I not too long ago lamented to a buddy that I miss the joy of midnight film releases. Within the days earlier than on-line ticket gross sales and reserved seating, being the primary to see a movie meant going to the theater to purchase tickets prematurely after which displaying up once more hours early in order that you may get an excellent seat.
I nonetheless really feel unhealthy for “Sport of Thrones” followers who named their youngsters Daenerys earlier than seeing the final season.
The magic of a midnight displaying wasn’t simply concerning the movie however concerning the group created standing in line collectively. These had been the individuals you needed to see the film with — everybody else who beloved a factor sufficient to attend collectively for hours. They usually had been additionally the proper individuals with whom to debate all of your theories about what was going to occur subsequent within the universes of “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” or no matter setting you had been about to get misplaced in. Generally the social gathering in line was higher than what was proven on display screen.
That is likely to be a part of why, regardless of solely being a average Taylor Swift fan, I’ve been so engrossed nowadays within the theories bouncing round “SwiftTok.” For the previous two months, the Taylor Swift fandom on TikTok has felt like a large, international line social gathering main as much as Friday’s launch of her new album, “Midnights.”
This theorizing is partially a response to Swift’s openness about hiding easter eggs and clues in her lyrics and social media that invite her followers to do shut readings of not solely her work however her whole public life. A few of these fan theories additionally gasoline hypothesis that Swift is likely to be queer, and within the lead-up to the album launch, this conjecture culminated in debate about whether or not “Midnights” could be Swift’s popping out album.
A number of the followers who noticed the title of the album and her subsequent single within the music video for “Me!” are the identical ones who identified that the colour lavender (as within the tune “Lavender Haze,” the primary monitor on “Midnights”) is ceaselessly used as a queer image. Interpretations of delicate indicators might sound ludicrous in different contexts, however as Swift herself identified, she has “educated [her fans] to be that approach.”
Some individuals would possibly discover it unusual to construct fan theories round an actual individual in the identical approach that we do for fictional characters, however I feel that so long as the interplay isn’t invasive or disrespectful, individuals ought to be allowed to take pleasure in it. In spite of everything, fixing puzzles might be simply as enjoyable as listening to music or watching a movie. Swift’s discography is like an escape room — and it’s largely one she’s constructed.
I research fandom and on-line communities, particularly communities that kind round fanfiction, and have seen up shut that fan theories carry pleasure to those that have interaction in making them. That is what followers do: We discuss concerning the issues we love and speculate about what would possibly occur subsequent, whether or not that’s a tune launch or a movie plot or the end result of a soccer sport. Contemplating the best way that the web brings individuals collectively round media consumption, it isn’t shocking — or problematic — that individuals who love Taylor Swift would possibly collectively search for clues or which means (about her music or about her) in the identical approach that “Star Wars” followers do.
This type of hypothesis retains curiosity alive in between installments because it helps to construct that fan group. The thrill created by water cooler discussions (the place Reddit and TikTok are among the new water coolers) can also be one motive that streaming companies have moved from bingeable full season episode drops again to once-a-week supply for a lot of exhibits. Although some followers lament the wait between installments, others really feel we’ve gotten again a collective expertise that had been misplaced.
This expertise was (sarcastically, given the title) encapsulated by the fan tradition I participated in across the TV program “Misplaced.” I avidly awaited every episode alone when it aired every week. Then sooner or later I puzzled if individuals had been speaking about it on-line, so I looked for a fan discussion board — and out of the blue regarded on the present in a model new approach. The issues individuals observed! The intricate theories about timelines and purgatory and polar bears! It made me need to watch your complete present over from the start to see what I’d missed. But it surely additionally made me positive to take a look at the discussion board after each new episode in order that I may expertise the collective pleasure of dissecting new clues.
So when TikTok thrust me onto SwiftTok in August by displaying movies with Taylor Swift followers theorizing about “Midnights” on my For You Web page (the personalised feed of movies created by TikTok’s suggestion algorithm), I felt like I used to be as soon as once more stumbling into these “Misplaced” boards or the “Sport of Thrones” subreddit or, as I wrote about in 2014, the subreddit devoted to dialogue of the “Serial” podcast.
The thrill that I noticed constructing round Swift’s album made me far more occupied with it than I in any other case would have been. It was like I had solely deliberate on going to see the film throughout its opening week like most individuals, however I simply occurred to be on the midnight line social gathering and the dialogue was so fascinating I caught round.
There is usually a draw back to fan theories created round celebrities, in fact. I do fear about followers who’re so invested that they grow to be upset if their theories don’t pan out, in the identical approach that somebody could also be upset if their favourite TV present character seems in a different way than they hoped. (I nonetheless really feel unhealthy for “Sport of Thrones” followers who named their youngsters Daenerys earlier than seeing the final season.)
However for now, my For You Web page has been stuffed with excited movies from followers simply having fun with Swift’s music. I think about the easter egg hunts will quickly start anew with a lot recent content material to look at. Within the meantime, it’s simply nice to see followers being followers … collectively.