Movies + TV

The Five Stages of Fandom Grief

I’ll get over it. Right?

The five stages, as personified by my buddies Troy, Britta, Annie, Shirley, and Abed.

Oh, hi! I have some sad news: MY LIFE IS OVERRRRRRRR. Oh, I mean, everything’s going well. But, you see, I had a favorite show. That show was NBC’s Community. It had everything! Good-looking people; an appealingly awkward feminist; super-dorky pop-culture riffs for super-dorks; an elaborate in-show parody of Doctor Who. (OK, the third and fourth items on that list are the same thing.) And then people didn’t watch it enough, so it got put on indefinite hiatus. Which is TV code for “I think we need some space.” You’re breaking up, but the other person and/or TV channel is not telling you that, because you might start crying in the restaurant.

Now, it makes no sense for an objectively awesome person such as myself to feel that her life is awful, just because a TV show is currently not airing. And yet! This is common. Because loving things: it has its downsides. One of those is that all good things must come to an end, and when something leaves you before you’re ready to say goodbye, you go through all the stages of grief, sometimes cycling through them over and over until you latch onto something new to love irrationally. Those stages go like this:


Example A: “There’s no way Community is going to be cancelled. This Alison Brie .gif got like a zillion reblogs.”
Example B: “Fantasy is mainstream now! That’s why all of my dates love it when I talk about Magic: The Gathering!

So: you like something. Good for you! I, too, have known the thrill of a pop-cultural romance. But, here’s the deal about liking things: not everybody likes those same things. They can be the best things in the world, but that will still be true. I have watched far too many people zone out during the searing post-apocalyptic drama of Battlestar Galactica because, and I quote, “it’s about spaceships.”

The problem wasn’t Battlestar Galactica. But it also wasn’t those people. The problem was me, inflicting a spaceship show on anti-spaceship people. It was my responsibility to protect Battlestar Galactica from those people, so that I could preserve a relationship I cared about. Meaning, of course, my relationship with Battlestar Galactica. Gaius Baltar! So complex!

This is hard to do if you are in denial, either about the unpopularity of your fandom, or about the right of other people to enjoy different things. What you see, when you log on to your Tumblr, is a soul-exposing microblog, using the postmodern artistry of .gifs and witty one-liners to compose searing cultural criticism. What everyone else sees is the following:


Dude! I get it! I, too, like Amy Poehler. But we must honor Amy Poehler, and the dignity and style with which Amy Poehler conducts herself, by reserving our thoughts on her for special occasions. Because, if we do not, we lead ourselves straight into…


Example: “The corporate fat cats at NBC have proved that they don’t care about good, smart, original programming! Also, Alison Brie .gifs! I HATE YOU, PROFESSIONAL TELEVISION BROADCAST COMPANY. I WILL NO LONGER PAY TO WATCH YOUR PROGRAMMIoh wait…”

Friends: I have written about a lot of controversial topics. I have written about sexual assault, abortion, various kinds of discrimination, how much girls rule and how this compares in re: boys drooling, and my problems with one or more U.S. presidents. I want you to listen when I tell you that I have never—ever—gotten meaner internet feedback than when I said I didn’t like a science fiction or fantasy series.

Which I get! I, too, have encountered people who didn’t like things I loved in the past; by strange coincidence, I usually concluded that those people were terrible! They were elitist snobs if they didn’t my favorite soulful lady singer-songwriters, and they were unsophisticated philistines if they didn’t like Community, and they were heartless if they didn’t like Downton Abbey, and they were joyless if they didn’t like that one video of a cat jumping into a box that I found on YouTube because CLEARLY, SIR, THAT CAT WAS DELIGHTFUL.

This is another exciting part of liking something: you get to feel like you alone understand it, and defend it against everyone else. It’s a special relationship, and you protect it. But sometimes you’re not protecting; you’re attacking. Fan rage is a real and terrifying thing. In sports, people have literally killed each other over not liking the same teams. So, when you find yourself composing your 12th Tumblr post of the day entitled “YOU DON’T LIKE AMY POEHLER ENOUGH YOU JERK,” take a step back. And realize that you are one step away from soccer hooliganry. Amy Poehler is a wise and beneficent influence upon us all. She would not want hooliganry conducted in her name.


