100th Post – Why We Stay Fans – Chris Kanther & Ronnie Delmar

Right on the heels of our Fifth Anniversary here at the Jewel Riders Archive and the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Jewel Riders, we’re celebrating another milestone – our 100th blog post! Beginning five years ago, I wasn’t sure if I would ever reach this milestone, but I’m so pleased to be here. I know for many people a hundred posts is nothing, something that could be dashed off in a few months (instead of five years haha) but I remain proud of it!

While the spirit of celebration reigns though, I wanted to take this 100th Post as a moment of reflection. Both Ronnie and I have discussed why certain people stay fans of properties for long periods – even their whole lives! – and others move on from them. We wanted to share our feeling why we remain fans:

Ronnie’s answer first:

When we were kids, there’s a good likelihood that we had a favorite toy or favorite cartoon series. But what was the draw? What enthralled us so? Marketing probably had a good deal to do with our love for our favorite things. Behind every great idea there is an incredible team of artists, writers, and sales people who make the dream reality!

One of my earliest memories of having a love for a specific property is The Little Mermaid. I fell for Ariel when she first swam onto screens in 1989. And it’s been a love affair for the ages since! And in 1995, I fell in love with another – not red – pink-haired heroine.
But why do we still talk about these things 25, 30 and more years later? Why do I still have these toys and books as part of my collection of memories? Yes the marketing team did a good job of drilling the story and products into my childhood psyche, but there was something else. I truly identified with these characters, and that’s where the secret lies!
Especially when we are kids, we latch onto characteristics of our childhood heroes that we see in ourselves, or would like to see. We idolize them just as we would a parent. But these heroes are also able to cuddle with us in bed, play with us at play time, and ease away our fears when our little childhoods look bleak. You can thank Toy story for all the mental images you just got!
It’s the integrity of the story, the love that creatives, like Greg Autore, put into their work that make a story work even 100 years or more later! It’s the same reasons why we adore and cherish the tangible memories associated with these stories – they are part of our life and experiences. And it’s something that many of us will continue to share with our children and future generations.
So if you’ll excuse me, I must return to my library of children’s books intended for ages 3 to 7.

“Why We Stay Fans or The Power of the Fantastic to fight the Mundane”

by Chris Kanther

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of something. Early fannish memories are tangled up with the cartoons and shows of my youth: X-Men, Batman, Star Trek TNG, Power Rangers, Disney Renaissance movies and the Disney Afternoon. I drew and colored three-dimensional dioramas out of shoeboxes, invented characters to fight alongside other heroes, and even doodled characters in church (an amusing memory is of an old lady saying my drawing of Crysta from FernGully was “a beautiful angel” XD). Drawing was my preferred way to exercise my nascent fandom, but occasionally I would bang out snippets of writing on our boxy Macintosh computer.

Cartoons and shows were an escape for me. The colorful and exciting worlds gave me – an anxious, closeted gay child growing up in a deeply conservative family – a place to go that was not my life. Looking back, sure, the stories could be hokey or the production values shoddy. But I felt for the Green Ranger as his powers were stripped away. I felt for Jean Grey when she sacrificed herself as the Phoenix to save the people she loved. I felt for Belle as she felt out of place in her “poor provincial town.” The characters I spent time with had more resonance to me than most people I met in my day-to-day life. I didn’t have many friends, and when adults thought I should play more sports, or be more “boyish,” Captain Picard would remind me that the universe is a beautiful place because of our diversity, not our sameness.

What is it about something that captures you and doesn’t let go? Why do we carry fandom with us through our lives? Why do we stay fans when so many others “put away childish things” and let go of their youthful passions? I think there are as many reasons for that as there are people in the world. For me, though, I think I hold onto these things because they taught me the power of the Fantastic fight the Mundane.

To me the Mundane are the pieces of life we have to get through: homework when you’re a child, then as an adult it’s things like bills, housework, maybe even your job. The gems we get to experience outside of that are the Fantastic. For me, the Fantastic lay inside stories: books, animation, shows, movies. These were the places I wanted to be a part of. These were things that (to borrow a phrase) “sparked joy.”

When I first saw Princess Gwenevere and the Jewel Riders, I was nine years old. The show gave me a love for the magical, a love for fantasy, and in the process I met my best friend to this day. Who says cartoons rot children’s brains? Jewel Riders was the first time I wanted, no, needed to know more about a fantasy world. I had a few toys, but the trading cards were my first window into worldbuilding. (Later, when I first read the Show Bible, I realized that most of the world snippets from the trading cards came from this source. It remains my favorite piece of Jewel Riders Memorabilia that I own to this day.) My love for Jewel Riders – a pink and sparkly girls’ property – was also the first time I learned to hide what I loved. I learned to keep quiet, that it was easier and less distressing to hide who I was than deal with the rejection of those around me. It’s a lesson that has haunted me for my entire life.

I remember when I learned that real, actual people made animation. As a child, I desperately wanted to be an artist or animator. To add something to the stories that I loved growing up. To have my art affect people the way that I was affected. Sadly, I must report I ended up taking a science-related major to be the good kid and please the people in my life. But during lectures, I would be writing fan fiction or doodling on my computer. That urge to create never left, never died, no matter how much I abused it, neglected it, shoved it away.

But I did suffer because of those choices. You can deny who you are only so long before you go absolutely mad. For years, my battered Muse has sought shelter where he feels the most comfortable: cartoons. The act of collecting cartoons off of IRC downloads and BitTorrent. Assembling all the episodes of “Gargoyles” for the first time and realizing that there was a mythic story there. That archaeological excavation of the internet for the traces of the child you once were. The things you loved and things you half-remember as if from a dream all now buried under the digital sands of time. I am forever grateful that the internet and the people who dwell inside it let me reconnect to those memories, the power of imagination stored there.  They even helped me find new cartoons to love; like Winx Club, that opened doors back to my creativity I had so long buried.

I’ve written fic, written RP (role-playing), archived insane amounts of material, and collected an unhealthy amount of toys, all in a quest to reconnect with my Muse. I forget where I read it, but the idea of “purchasing things related to hobbies instead of actually engaging in said hobbies as a replacement for spending time on what you enjoy” has found its way into my life. I have a large doll and toy collection, scattered between brands and items that love, or that at one point brought meaning to me. It’s always felt like if I can have that small totemic representation of something that I love, that I will be closer to it…and perhaps it will be closer to me. Perhaps it will get through to my Muse.

But I’ve realized that Fandom and my own creative efforts are flipped sides of the same coin. Fandom – enjoying the creative output of others – is fun, and feeds into my Muse. My Muse then wants to take those ideas and energy and build something new out of it. Original stories and art. I’ve come to understand after five years of letting my fandom become another job that while we can accomplish things with that mindset, that’s not how fandom is able to fulfill me.

Fandom has to be fun. It has to be an enjoyable experience, where I can take things in to recharge my own creativity. It can’t be where I constantly give with no end in sight. I have things to give, but I want them to be of myself these days. For me, Fandom is a stand in for the Fantastic. And the Fantastic must stand against the Mundane, not be consumed by it. I think that’s why I keep coming back to Fandom. The lift it gives me, the joy at sinking into another world, another place, another time, another life. Experiences and feelings and thoughts that are not me and yet are. Stories that touch and inspire and make me laugh when the Mundane brings me low.

And always, inside, the child who dreams of chasing the Fantastic.

I’m getting back in touch with that child for the first time in a long while. I’m asking him what would make him happy, what would bring him joy. I’m trying to put away my jaded vision and asking him to look at the future with his hopeful eyes.

I want to know what he sees.

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