Happy over Coke bottles: Why I engage in fandom


The other day I went to Subway. To the average person nothing very exciting or particularly interesting happened; I got a sandwich and a drink for myself and my companion. However, for me pulling a beverage out of a refrigerator became a quirky little highlight to my day all thanks to one of the greatest indulgences in my life.

You see, I’ve always been a pretty big fan of superheroes and especially the blockbuster films starring them in recent years, but when Captain America: The Winter Soldier hit theatres I fell hard. I adored the movie, and Cap quickly became my favourite Avenger (sorry, Thor). The movie was gripping, well-paced, and just playful enough while maintaining a generally serious tone. I knew that when watching Winter Soldier gave me a new appreciation for Captain America: The First Avenger I had found a fandom I wanted to engage in. I’m mostly on Tumblr for Captain America posts and my ugly tears at the season finale of Agent Carter are no secret to the world of Twitter. What does all this have to do with Subway?

Well, Coca-cola is currently in the throws of the summer campaign where they label different bottles with different names, although I’ve never been able to find my own. So, naturally, when picking a bottle of Coke from the machine to go with my Subway combo, I scanned the names for one that jumped out at me. As soon as my eyes locked on “Steve,” my mind was made up. How could I resist the real name of my beloved Cap?

That was when the magic happened. As the next bottle in line slid into position to replace the one I had removed, I did a double take. My pulse jumped with a thrill of excitement, and some kind of potentially inhuman squeak escaped my lips. I quickly dissolved into a small fit of laughter at my own silliness, toeing the line between embarrassed and kind of proud. The reason for my small burst of joy? The next bottle read “James,” the real name of James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier.

I showed the bottles to my friend, who shared both the joke of the bottles and the one on me over my own excitement. It was silly, and I knew it was, but that was part of the fun. We then posted it to Facebook, where mutual friends devolved the conversation into a series of bad “on ice” puns. Even my dad joined in, saying I should go back and look for an old glass bottle with the name “Peggy” on it somewhere.

In thinking back on it, I feel that it’s an expression of exactly why I take such pride in being a geek. It was Simon Pegg that said that being a geek was “a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.” For me, it means I have the ability to take joy from small moments like these. The happiness is disproportional to the actual significance of the event; I got immense entertainment with friends about two Coke bottles sharing names with fictional characters. It’s absolutely meaningless, but being a nerd means that it gets to make me happy. And who can deny the benefit of a little extra happiness in our lives?

It’s often easy to get sucked into the negativity of our fandoms and communities. While critiques and growth remain incredibly important, we can never lose sight of what brought us all here in the first place. As geeks and nerds, we share a love of something and allow that passion to give us a childlike delight. We express it in different ways; some of us make cosplays, collect toys and posters, while others adopt an entire geek chic aesthetic. Still more contribute by writing fanfiction or creating fanart, while for others their passion comes out in analyzing every bit of what their love and breaking it down piece by piece. It all comes to the same goal; people expressing their love of something, people making themselves happy, and getting to share that happiness, even if it can be meaningless.

It’s a simple pleasure, and one I’m thankful to share with others. I wish everyone could get that from a pair of coke bottles.

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