A friend and i were kvetching about the New York and Ohio primaries last night, when I opined, “Barack Obama’s campaign is kinda…scary.” “Keep in mind I voted for Obama,” warned my friend immediately. Ouch. So, I leapt to try and explain what i meant without destroying our friendship beyond repair, and then quickly changed the subject to smutty fan fiction (a classic diversionary tactic, what can I say?). But later, it occurred to me what I was actually trying to articulate, and failed miserably at, is that Barack Obama has a fandom.
Fandom, for those just tuning into the concept, has been around for as long as anything that can HAVE one has existed. I’m sure there was cave painter fandom back in the prehistoric day. It’s a term that denotes not just the people, but the creative content (fan fiction, fan art, videos) and social climate that comes from liking a specific thing. And what I find amazing is that politics, just like Stargate: Atlantis, has fandom. It inspires the same kind of dynamics as a TV show or comic book or your favorite anima or manga. There are ‘shippers (worshippers or relationshippers), there are canon purists, there are people looking for the One True Pairing (OTP). There are people who don’t forget a detail of what’s happened in the past and constantly bring up that time in season six where Hillary’s husband cheated on her with that intern (OMG!) and others who think Barack and Hillary should just give in to their UST and get on the same ticket.
Politics now inspires rabid fanboying and fangirling. On some level, it always has (see above note re: cave painters; I’m sure Og the head caveman had fans, too), but I think what’s interesting about the Obama campaign is how it feeds in to the fan philosophy in a way that no other candidacy has before (except maybe John F. Kennedy, which is something Team Obama has actually pointed out and utilized). Obama is a rock star; he’s Captain Kirk or Dr. McDreamy. More than the issues at hand, the nuts and bolts of his platform, is the phenemenon, the Obamamania. It’s intense. It’s like me during Veronica Mars season two. Woebetide anyone who dissed my girl. And I see that same fierce fervor in today’s political arena.
And I don’t know why I’m surprised. Over the past few years, with the advent of shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, the line between political news and entertainment has been heavily blurred. Political satire has always existed, in print and on TV and radio, but this is different. This is more accessible. This is not just talking heads with poli sci degrees sitting around snarking. It’s comedians. It’s politicians interacting with a medium designed to entertain, to make an audience laugh, and comedians using real issues in a way that actually effects social change. I mean, people watch Jon Stewart for “real news,” something that he himself has expressed bewilderment over in the past. But that’s our political universe now…a place where fannish pursuits and more serious ones intersect, a place where Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and Tucker Carlson are all just as much characters in fan fiction as Buffy or Sydney Bristow (and why anyone would want to write fan fiction about Tucker Carlson, I really don’t know). Even that bastion of social networking, facebook, has groups for Clinton and Obama that declare “I am a fan of…” As if being politically active is akin to having a Hillary pillowcase that you kiss goodnight and posters of her hanging next to New Kids on the Block and the Coreys.
It’s, as Mr. Spock might say, fascinating.
And, yes, a little scary.
Now if you don’t mind, I’ll be over here in the corner writing my epic alternate universe story where John McCain and Obama are
gay lovers running mates…
*’OT3′ means ‘one true threesome.’ Take from that what you will.