Example A:#sixseasonsandamovie!
Example B: “Yes, I know that we were only supposed to send apples to Free Fiona that one time, but it’s been years since that album came out! Fiona needs me!”

OK. Let’s be real: Community is going to be back on the air, eventually. When Community goes back on the air, that might be the last time Community is ever on the air. We might not get any more. This hurts. But I have admitted it to myself. Because if I didn’t, I would behave like a total weirdo.

Among qualified grief professionals, such as myself, the bargaining phase is known as “the really pathetic part.” OK, it is only known as that to myself. And I am not a qualified grief professional, also. But bargaining is the part where your brain stops working according to the known laws of space, time, and sense-making. It’s the part where you keep calling the dude or lady you’ve broken up with, attempting to finagle your way back into that terrible relationship, even though they are already dating your sister. It’s the part where you give yourself a haircut with safety scissors because your cat died and HAIRCUTS SOLVE EVERYTHING. It’s the part where you’re broke, but if you just bought an entirely new wardrobe with your savings, you would FEEL like you had money. And it’s the part where you send apples to a record label to make them release an album. Or take out an ad in the paper to save Firefly.” Or start a petition, after your favorite character on a TV show dies, to make the writers somehow un-kill that character. (IT WAS HIS CLONE.)

That can be good! That can work! Keep tweeting #sixseasonsandamovie, that might actually do something! But sometimes it doesn’t. And you have to know that, and not believe that your tweets are magic tweets that control the world. Because here’s the really gross part, about bargaining. When it doesn’t work, and you’re not prepared, you get to visit…


Example A: “I don’t really watch TV any more, since Community left me. Why get your hopes up, you know?”

Here are some things that are awesome: Honest enjoyment. Caring passionately. Being sad sometimes. (I know, that last one doesn’t sound great, but have you ever met somebody who doesn’t let themselves get sad? More often than not, those people get angry.) You can do all that, as a fan.

But what you can’t do is get so bound up with something that it becomes yourself. This sounds goofy, I know. Who actually gets that sad when a TV show goes off the air, or a band breaks up, or a book series ends? Who needs me and my pop-psych pep-talks to get through that? Well: I have. People do. I’ve told you that I sometimes get angry feedback from people, when I don’t like what they like. Often, I find no apparent reason for it! Those people are just being jerks! Humankind is a mystery in that way! But the feedback I get that I actually understand, and empathize with, goes as follows:

These people are sad. Or they were sad, at some point. They were getting picked on in school, so they had a part of every day where they weren’t going to that school: They were going to Hogwarts. Taylor Swift knew about feeling like they’d met someone they completely, uncritically adored, and were just totally beneath that person’s notice. They were lonely, or they were hurt, or they were just frustrated with how things worked out sometimes, like everybody. Anything or anyone that genuinely helps you get through a hard time deserves your loyalty. And will almost certainly get it. So when that thing goes away…

I know. It really sucks. But the fact is, everything ends. The sun will go supernova, the Earth will be incinerated, generations will be born and generations will die, and before all that happens, people will leave, friendships will break up, pets will run away, and TV shows will get canceled. And weirdly, this sentence is supposed to help you deal with depression, because: things end, and once you know that, you know you don’t end with them. Everything comes, and everything goes, and you just let it pass through, and try to be grateful. Also, buy the DVD sets. If enough of you do that, it turns out you get a movie.


Example A: “Much like Abed coping with the unexpected and brutal end of Cougarton Abbey, I’ve decided to find a new favorite show. God. Community. That was a great show, you know?”
Example B: “Ultimately, what matters is not the 11 crappy albums this band has released, but the three really good ones that they made at the beginning of their career. Also, the fact that I’ve suckered you into attending this concert. THREE-IN-ELEVEN CHANCE OF FUN! WOOOO.”

Acceptance is boring. It doesn’t actually feel like anything. It seemingly has nothing to do with the rest of all this stuff: The obsession and fan rage and frequent visits to Bummer Town. You’re not even thinking about the object of your obsession, when acceptance hits. You’re watching something else. You’re finding something else to do. You’re reading the Hunger Games trilogy, and all is well.

