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Television, like life, is sometimes just about showing up. However, when obsession is involved, a love for a television show can take on a new meaning. Many of us may re-watch our favorite episodes or even buy our favorite seasons on Blu-ray or DVD, but if we are serious fans who truly obsess, there are a multitude of ways we may show that “fancession.” This week, the CW premiered Cult, a brand new original program about true obsession and the lengths some people are willing to go to prove they are the fan of the week. We even got to thinking about the idea of crimes potentially linked to a television program. While most of us have not hit that level of fancession, it got us to thinking about some more realistic ways many of us show our extreme love for some of our favorite shows.
So, what does it take to be a true obsessive of a TV series? There are no hard or fast rules, but we’ve spent enough time arguing and clawing at one another’s choices that we’ve curated a pretty solid list. Read on to find out if you fall into one or all of our potential signs of obsession, and feel free to let us know if we missed any in the comments, below.
When I was five years old, I walked over to a garage sale at a neighbor’s house and immediately spotted a sign from the television gods. Just weeks before, I had discovered wrestling for the first time, and there, standing on a display table labeled 50¢ were four Hasbro WWF action figures: Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, The Ultimate Warrior and Macho Man Randy Savage. I didn’t just want them. I wanted things like macaroni and cheese for dinner and an extra recess during my half day at Kindergarten. I needed these little statues. I ran home and grabbed two dollars and bought myself a collectibles obsession.
Over the years, my interest in wrestling has ebbed and flowed, but in a way, it has never really changed the sentimental importance of my WWF action figure collection that has since grown to dozens upon dozens. Because it’s not about how much I love wrestling right now, it’s about how much I loved wrestling when I was ten years old. It’s not about whether post-college me relates to Vince McMahon’s traveling circus, it’s about whether ten-year-old me smiled every time he looked at his Bret Hart action figure. The best television shows allow us to make a connection, to feel something powerful, and collectibles are one time-consuming extension of that obsession.
Sharing the Kool-Aid
When considering why I feel the need to "convert" other people into fanatics of my own personal geeky obsessions, I took time to consider my motives, and what it came down to was that I have been converted numerous times. I have been talked into trying out TV shows I swore I was not interested in up until I drank the Kool-Aid and asked for seconds. I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer's pilot episode when it first premiered and decided then and there that I didn't like it enough to watch more. Years later, not long after the final season aired, I finally gave in to the hype and started watching the DVDs. My only disappointment turned out to be not sticking with the show when it originally aired. See also Veronica Mars and Spartacus. Some shows really are as good as people say they are. Go figure!
With my own experiences at being talked into watching TV shows I was initially reluctant to consider, I see the other side of the coin in myself when I think of all the times I've encouraged people to watch my favorite shows. I don't need them to like it in order to enjoy it myself. But having my own experiences at falling in love with a show in mind, I'm eager to see other people experience that, too—within reason. It's necessary to vary the dosage of enthusiasm, depending on the audience. Not everyone's going to have the stomach for the kind of violence (and nudity) that comes with Spartacus, for example. Aside from experiencing a great show firsthand, there's nothing quite like the vicarious enjoyment of knowing someone's watching and enjoying it for the first time.
Talking The Talk
All anyone seems to care about is 'walking the walk' but when it comes to being a die-hard fan of a certain TV show, talking the talk is just as, if not more, important. Not only do you want to be the big man (or woman) on campus and get all the cool references being tossed around the water cooler, say when someone drops a 'danger zone' or lets out a particularly loud 'Shiva blast,' it's just as nice to be a dean as part of the Community. No one likes feeling left out and it's especially hard with today's non-plussed, hipster doofus culture where you're expected to know even the obscure phrases and references.
But forget about outside pressure, there are enough occasions when a show's lingo bleeds into your own (social media extended) circle's phraseology and you need to 'speak' it just to be a part of everyday conversations. Getting through a day without using terms from The League would be near damn near impossible. There are just too many frittatas running loose out there, not to mention always bumping into Eskimo brothers or herdsman trying to take their brand of woman out for a terrific lady day. Ugh. Wouldn't you rather stay home and rosterbate? See. Here's a lesson in League slang for those that want to hang out. No takers?
Public Displays of Obsession (PDO)
Serious fans of a show want you to know it, and they take their fandom to the public domain. Showing off your love in public is a sign that you have a bona fide obsession, and TV fans aren’t shy about it. When you’re standing in line at Starbucks and suddenly hear the unmistakable sound of The X-Files theme song behind you, odds are I’m waiting for my latte and my phone just rang. I don’t just like the show, I’m a bona-fide addict, and I’m not afraid to show it.
Having a show’s theme as your ringtone is just one of the ways fans can make their love public, and it’s one of the more recent options. TV fans have been taking cues from music lovers for decades in wearing their favorite show on their shirt, while bumper stickers let everyone on the road know that the truth is out there. Well, at least if you’re behind an "X-Phile" like me.
Public displays of obsession take the love for a show out of the living room and out there where the whole world can see. It’s how TV fans wear their hearts on their sleeves - literally.
Have you ever felt so connected to a television show that you no longer feel there are infinite plot possibilities on the horizon? You become so invested that you may feel you have all of the right answers regarding certain characters and their motivations in any given week. It comes as a surprise when you first learn there may be other watchers out in the universe that have read a character or plotline in a completely different way. For me, this took a school bus and a very emotionally affecting episode of Friends.
Ross and Rachel broke things off many times over the years, but the first time they got back together, I knew in my gut that their relationship would always be about coming together in the most important moments. I obviously didn’t know how culturally epic this would be, but I did know my school bus friends were wrong. Between Ms. Bitter and Ms. Wedding Obsessed, we got into one hell of an argument, each believing our theories about Ross and Rachel were correct—which they all ended up being in some way or another. The point is, being a fan is about being part of a collective experience, about arguing for or against your favorite programs, about knowing your characters and their stories sometimes even before the writers know exactly where the writing will go. You won’t always be right, of course, but arguing out all of the various viewpoints will only make you a wiser and more engaged viewer.