New projects are being created constantly, and so there’s an ongoing supply of things for people to become fans of. Any individual can become a fan of something, only later to move on to another fandom when they either tire of the first one or it slowly fades away with no new material to sustain it. But fandoms never quite fade away entirely, as new generations discover the material for the first time, even after it has long been out of common circulation.

Interestingly, then, as those new generations grow older and into adulthood, they can carry with them the fandoms that older fans may have thought dead. And the newer generations, as they advance their careers are sometimes put in positions where they can spearhead revivals thanks to the fandoms they never left. Maybe that’s greenlighting the sequel to a movie property that was abandoned. Maybe it’s securing the license to re-release the original material. Regardless, we see revivals of these types all the time. What are the spate of superhero movies and TV shows thanks to, but a collection of folks in Hollywood who grew up reading comic books?

But the question at hand is: when does a person’s fandom become simply nostalgia? Does a person’s current interest really stem from excitement about the new project, or does their interest lie in trying to recapture the memories of when they first discovered it?

Obviously, that’s going to vary from person to person, and from fandom to fandom, so there’s no hard and fast rule we can apply. There’s no time limit on fandom after all. But what kind of things might we look for?

I know a gentleman in his early 50s who’s a big fan of the Monkees. He was a kid when their TV show first aired, and it obviously had an impact. But rather than simply gushing about the show or the old music, he keeps up with what the band members are doing today, both as individuals and collectively. He’s spent time remixing some of their songs, and creates new art relating to the band periodically. He’s remained active in Monkees fandom much of his life.

Alternatively, I know a woman in her early 40s who’s a big fan of the Wonder Woman show starring Lynda Carter. She was a kid when that show first aired, and it obviously had an impact. She seems to have only minimal interest in what Carter is doing today, and is mostly concerned with revisiting the original material without seeming to gain any additional insights and/or apply new learnings to it.

My curiosity is piqued here because I know each person about equally well, and despite a bit of an age difference, they have a number of similarities. But while his approach is one of ongoing interest and development, hers is more in state of stasis. He seems to show an intent to learn as much as he can about his subject, while she’s content to relive her past experiences over and over. That, I think, points to the that distinction between fandom and nostalgia—when your interest is no longer one which tries to actively move forward despite less and less material to work with, then you’ve crossed over from being a fan to simply wallowing in nostalgia. Whether or not we can always gauge that in others is debateable, certainly, but some people seem to make extreme examples of themselves.