What is a Fanboy?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A fanboy is someone who is extremely devoted to a very specific and often limited topic of interest. Fanboys may focus their attentions on comic books, television series, computing platforms, videogames, films, and a wide variety of other topics, and they are often extremely single-minded in their devotion. They are also famous for being rather narrow minded, rejecting opinions and ideas which run contrary to their own, and they can comprise a small but very vocal minority on websites which are designed for fans of various topics, much to the frustration of more casual users.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

While many people consider the fanboy to be a late 20th century phenomenon, in fact, the word first emerged in 1919, in reference to fanatical followers of comic books. Fanboys would obsessively collect all of the editions of comic books with their favorite characters or by their preferred creators, exchanging information, ideas, and arguments about their topic of interest with other fanboys. Over time, the word began to evolve to be used more generally to refer to passionate male fans, typically young male fans, of everything from movie stars to Linux; the term is also spelled fanboi.

Typical fanboys collect everything and anything related to the subject of their obsessions, no matter how esoteric it is. For example, a fanboy who follows a particular television series would purchase seasons as they came out on DVD, along with companion books, comics, and other promotional materials. He or she might also attend conferences and events which featured the series, its creators, or its actors. In addition, fanboys haunt the Internet for mentions of their obsession, from throwaway casual comments on forums to sites filled with people of similar interests.

Creators often have difficulties with fanboys, because fans can have very set ideas about how they think things should be done. In the example above of a fanboy obsessed with a television series, the fanboy might get angry about events in the series, things a character did, or actors who decided to leave the show. Creators often find themselves criticized within hours of the widespread public release of a controversial decision, and some fanboys have even gone so far as to threaten creative talent in addition to simply being vocally opposed to creative decisions.

The fanboy is often a figure of derision and mockery in the general community, due to the idea that fanboys are especially nerdy or geeky. Often, fanboys are teased for living at home or not being more active, and they are frequently encouraged to develop a wider range of interests. Psychologically, being a fanboy can be somewhat detrimental, as it tends to create a narrow minded view of the world; diverse interests are, as a general rule, more healthy.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@S.E. Smith: What do you mean when you say:

"...comprise a small but very vocal minority on websites which are designed for fans of various topics, much to the frustration of more casual users."

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