When I was a kid, I was once given a stack of 50 or so comic books by a friend of my parents. (I suspect mostly to keep me shut up and occupied while the adults talked.) I was enthralled by the adventures of Batman, Superman, and the Justice League, and I soon found myself stereotypically sitting in the middle of the aisle of the grocery store trying to read as many comics as I could before Mom finished shopping. I couldn’t afford many back then, but I loved comics!
And it wasn’t long before I saw those same superheroes I was reading about showing up on television. The Super Friends and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends on Saturday mornings, Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk during prime time throughout the week. Back then, we didn’t have the slew of movies and TV shows that are available now, but anything to expand what I saw in the comics—particularly if the stories were free on TV—was welcome.
Years later, I came around to reading Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics and I learned that I had not been a fan of comics. I had spent a long time thinking I was. I had read histories of the comic book industry, how-to books for producing comics, biographies of many comic creators, but what I realized after reading Understanding Comics was that everything I read and enjoyed always revolved around superheroes. I hadn’t been a fan of comics as a medium so much as I had been a fan of superheroes as a genre that is frequently seen in said medium. It would be akin to saying you were a science fiction fan because you like Star Trek, even though you’d never read anything by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Larry Niven, Octavia Butler, or countless other sci-fi authors.
Enjoying one but not the other is perfectly fine, but if you’re not conscious of that distinction and don’t have enough self-reflection to understand what you’re actually a fan of can led to a variety of problems, including a general sense of being let down or even an existential conflict with your own self-identity.
We’re seeing that more and more frequently with people who voted for Trump. People who voted for him, for whatever reasons, and are now seeing him implement policies they didn’t realize would hurt them. In many of these cases, Trump is indeed just acting out policies that he openly announced during his campaign, suggesting that 1) those who voted for him were not so much fans of Trump himself, but only a couple of specific proposals, and 2) those who are already expressing regret at voting for him remained willfully ignorant and/or dismissive of his hate-fueled rhetoric.
The lesson here seems to be that, if you’re a fan of something, be honest with yourself about what you’re a fan about. In probably most cases, it might just prevent disappointment and confusion later when you realize a discrepancy. But it might also, from time to time, prevent you from physical harm when your health insurance is revoked, your friends and family are banned from entering the country, and another country is openly discussing the possibility of war with yours.