The 11 most important fandoms of 2017
In a year where reality often felt more like fiction, our fan communities became more vital than ever.
We watched our heroes—both fictional and real—rise and fall from grace, some of them transformed into symbols as fans took the streets to peacefully protest real-world events. Many of us finally began to see ourselves reflected in our fandoms, whether it was Wonder Woman‘s Diana, Star Trek: Discovery‘s Michael Burnham, or Star Wars‘ expanding roster of diverse characters. Some of the year’s top fandoms were unexpectedly delightful, including the dating simulation game Dream Daddy and the rise of the K-pop group BTS. Others revealed the darker side of fan culture, from self-righteous toxicity (Rick and Morty) to racist and sexist backlash (The Last Jedi).
But even in the most frustrating moments, we had our favorites—looking at you, Daenerys Targaryen—to burn it all to the ground.
Here are our top fandoms (listed in no particular order) of 2017.
1) Rick and Morty
When Rick and Morty turned April Fools’ Day on its head and casually dropped long-awaited season 3 premiere on Adult Swim’s website, nobody could’ve imagined, well, everything that followed. To examine the kind of effect Rick and Morty had on fandom this year, look no further than McDonald’s Szechuan sauce.
Apart from Pickle Rick, Szechuan sauce, an obscure McNugget dip introduced in 1998 to promote Disney’s Mulan, was the biggest thing that people remember from Rick and Morty’s excellent third season. The throw-away joke from the season 3 premiere became almost a rallying cry for some fans. They begged McDonald’s to bring it back, made their own sauce, and one person spent tens of thousands of dollars on an original tub of it. And, curiously, McDonald’s delivered. Sort of.
The fast-food chain first brought back the sauce for the Rick and Morty crew, but then, perhaps to garner some goodwill and capitalize on fan enthusiasm, it made limited packets available for one day. The promotion went off the rails as the sauce quickly ran out. This unleashed some of the uglier and more toxic parts of the show’s fandom—which had already surfaced to harass and dox some of the show’s female writers. McDonald’s eventually promised to re-release the sauce to appease upset fans. It took time (and some interdimensional travel) to make Rick’s series arc a reality, but if anyone could trick a corporate giant into releasing an obscure sauce by the sheer will of its own fandom, it’s Rick and Morty.—Michelle Jaworski
2) Game of Thrones
In a realm where people have hundreds of shows available at the touch of a fingertip, Game of Thrones is one of the last great must-see TV events. Fans rapturously tuned in every week for season 7’s seven-episode run. Game of Thrones is officially off-book, so both fans of the show and the A Song of Ice and Fire novels were on the same level as they watched the show provide answers to mysteries more than 20 years in the making.
But for fans the highs of season 7 are now followed by a long two-year wait for the show and who knows how much longer for George R.R. Martin‘sThe Winds of Winter. With active online communities and subreddits and Game of Thrones conventions like Ice and Fire Con and new convention Con of Thrones, fans know they’re not alone in the Long Night.
Off-screen, the show was plagued by leaks and spoilers. An outline of the show’s seventh season leaked last year that revealed nearly every major plot point, including one that gained more attention as the show confirmed its accuracy. Fans even identified the actor playing Rhaegar Targaryen from leaks long before he made his debut. Just weeks into season 7, hackers revealed that they breached HBO’s security system, leaked Game of Thrones outlines, and demanded ransom. Unrelatedly, two episodes of season 7 leaked online days before they were set to air. But the behind-the-scenes debacles didn’t affect Game of Thrones, which had record ratings that will likely rise even higher when HBO airs season 8, including one of the most anticipated series finales this decade. All HBO has to do is stick the landing.—Michelle Jaworski
3) Star Trek
Last year’s 50th anniversary was disappointingly haphazard, but Star Trek: Discovery launched with a bang in 2017. Like every other Trek series to date, it inspired furious debate among fans. Some old-school trekkies dislike Discovery’s longform storytelling (or, depressingly, its diverse casting choices), but it also brought a fresh new audience to the franchise. Now halfway through season 1, we’re fully in love with Michael Burnham and her crewmates. Also, the show has inspired one of our favorite fan-theories of 2017: the surprisingly plausible idea that one of the lead actors doesn’t exist in real life.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
4) Wonder Woman
How many of us burst into tears during Wonder Woman? We don’t have exact stats, but here’s a rough estimate: A hell of a lot. Wonder Woman was cathartic for a plethora of connected reasons, boiled down to the overwhelming satisfaction of a female-led superhero movie that was really, genuinely, brilliant.
Plenty of superhero movies do well at the box office but have zero cultural impact. (Avengers: Age of Ultron, we’re looking at you.) Wonder Woman wasn’t one of them. People rewatched it again and again, and its box office longevity suggests it benefited a lot from word-of-mouth. The number one movie on Tumblr, Wonder Woman gifs were ubiquitous across social media, and director Patty Jenkins was shortlisted for Time magazine’s Person of the Year. In a year dominated by depressing news stories about sexual harassment and misogyny, Wonder Woman was the inspirational, feminist hero we all needed to see.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
5) Star Wars
Star Wars has been such collective part of our fandom DNA that it’s hard for some fans (particularly younger fans) to imagine a time before Star Wars. Little did we know just how much everything would change after May 25,1977—or that we would still be deeply immersed in the galaxy far, far away 40 years later.
