If there’s one thing people love to do, it’s gatekeep. From movies to music through to sport, knowing more about something than someone else can give that original fan a certain smugness, thinking that they aren’t just “jumping on the bandwagon”. But, I’m here to argue that the bandwagon isn’t always a bad thing – particularly for the thing you’re making popular.
It’s been an interesting year for the rise of huge cult figures in popular culture. From the billion dollar Barbie film through to the FIFA Women’s World Cup and even the four million Australians who tried to buy Taylor Swift tickets, certain fandoms have seen a surge. Conversation online went back and forth between people excited about these things through to those that claimed that they were the original fans.
Barbie collectors made themselves known, Swifties screamed online at those who were ‘new fans’ and soccer supporters rolled their eyes at people who didn’t know the difference between a penalty and off-side. It’s the age old trope: “If Nirvana is your favourite band, name your top five songs.” The insinuation is if you weren’t there from day dot then you have not earned this celebration.
What a load of utter B.S.
Why should the celebration of a team winning or a female director making a billion-dollar film be gatekept by those who have followed that particular niche since the start? Bandwagons are the very reason these things keep going.
Why the bandwagon keeps the wheels in motion
For decades the debate around equal pay for men and women in professional sport has been debated. Female tennis players in 2023 are still earning a staggering 34 percent less than their male counterparts, and the argument goes that, well, the men’s games pull in bigger numbers – financially.
Even as the Australian FIFA Women’s World Cup team, the Matildas, breaks records in television viewership, the women make substantially less than men. A 2021 study showed that on average women’s players will make roughly USD $400,000 (AUD $620,000) less than men per game. The argument has been that the women’s World Cup will net $300 million in sponsorship money compared with the men’s $1.7 billion for the comparative tournament.
This all makes sense. More money obviously equals bigger salaries.
Enter the argument about bandwagons. You know what generates bigger sponsorship money? More people watching the event in question. More people celebrating it. If pre-World Cup Matildas’ games averaged 100,000 viewers, and now the World Cup is bringing in numbers over four million because millions of Aussies “jumped on the bandwagon”, all this means is that there is a better argument for more sponsors and larger sponsorship bills.
So, therefore – doesn’t everyone win? Those watching along at the pub or at home get to join in with the camaraderie and celebration of a thrilling penalty shoot out and the players earn larger salaries. And those original supporters? The ones who know every player’s birth date and height? Well, they get to celebrate the team that they love (and have done for a long time) with atmosphere.
When Greta Gerwig snapped up a billion dollars at the box office with Barbie, the first solo female director to do so, it’s a moment worth celebrating. Whether or not you collected Barbies as a child, the accessibility of the film paired with a celebration of Gerwig’s achievement have meant that this is a moment worth noting.
Bandwagoners jumping on board and buying up merch and memberships are what keeps a particular niche going when the dust has settled and the next trend is taking over.