Because acceptance is the moment when you’re not thinking about this. That’s all. You liked something, and then you lost something, and now it’s gone. And you know that it’s gone. But you’re not really thinking about what’s gone, these days. You’re thinking about what’s here.

It’s a beautiful thing, actually, to leave the dark side of fandom. You like things, but they’re not who you are. You enjoy yourself, but you’re not going to be traumatized if you don’t get to enjoy yourself in the exact same ways all the time. You aren’t a “fan,” you’re a person who likes stuff. As a wise TV show once said, “I guess I just like liking things.” And if I do not get more quotable adages along these lines, MY RAGE WILL KNOW NO LIMITS, but, you know, that’s beside the point. The point is: it’s great to like things. And you do, because you’re great. Just, you know, before you get too into it, make sure you know which friends can’t stand spaceships. ♦


  • AllieBee February 10th, 2012 7:15 PM

    I don’t think any television show should be canceled, ever. ‘Nuff said.

    • farawayfaerie June 6th, 2012 4:06 PM

      Uh…I beg to differ…did you ever see The Days of our Lives? that went on waaay too long o.O

  • MissKnowItAll February 10th, 2012 7:17 PM

    This was me when The Sopranos ended. I will never look at New Jersey the same way again.

  • Cinda February 10th, 2012 7:21 PM

    I relate to this so much… I’ve been going through Community withdrawal the last two months. I even dreamed a new episode earlier this week. I don’t remember what it was about, except that Troy and Abed were cleaning their apartment, and it was glorious.

  • Adrienne February 10th, 2012 7:22 PM

    Haha this is so accurate!! The denial, anger, and depression stages are so on spot for me when “Whose Line is it Anyway” ended.

  • Lille February 10th, 2012 7:22 PM

    This article is just perfect! And yeah, I’m still in a denial state with Harry Potter….

  • QueenoftheLab96 February 10th, 2012 7:41 PM

    This should be required reading for fan girls everywhere.
    However will we survive during unreasonably long hiatuses?? And those inevitable series finales?

    Oh, Bones. Oh, DOCTOR WHO!!!!!!

  • ButterscotchGumdrop February 10th, 2012 7:45 PM

    COMMUNITY IS ONE OF THE BEST SHOWS EVER I’M CRYING. But this has given me time to rewatch all the seasons.

  • GagaMcQueen February 10th, 2012 7:57 PM

    Haha, well, I love that video the cat in the box!!!

  • Molleeeeeee February 10th, 2012 8:00 PM


    My tumblr *might* look a bit like this.

  • stylepukka February 10th, 2012 8:00 PM

    YES. yes yes yes yes yes. this is exactly like me (except with asian dramas…)

  • kittenpuke February 10th, 2012 8:00 PM

    this is my life

  • Taylor February 10th, 2012 8:02 PM


  • nabilaLP February 10th, 2012 8:05 PM

    OH MY GOD COMMUNITY IS MY FAVORITE SHOW EVER i was wondering when would rookie finally talk about. I was pretty late in the whole community fandom thing though I didn’t know community existed(i’m a loser) until my friend told me i reminded her of abed haha. i watched one whole season in one day and now it’s being cancelled :( goodbye my favorite study group

  • lilyrose February 10th, 2012 8:05 PM

    This is basically me and Friday Night Lights and Tim Riggins.

    • Carneece February 10th, 2012 10:53 PM

      I’m still spinning from withdrawal from both. Ugggghhhh

  • AnguaMarten February 10th, 2012 8:47 PM

    i love game of thrones. it may not be slightly misogynistic and more than a little creepy but i still love it so there.

  • AnguaMarten February 10th, 2012 8:48 PM

    and this is so how i feel about avatar:the last airbender. and harry potter. i just walked around feeling empty after they ended.

    • roonilwazlib February 10th, 2012 9:24 PM

      I was totally about to mention Harry Potter and I forgot about Avatar! (repressed memories) brb crying

    • Tasya February 14th, 2012 11:36 AM

      oh my god, harry potter and avatar were the BEST thing ever!!!! and so is community!! god, i love everything about that show! it’s just p e r f e c t

    • koolkat February 15th, 2012 3:08 PM

      i got teased for loving avatar but i don’t even care! Best show ever!

