Five Fandoms that I Missed Out On (And It's Too Late to Jump In Now)

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There are a lot of different fandoms out there in the world with their own fervent adherents. And while we live in a glorious age of streaming and binge watching, which makes it easier than ever to jump into that cool show that everybody but you seems to be talking about, it remains undeniable that fan communities at some point reach what we might call 'gatekeeping critical mass'.

Once a fandom reaches this point in its life cycle, things have crystalized into 'we' and 'not-we', and it becomes increasingly intimidating to break into that fandom from the outside. If you'd like a real world example to illustrate this point, I invite you to find an online conversation about Star Wars and throw in the words 'I really enjoyed The Last Jedi for what it was,' and see what happens.

Generally, a really good TV show reaches this stage about two weeks before I've ever heard of it.

These, then, are the top five fandom's that I missed the boat on.

Warning: Possible spoilers. Maybe. I have no idea, a lot of this is wild speculation. Still, even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally, so take that for what it's worth.

Let's start with the elephant in the room:


Why I missed it: Growing up, I was two things above all else; a Doctor Who fan, and obsessively focused. Basically, if it wasn't Doctor Who I was only dimly aware of it. Which is too bad really, because The Next Generation began my senior year of high school and I knew a lot of people in college who were really into it, which means that being a fan of TNG as it was unfolding would probably have actually helped my social life.

What I vaguely understand about it: Apparently, the end of the 20th century was crappy and made people from the Middle East look like Ricardo Montalban for some reason, but then everybody got their collective shit together and we all decided to get along and explore space for the purpose of having intercourse with different species. Or something.

Seriously though, as little as I know about Star Trek, the one thing I really respect about it is its optimistic assumption that eventually humanity will grow up as a species and we'll all work together. I only wish the 21st century so far was bearing that prediction out.

Will I ever watch it: There are approximately four million, five hundred and six episodes of Star Trek, before we even get to the movies. I'll watch it if it happens to be on TV, but I'll be honest – I'm probably never going to jump into a complete viewing of this one.


Why I missed it: The first I ever heard of Game of Thrones was when the fifth book in the series was published back in 2011.  I believe it's the one about dragons, in some fashion. Possibly dancing. I don't remember, and I'm trying to keep this real by not googling every little detail. The book looked cool, a cousin I quite like was super excited about reading the series, and I was all set to check out the first book. Then I discovered that there were still two books left unwritten in the series, and that the author was publishing one book every thirty-six years or so. Upon hearing this, I resolved to wait to read the books until they were all published for the sake of avoiding heartbreak. I'm still waiting for them to make the last four Chronicles of Narnia movies, I can't handle any more let downs.

What I vaguely understand about it: It's basically Lord of the Rings with incest and back door shenanigans, right? And it gave the world Jason Momoa, which means it's indirectly to blame for the upcoming Aquaman movie. From what I hear, the gist of the show is that they pick a character, get you to like that character, and then brutally kill that character. Or they pick a character, get you to hate that character, and then they kill that character. Oh, and everything Peter Dinklage does becomes a meme.

Will I ever watch it:  Honestly, probably, but not until after the whole thing is over. I think I've had most of the big spoilers spoiled for me just by existing in the United States in the last few years, so mostly I'm just curious how it's presented. We've all pretty much given up on the last two books ever being written, right?


Babylon 5

Why I missed it: Friends, I'm going to be brutally honest with you on this one. I thought it looked stupid. Yes, I know that every single person whose opinion I respect is on record as saying that it's groundbreaking, and brilliant, and shows the rest of genre fiction how plotting and storytelling is supposed to work. But at the time I just saw goofy alien foreheads and wrote it off as yet another Star Trek wannabe. In my defense, the SciFi channel was churning out about three of those a week at the time, and most of them were so bad that they eventually had to change the spelling of their name and focus on the confluence of sharks and severe weather events.

What I vaguely understand about it: Well, I'm pretty sure it ran for five seasons, and my understanding is that it was always plotted for, and designed with, that in mind. There's a race of bad aliens that's waging a war against our group of nice, if morally complicated aliens, and then the creator went off to create Sense8. That's all I got. I literally know nothing else about this show, other than I think it might take place on a space station.

Will I watch it: This is the show on this list that I'm most likely to break into at any moment. I think my only hesitation is that seeing how good it is will make me sad about missing it in the first place. Also, part of me worries that if it isn't actually good then I'll have to question the people whose opinions I respect, and I hate having to do that.



Why I missed it: I was a huge fan of Six Feet Under, which finished its run shortly before The Wire premiered. I watched the first episode of The Wire, and the fact that it was so overwhelmingly not Six Feet Under put me completely off of it, because I was confusing not liking the style of a show with that show being poorly made. Not unlike hating ice cream because you tried it once and it didn't taste like bacon. What I'm saying is, I was stupid and this one was totally my own fault.

