If you spend much of your time discussing pop culture on Twitter or, God forbid, Tumblr, chances are you’ve encountered one or two toxic fandoms in your day. Maybe you’ve been exploring forums about a long-running series you’ve grown a new interest in, only to be met with aggressively-unnecessary gatekeeping. Perhaps you’ve been perplexed by a fandom’s idolization of a possibly-problematic celebrity. Maybe you’ve just been creeped out/taken aback by the intensity with which discourse about said media is discussed. In any case, at some point you’ve come to notice the cultish characteristics that many fandoms have taken on, in a world of identities entirely invested in two or three movies or television series, outdated philosophies perpetuated by the sheer force of nostalgia, and misplaced desires for a sense of both community and individuality. In that spirit, I thought it’d be fun to imagine how some of these fandoms would actually operate as full-fledged cults.
Doctor Who: The Gallifrey Collective
Taking inspiration from Catholicism, members of The Gallifrey Collective treat the various incarnations of the Doctor as saints of a sort, praying to specific Doctors for their respective personalities to manifest in them. The more devout followers will often dress in the attire of their favorite Doctor. Once every month, members will partake in a ceremonial three-course meal, composed of Jelly Babies, fish fingers and custard, and ending with a single Jammie Dodger. According to the Collective, all earthly conflicts are the result of alien invasion/interference, and will eventually be rectified by the return of the Doctor himself. The leader claims to have been one of the Doctor’s lesser-known traveling companions, and have taken it upon themselves to prepare humanity for the Doctor’s inevitable return.
Harry Potter: The Secret Army
The series’ houses have been restructured into a linear hierarchy, with Griffindor as the self-proclaimed top of the ladder, begrudgingly followed by Slytherin, then Ravenclaw, with Hufflepuff at the bottom. Members of the Secret Army spend most of their time arguing about the moral integrity of their main religious figures: Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, and of course Harry Potter. Characters such as Hermione and Ron are treated as disciples of Harry. The concept of Voldemort as “He Who Shall Not be Named” is taken literally, and as such only referred to for the highest-regarded intentions; that is, in desperate attempts to redeem Snape’s or Dumbledore’s narrative arcs.
Sherlock: The Students in Scarlet
This cult is centered around the legend of the “Secret Final Episode”. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are treated as sovereign deities, the main figures of a prophecy in which a previously-hidden series finale will be bestowed upon the most dedicated followers. This finale is said to bring redemption to the brutally disappointing fourth season, and tie together every plot hole and loose end in one tightly-written 90-minute episode. The legend is in fact an apocalyptic analogy wherein Moffat and Gatiss, with the help of actors Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Andrew Scott, will bring about world peace as soon as the Students in Scarlet manage to decode the cryptic puzzles hidden into the television series.
Star Wars: The Midichlorian Commune
This cult contains possibly the highest amount of infighting out of all of them. The Midichlorian Commune can be identified in three distinct subgroups. First are the Lineage Theorists, who spend their time manipulating and drawing up convoluted family trees in order to fit their narrative that all Light-Side Jedi are somehow connected to the Skywalker clan. Second are the Deep Lorists, who determine a person’s social status by the amount of obscure details one can recall, requiring an extensive knowledge of the books, animated series, and graphic novels in order to earn any respect from one’s peers. Finally are the Nostalgists, dedicated to the glorification of the Original Trilogy, which can only be watched in their original, non-digital versions. For the Nostalgists, every piece of media in the Star Wars franchise gains credibility with time, but will remain inferior to episodes IV-VI, for which it is considered blasphemous not to use Roman numerals.
Got ideas for more fandoms as cults? Let me know in the comments!