer.
As a group member, I’m looking for articles because I love reading what other fans have to say. As a content provider, I love to write articles so it’s a nice trade relationship for me. I also love seeing fan-art, hearing theories and reading stories. These groups are such a wonderful way to participate in Once Upon A Time.
As a way to a acknowledge my appreciation for these groups, I want to post a directory of those I belong to and where I post my content. It is essential to note that these groups are diverse in their foci, membership and rules. For example, some groups categorically will not allow any advertising for other groups in their feeds. This is understandable; so while I will share this article about fandom in all of my groups, the directory itself will be behind a link so as not to break anyone’s rules (I hope).
If this article does break your rules in a way I was clearly unable to figure out, I ask that you just remove the post and let me know so I can do better next time. I keep notes about specific or unusual rules and try my best to follow them. I’m not out to detract from your group, I just want to share my thoughts and provide your members with fun.
Come check out my Once projects:
Before you go, you can check out my research project! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!