What I vaguely understand about it: There's a guy named Omar, who's awesome and totally badass and unkillable, and everyone likes him except the people who don't because he's morally complicated but really good at his job and I think is an undercover cop, but might just be a straight up bad guy who also happens to care about protecting the people in his neighborhood. And then some nobody punk that we didn't care about killed Omar straight up because the actor wanted to leave the show and everybody hated it.

I have absolutely no idea how much, if any, of that last paragraph is accurate.

Will I watch it: If I'm being honest with you, probably not. There's just too many other shows I'm trying to get around to. I only just started Sense8 and Santa Clarita Diet - both good, but very different shows.


And before I get to number one, a few honorable mentions, just to underscore how irretrievably stupid I can be about choosing pop cultural events.

The Sopranos
Black Mirror
Legion
Preacher
Handmaid's Tale
The Walking Dead, and its adjacent spinoff.
Veronica Mars - This one hurts to admit.


And last, but not least:


Why I missed it: Because I loved the original as a kid, and I thought this was just going to be a stupid remake. Plus I was pissed that the robot dog-thing wasn't in it anymore. History has proved this to have been a poor decision on my part. By the time I was willing to accept that it was really good, they were nearing the final season and it just felt like I'd missed the window. Once Entertainment Weekly is doing the 'cast posed in a reproduction of The Last Supper' photo, you're just about ready to turn up the lights and stack the chairs on top of the tables. I made the mistake of starting to watch Lost after that point, and as a result my entire experience with the show was a constant awareness of how it wasn't as good as it used to be.

What I vaguely understand about it: Robots are sexy, and Edward James Olmos is not, but they are both badasses who are not to be trifled with. There seems to have been an annual 'beloved character is revealed to have been a robot all along' reveal, and it gave the world both Katee Sackhoff and the word 'Frak', so that's a net positive. Then I think they got to Earth and it was all terrible. The show that is, not the Earth. The Earth is also often terrible, but you don't have to watch television to see it.

Will I watch it: I actually tried, not long ago, to get into it and only made it part way through Season 1. Not even my love of Jane Espenson and the promise of seeing her episodes in Season 2 and James Marsters in Caprica were enough to get me to keep going. I'm assured that it's worth it once you get into season 2, but I just don't have it in me anymore. I just don't. I concede that the episode where the Cylons attacked every 23 minutes was good.


And so there you have it. My shameful admission of the admittedly vast holes in my fandom experience. Are there any of them that you feel like convincing me to give a shot? Have strong feelings that one of them is a bullet dodged and that I should count myself lucky? Let me know in the comments.

For the record, I did really enjoy The Last Jedi, for what it was.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, volunteer firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla.

23 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Loved this, Mikey. Very funny.

And I totally get why it would be difficult to even contemplate starting Star Trek if you were never in it. The only thing I'd suggest is that you can try Star Trek: Discovery. It's one season and so new that it doesn't assume you've seen the rest of all the serieseses.

Or there's the movie option: Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan through The Voyage Home is three movies, a finite number. Khan is the best of the Star Trek movies and can be watched alone.

Let's see. Babylon 5 does look silly from the outside, and the special effects have not held up. I think it might be hard to get into it now. When it was running, I was absolutely and totally obsessed, but I've avoided rewatching it. Same with Battlestar Galactica. I tried rewatching it recently and didn't stick with it. Maybe you had to be there.

I'm going to ignore Game of Thrones because I never got into it.

But The Wire absolutely holds up. It is a brilliant show that deserves all of its accolades. It's so good that I am intimidated by it as I am currently in the middle of reviewing season four. And just so you know, Omar is not the main character. :) It's very much an ensemble with exceptional actors, including Idris Elba when he was young and doing a believable American accent.

So I guess I do have one specific recommendation, don't I?

Mikey Heinrich said...

Just out of curiosity, I googled a few of these after I wrote the article to see how far afield I was. I can't believe how completely wrong my vague understanding of The Wire was :) The temptation to go back and re-edit this so as to look less like an idiot was strong, but I resisted, because I care about truth :)

Idris Elba is exactly the final push I needed to watch The Wire. To paraphrase from an early iZombie ep, he's yummy.

Billie Doux said...

The Wire was Idris Elba's big acting break. He's said that he was about to give up acting when he got it.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Another reason to be a big fan of The Wire!

One show that really should be in the article is Community. I left it off because the creator is an old friend of mine and I'm super embarrassed that I never checked it out. Not that I suppose he'd really care.

