Monday, May 16, 2016

Why Other People's Fandoms Matter (Even If You Aren't In Them)

So today we’re going to be talking about Berkshire Hathaway.

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For the uninitiated, Berkshire Hathaway is a conglomerate (group of corporations) that owns and invests in a lot of businesses. You may think you’ve never heard of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) but if you’ve ever seen a BNSF train, eaten at a Dairy Queen, buy car insurance from GEICO, or get Duracell batteries, then you sure have. And if not, then try  Wal-Mart, AT&T, UPS, Visa, or Coca-Cola. BRK invests in them, too.

You may be like, “Heather, you are using a lot of words to say something you never talk about for a reason. Why are we discussing this?”

Well, because at the end of last month I actually went to the 51st BRK annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska (don’t be jealous because your dad doesn’t take you cool places).

Though it was essentially a big business meeting with a trade show, the BRK meeting was just Comic Con for people in the BRK fandom. You could buy overpriced goods of all kinds! Food, kitchenware, chocolate, encyclopedias… There was a moving trade, big models of airplanes, and a house—yes, a house. After the merchandise, though, there was the most interesting part: the panel. Just like at Comic Con, they get the big names to sit down and answer the questions that matter to the fans.

Of course, at Comic Con you get people like Tom Hiddleston and Jensen Ackles whereas at the BRK meeting we got Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger.

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Listening to the panel interested me. Though I’m not a BRK investor, I realized that it’s really important to care about other people’s fandoms, even if we’re not in them. See,

Fandoms have influence. People are looking at Marvel right now because they’ve neglected the Asian representation in their movies. It’s a social issue many people care about. Likewise, BRK has an economic influence that pushes into the social realm. They have a say in how you eat, live, learn, insure, play… It’s a company that has a say in people’s lives whether they realize it or not.

(BTW: BRK is a multi-national company so you aren’t exempt just because you don’t live in the States.) 

Fandoms are personal. We can all name a book or movie that literally changed our lives. BRK can change my life, too, or at least matter to it. My dad’s work’s main client is a BRK company. I can’t walk into a restaurant and fail to find Coca-Cola products. We’ve shopped at Wal-Mart. I buy ice cream from Dairy Queen. They ship my Amazon orders. BRK lives in the background of my life, and though I can ignore it, it matters to how I live.

Fandoms speak to norms. Art has the power to change the way things are. Just look at a show like Star Trek, that offered a place to explore diversity in our world by watching theirs. They even had one of the first interracial kisses on TV. The places we put our money (and companies put theirs) also have powerful effects. BRK invests a lot in Coca-Cola and it is Warren Buffett’s favorite drink, so someone asked about the morality of investing in the company. Whatever Buffett’s personal experiences with the drink, sugary drinks can kill people. And as long as people are willing to put their money in coke, it looks like it will stay.

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No matter who we are, fandoms represent the part of our lives that receive our enthusiasm and support, and return enthusiasm and support to us in their own way. We watch TV, we buy food, we invest in companies, we buy tools… Something always matters to us.

And, you know, some things matter even if we don’t care. The CEOs of BRK’s companies are mostly old white guys (with some white ladies sprinkled in there), and they hold the power over some of the things in my life. That’s why I should pay attention to the BRK fandom even though I’m not in it.

That’s why I should pay attention to a lot of other fandoms out there even though I’m not in them. Just because I don’t watch the show doesn’t mean it won’t change me.


You’re welcome.

Do you care about any fandoms you don’t participate in?


4 comments :

  1. I'm just finding it awesome that you're calling a company like this a "fandom". I CONCUR! EVERYTHING IS A FANDOM! XD (Although I've honestly never heard of BRK? Maybe it's not an Australian thing? although I dare say we have stuff like it.) Least to say -- totally agree! It's important to care about fandoms that are affecting the world on a gargantuan scale. *nods* I also suffer from second-hand-fandom-life where I end up being semi-invested in a fandom I've never participated in just because I've heard a lot about it. xD

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    1. IT WAS EXACTLY LIKE A FANDOM THOUGH. But with old white guys and money instead. *shrugs* I don't know if BRK has anything in Australia; it's definitely in Europe, though, not that you live there. :P And yes, Secondhand Fandom Syndrome is so much a part of my life...

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  2. I felt confused when reading this because you say it's a fandom but it feels like a company?

    Hmm... the lack of Asian representation is quite prevalent in the mainstream movies and tv shows :/

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    1. It is a company, like I said. The purpose of the post was to compare two different cultures (one of business and one of entertainment) that both connect in a fandom-like culture somewhere in the middle!

      And yes, yes it is.

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