My brother and I grew up in the same house. We had pretty much the same experiences: we had the same teachers, went on the same family vacations, saw the same movies… But naturally we took away different things from all those experiences and grew up to be different people. In part because our experiences weren’t identical, but in part because even when we did experience the exact same thing at the exact same time, we were impacted at different points in our lives. I’m almost three years older than he is, so I was at a different point mentally, emotionally, developmentally and processed the same experiences differently. He doesn’t remember, for example, a time when not having video games as an option, whereas getting our first video game console was a much larger milestone in my life. Because I was older than he was when our family got one.

That should be fairly self-evident, but I make a point of detailing that because it’s helpful to keep that top of mind when thinking about fandoms.

See, one of the reasons some things speak to us and others don’t is because of where we are in our lives when we first experience them. The Harry Potter books spoke to kids in a deeply resonant way that didn’t meant much to me, reading them as an adult. The emotional connection that many kids make with those books are tied to what they’re experiencing in their own lives right at that time, whereas any similar challenges I would’ve dealt with at their age were long-past resolved by the time J.K. Rowling even started writing those books.

We connect with songs, books, movies, etc. because they speak to who we are at that moment. The creators are expressing themselves in a way that seems to reflect us. But a year or two earlier or later, and we might not see that same reflection.

And, interestingly, that’s also one reason we fall out of fandoms. A creator has their own set of experiences that influence their work, and it can change the messages that they channel. So the connection you might feel with a creator on one work might be totally absent in the next.

“I liked their earlier work better.”

It’s not necessarily that the work is any less good, but it’s coming from a different place and might not be expressing the same ideas. Ideas that you have no interest in. Or maybe it’s conceptually identical, but you’ve changed; you no longer need the same messages and connections you did earlier.

There’s no problem if you no longer connect with a person’s creative output the same way you once did. In fact, it would be surprising if you always connected in the same way. That would suggest either neither of you were changing at all, or else you’re both changing in exactly the same way on the same schedule.

Something to bear in mind when you pick up the latest creation from your favorite creator. If you don’t like it as much as what you’ve seen previously, it may well not be because the creator is doing less fantastic work—it could be that you’re just a different audience than you used to be!

  • One of the things I seek from these columns is a perspective about fandoms that transcends any particular fandom, and this column provides exactly that, for which I am grateful. I am most keenly interested in how the current notion of fandom differs from older conceptions of fans and fan bases and more information and perspective about how modern fandoms work, what fandoms mean to their participants, and overview-level information and analysis about fandom and fandoms in general, and about webcomic fandoms in particular.