When fandom becomes obsession.

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Let me start by saying that Disney is only one thing amongst many that draws my attention. Sometimes, and I am not ashamed to admit this, the line between fandom and obsession is one all too easily crossed.

If such a moment is a rare thing, it can be accepted. We all have had those experiences, moments when we were star struck. Carried away to be there. Fanboy or fangirl gushing over someone, something or someplace. And that is okay. Really.

The problem? It is when momentary becomes primary. For example, why do people spend good money to go to the Disney theme parks in search of peeling paint or burned out light bulbs? Is that to be the highlight of their day, experiencing joy in not only finding such, but sharing it with others similarly concerned?

I think if one had the chance to ask Walt, that kind of experience would be rather low on the scale of what he hoped that people would enjoy during a day at Disneyland. And to be fair, I am sure Walt would not tolerate some of the lapses in quality either. Yet if one looks back on how the Park operated during his lifetime, those moments when guests were not in the Park on stage were opportunities to address issues such as peeling paint and burned out light bulbs. Especially on days when the Park was closed. Work could be done without fear of prying eyes. And yes, I agree that the company can do better at paying attention to the details at theme parks, all around. Not just for special occasions.

Another point raised by someone recently was what Walt would have thought about the Internet and social media. Being interested in technology and communication, it wouldn’t surprise me if Walt would have been a lurker. Just as he liked to go out in the Park and be anonymous (when he could), I think he would have been out there listening and even responding to discussions to see what folks had to say. (And if one thinks Disney does not have people being paid by the company to do this, think again.)

It isn’t just the Disney fandom with this kind of mania. For example, the Union Pacific Railroad is in the middle of moving one of it’s Big Boy steam locomotives from Southern California to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The railroad had decades earlier donated the locomotive to a historical society for display. Corporate policy today had decided that the railroad would take on the project of restoring one of these locomotives – of which there were only 25 built; the biggest steam locomotives world wide.

Now for same railroad fans, this is the closest thing to the Second Coming that they could ever imagine. Something they never expected to see now or ever. So much so that for months, these railfans have been chomping at the bit for even the tiniest bit of information on this project. You name it and those tiny bits have become the focus of the obsession. Fans of this have watched by webcam from around the world as the locomotive was moved from it’s display site across a parking lot to the connection with the mainline railroad. And that will continue as the locomotive makes a very slow trip back to Wyoming.

Other examples? How about fans of the Star Wars films? Since production began on this series of sequels, rumors of this and that have been the stuff of big news. Even the smallest details were shared across the planet. And now, with filming under way in Abu Dhabi… well, let’s say that for some people it is just too much. They have to be there to see it as it happens. Even though they won’t actually see anything, they have to buck up and be there. On that off chance, they might.

If you try to understand why that line between fandom and obsession is so easily and so often crossed, you can get about as many opinions as stars in the night sky. I won’t take up space here adding to those. But I will say that on some level, I understand. Yet on another, I also can see the reality. The unvarnished side of the coin, if you will. Folks who create the products that give fans interest are just doing what they can to pay the bills. Disney, steam locomotives or Star Wars, all the same.

So if you enjoy something, good! All the better to have anything that gets you involved. Go Sports Team!!! But when you have that moment where the line is crossed between fandom and obsession? I hope you can step back and enjoy what it is really all about.

Sharing any experience makes it all the more enjoyable because of those you share it with. Be it Disney theme parks, steam locomotives or science fantasy motion pictures.

Posted in Disneyland, Entertainment, Ruminations | 1 Comment

One Response to When fandom becomes obsession.

  1. Tim McRaven says:

    Nice piece Roger. Lots of interesting thoughts.

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