I was a fangirl long before the term existed. The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High? Read them all and knew the characters as if they were my real-life besties.
But The X-Files is where I really got into fandom.
Taping and rewatching episodes, pouring over magazines and official and unofficial guides, cos-playing (or, “dressing up” as it was once known) as Scully, collecting the trading cards and making friends with fellow fans thanks to the magic of message boards and mailing lists on the world wide web. Oh, I also had my very own website complete with frames and animated gifs.
There’s something very satisfying to me about being immersed in a fictional universe of characters, whether it’s in Stoneybrook or Vancouver-passing-as-DC or Wakanda. I love knowing trivia and character backstories, ‘shipping couples and hating the villains. I love the anticipation that comes from waiting for the newest release, whether on paper, on TV (aka streaming services) or at the theatre.
I remember one summer I was really into Days of our Lives, and I took a character guide out of the library and wrote out a family tree of all the characters.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is, in many ways, soap operatic in nature. Dramatic. Complex. Abundant. Luckily, Marvel can also be very meta and very funny as most recently demonstrated by the She-Hulk series. My son has worn out his copy of the Marvel Encyclopedia finding out the backstories of main and side characters and predicting who might turn up next. (And establishing family trees … because the apple does not fall far from said tree!)
Unlike me, he actually enjoys reading comic books, so he spends lots of time with those, too!
So many of the things my children are interested in I would rather eat glass than sit through: YouTube videos of giddy men-children playing Minecraft or ecstatic adult women taking glittery toys out of boxes … anything with Minions.
But Marvel movies and TV shows are something I enjoy, and being able to share that with my kids is a delight.
Thor: Ragnarök was probably the first Marvel movie my son and I went to together, and since that we’ve hit them all up, popcorn in hand.
During the dark Covid winter of 2021, my son and I started a timeline-order rewatch of Marvel movies thanks to my brother sharing his Disney+ password. Because she had nothing better to do and because she is not terrified of onscreen suspense and violence like I was as child, my daughter joined us.
It was something to look forward to every evening: immersing ourselves in familiar characters, with my son eagerly pointing out Easter eggs, call backs and references while consulting pages in his Marvel Encyclopedia.
And once we’d caught up on all of the available movies and watched all the series for the first time, I got to introduce my son to the joyous anticipation of waiting for new episodes to air each week!
Just as I used to mark X-Files episodes on my calendar, my son marks new Marvel episodes and movie premieres on his. And while I would read through message board reactions to episodes, he now listens to podcasts.
When we drive to swimming lessons we listen to the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe podcast episode together and discuss our predictions and theories for upcoming Marvel events.
I know Marvel gets a lot of grief for its excess … both in terms of quantity and in terms of production. My brother and my husband suffer from Marvel fatigue. But not me and the cubs!
It’s fun to love something unabashedly. It’s fun to escape into a world where witty heroes save the day and destroy private property with impudence. It’s fun to listen to my son’s observations. He likes to comment on how crappy it is to be a vehicle owner in a superhero movie.
And Marvel does a solid job, for a superhero franchise, of tackling more serious issues. Falcon and the Winter Soldier delved into the complex reasons why a Black man wasn’t Captain America even though a Black man was given super soldier serum, not to mention the plight of refugees (in the MCU, those displaced by “The Blip”). Miss Marvel starred a young, female, Muslim superhero and portrayed Muslim culture and family dynamics beautifully. And perhaps most affecting of all, for me, was seeing Shang-Chi. A Chinese superhero? A Chinese grandmother in a superhero movie? Amazing.
She-Hulk made a mockery of toxic masculinity, where (semi-spoiler alert), a sex tape is leaked, and my son’s sincere and beautifully naïve question was: “How can sleeping with someone make people hate you?” Loki is bisexual. Eternals (for all intents and purposes a terrible entry into the MCU) has gay dads. In Dr Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, America Chavez has two moms and when my son heard that this led to the film being banned in Saudi Arabia, we had a pretty awesome conversation about LGBTQ rights in various settings.
My kids are growing up in a world where people of colour and women and girls in general can be leads in a superhero franchise. And one thing that I happily observed between 2008’s Iron Man and current Marvel fare is how women’s roles in the MCU have catapulted from secretaries and one-night stands to headliners with non-cleavage-baring super suits. I love that for my daughter, but I also love it for my son.
Sharing this fandom with my kids is such an enjoyable way to connect with them, and I hope it continues to be for many years to come. My son often jokes that when his kids want to get into the MCU, they’ll have 500+ movies and tv shows to watch! He might not be wrong …
Do you share a fandom with your kids?