I met a fan artist from the Hobbit fandom who’s 40+ years old, who sent me a postcard a couple of years back for Christmas with her art on the card.
When I was about 14, I once befriended, and lost contact with, a 40 year old woman with a full head of gray, curly hair, who was one of the best known Good Omens fan artists of the community. She had apparently been in and out of asylums for years, and I worried for the longest time. I even sent her an email when I was around 18, asking after her well-being. But then she resurfaced when I was 21, here on tumblr. It was one of the greatest and most memorable fandom experiences I’ve ever had.
When I was 15 and using slurs I didn’t know were slurs, 30+ year old LGBTQ+ comics fans on scans_daily patiently but firmly corrected me. I felt mortified, but they never attacked me or treated me as anything other than a dumb kid who made a mistake.
I have a long time friend of close to a decade, who was late twenties when I met her in the comics fandom, and I was a teen.
OLDER FANS ARE CRUCIAL TO THE SURVIVAL OF FANDOMS. Not ONLY because they’re literally the ones keeping fandom afloat (AO3 wasn’t created or maintained by kids, let’s just say), but because older fans generally don’t attack or bully or fuck up a fandom by being aggressive or volatile or overzealous, destroying any enjoyment of a medium.
Single women, married women, LGBTQ+ fans, all in the range of 30-60 years old. I’ve met all sorts of older fans, from when I was 12 on deviantart to now, in my mid-twenties, and not a single one of them has ever hurt me or treated me like dirt. I’ve always felt safer with older fans than with younger ones, because of the people I’ve seen harass, accuse, doxx, bully, and generally engage in harmful behaviour in this fandom, they’ve largely been in the 13-21 age bracket.
Obviously most young fans aren’t like that, but the toxicity is palpable regardless.
@younger fans, if somebody older in a fandom acts in a creepy way, then feel free to avoid them, block them, report them.
But this apparent DELUSION that younger fans have that older fans are “creepy” just for existing needs to be eradicated. Just. Stop. You do not deserve the fandoms they built, they maintained, they keep alive in themselves and all the younger fans they took care of, if you cannot RESPECT THEM.
I’m 35. I’ve been in fandom for going on 21 years. I am a fandom old, but I am not what one would consider an old-old (You old-olds do you. I love you all.).
However, I have watched a clear uptick in “OMG HOW CAN YOU BE PAST YOUR MID-TWENTIES IN FANDOM?!” bullshit happen as I have gone deeper into my thirties, and I want to tell you a few things:
1. First of all. Get fucked. 35 ain’t old on any scale. You should be looking forward to 35 because if ever there is a time to draw your first “fuck it” line in the sand, it’s 35.
2. I wouldn’t be here today, two decades wonderfully in love with fandom were it not for the fans who came before me. They were welcoming and warm and corrective as mentioned above. They put a chair at the table for me and were goddamn fucking saints to a queer teen from the Ozarks who didn’t fully understand she was a queer teen from the Ozarks. But, by god, they made a space for me at the table.
3. To pretend as though fandom is a game of the young is to fucking ignore some easily provable shit about fandom. We’re all here because women in the ‘60s wanted to see Kirk and Spock fuck, and so they made it fucking happen. In a time where all they had was typewriters, no VCRS, and sure as shit no reruns, those broads screamed “fuck it” to the universe and wrote Kirk and Spock fucking. And then put that shit in the mail. We are here because people who are now grandparents went, “Those two dudes should make out,” and they put it on fucking carbon paper. Without them, you younglings would have fucking nothing.
4. Fandom is about acceptance. We’re all here because we love a thing. Maybe we don’t love the thing for all the same reasons, but we fucking LOVE the thing. There’s no age limit on loving the thing. Harry Potter is 20 years old. You don’t have any space to yell about someone with the same number of decades over you enjoying Harry Potter and not being a creep. Hunger Games is 10 years old. Doctor Who? Sit your ass down.
5. In short, fucking check yourself before you wreck yourself because I am officially a fandom old with my two decades of experience, and I haven’t hit forty. I will not stand for this shit. Learn from your elders. Embrace the love. Embrace the happiness. Because, fuck me up, no one will be faster to come to your aid if there’s a creep on your ass than a fandom old.
I am 33 years old. My mom is in her fifties and is active in bandom. My father, who died in 2015 at the age of 64, was in bandom battles that made the hatred between Backstreet Boys and N’Sync look tame, and when he died I found boxes upon boxes of old fanzines for Star Trek.
I am here because of my parents. I am here because of people who paved the way before me, and you will be here after me because of things my generation of fan does as well.
Fandom is a safe space for everyone, regardless of age. That goes in all directions.
I’m 35 this year. I’ve been in fandom since 1998, when I lied to get on a mailing list that was NC-17. There were much older fans who were patient with me while I learned to write fic. They were there to give me pointers about life as well as writing.
Spockslash died last week. She watched the original series of Star Trek when it first aired. She saw “Amok Time” and though that Kirk and Spock were in love. She tried to get the show back on the air. She was 77 when she passed, and there are a TON of people who will always remember her fondly and miss her like crazy, including her son and all the lives she touched before the internet was even a thing.
Fandom old, fandom grandma, fandom aunts, uncles, nonbinary people, whatever they choose to call themselves. They’re here. And you’re going to have to deal with that, or find something else to do.
I’m also 35. I’ve been in online fandom for over 20 years, when I too lied about my age to get on an NC-17 fanfic mailing list (remember those?). Forever Knight was my first fandom, and still one I love to revisit again and again. The FK fandom now mostly consists of women my age and older but, when I was younger, there were people of all ages involved. FK didn’t have the biggest fandom at the time, but it was definitely somewhere in the Top 10, right up there with the X-Files fandom.
Now that I’m in Markiplier’s fan community, I find that I’m mostly surrounded by teenagers and young adults. Which I definitely don’t mind, as it helped me rediscover my passion for creating fanwork, something I thought I’d lost for awhile. I’ve felt nothing but love and acceptance from people and, while I’ve seen folks get into tiffs occasionally, it’s mostly the loving family a fandom should be.
I’d like to think I have some part in that, as I have people from time to time who come to me with things they want to share, things that they don’t feel would be understood by others in the fandom. It puts me in a leadership/guidance sort of role, something which is actually fairly new to me in some ways. I mean, in the FK fandom, I was one of the kids… and now I’m a mentor/mom-friend to some of the kids here now on Tumblr.
I think this passing of the torch is a wonderful thing. It’s a part of our fannish history, and shows that we “oldbies” (if you will) have a very important role in this community too. We’ve all been brought together through our mutual love of a thing, and it’s our job as the older folks to create the place the littler ones can play in safely.
I may be older, but I’m not ancient. I may joke about being the “fandom grandma” from time to time, but the truth is I love these things as much as the younger folks do. I still feel like a kid on the inside, not this strange no-enjoying-life person everyone seems to think an adult should be.
After all, there’s no rule book that says being a grown-up means you don’t get to have fun… and anybody who tells you the contrary can get fucked. We all deserve a moment to let our hair down and be our weird, intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive, crazy selves.