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The Perfect Pandemic Stress Relief Is Enjoying Your Fandom the Old Fashioned Way

Picard and Data dressed up in Sherlock Holmes garb in Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Elementary, My Dear Data."

So what exactly does fandom look like during a pandemic? Well, a lot like it did 20 years ago or more. Before the glamour of midnight premieres and Comic-Con took over pop culture, the joys of fandom were in discovering something you loved and developing your own personal relationship and memories with it, often with limited connection to the wider fan community. That’s still the core of modern fandom, of course, but there used to be much less pageantry or pressure to impress or fit in with other fans than there is now.

COVID-19 has changed a lot of things in our lives. We mostly think of our work, school, and social lives as the biggest ways the pandemic has upended things, but even the things we turn to as escapism from our regular daily struggles aren’t the same as we’re used to. The production industry is lagging behind on making our favorite shows and movies, and others are still on hold because most theaters are still closed. And conventions? Forget it.

The online side of things, on the other hand, looks pretty much the same—memes, polls, and theories—but with so little new content, things have gotten a little too same old, same old … except with a little extra hostility on top. “Hiatus mode” can bring out the claws in the nicest of fan communities, so now that nearly every fandom has been experiencing it at once for an extended period of time, it’s probably to be expected that things have gotten kind of tense. People are bored and looking for excitement, and, I mean, how many times can we debate the best order in which to watch the Skywalker Saga films, or who the best Chris is? (It’s Pine, for the record.)

For those who find the geek world on the web right now to be monotonous at best and straight-up toxic at worst, it may be time to get offline and look for other forms of fandom. But like I said, there are no new blockbusters to see in theaters, no in-person pop culture cons, and your favorite board game café or trivia night bar is probably not operating business-as-usual at the moment. And there are only so many times you can rewatch all of Stranger Things or Marvel’s Infinity Saga before you need some variety.

Basically, this pandemic is the perfect time to finally get around to reading that book series or playing that video game you’ve always wanted to try. You don’t have to worry about missing out on the next big thing because not a lot of new things are coming out, and the usual worry about finishing something in time for it to be relevant probably won’t be an issue, either, because if it’s an old piece of media people are still talking about and fangirling over years later, it’s a safe bet that it’s stood the test of time and will still be beloved by the time you complete it.

One of the other great things about discovering something that’s already been out for a while is that you have plenty of time to digest it before coming up with a hot take on the subject and jumping on social media to share your thoughts. I didn’t realize it until recently, but keeping up with pop culture can sometimes feel like staying on top of a high school reading list. It’s nice to return to the days of exploring things at your own pace.

And if you need a break before diving into the next book/season/level, there’s lots of time for that, too. I finally started reading the Lord of the Rings series this summer, but decided to take a break for a couple months after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring before starting The Two Towers—not because I didn’t enjoy the book, but because it was a long story with a lot to process before starting the next part of the adventure. (I haven’t even watched the movie version yet.)

And if you’re really starved for content from your fandom of choice, there’s most likely something you haven’t checked out yet, even if it’s not from your typical medium of choice. If you’re a Disney fan, jump around on Disney+, there’s surely something you haven’t seen yet. Whovians who have seen every series can check out some of the novels based on the series, or maybe the audio dramas they haven’t tried yet. Fans of the Arrowverse, DCEU, or MCU have a whole pantheon of comics that inspired their favorite shows and movies they can read (if you’re already a comic fan, I guarantee you haven’t read every issue featuring all of your favorite characters). And when all else fails, there’s always fanfiction.

We may not be able to experience our favorite things in the ways we want to right now, or be as productive as we want to be … even within our “relaxing” hobbies, like fandom (though we’re sending a big shoutout to those who are creating content!) But we shouldn’t let that stop us from discovering and experiencing new stories in the ways we can. Now is the time to enjoy things at our own pace, and I, for one, will be making sure to take time out for this kind of more “intimate” fandom even in a post-pandemic world.

(featured image: CBS)

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Julia Delbel (she/her) is a contributing writer at The Mary Sue and has been doing freelance entertainment coverage for five years. She loves diving into film, television, and theater, especially Marvel, DC Disney, and animated content, particularly taking a hard look at their character development, storyline weaving, and place in the pop culture pantheon.