by Steve Weir
In this article, the author reflects on his recent experience finding community and a sense of belonging within the Zelda fandom, specifically the Another Zelda Podcast (AZP) community. He describes his belief that each of us, as human beings, has a deep longing for community, friendship, and belonging. In the end, he encourages his fellow Zelda fans to be bold and unashamed as they live out their love for all things Zelda.
While it doesn’t happen often, there are occasions when I will be out and about in town and notice a potential fellow fan of The Legend of Zelda.
Most recently, I was walking through a parking lot and noticed a red-colored sedan with a small decal on the rear bumper. My eye was drawn to the very strategically placed Royal Crest of Hyrule in white against the reddish maroon color of the vehicle. My initial thought was, “Ah, my people.”
Many weeks ago, I noticed that one of the grocery store clerks had a very prominently placed Triforce tattoo on his forearm. Again, I thought, “Ah, my people.”
While I’ve only recently begun wearing more Zelda-themed attire (socks, zipper hoodie, and my favorite AZP t-shirt, among others), I feel a sense of calm and belonging whenever I encounter someone who appears to be a Zelda fan.
I’ve had similar experiences in my Doctor Who fandom – “Whovians,” we call ourselves. I distinctly remember when a fellow Whovian left an actual note under my windshield wiper, indicating their love and appreciation for my TARDIS magnet on my car. One other occasion, I had just entered the produce section of my local grocery store, and a produce stocker noticed my navy blue Police Box zipper hoodie. We engaged in a brief conversation about our favorite Doctor, how and when we got into Doctor Who, and what we’re looking forward to in (the then) next season. Again, I felt a sense that this produce gent was part of “my people.”
I believe that we all have an internal desire rooted deep in our souls to belong. We want to feel loved, appreciated, cared for, and known – free from judgment, second-guessing, and prejudice. It is inherent to our core as human beings. Sure, there is the collective “human experience,” and we often will commiserate together about our struggles. But it goes deeper than the “life isn’t fair” mantra: there is a longing deep within each of us to have and experience a true community and that sense of togetherness.
Throughout my years of schooling, I struggled at times to find my place of belonging. I think we all know what that’s like when we are searching. There’s often a feeling of aimless, hopeful wandering as we search for our elusive “people.” While I never felt lonely as a child and would have admitted to having lots of friends, I never felt like I “fit in.” For me, there were many opportunities to identify with a particular show, action figure series, music, or sports team. However, at the time, I wasn’t particularly passionate about any one show, activity, or cultural phenomenon, or, if I did feel passionate about something in those early impressionable years, I feared embarrassment, rejection, and isolation.
I wasn’t one of the guys who played sports, so I never felt like I belonged with them. I wasn’t into heavy metal, and so I didn’t fit in with the stoners. It wasn’t until later in my life that I realized that 1) I didn’t have to fit in those groups; 2) I was unique, had unique interests, and shouldn’t try to fit into one of those awkwardly shaped boxes; and 3) perhaps I just hadn’t found my people yet.
Many spend their entire lives trying to find their people. Sometimes they do, and it’s easy to fit in. I live in the heart of Philadelphia Eagles country. Eagles fans are hard to miss. Others find their people based on occupation, skills, hobbies, lifestyles, or choice of vehicles. Do you know how large the Harley-Davidson community really is??
I believe Seth Godin calls these groups of people “tribes” – not in a tribal, barbaric sense but rather a collective group of individuals who share common interests and ideas. We can take this further and say that tribes share a common language, cultural norms, values, and even practices.
Just within the last three years, I found the AZP community. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to each podcast episode, chock-full of “normal conversations” by normal people – not self-proclaimed experts. Discovering the AZP Discord server and the various opportunities to chat about all things Zelda has been encouraging. The AZP community (and really the Zelda community as a whole) is a unique tribe unto itself.
We speak a common language. Ninety percent of us know exactly what I mean in the following terms: WW, MM, OoT, Like Like, ReDead, BOTW, Hylia, Din, and Fi. I don’t need to explain them. They get it. They understand. As you, the reader, read those terms, I bet images flashed to your mind from your own experiences, gameplay, and lore, too.
While our opinions vary (especially on the best Zelda game), we have our shared experiences. We know and understand the dangers of toils of a particular Forest Temple. We collectively groan at the idea of slashing the toes of The Imprisoned as we attempt to reach the top. When it rains, we know we’re never going to reach the mountainside cliff, so we just wait and save ourselves the frustration. We have individually battled the same evil that threatens the world we all hold near and dear.
We are a tribe. The AZP tribe. A Zelda tribe. Forever linked. ;)
As members of this unique tribe, we must not be ashamed. Let’s live it out. Wear that Zelda t-shirt, get that Triforce tattoo, don those goofy Hylian Shield socks, place that Royal Crest decal on your car, and, by all means, invest in your best cosplay. We need you. We appreciate you. You belong here, and we belong together. We make up this tribe together.
So, next time I see you out in the wild, I will speak up, say an encouraging word, or cheer you on. Because, my fellow Zelda fan, I see you.
Cover Image Source: Provided by Author