For the most part, they look normal. Just average folks living average lives working at average jobs. It’s only when you enter their homes or really engage them in meaningful conversations that they begin to show signs of their true nature. These signs could be as small as a casually tossed-off Star Trek reference or as large as a fully detailed portrait of Xena tattooed on someone’s back. Soon, after spending an hour and a half listening to an in-depth rant on the inner workings of the Millennium Falcon or witnessing them weep openly during a new episode of “The X-Files,” you begin to realize that this normal person, this family guy or gal, is not so normal after all. No, they are Super-Fans, loiterers of conventions and collectors of knick-knacks!
Not that I’m one to judge. I, personally, have logged many an hour watching and re-watching old tapes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the aforementioned “X-Files,” so in the great buffet-line of super-fandom, I’m most definitely filling up on the hot dishes. But that’s okay. If we’ve learned anything from films such as TREKKIES and… well, TREKKIES, it’s that nerds need love too. And if we’ve learned anything from the REVENGE OF THE NERDS movies, we also know that nerds get all the hot chicks. But I digress. Though this obsessive, slightly crazed behavior is abnormal, it’s by no means wrong or scary, and this point is proven for me by none other than cult legend and Man Amongst Men, Bruce Campbell, in his new documentary, FANALYSIS.
Campbell is, as I said, a legend. He rose to his throne of geek-worship playing the much-put-upon hero, Ash, in the horror series EVIL DEAD, a trio of films that have a fan base nearly as rabid as those who bow before the twin idols of Kirk and Picard. Campbell is loved, admired and treated as a God, and not because his portrayal of Ash broke down any barriers or revealed any untold truths. No, he is worshiped because in those movies, he was cool. Wait, not just cool… fuckin’ cool. When he revs up his chainsaw hand and says the immortal line, “Groovy,” every fanboy melts into a big puddle of envy, leaving nothing behind but an issue of Toyfare and a pair of autographed Spock ears. So when Bruce Campbell decides he’s going to turn the camera onto the fans to discover what’s behind this super-fan lifestyle, we know we’re in the hands of an interstate trucker that’s driven this route quite a few times.
FANALYSIS is TREKKIES-lite. It’s the Diet TREKKIES. It’s roughly a third as long, and really, it’s all the time needed to aptly profile the characters and oddballs who populate the convention halls from coast to coast. Where TREKKIES took long, piercing looks at the various STAR TREK idolaters, FANALYSIS merely glances and moves on. It’s a fine line Campbell walks, between too much and not enough, but he manages it with the skill of any mid-level tightrope walker. Oh, sure, he hits the net once in awhile, but who’s going to point the finger? Not I, that’s for sure.
So what IS behind this super-fan lifestyle? The feeling that one gets as one watches the costume competitions and the endless lines for autographs is that, above all else, they do this for unconditional acceptance. I would be willing to wager my meager earnings that none of the people profiled here were very popular in high school, or anywhere else for that matter. When they don their Romulan space suit or “I Heart Yoda” T-shirts, they become part of a group… a group that thinks that an “I Heart Yoda” T-shirt is pretty sharp. It’s this need for acceptance that Campbell captures so succinctly in his film. The kicker is, this need doesn’t come off as pathetic or sad. Maybe it’s because I count myself as one of them, but looking at this group through Campbell’s eyes, they almost seem… well, cool. Not Bruce-Campbell-as-Ash cool, of course, but more the kind of cool that would warrant a dutch-treat meal at a local IHOP to discuss the minutia of intra-galaxy war treaties.
As I said before, this isn’t the longest documentary ever made. Clocking in at around 30 minutes, it does leave you wanting a bit more. Also, the quality of the film technique leaves a bit to be desired, but all of that is just nitpicking. On the whole, this is a fine documentary, funny and light in tone, and easy on the mind and spirit. It achieves the goal it sets out for and makes you understand, if not completely, then for the most part, why someone would want to dress up as an Inter-galactic Bounty Hunter on a regular basis. And that is, to paraphrase a great man, pretty groovy.