Please, nobody tell him.

An Honest Fangirl said...

I don't know, I still think that you can get into Legion. If nothing else, it's very short; I think it's less than thirty episodes. Granted, the second season sometimes (okay, often) got super weird just for the sake of being super weird and had some major pacing issues, but the first season was really, really good. Or maybe the fandom has already crystalized. I don't know. That's actually one of the few fandoms that I haven't gotten into, at least in terms of what shows I watch.

I'm probably never going to get into Game of Thrones. I know everything that happens, by virtue of existing on planet Earth and the internet at this time, and will probably get way too annoyed at characters who do stupid things that I know will get them killed.

sunbunny said...

"which means it's indirectly to blame for the upcoming Aquaman movie" I loled at that.

By far my biggest fandom gap is Star Wars. I've seen the first movie (for the first time last year) but, despite worshipping the ground Carrie Fisher walks on, I've never felt particularly inspired to finish the original trilogy. Or start the prequels. Or the next generation or whatever they're calling the movies they're making now. Not gonna stop me from going to Star Wars Land at Disneyland tho. No siree. Especially because they're going to have alcohol! For the first time in Disneyland history! I wonder if Walt would approve.

I've also not seen much of Star Trek (I watched like...half a season of Next Gen but I couldn't get into it). Other seminal shows I haven't seen include The Sopranos, The Wire (tried it, the constant n-word usage made me super uncomfortable), The Simpsons (Mark made me watch one or two when we were in San Diego one year; it was...fine), Friday Night Lights (which half the people in my life keep imploring me to watch), Boardwalk Empire, and 24.

Patryk said...

The picture made me think Fallout would be on the list, but alas no video games only TV Shows.

I think Stargate Atlantis gave us Jason Momoa before GoT. And now he's going full circle so to speak. A synchronicity bordering on predestination. ;)

Juan Alberto Roche Rodríguez said...

What an intereting article Mikey. And weirdly enought perfect in timing for me, because I was thinking about this two days ago.

As you might or might not know, almost a week ago Adventure Time aired its final episode after 8 years and 10 seasons. Over the years I have often heard only prize about it. On how it was so fun, revolutionary and complex for a cartoon that was supposedly aimed at children, and I must admit I was a little curious, so I checked it once in a while to see if I could get hook. I couldn't.
The first season was to childish for my taste, and I didn't like the animation so that was a let down too. Yet it was always on my radar. I read a lot about it in forums and saw it popping up here and there in many discussions, social media, videos and memes all over the internet. I have even seen people prize other cartoon shows on how they stand compare to Adventure Time, and I always kept thinking that maybe, just maybe, I was really missing on something wonderful that so many seem to enjoy.

Then the final episode aired a couple of days ago and I saw various recopilatory videos of the best moments on You Tube and Twitter, and I saw the final scene and that was when it stroke me. I finally understood. I understood why it was a show so loved. I saw how intelligent and well writed it was. How emotional and mature. As a gay myself I understood how it was so important in the fight for representation in the media by depicting the relationship of a queer couple in Marceline and the Bubblegum Princess, in a children cartoon of all places! (they finally kiss in the last episode). But most of all I saw how fun it was.

And then suddenly I felt so sad that I missed the train, that I waited so much and I wasn't patient enought. I know that now I can see it any time I want, but I feel that it want be the same. Somehow the magic of sharing the moment was lost. I was too late for the party.

My recommendation would be that if its still on the air, then is fair game. Its never too late. There have been many shows that I cought late and yet I enjoyed been part of the fandom. The Last Airbender, Gilmore Girls, Game of Throne, Steven Universe, Veronica Mars, Smallville, Sherlock, and most recently The Expanse, just to name a few. I started seen this show when they were many seasons in (many of them thanks to Billie and Douxs reviews recomendations :) ) and yet as long as there weren't over, I could still dive in and participate in the fandom.

Thats no to say that you could not enjoy a show when its over. There are many classic that only get better with time. For me, for example, Battlestar Galactica is a must for any serious sci-fi fan. Its a masterpiece.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Juan - That was absolutely lovely and well stated. Thank you for sharing that

Patryk - Fire Bad. Tree Pretty. :) Sorry, I should have specified up front that it was just TV fandoms. For me the list of Video games that I missed out on completely would be all of them. Fun fact, I have an inherited tremor, which makes me pretty well crap at playing video games and carrying full cups of coffee.

Sunbunny - I'd totally forgotten about all the n-bombs in The Wire. I found that a little off putting as well. And I also can't wait to go drinking in the Mos Eisley Cantina!

