Well I am a little late coming into this “history is not fandom” discussion, but since the majority of my blog consists of stupid history comics and lots and lots of history-related art, I felt compelled to put my own two cents in. And it will be all I have to say on the subject, really.
I think it should be taken into account that “fandom” and “fangirling” can mean different things to different people. One person may think it’s the ignorant adoration of a certain subject, another is going to use it merely as a harmless synonym for passion, etc. And then, if you really want to break it down, then “fandom” just means a group of people who are enthusiastic about similar subjects. I see it as: I love history, you love history, but the level to which you take your enthusiasm or your own thoughts is not any of my business and I won’t chew you out on it. What matters is that we love the same things and we can share that together.
Obviously, history is very serious. Whoever jokes about the horrors of war, slavery, prejudice, and all the terrible aspects of what people do to each other, is clearly a jerk who you can legitimately rip apart. Respect is respect and events like those automatically demand it.
But history is also very very silly and if you can identify those moments and laugh at them, it can be very fun and who wouldn’t get passionate about history by then? If someone wants to create fantastical stories about historical figures or slash them or dreams about them making out with potatoes or whatever, it does not necessarily mean that person has no respect for that subject. They may even have more respect since they are showing such a love for it! And I am pretty sure most people can tell if someone has made something that is purposely degrading to a historical event or figure. So far, I’ve only seen fun, harmless things come out of a person’s love for history.
And, of course, you will always have to take it for granted that sometimes there will be really ignorant people who really are very shallow. But there is nothing you can do about it, so if you feel compelled to correct them, do so, and then just leave it, don’t let it stress you. They’ll learn or they’ll get their own comeuppance in time.
I am not a professional historian. I took many history classes in the hopes of getting a history minor, but in the end, I have no history degree. I was trained in graphic design and work in the art industry. But I do know the value of research, detail, getting things right, and knowing that to make a joke/art piece/comic/etc., you must know your subject incredibly well. I may not be able to write analytical papers about a subject, but I certainly know my facts and more. And my interest in history has been lifelong, much as some people may have loved drawing all their life, but are ultimately in academia. My comics and art are merely meant to give myself joy, to give others joy, and to provide an engaging introduction to someone who may NOT know much about a subject, but then will want to do more concrete research on their own later.
As cheesy as this will sound, that’s the great thing about being a community of interests, isn’t it? There are people from all walks of life who love the same things. Communities can look out for themselves and I see no harm in that.