Years ago, during one of my first semesters in college, I read the classic Hemingway novel The Sun Also Rises. For those who haven’t read it, the book focuses on Jake, a WWI veteran and expat living in Paris, who decides to travel with a group of his friends to Spain to see the running of the bulls. When Jake is there, he meets a guy named Montoya and the two bond over their shared aficion–both men are passionate about bullfighting. For these aficionados, there is a respect for the sport that goes beyond mere fandom, almost becoming a reverence aimed at something they both admire deeply.
In John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, the main character loves a book called An Imperial Affliction, and she expresses what it’s like to be an aficionado: “Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal.”
If you’re like me, you’ve experienced the same thing: someone starts talking about a book, a TV show, a movie that you truly love and instead of enthusiastically joining in the conversation, you pause, trying to keep the skeptical look off of your face. You get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. These people, you realize, have no idea the awesomeness of the thing they’re talking about. They lack aficion, you think, while simultaneously feeling slightly embarrassed at your own snobbery. You smile at the offending parties, perhaps you nod as they talk about their favorite parts. But inside, you know that these people aren’t aficionados and never will be. They don’t understand or appreciate that album/book/song/movie the way you do. So you politely change the subject and breathe a sigh of relief when the topic changes to something you don’t really care about, like boating trips or Game of Thrones.
Lines at Comic-Con are an interesting place to experience this very phenomenon. Most people waiting are hard core–they know their fandoms and they take their love of pop culture seriously. Last year, I had the most interesting conversation with two Canadian guys about whether The Big Bang Theory accurately portrayed nerd culture or, as they theorized, it was a form of “nerdface.” Two years ago Alex and I met two actors in line for Hall H who just wanted to shoot the breeze about the movie industry. They were casual and down to earth about their various stints in acting and screenwriting and fandom, completely lacking the pretention you might expect from that kind of conversation.
Not all fans at the Con have aficion, however. We once encountered a Han Solo cosplayer who was loudly talking about Star Wars and Firefly without any level of true aficion, as if he were showing off for the rest of us in line. I also found his distaste for Twilight fans to be a bit ironic–if you’re obsessed enough to dress in a Han Solo costume, you don’t get to pass judgment on other people’s fandom. Considering how far back we were and how unlikely it was that we were getting in to see the panel we were waiting for, it was particularly frustrating.
So, where does your aficion lie? What fandoms transcend mere interest and become a passion for you?