Fueling a fandom
Taking a look at fandom content creators at MVHS
April 27, 2022
Building Confidence With Cosplay
Senior Max Hu cosplayed for the first time during finals week of his freshman year, to the surprise of his peers. He recalls that while he wasn’t very vocal about it, the positive reaction from his classmates made it one of his most memorable moments at school.
The character Hu was cosplaying as Cloud Strife, a character from the video game “Final Fantasy VII.” Although Hu believes the cosplay to be “mediocre,” he enjoyed the experience and decided to continue cosplaying throughout high school at certain times.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Hu’s plans were set back during his sophomore and junior years. Now as a senior year, Hu is ready to pick up where he left off. He plans for his next cosplay to be a character from the video game “Arknights,”, although he isn’t quite sure which character.
“The best part is actually putting on the costume and going out there [and] cosplaying,” Hu said. “It’s really nerve-racking, [but] the payoff is all worth it because of all the months of preparation.”
Hu likes to cosplay characters that have clothing based on everyday fashion and finds himself gravitating towards characters with cute aesthetics or qualities he admires, such as strength. He has noticed that cosplayers he sees on social media don’t stick to a singular piece of media for too long, preferring to jump around various fandoms. Hu himself has cosplayed characters from unrelated pieces of media, including Vampire Miku, a virtual Japanese pop star, and a character from the manga series “Dumbell.”
Although Hu doesn’t make his own cosplays from scratch, he does mention that cosplays require serious budgeting skills, as the different components of putting together a cosplay can be expensive. Finding the middle ground between his expectations for his cosplay and the limit of his budget has been a balancing act for Hu.
His own high standards for the quality and appearance of his cosplay have also been a challenge for him as he doesn’t want to disappoint people. However, over time he has realized that the joy he finds in cosplay trumps his fear of judgment.
“It’s helped me be more confident as I’m able to display myself as the characters I’m cosplaying as and do these very ‘out there’ things,” Hu said. “Building up that confidence to actually cosplay has helped me be more confident in my identity and what I do in general outside of cosplaying.”
Finding a family through fanart
Senior Sylvia Li started her journey as a fan artist by participating in a “Pokemon” themed Uniqlo T-shirt design contest in middle school. Initially starting off watching TV shows and reading books and graphic novels she enjoyed, her interest bloomed into something more as she started participating in art prompts and contests within fan communities.
“I would draw something and post it online,” Li said. “Even if nobody saw it, I thought it’d be cool to contribute to the fanart community in that way.”
Li finds that drawing fanart has been an enjoyable way to improve herself as well as get involved in her fandom. She values the sense of community fandoms have given her through their interaction with her fanart, by liking or commenting on social media posts.
Alongside improving her art skills, Li has also noticed that being a content creator within a fandom has given her an understanding of how much work goes into fanart.
“I think something that I’ve heard [in] online discourse is that people take fanart for granted sometimes, or [always] expect it to exist,” Li said. “But then when you’re also doing it from [the artist’s] perspective, you can appreciate everybody’s work that much more.”
Li isn’t as active on her Instagram art account as she used to be at the beginning of high school, but she still draws fanart for her personal enjoyment. Currently, Li draws fanart from the video game “Genshin Impact.” Her favorite piece she created is a rendition of the playable character “Yae Miko” in the game. Even though she doesn’t play the game anymore, she still feels that she’s an active member of the community through her art.
Just as her fanart keeps her engaged with the Genshin Impact fandom, Li believes that fan artists are integral to fan engagement within a fandom.
“There [are] fandoms that are still alive because their fan artists are still creating content for them, which I think is important because some of these communities are really important to people,” Li said. “[By] keeping them alive, people have a place [where] they can feel at home.”
Exploring culture by writing fanfiction
Sophomore Pratha Joshi’s first fanfiction was one she wrote in middle school: a series of one-shots featuring Minecraft roleplay YouTuber Aphmau. Some of her earlier works featured characters from DC, Marvel and the “Percy Jackson” book series. Joshi initially wrote more short and linear stories but gradually evolved her writing into more nuanced plotlines and character analysis.
Joshi hadn’t realized writing fanfiction was a joy of hers until she started writing two to three thousand word chapters, adding to her fanfiction in daily increments.
Currently, her longest and most popular fanfiction has 291,211 words with 171,883 views on the fanfiction site Archive of Our Own (AO3) and over 310,000 views on self-publishing forum Wattpad. Not only do fans read her work, but her immediate and extended family also read her fanfiction.
“[My parents are] proud of this,” Joshi said. “They’ll brag to people. They’ll be like, ‘Pratha’s writing a book.’ And then I’ll come in and [say] ‘It’s a fanfic,’ and then they’ll be like
‘Whatever! It has [a hundred thousand] views!’”
Joshi’s favorite part about writing fanfiction is the comments she gets from her readers. Although she updates her fanfictions regularly, she doesn’t interact often with other members of the fandom through fandom social media pages.
However, she does find people within the fandom community interesting for their diverse takes on characters and plot points within a piece of media. Joshi also says that she gets valuable feedback from fellow fans in the comment section of her fanfictions.
Writing fanfiction, according to Joshi, has also been valuable for growing her knowledge about cultural practices around the world. She is currently writing fanfiction for “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation,” a Chinese web novel. As someone who was not initially familiar with Chinese culture or mythology, she had to do research to make specific scenes within her fanfiction accurate to the culture of the novel they’re based on. Overall, the cultural exposure Joshi has gained is her most valuable takeaway from writing fanfiction.
“I don’t like writing half-assed stuff — I always do research for any of my [fanfics] because it’s important to me for it to be as accurate as possible,” Joshi said. “I’ve had people tell me [where] in my [fanfiction] the research is kind of obvious to see that I’ve done it. I’ll have people praising me for [the] efforts that I put into my [fanfiction], so I think the response I get is my favorite part.”