  • Anna F. February 10th, 2012 8:57 PM

    Great article, Sady! And you did an excellent job at vaguely disguising your TRUE intentions (ie use your position at Rookie to convince all the readers to start watching Community when it comes back so the ratings get super high and they renew it for another three seasons. and a movie. hashtag.)

  • bogprincess February 10th, 2012 9:04 PM

    YES i’m still crying over community. “i hate you so much pierce (nbc)!”
    i was going to vow never to watch nbc until they put community back on the air but then…. parks and rec…..

  • moonchild February 10th, 2012 9:27 PM

    Yep. Harry potter all the way for me. It’s not even FUNNY how depressed I was (and … okay. Still am.) after I finished the series and then again after the last movie came out.


    • mangachic February 13th, 2012 7:53 AM


      After the last movie my parents were convinced someone had been shot because I was crying so hard and didn’t stop for days…
      And I will never accept it because that would really be the end….now i’m all depressed again.

  • AliceinWonderland February 10th, 2012 9:30 PM


    That is all.

  • Hedwig February 10th, 2012 9:37 PM

    I haven’t met a ghibli freak in real life yet….:(

  • Mags February 10th, 2012 9:54 PM

    I think I’m still going through all this regarding My So-Called Life. Every few years I just cycle through all of these stages.

  • SparklyVulcan February 10th, 2012 9:59 PM

    I wasn’t around back then, but I still mourn the canceping of TOS after 3 seasons :’(

  • Carneece February 10th, 2012 10:56 PM

    This reminds me of the first time I ever had Too Much To Drink (last summer), and I had just suffered the end of Harry Potter that day. The next day my best friend explained to me that I basically melted into a puddle of pulsating depression and that what came out of my mouth sounded a lot like “I MISS HARRY POTTER AND I MISS LOST AND WHY DID SMALLVILLE HAVE TO GO AND OH GOD FRIDAY NIGHT LIIIIIIIIIGHTS!”

  • zombiesockmonkey February 10th, 2012 11:11 PM

    It’s okay! my fellow Community fan geeks have assured me there are more episodes coming, they are already made and everything. there may even be a season for because of syndication… plus well six seasons and a movie?

  • unicorn February 10th, 2012 11:26 PM

    I’m still in the denial stage about Community.

  • sedgwick February 11th, 2012 12:15 AM

    COMMUNITY COMMUNITY COMMUNITY! I just finished the few episodes that were released of season three that my friend gave to me. i am obsessed. I want my life to be like Community. I liken people i meet to characters in the show. I desperately want to be part of a motley-rag-tag-unlikely-misfit family. planning to start a community fan club at my school. When I heard that community was on hiatus, i had only just started watching season 2, since it wasn’t really on Australian TV. So I didn’t grieve that much. I don’t mind so much now, they did say that the show was coming back and stuff. And I just watch the episodes over and over. In chronological order, in reverse order, in themed order. I’ll be able to cope.

  • kittenmix February 11th, 2012 12:21 AM

    There was a ridiculous, poorly written Australian cop drama called RUSH and when I found out there was to be no more RUSH-ing I was inconsolable. This will hopefully help me heal my wounds.

  • puffytoad February 11th, 2012 12:55 AM

    “But the fact is, everything ends. The sun will go supernova, the Earth will be incinerated, generations will be born and generations will die… things end, and once you know that, you know you don’t end with them.”

    How do I not end with generations dying and the incineration of the Earth??

    Dying. That’s what gets me down. Poo.

  • kitterfly February 11th, 2012 1:28 AM

    This post was cruel.
    How dare you imply that Community is over forever? Sure, we need to deal with ALL OF THE FEELINGS for now, but it will be back! Don’t count your chickens (Er, TV shows) before they’ve hatched (Uhh, been canceled).

