Generally I try not to admit anymore that I actually used to read fanfiction, but here I'll make an exception.
July 7, 2008 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Is there a term for the type of person that tends to becomes an obsessive fan of a particular book, movie, TV show, etc.? Sometimes obscure, sometimes not so obscure?

You know what I'm talking about? People that find a book/movie/TV show and have read/watched it a zillion times, and are a part of the online fan club, and the online forums, and have been to the fan convention, and read or write the fanfiction, and generally just get way, way, way more excited about it than the average person. My roommate is like this with all things Anne of Green Gables. I had one friend who was like this with the X Files and Roswell, and another who was like this with CSI and Harry Potter. There was a short-lived TV show on CBS called Christy that I'm like this about, among others.

I guess you could just call it an obsessive fan, but I feel like it attracts a certain type of personality. Like, for example, if I find a new TV show that I really like, you can bet your butt I'm gonna be on the website and all the fan websites and I'm going to be looking for spoilers and I'm going to be generally doing everything I can to get as much information on my hands as possible about it. But I also know tons of people who might be really big fans of, say, Grey's Anatomy or what have you, and might never miss an episode, but it would never occur to them to do anything other than just watch the show. Actually, they would probably think it would be totally weird to do anything else.

I ask because it was just recently that I found out I had this in common with my roommate, and it's spawned tons of "oh my gosh, you did that TOO?" conversations, and generally created a bond between us of "I am so glad you understand what I'm talking about, because most people I know totally don't."

So. Maybe this is totally unanswerable, but is there a name for that? That type of person that has a propensity towards this behavior? Anyone know what the heck I'm talking about?
posted by Quidam to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
posted by burnmp3s at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2008

Otaku, "a Japanese term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly anime and manga."
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:14 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Otaku. Geek. Nerd.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:15 PM on July 7, 2008

Otaku if you're Japanese. Fanboy comes closest in the USA I think. Just "fan" works in some contexts but there is, of course, room for misunderstanding.
posted by Justinian at 4:18 PM on July 7, 2008

I call them superfans.
posted by jessamyn at 4:22 PM on July 7, 2008

"Geek" is the all-purpose term for someone who gets obsessive. about anything. My friend Scott watched me and my friend Rich discussing baseball cards and when we looked up sheepishly, said "Everybody's a geek for something."

That says it all.
posted by jonmc at 4:22 PM on July 7, 2008

posted by meehawl at 4:23 PM on July 7, 2008

Pfft. I take umbrage over the terms Nerd or Geek being used to refer to those obviously deranged individuals. I am a proud Nerd-Geek and I could wax outraged about this but I'm off to add this to my game room.

Freaks, the lot of them.

*Steps of soapbox* I've always referred to folks like that as Otaku. Makes you sound like a suitably educated Nerd-Geek to boot.
posted by elendil71 at 4:23 PM on July 7, 2008

anorak, a british term that i adore.
posted by rmd1023 at 4:27 PM on July 7, 2008

I take umbrage over the terms Nerd or Geek being used to refer to those obviously deranged individuals. I am a proud Nerd-Geek

Taking umbrage over a term for a subculture is very un-geek. Part of being a geek is not caring what people think.
posted by jonmc at 4:27 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know what you mean; it happens to me with many new movie/tv/whatever interests. Less otaku-ish since I don't go to conventions and I move on to a new temporary love fairly quickly - I think it's just a consequence of being a big fan and being a heavy computer user.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:28 PM on July 7, 2008

posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:29 PM on July 7, 2008

So, is "fanatic" too obvious? As I read your post, I kept on waiting for you to say "but 'fanatic' is not the word I'm looking for...." That "certain type of personality" could be one that has fanatic tendencies.
posted by MunchKim at 4:31 PM on July 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by trip and a half at 4:33 PM on July 7, 2008

Fanboi. "-boi".
posted by orthogonality at 4:33 PM on July 7, 2008

posted by HuronBob at 4:34 PM on July 7, 2008

In the olde car world, "anorak" is typical, certainly in Britain, as rmd1023 points out. You can picture the fussy beard or mustache and the gentle clearing of throat as you're about to learn more than you ever cared to about some particularly obscure subject.
posted by maxwelton at 4:35 PM on July 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

I agree the use of fanboy. Also, you could possibly use zealot.
posted by sirhensley at 4:35 PM on July 7, 2008

Honestly, that kind of stuff is pretty normal nowadays. You're a fan, a fanboy/girl, a ___-freak, a geek, a nerd, or an otaku, if you like.. but you really don't have the fandom burning in your heart unless you market a service or product related to your interest, or attend conventions or conferences for it.

/just got back from Anime Expo 2008
posted by crunch buttsteak at 4:36 PM on July 7, 2008

Fanboy and Fangrrl (note the spelling).

"Otaku" has that meaning in Japan, but in the US fans of anime have co-opted the word, so it can't be used here the way you want to.
posted by Class Goat at 4:50 PM on July 7, 2008

Cult-follower? As in, "The X-Files has a strong cult-following."
posted by cmcmcm at 4:50 PM on July 7, 2008

Today's news says that Merriam-Webster just added fanboy to the dictionary. Apparently it's been around since 1919 and is defined as "a boy who is an enthusiastic devotee (as of comics or movies)"
posted by saffry at 5:33 PM on July 7, 2008

I agree with the descriptions of "otaku" and "anorak" above, but in US English most people still tend to use either "fan" or the aforementioned "fanboy/girl."

This is actually an area where academics are still struggling to figure out a) what the phenomenon of "fandom" is and b) how to classify it. Henry Jenkins, who is probably the leader of fan studies in the US, has used the term "textual poachers" to refer to the fan fiction writing group. Lawrence Grossberg describes three categories of fandom (fans, ideologues, and fanatics) in this book. Finally, some work in classifying fan intensity from a psychological standpoint is being done by Gayle Stever at ASU.

But the short answer is that there really isn't a word more precise than "fan" that is in common usage in the US.

on preview--although perhaps fanboy is becoming more common if it's in Merriam-Webster now?

*takes off professor hat*
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:34 PM on July 7, 2008


Modified by "rabid" if they're really annoying.
posted by desuetude at 5:47 PM on July 7, 2008

Also "fannish", as a descriptor, is one I hear a lot. People in the fandom communities will say things like, "Well, I *like* Swingtown, but I don't feel particularly fannish about it."
posted by rednikki at 6:17 PM on July 7, 2008

If you like anorak, trainspotter is a synonym for it.
posted by Listener at 6:46 PM on July 7, 2008

A stan?
posted by citron at 10:17 PM on July 7, 2008

This has a bunch of specific types of fanatic fans.
posted by Class Goat at 12:56 AM on July 8, 2008

anorak, trainspotter...spod.
posted by tallus at 6:23 AM on July 8, 2008

Fanboy/girl. You'll find a lot of them on Livejournal.
posted by divabat at 2:22 PM on July 8, 2008

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