Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Perpetual Recognition and the Development of Fandom

Now that we've got the pretentious title out of the way, what I really mean to say is that lately I've been watching Red vs Blue . All the classic signs of this being the Next Big Megan Obsession are developing.

And I, still convinced that my eight-year Star Wars monogamy is the way normal fandom works, am trying to figure out why. What is it about a certain story that latches on to people?

I think part of the key with Red vs Blue is the perpetual recognition of fandom elements in everyday life. Let me explain. While set in some strange offshoot of the Halo universe, the dominant aesthetic of Red vs Blue is very down-to-earth. The characters, with some exceptions, speak very casually. The music, with some exceptions, is acoustic guitar and simple sounds. And the names are the opposite of exotic. You've got characters called Caboose, Church, Doc, Texas, Washington...all words that one might hear in everyday life. The AI in this show are named after Greek letters: Delta, Alpha. Try looking down a list of brand names without finding a couple of those.

So my theory is that RvB is primed to be a flash-flood of a fandom because as soon as somebody starts watching, they're going to start associating these names as seen in real life with these names as seen on the show. Those connections within the brain get formed fast and deep, and soon nobody can give anybody else directions without shouting "South! North!" as if those words are incredibly significant.

Which they are.


  1. That's a very interesting theory and I think it holds true. I wonder if that was done purposely.

    Hmmm. Flash-fandom. That's an interesting concept, and one that I wonder if more people in the media industry will start paying more attention to. I know it's already attempted to some degree in advertising.

  2. I don't know enough about the creation process to say whether it was done intentionally, but I'd say now. RvB is really strange in that the very fact that it was intended as a funny chat-type show means that the characters, even in serious situations, react like particularly funny high school kids (with some exceptions). And that's hugely successful. And I don't know if it would be if it hadn't developed organically from the original premise.

    Of course, RvB is also a whole new level of strange because it is itself a fan work which then developed its own sub-fandom.

    Explain how it's attempted in advertising. I think that a person's emotional state is very important in determining what they just enjoy and what becomes fandom, but I don't have any test subjects for that besides me. And I don't think the industry could ever create it in a controlled environment. I hope.