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Harry Potter made a comeback, Night Vale blew minds, and an anime about swimming got bigger than anyone expected.
In any given year, there are a handful of moments that make fandom totally freak out. Or, well, squee. Some of them are predictable (the regeneration of a new Doctor Who, for example), but 2013 was full of unexpected surprises.
Harry Potter and Veronica Mars both came back before Sherlock, a surreal radio show with a queer character in the lead role became the most popular podcast in America, and an unabashedly ridiculous TV series based on a 19th century horror story replaced Supernatural and Teen Wolf in the hearts and minds of Tumblrites across the world. And while this was all happening, the new Star Trek movie made a ton of money but then sank without trace.
These are the 10 things that inspired fans’ uncontrollable excitement this year:
1) The return of Harry Potter fandom
For several years now, there have been rumors that Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling was publishing books under a secret pen name. Those rumors began to die out when her new book came out in 2012, but then the news broke that she’d secretly published Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel supposedly written by a former Military Police officer named Robert Galbraith. Galbraith’s true identity was revealed thanks to an anonymous tweet linking Rowling’s name to the book, and Harry Potter fans were overjoyed to learn that Cuckoo’s Calling had already gained excellent reviews—better than her other non-Potter novel, in fact
The second big piece of news to rock Harry Potter fandom in 2013 was the revelation that there would be more Harry Potter movies. Rowling had stated on multiple occasions that there would never be a “sequel” to her seven-book series, so no one could have predicted a film based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a short tie-in “textbook” about magical creatures in the Potter universe. Rowling herself will be writing the screenplay, which takes place in 1920s New York and will star Newt Scamander, a “magizoologist” and the in-universe author of Fantastic Beasts. For a generation of fans who grew up with Harry Potter, this was the best news of the year.
Illustration via sammax88/Tumblr
2) Grand Theft Auto V makes a $1 billion in three days
The reports of Call of Duty: Ghosts hitting $1 billion of sales on its first day may have been greatly exaggerated, but GTA V definitely did manage it in three. As many gamers smugly pointed out, this was more impressive than even the biggest of blockbuster movies this year. Hopefully this means that sometime soon, mainstream media outlets will realise that video games like CoD and GTA V are about as far from being a niche “geek” interest as it’s possible to be. It’ll probably still be a while before they’re publicly recognised as an “art form,” though.
3) That time Misha Collins posted his phone number on Twitter
Misha Collins: Supernatural star, former White House intern (for real), and benevolent Internet troll. 2013 saw him take over Tumblr in what was known as the “Mishapocalypse,” organize yet another of his gigantic worldwide scavenger hunts, and post his phone number on Twitter. That last one may well have been the most chaos-inducing thing he’s done with his Web presence to date. For a few glorious hours, fans were able to call him and, if you were lucky, he’d actually answer. Responses included Chewbacca impressions, life advice (or advice on what to buy at Chipotle, anyway), and maniacal laughter.
GIF via anal-of-the-lord /Tumblr
4) The instant success of Sleepy Hollow
Thanks to its entertaining trailers and unusually diverse cast, Sleepy Hollow was one of those shows that gained a super-enthusiastic fanbase before anyone had even watched the pilot episode. And once the first season got going? Well, that fandom only got bigger.
Combining the gothic horror Americana of Supernatural with the ridiculousness of shows like Teen Wolf and Once Upon A Time, Sleepy Hollow was destined for success, both in fandom and among regular viewers. Not to mention the fact that the cast and crew are straight-up amazing at dealing with fans. In just a few months, Orlando Jones has become one of the most popular actors in online fandom, chatting with people on Twitter about his favorite fanfic and setting up his very own fandom-savvy Tumblr blog. He even tweeted recently that he’d be happy to record a commercial for fanfic site Archive of our Own. Now that’s dedication.
5) The whole Tom Hiddleston situation
As you may already be aware, Tom Hiddleston is Tumblr fandom’s perfect celebrity. His fame grew thanks to the release of Thor in 2011 and The Avengers in 2012, but he truly came into his own in 2013. First, there was that infamous appearance at San Diego Comic Con, where he showed up and gave a dramatic speech in character as Loki. Then came the Thor: The Dark World press tour, complete with dancing, pillowfights, and a lot of overly emotional interviews. In the absence of a new season of Sherlock, Hiddleston became Tumblr’s number one heartthrob, with GIF memes to match. It’s impossible to pin down one single event as the ultimate Tom Hiddleston experience, but 2013 was the year when he graduated from being fandom’s GIF boyfriend to the almost-official public face of Marvel movies.
