A few days ago we were fretting that THUNDERBIRD fandom might be dying out/. The evidence? An excessive number of Geocities pages and dead links in out quest for some vintage stills. Predictably, we got many emails of “We’re going strong!” and managed to flush out quite a few fans. It seems that THUNDERBIRDS is still quite popular in the UK where is it repeated every once in a while to this day. (Try Google.uk for links, it was suggested.) The comment thread to the above post has also become a lively nest of Thunderbirds fans, and based on the number of women posting, our Shaker joke was quite ill informed.
Which isn’t to say that this little byway of fandom doesn’t have its own oddities. It seems that the 2004 movie, starring Bill Paxton as Jeff Tracy and several strapping lads as his sons, led to The Great Schism of Thunderbirds Fandom after which enthusiasts divided into Sunni and Shiite like factions. We’ll let Daria explain it:
Following TechTV’s captioned version of the series in 2002 and the “Thunderbirds” film’s release, the fandom actually grew but took on a whole new factionalism, with most of the fans of the original series left furious about the mistreatment of their favorite heroes by Working Title Films and, surprisingly, the addition of thousands of female fans worldwide who had fallen in love with those rather dishy young actors who portrayed the Tracy brothers. While the “classic” version websites began to fade, Thunderbirds fan fiction sites have taken off like mad.
Fan fiction, eh? Hm, didn’t see that one coming. Tikatu has more:
I’ll second both Daria and middier’s comments. We’re out here, alive and kicking. And y’know, we defy the “geek” stereotype as well. A lot of us are women, well over the age of 20, raising families, working at fulfilling jobs, definitely internet and computer savvy, and still in love with the show. We write fanfiction, create fanvids (did you look at YouTube?), draw fanart, argue on messageboards about the minutia surrounding the show, buy memorabilia on eBay… the list of fannish activities goes on and on.
And Daria again sums it up:
These wonderful ladies represent thousands upon thousands of Thunderbirds fans in the States and the many millions around the world. I often receive letters addressed to the various members of the Tracy family from places as far away as Australia and New Zealand, The Netherlands, Chile, Japan and various parts of the US and Canada, from fans as young as 4 and as old as 65 or more. They all have their favorite characters and episodes (with scripts they know by heart) and, what’s even better, they really believe in International Rescue and the dangerous but life-saving work which those characters perform. Many of the kids that I hear from want to grow up and be like the Tracy family: they want to do good deeds and help people who are in dire need. How many other fandoms can you name which inspire the best in the human spirit and cause fans to want to become rescue workers or designers of high-tech rescue and/or aeronautics equipment?
Millions of Thunderbirds fans? That might be stretching it. But they are not dying out — that’s for sure. It just goes to show that you never know what way a fandom is going to go, and even the Beat can be surprised now and then.