This morning I was introduced to what is possibly the strangest and most exciting thing in politics and fandom today – the Milifandom.
Note for those that may not be aware of the term, Fandom (according to Wikipedia) is:
a portmanteau consisting of fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in kingdom, it is a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as a part of a social network with particular practices (a fandom); this is what differentiates “fannish” (fandom-affiliated) fans from those with only a casual interest.
There is a firm belief among a number of adults that teens are not interested in politics.
I think that the #Milifandom proves them wrong; they are engaging with politics on their own terms and that is where we should meet them, not by trying to talk seriously about politics but by sharing their joy and excitement over the leader of the Labour Party. This is seriously cool and something that we should all celebrate!
In my experience nothing can turn a teenager off faster than rushing at them with something that you tell them you think they should love.
Imagine what would have happened if the Labour Party had approached the youth of the UK to form a leadership fan club?
I do not think that it would have ended well!
How did this fandom happen?
It is possible that teens identify with him, as the majority of young people at some point or other in their lives face bullying, body shaming and awkward photographs of themselves; maybe they have been won over by his earnestness and honesty in the face of bile and disdain. It could be the fact that he sometimes does not look as sleek and polished as the majority of other male politicians or they have been won over by his geeky coolness.
Whatever it is that has ignited their interest, Ed Miliband now has a grass-roots youth following that is (to my knowledge) unprecedented in modern UK politics.
So to everyone that says the youth of the UK are apathetic and uninterested in anything other than superficial pursuits I think I can safely say: think again! It may not be political engagement as you know it, but they are getting engaged and you should feel uncertain because they are bringing their views to the table!
The leader of the #Milifandom movement is on Twitter: @twcuddleston
In the interests of fairness, I will also note that there is now also a David Cameron fandom: The #Cameronettes