GIF via sherlockspeare/Tumblr
6) Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special
Doctor Who is basically the grandfather of modern fandom. Half of its current screenwriters grew up on fanfic message boards in the ‘90s, and the show has been running for longer than all the Star Treks combined. 2013 was the year the Doctor Who publicity machine went into overdrive, preparing for the show’s 50th anniversary special episode in November— and, of course, the casting of the new Doctor. In the days leading up to the 50th anniversary episode, the Internet came alive with all sorts of rumors, with new ones popping up as soon as the last were crushed by official press statements or the release of a new “minisode.”
In the end, the episode was received with relatively good reviews, which is all you can really hope for when it comes to Doctor Who. Die-hard fans will always have something to complain about, small children will love it, and half of Britain will stop whatever they’re doing so they can watch. Once the dust had settled, the most surprising reaction turned out to be online fandom’s sudden love affair with the mostly-forgotten Eighth Doctor Paul McGann.
Well, you can’t predict everything.
7) One Direction Day
Inconveniently scheduled to overlap with Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary episode, #1DDay was a seven-hour livestream variety show starring One Direction, hundreds of teen fangirls from around the world, a handful of decidedly bemused television hosts, and Michael Bublé. The whole thing was wall-to-wall ridiculousness and fraught with constant technical glitches and flubbed lines, but for most of its target audience, it was nirvana.
GIF via foreverthe5boysonthestair/Tumblr
Niall (the blond one) dyed his hair lilac. Liam (the muscular one who acts like someone’s dad) wrestled a 200-lb. man while wearing a purple and gold jumpsuit. The band’s evil overlord, Simon Cowell, showed up for a bizarre segment where he was outwitted by a supposedly psychic dog that refused to bark on camera. For most people over the age of twenty-five it was unwatchable, but that didn’t stop it from being one of the best publicity ideas in recent memory. Owing much of their original success to teenage girls on Twitter, One Direction is the band that fandom built, and this was their way of saying thank you to that audience.
8) Pacific Rim: The new model for blockbuster movies?
Like Sleepy Hollow, Pacific Rim was another new fandom whose creators had an excellent rapport with their online fanbase. However, the main draw was the fact that it was an old-school blockbuster monster movie, with the twist that the narrative favored friendship and trustworthiness over more typical action hero qualities. Before it even came out, fandom was rooting for Pacific Rim to succeed and prove that blockbuster movie audiences are still interested in entertainment with a little more depth than Transformers. With two of the three lead roles filled by actors of color, and a focus on partnership rather than romance between the male and female leads, it not only avoided Hollywood stereotypes, but inspired a new way of judging the way female characters are depicted onscreen: the Mako Mori Test.
9) The Veronica Mars Kickstarter
Six years after the show’s cancellation, Veronica Mars fans (known as Marshmallows) had given up hope of a sequel. That is, until the original cast and showrunner reunited for a Kickstarter campaign to fund a Veronica Mars movie. In terms of cult TV resurrections, this was second only to the idea of another Firefly spinoff. Beating all Kickstarter records, it took just one day for the campaign to crowdfund its $2 million goal, with the final take reaching more than $5.7 million. Now you can watch a trailer for the movie, which will arrive in theatres in March 2014. Dreams do come true, for Marshmallows at least.
Photo via veronicamarsconfessions/Tumblr
10) The “Swimming Anime” trailer that took over Tumblr
Back in March, the anime corner of Tumblr fandom discovered a trailer for an as-yet nonexistent show that was quickly dubbed “The Swimming Anime.” The trailer focussed on three things: homoerotic tension, overwrought emotions, and glistening droplets of water sliding down the bare torsos of male swimmers. That 30-second trailer caused such an enormous explosion of fandom activity that it’s really just as well that it was made into a real anime series called Free!
It ran from July to September, and the fandom is still going strong. This just goes to show that if your product is good enough, it will advertise itself. And in this case, that product was an anime series about half-naked male athletes emoting a lot and yelling in Japanese. Tumblr catnip.
Photo via elegantpaws/Tumblr
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested.