A couple of weeks ago, an Instagrammer I follow in part because of her charming Harry Potter shots was the victim of a troll bashing her for having a large collection of Harry Potter memorabilia despite having only discovered the books a couple of years ago, claiming she was a fake fan. (We won’t get into how not Potter that behavior is.) The Instagrammer in question is a college student (and I’m fairly confident the troll is younger than at least the very first book), most likely born within a year or so of the first book being published.
It got me thinking, because I was just barely born into a world without Star Wars in it, and then had to work with people who had no idea Episode 1 was released many years after Episode 6. And then I taught kids whose idea of Star Wars consisted of Clone Wars. And now there’s the new movies. As I wasn’t quite two when Star Wars itself was released, I can’t make any claims to remember the world before it, but it was an integral part of my entire childhood. It was the same for others who grew up around that time.
Those discovering the Star Wars movies today are experiencing a different fandom than the one I grew up with, mainly because they’re growing up in a time that’s nothing like the time I grew up in and fandom cannot escape the effect of the society around it. Does that make them fake fans for coming to the series later on? No. Of course not. I look at the little girl who’s fallen head first into a fandom that existed before her parents were born, and think it’s super cool that she can run around pretending to be Rey the way I ran around pretending to be Leia when I was her age.
Harry Potter is the same way. The first book is just over twenty years old. So many children have been born in those twenty years, and are coming to Hogwarts for the first time. And they’re falling in love with it, and the fandom, and the general culture. As long as those books are in print, they will gain new fans who didn’t even exist when the series began. Does that make them fake fans? No, of course it doesn’t, no more than the girl cosplaying Rey is. With a long-running, long-lasting fandom like that, the newcomer is just as valid a fan as the one who’s been there for years.
That’s both the blessing and the curse of the fandom that spans generations (and there are so many out there) – There will be the elders who have been around since the early days; there will be the newcomers who just stumble in one day and never succeed in stumbling back out. And they’re all there because they love the fandom, and they all celebrate the fandom in their own way. In a way that’s often culturally appropriate to when they discovered the fandom. There’s plenty of room for everyone. Trolling newcomers is just ridiculous and against the spirit of fandom.