The year kicked off on a somber note following the death of Carrie Fisher. The Star Wars community spent much of the year honoring the memory of their favorite princess and general. Leia Organa (and Fisher herself) became the source of a new hope whose influence changed lives and helped shape her final Star Wars film. And Lucasfilm had two very public departures this year: Solo directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord just weeks before the end of principal photography and Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow. (They’ve been replaced by Ron Howard and J.J. Abrams, respectively.)
For fans, 2017 meant even more Star Wars to dissect and explore. The Last Jedi challenged everything we knew about Star Wars, and along with answering some massive questions, it gave us a story with several women and people of color at the forefront. (Plus, thanks to The Last Jedi, we now have porgs!) The franchise may be over the hill but it’s showing no signs of stopping. Now that Last Jedi director Rian Johnson is creating a new Star Wars trilogy we won’t be leaving that galaxy far, far away for the foreseeable future.—Michelle Jaworski
If you don’t use Tumblr, you may be surprised to see this fandom on our list. Voltron: Legendary Defender is a kid-friendly reboot of the classic anime about space-traveling robot lions and their pilots. It’s a fun and visually appealing show, but it’s definitely not sophisticated in the same way as, say, Avatar: The Last Airbender. However, the fandom is another matter entirely.
Keith and Lance (two of the main pilots) topped Tumblr’s list of popular ships in 2017. That means more people were posting about them than pairings from mainstream fandoms like Riverdale, Supergirl, and Star Wars. That’s partly for the usual reasons—people love making Keith/Lance art and fanfic, and speculating about their role in the show—and partly because Voltron fandom is rife with controversy.
This year, a fan tried to blackmail Voltron’s creators to make Keith/Lance into a canon romance, threatening to leak storyboards from the show. (It didn’t work.) Another group of fans petitioned the showrunners to reveal the precise ages of the main characters—a seemingly innocuous question that ties into a toxic debate between Voltron shippers. The main characters all appear to be in their late teens or early 20s, but some fans accuse certain pairings of having an inappropriate age gap. Keith and Lance are the same age, so if Netflix confirmed that other characters were older or younger, it could give Keith/Lance fans the moral upper hand during arguments.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
7) Yuri on Ice
Airing from October to December 2016, figure skating anime Yuri on Ice arrived just in time to make last year’s list. Since then, it’s inspired a constant outpouring of fan creativity and enthusiasm, along with speculation about season 2. (Apparently a film sequel is on the way, but we’re not exactly sure when.) Victor and Yuri’s charming love story was perfectly timed to alleviate the darkest period of the 2016 election, providing a soothing balm during troubled times. It’s funny, romantic, and complex enough to warrant months of intensive analysis.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
Two years after this colorful, team-based shooter came into our lives, Overwatch is still one of the biggest fandoms on the internet. It’s unusual for a video game to establish such a prolific creative culture (though there are exceptions), but Overwatch’s vibrant cast of characters keeps giving fans plenty of material to work with.—Sarah Weber
9) Dream Daddy
This dating sim appeared out of seemingly nowhere to win hearts and minds this summer. It’s the same basic set-up as any other dating sim: a choose-your-own-adventure romance story with a variety of twist endings. Dream Daddy’s selling point was its unusual range of love interests. In the game, you play a dad who dates other dads in his new neighborhood—a unique concept that quickly led to a flood of fanart and memes. Praised for its writing (including some unexpectedly weird endings) and character design, Dream Daddy was the surprise gaming hit of 2017—especially on Tumblr, where it toppled the Overwatch juggernaut to become the site’s favorite game.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
Republic of Korea/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
When the Korean pop group BTS from an indie studio called Big Hitdebuted in 2013 , they seemed more or less like every other K-pop boy band trying to claw their way to the top. As they evolved over the next four years, they found their way into a distinctive sound unlike anyone else’s. Known for consistently addressing societal issues in the music they write, the seven-member group’s popularity has soared to international status this year. After winning the Billboard Top Social Artist award and appearing on American TV shows like Ellen and The James Corden Show, it’s clear the band has 11 million followers on Twitter for a reason: their sincerity and determination. From their passionate fandom they call ARMY to their creative evolution, it’s no wonder we thought they would be the future of K-pop.—Colette Bennett
11) Marvel controversies
Oof, it’s been a year. Marvel always appears on our year-end lists in some capacity, but this time it’s not in a very positive light. While Logan, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok were all big hits, Marvel Comics suffered a year of controversy and criticism from fans—often for good reason.
First there was the Hydra Captain America storyline, carrying on from 2016. It saw Steve Rogers get rewritten as a Hydra sleeper agent, starring in a rather poorly executed political allegory about fascism in America. It earned continual backlash throughout its highly publicized run as Marvel’s biggest event comic of 2017. Then there were several behind-the-scenes mishaps at the publisher itself, including an executive blaming low sales on women and “diversity,” and the broader problem of discrimination and harassment in the comics industry. In November, we learned that Marvel’s new Editor-in-Chief created a fake Japanese persona so he could publish Japan-inspired comics in the 2000s. We assumed this would be the last Marvel scandal of the year, but in the back half of December, it canceled several comics starring women and queer characters, and (unrelatedly) precipitated a very public falling-out with Thanos creator Jim Starlin. Phew.—Gavia Baker-Whitelaw