  • Susann February 11th, 2012 2:49 AM

    This is pretty much what I felt when “Pushing Daisies” was cancelled…

    • Tyknos93 February 13th, 2012 11:59 AM

      *Girly squeal* Pushing Daisies was so perfect 50′s clothing, So Many Colors, Lee Pace, Lee Pace’s eyebrows, PIES! Excuse me while I go order the box set… or tear up at the thought of what once was.

  • KayKay February 11th, 2012 8:31 AM

    I’m still in denial about Jimmy’s death on Boardwalk Empire. How dare Nucky kill Jimmy?! No no no NO. Jimmy may be an asshole, but they’re all assholes, so it’s ok. Bring Jimmy back!!! BRING HIM BACK!!!

    Of course, I was also heart-broken when Harry Potter ended. However, I did find some comfort on together with hundreds of other Harry Potter obsessed people who just can’t let go. Good news is, I’ve finally come to acceptance phase with Harry Potter. I guess it’s sort of sad, but I also feel … relieved.

    • tusk tusk February 13th, 2012 9:27 AM


      (don’t read if you haven’t finished season 2 yet!!!)

  • talia anais February 11th, 2012 11:20 AM

    Fun article. I almost cried when “Bored to Death” was cancelled but I’ve been trying hard to focus on the good times we had together rather on our relationship’s untimely end.

  • karastarr32 February 11th, 2012 12:37 PM

    Thank you, love the article. When I read the last Harry Potter book, I went through this. I actually had to go to a counselling session- fandom grief in the extreme, no? :)

  • unefillecommetoi February 11th, 2012 1:48 PM

    that happens to me too when i exhort people to watch gallactica or buffy or jean-luc godard movies or i don’t know… my favorite things ever. it makes me kind of sad because i know there is a guy in this world who is good looking and understands all the things i like but maybe he lives in serbia or something ’cause i haven’t met him.

    • Anaheed February 11th, 2012 3:03 PM

      Or you could do what I did and find a cute guy and then force him to like all the things you like.

  • Stephanie February 11th, 2012 1:56 PM

    This is so totally how I have felt about many shows from My So-Called Life to One Life to Live to Deadwood and of course Harry Potter. You and a few other people have convinced me of the awesomeness of Community. I want to start watching it but part of me is afraid because then I’ll be as upset as you are :( :(

  • kristy February 11th, 2012 2:08 PM

    To be honest, I skimmed this artice to see whether or not community was coming back.


    But I’m not one of those people who is looking for 6 season and a movie. While of course I selfishly want as much ice cream as possible, I do Know too much of it is not a good thing.

    Arrested Development’s three seasons was a blessing for them. The good die young, man.

    and also, I want to hit everyone over the head who say that Community is not a good show (Wha???)

    • tusk tusk February 13th, 2012 9:29 AM

      Arrested Development is coming back, you know!

      4 seasons and a movie!

  • insteadofanelephant February 11th, 2012 5:57 PM

    exactly what happened to me with arrested development and my so-called life. *SIGH*TEAR*SIGH*

    instead of an elephant

  • sunshine February 11th, 2012 6:07 PM

    Community was my favorite show ever!
    I’m now going to mourn over the loss of it (Let stage 4 begin).

  • J February 11th, 2012 8:08 PM

    I am still grieving for Harry Potter. The books were, of course, the important part, but the last movie was just too final to bear. :’( Honestly, the acceptance phase sounds like the worst, because I don’t want to STOP LOVING Harry Potter. That is NOT happening. Hogwarts is always going to be there to welcome us home. So.

  • Tourdivoire February 11th, 2012 8:29 PM

    OH BOY
    That cat video is AMAZING
    Thank you for making my life complete Sady!

  • taste test February 11th, 2012 8:43 PM

    see, this is why I’m kind of glad that most of the tv shows and bands I like have already broken up or been canceled. it adds a weird dimension to being a fan, because you know you only have a finite body of things to like, but it also means you don’t have to worry about The End because it happened before you were even aware of its existence.

    I’ve only started following bands that actually exist in the past couple years, and it amazes me when one puts out a new album. I am not used to bands I like doing that. haha

  • SweetThangVintage February 11th, 2012 11:57 PM

    “THREE-IN-ELEVEN CHANCE OF FUN! WOOOO.” haha that was great!

    What’s it that the Doctor says? Everything has its time, and everything dies.