Fangirl - funny story about Legion. For those who might not know, I work at public television for my day job. Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn't finished Downton Abbey season three. So, we're airing the Season three finale as part of our pledge drive, and had to cut immediately to studio for the break right after Matthew Crowley was killed in that unexpected car wreck. People were *not* feeling kindly or generous. The tenor of the calls we got was basically that we had personally decided to kill off Dan Stevens' character, and that not only did we personally murder him, but we'd essentially frog marched him into the studio and shot him in the head.

I think I had a little left over resentment about that that prevented me from jumping into Legion from the beginning. :)

Bridget said...

For Star Trek, you can skip the original series completely.

I would start with The Next Generation (that's where all the memes and such are from anyway); there are seven seasons and they're probably on Netflix, Amazon, or both. It can however be episodic and it's very old school sci-fi, so if you get bored, just jump to...

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's the best Star Trek in my opinion and diverges from the cookie cutter "everything is wonderful now" original concept. Characters are rich and complex, and so is the story.

In fact if you don't really want to watch any ST at all I'd still suggest trying out DS9. It's just a damn good show.

Bridget said...

Oh, and as for fandom gaps...

I've not seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, The Legend of Korra, and holy moly there are a ton of video games I haven't played.

Juan Alberto Roche Rodríguez said...

I couldn't agree more on DS9. Hands down the best Star Trek series. And my number one show of all time!(maybe in tie with Buffy, because I was seen those two together for so many years, and they both have Armin Shimerman in them, but still!) You can't never go wrong with it.

TheShadowKnows said...

"Apparently, the end of the 20th century was crappy and made people from the Middle East look like Ricardo Montalban for some reason..."

At least they didn't cast Benedict Cumberbatch to play the same character. Because that would be ridiculous.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Well played, Shadow. :) Well Played.

sunbunny said...

Mikey, I still haven’t gotten over Downton Abbey killing off Matthew. It was spoiled for me but still. However I knew Dan Stevens was leaving because he wanted to so I totally blamed him. He ruined Downton Abbey. I loved that show. Still haven’t forgiven him.

Bridget said...

Yeah, but is that as bad as killing off the youngest sister? I'm still not over that! Ahh...

magritte said...

In response to your comment that you wished the 21st century was bearing out Star Trek's optimism about the future...I recommend you watch the two-parter Past Tense (DS9 3.11 & 3.12). Apparently, things got worse before they got better, in ways that seem eerily prescient.

Maybe it's because I don't really seek a sense of belonging from fandom, but I've never worried about whether it's "too late" to join. I had never seen an episode of Buffy until a couple years ago, when I decided to watch the whole thing on Netflix, mostly because it was talked about so much on this site.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Alas, lady Sybil. Oddly enough, we didn't get nearly as many complaints about her death, although I personally found out more tragic.

Not that I wouldnt have been willing to comfort Branson afterwards.... woof.

Magritte, I do hope you're right. And did I ever mention that Rene Magritte of my absolute favorite painter? Human condition of my favorite, followed by double vision

Nonei said...

I really enjoyed this article. There are quite a few fandoms that I missed out on our was late to - I didn't watch Star Wars until 1998 or so but loved it. I actually watched Space Balls first and in case you're wondering, it's still hilarious even without getting most of the star wars jokes. That's a good parody!
Magritte, I think we watched Buffy about the same time. I had just vague awareness of it before I came here for Doctor Who reviews but really enjoyed it.
I'm also very much not on the bandwagon for superhero things but I read the reviews here often so I can sorta know what my friends talk about lol. I have a soft spot for Batman (Adam West grew up in my area)
so many other 'iconic' movies and shows outside of scifi - first saw a national Lampoon movie and caddyshack a few years ago (hilarious), still haven't seen A Christmas Story although I know it has something to do with a lamp wearing a fishnet stocking and a kid with big puppydog eyes. Animal House. Farenheit 451 (book or movie... sorry!)
Billie - speaking of books, my 13yo daughter has decided she is going to be a librarian. She is TA in the library this school year and loves it!

Billie Doux said...

Nonei, that's really wonderful. Please give her my best wishes!

Nonei said...

I'll do that!

Dragonfire said...

I feel like Supernatural should be on here, just from the length of it. Although the fandom can be really welcoming, 13 seasons and 287 episodes are a lot to try to get into at once.

Mikey Heinrich said...

The only reason Supernatural isn't on this list is that I happened to catch the first episode when it first aired, and stuck with it even though it didn't really start to wow me until halfway through season two.

It's one of my favorite memories actually - the series premiere of Supernatural and Bones were back to back with one another (on different networks, obviously)

My friend Carol, who has since passed away from cancer, called me as they were starting - we were both HUGE fans of Angel - and we chatted/watched them together.