We used to have geek chic, which made emo kids hip and Web 2.0 dweebs rich. But fashions have moved on and now fans are the newly-discovered authentic underdogs in pop culture. Their obscure desires are being converted into ironic commodities, their tastes transformed into sellable goo, and their dark, secret haunts opened up to the light of media frenzy. Here are the seven signs that fans have become glam, and that the world of fandom will never be the same safe place to hide with your action figures again.
Ideas and stories that used to get passed around in dank basements among dudes with thick glasses have become mainstream Hollywood movies. We list the seven signs that fandom is synonymous with glam, and try to discover if there are any shreds of authentic fannishness left in pop culture.
This blond bombshell was the star of geek sleuth show Veronica Mars, where her character made Star Wars references, hung out with hackers, and used the word "frak" a lot. Now she plays electricity-wielding Elle on fan glam show Heroes, and will appear in the forthcoming flick Fanboys (pictured above). She's said in interviews that she loves nerd culture and Star Trek. But she's also a cover girl for fashion magazines. The fan world has always had its pinups, but fashion mag cover girls? This is a sure sign of fan glam.
Any authentic geek pinups left? Veronica Belmont, host of many an online geek TV show (currently Tekzilla). She's cute but not glam, wears Star Trek uniforms for fun, and can talk for hours about the latest gadget specs.
J J Abrams
This dashingly dorkish director/producer has got the fan glam look with his nerd glasses and mop of uncombed curly hair. Plus, he's the auteur behind fannish-but-mainstream hit shows Alias and Lost. He reinvigorated the giant monster genre by producing Cloverfield, and now he's single-handedly attempting to reboot the most fannish franchise of all: Star Trek. Everything he's created repackages fantasies ripped from the dark heart of fandom for audiences who would never consider themselves scifi fans. In many ways, Abrams is a shaper of the whole fan glam craze.
Any authentic geek directors left? Joss Whedon, creator of cult hits Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, has always been a little too fannish to be glam. Hired to write the new Wonder Woman script, he eventually left the project because what he wrote wasn't commercial enough. Now he's making another scifi TV show, Dollhouse, whose premise sounds brilliantly quirky but may again be too strange for audiences seeking glam rather than fandom.
Sweding - Movies about fans paying homage to their favorite stories are all the rage. Be Kind Rewind coined the word "sweding" to describe what happens when fans remake their favorite creations in a funny, low-budget way. Now everybody is sweding everything, but of course fandom has been doing this stuff for years in fanfic (fan-written fiction based on popular franchises) and fan films. A new movie, Son of Rambow, also celebrates fan reenactments and will be shown in sneak previews across the U.S. in the ultimate fan glam locations: Apple stores.
Any authentic fan fiction left? Harry Potter fanfic, stories written by fans about the characters in J.K. Rowling's popular series about pubescent magic users, is still going strong in the underground. Rowling has said that she will tolerate fan fiction about her books (though she claims not to read it), but none of these stories will ever be published by mainstream publishers or made into Hollywood movies. Many of these Harry Potter fanfic tales are as good as or even better than the originals, so at least the fans get something special that can't be commodified — yet.
Comic-Con, the annual comic book and science fiction fan convention in San Diego, used to be a quiet little nook full of dorks. Now it's grown to a 100,000-person event that takes over the whole city. It's become the hot place for giant media conglomerates to showcase their latest special effects blockbusters, and for Hollywood stars to put in an appearance (like Halle Berry, signing autographs at Comic-Con, below). It's basically a Sundance Film Festival — except it's full of fan glam instead of indie geek chic.
Any authentic international cons left? WorldCon, which focuses more on books and writers than it does on mainstream media, is still as authentic as it gets when it comes to large gatherings of scifi fans.
It used to be that t-shirts with obscure slogans or rebus-like jokes on them marked their wearers as socially marginal and perhaps unhealthily obsessed with cultural arcana. Now internet company Threadless has turned such t-shirts into fan glam (see one of their glammy shirts below). Each shirt the company makes features a design submitted by a member of the site, which other members vote to have printed. Basically, it's Digg for t-shirts, which translates into mass-produced dorkery, with an emphasis on "mass" rather than "dork."
Any authentic nerdy t-shirts left? Any Dragon*Con shirt was and will always remain authentic.
Comic book film industry
Until recently, comic books were the purview of editors who lived in their mothers' basements. Sure there were TV shows and movies devoted to Batman and Superman, two of the industry's biggest franchises. But any comic book more obscure than Spider-Man could never hope to reach eyes that weren't already focused myopically on their local comic book store's new releases rack every Wednesday. These days, comic book writers get movie deals almost before their books hit the stands, and even irascible creators like Alan Moore are getting the splashy Hollywood treatment with From Hell, V for Vendetta and Watchmen. Smaller books like 30 Days of Night and Wanted (starring Angelina Jolie, looking glammy in previews for the film below) have gone celluloid too. Comic books are seriously glam.
Any authentic comic books left? No.
Action figure art
An action figure should be something like a Gray Hulk, lovingly painted and put on display behind a "do not touch" sign. Having a collection of them should be a badge of pure dorkdom, like the 40-year-old virgin in the movie of the same name. But these days, high-end boutiques like Kid Robot have turned the grubby action figure genre into high art with manga-influenced action figures more like sculpture than fannish fetish objects. Having a Frank Kozik bunny (left), or an Attaboy original, is seriously fan glam.
Any authentic action figures left? Limited edition obscure action figures for cancelled science fiction TV shows are still authentic.