  • Annelalala February 12th, 2012 12:10 AM

    It’s not even funny how true this is.

    I was 4 when I heard of Harry Potter. My best friend’s dad read it to me as a bedtime story. I didn’t know just how in I was yet.
    Soon after, my mom caved and got the three only books that were out for me to read. Harry Potter taught me to read. And OH BOY did I read. Two months later I had read book 1, 2 and 3 four or five times each. I was in love.
    Then came the movies and with that, my friends joined in on my obsession. We drew pictures of dear dear Harry. We quoted Hermione Granger every chance we got. We discussed Gryffindor vs. Ravenclaw and waited impatiently for our Hogwarts acceptance letters. We wrote fanfiction before we ever knew what it was. And as the characters grew and the books became maturer, so did we.
    When the 7th book came out, I was 12. My obsession was too big for me to wait for the translation to come out in my native language, Danish; so, after spending all savings on an Oxford English Dictionary, I sat down with my english copy of the Deathly Hallows and worked my way through it.
    When I finished The Hallows, I had a bad feeling. Never again would I read another word of my witches and wizards. Still, I had a few more years, a few more movies to prolong the inevitable moment that I knew would some day come: THE END.
    This summer, that moment arrived. We went to the premiere and sobbed our way through the entire movie.
    I was heart-broken. For so long, for 11 long years, I had lived, loved and learned from Harry.
    I’m still not over it – but I know now that Harry will always remain in my heart. I won’t forget him.

    • mangachic February 13th, 2012 7:54 AM

      This was really beautiful and you’re so lucky to have HP loving friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Annelalala February 12th, 2012 12:15 AM

    Oh and I got into Twin Peaks this summer. Is it just me or wasn’t that THE WORST PLACE TO STOP A TV SERIES EVER???? Grrrrrrr. Makes me sad.

  • bethleeroth February 12th, 2012 10:09 AM

    I’m still hoping they’ll make more Freaks & Geeks. I just can’t accept it.

  • saramarit February 12th, 2012 7:37 PM

    Still waiting for a Gilmore Girls movie or at least a Zach and Lane spin off show, HepAlien forever!

    • Sphinx February 13th, 2012 12:16 PM

      Still waiting for Rory to get back with Jess (after she’s won a Pulitzer prize, of course)…
      And for HepAlien to hit bigtime sucess!

  • jadeione February 12th, 2012 10:26 PM

    I hate my life. If community is ending so am I.

    Well not actually but still. Sad stuff

  • Tyknos93 February 13th, 2012 12:03 PM

    BBC Sherlock is killing me softly. Only three episodes per series and a year between new episodes. The awesome Tumblr fandoms are keeping me going. )-:

  • Sphinx February 13th, 2012 12:12 PM

    And you can always rewatch your favorite parts…
    But I miss Doctor Who pre-Moffat.
    I still like it, but it doesn’t feel the same, and part of the time I’m angry because Moffat can’t write female characters.

  • starsinyourheart February 14th, 2012 7:34 PM

    it died somewhere around the end of season 3 but oh we had a good thing while it lasted

  • practicalghost February 15th, 2012 8:51 AM

    When Harry Potter ended, I didn’t talk to anyone for days. I’m still in denial

  • NavyAnTeal February 21st, 2012 7:28 AM

    Everytime I Love A Show It Gets Canelled… No Matter How Long It’s Been Running, It’ll Get Cancelled About Two Series After I Watch It!!! Friends, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty!!! Name A Cancelled Show And It’s Usually Because Of The Bad Omen I Bring To Shows I Love!!! These 5 Stages Are The 5 Stages That Define Me!!! (“,)

  • maja March 28th, 2012 5:24 PM

    This was exactly the way I felt when i had watched the very last episode of Queer as Folk US. That Brian and Justin didn’t get eachother in the end did not help… And I’m still not in acceptance. Right now I’m in depression. And I did buy the DVDs.

  • ifihadanickel April 10th, 2012 12:55 AM

    sweet jesus this post made me realize that i’m not insane for having deep feelings about fictional shows. i still have CHUCK withdrawals ever since it was cancelled in jan!