Step one: enjoy/love/like the show, book, movie, and/or band.
Good job, that's it, you're a true fan.
One thing that just never fails to annoy me is when someone tells me (or another person honestly) that they aren't a true Фан of whatever it is they are a Фан of for having a certain opinion.
One of the most common things I get is 'you're not a true Фан because Ты like the villains more'. Okay no let's talk about this for a second; the villains are a crucial part of the story. Villains are what essentially gives the show/book/movie its plot. Without villains there is no conflict and without conflict, sure there's a story/plot, but it wouldn't be a very exciting one.
So of course people are going to like the baddies and that's okay. Why? Because villains can be and are well written, interesting, and complex. Why? Because they help make the story fun. I just don't get how one can tell another they aren't a real Фан of something for liking a character critical to the story line.
I can't speak for everyone but I personally (as a villain fan) tend to hate the mains. This is another biggy for people pulling the 'you're not a true fan' card.
People it's possible to not like the main character and still like the book или Показать или whatever. While, yes, the main is a huge huge part of the media in question, he/she isn't all of it. Harry Potter for example; I think he's kind of boring but I still enjoy the Книги due in part to a fascinating plot and the other characters around him. "I don't like the main" =/= "this book/show is boring". It simply means that the main doesn't appeal to Ты and that Ты enjoy the show/book for other reasons. The main character is not everything.
Hand in hand with this I've seen "you're not a true Фан if Ты like this character better than this character. Fandoms are diverse in opinions, of course someone is going to think character A is better than character B and vice versa. I don't know why this is even a cause to tell someone they aren't a true Фан with such a vast assortment of characters to choose form. Moreover I usually see this the most when character A is a villain and character B is a hero.
And in the musical case; if Ты like this singer better than this one. For instance Nightwish; I've seen "you're not a true Фан if Ты prefer Annette или Floor to Tarja (the band's first vocalist). Different vocalists are simply еще pleasing to some people's tastes than they are to others. People can't help what vocals are еще pleasant to them. It's like trying to choose to become left handed when you're right handed.
In general having a different and/or strange headcanon или perspective of a character than someone else is okay. Different life experiences make way for different ways of seeing the story and the characters in it and how relateable the characters are. That in mind someone can very well see something Ты don't in a character and the other way around. For example over on the Once spot (way back when spoiler Regina was still evil) I always though she had a lot of good left in her. Person B disagreed...and disregarded my points, telling me I wasn't a true Regina Фан for believing she could turn good again and that she truly loved her son. End spoiler. Don't tell someone they aren't a true Фан of a character because they view him/her differently from you; for one it's rude, for секунды they're ideals could very well turn out to be true in canon.
How about dubs? Guess what someone can be a Фан of something for liking dub X еще than dub Y. This is mostly a thing I've seen in the Winx fandom since we have like 3 versions (4kids, Rai, and Nick--Rai being the original). I have gotten so much crap for liking 4kids to the original. I've also seen the reverse. And with Аниме like FMA that have two versions; Ты can like the 2003 version еще than Brotherhood and the other way around and still be a fan.
Along the same lines (and this is еще of an Аниме thing too) I think people get way too butthurt when someone says "dubbed is better than subbed". Ты can be a true Аниме Фан and prefer an English dub to the English subtitles. Some people don't like trying to read the subs while trying to take in the actual imagery at the same time. It can be kind of a pain. Ты don't have to watch the Japanese version of Аниме to be a true Аниме fan.
Another thing that gets me every time is when that crazy mega-fan starts freaking out because someone doesn't know every little plot detail, character name, actor name, etc. So what? Are all the people new to a fandom not real Фаны then? Let me tell you; I couldn't even name all the main and re-occurring characters when I first started watching Наруто (honestly there are so many characters in this one I still don't know all of them). Hell I confused Lydia for another character when I first started watching Teen Wolf. It takes time and getting used to. It takes time to start putting names to faces flawlessly and easily. Eventually Ты start get the hang of it and it just comes naturally.
And then there are people who simply don't have the time/patience/capacity to memorize line, important date, character name, and what not in the show.
Some people are just casual Фаны and casual Фаны are true Фаны too. And some people simply aren't obsessed with the show/book. Liking something should not be a chore. Your shouldn't have to do a butt ton of research to be recoginzed as a fan.
In the musical sense Ты don't have to know all the lyrics nor all the track names and или albums. If Ты like a bad you're a true fan. Nor should Ты have to know all the band members' names right away--or ever if you're only interested in hearing the Музыка (which is perfectly okay too). Ты also shouldn't have to be able to say who is who right on the spot. With k-pop bands like SNSD (that have like 9 singers) it's hard to tell who is who right away because they don't have different rolls so Ты can't just be like; 'oh so and so is the guitarist' Ты actually have to--like a teacher with new students--get used to which face belongs to which name. Basically it's the same as the above. Ты don't have to be a super Фан to be a real fan.
Much like the preceeder; one doesn't have to have seen every episode/read every book/listened to all the songs on every album. Again, listening to music/watching a Показать shouldn't be a chore...it's entertainment, something Ты do for fun. If Ты have the time to read every book, see every episode, hear every song, еще power to you. That's awesome. But not everyone can and that doesn't make them any less of a fan.
The same goes for not watching every interview; be it a band interview или cast interviews. Particularly cast interviews, there's such a vast amount of them, it's hard to keep track.
Shipping is another huge one; someone can ship, ship X and not ship Y and still be a fan. Ты can prefer ship A to ship B and you're opinion still makes Ты a genuine fan. I really just don't understand how someone can tell another that they don't truly like a show/book because they like/don't like a certain pairing--especially if the shipping is just a subplot...which it usually is unless you're talking about the romance genre.
Hell Ты can not ship and all and still be a real fan.
Speaking of likes vs dislikes a person doesn't have to Любовь every. Single. Aspect of a show/book/band to be a real fan. No matter what form of media we're speaking of, it has flaws. There are positives and negatives to everything one likes. Ты don't have to Любовь every single character, plot, или subplot in your Избранное show. Ты don't have to Любовь every song, lyric, album art, или member of your Избранное band. A person can see the flaws in their faves and still be a true fan.
A person is allowed to prefer the adaption to the original as well. Be it Ты prefer the movie to the book или the tv Показать to the book или the other way around. You're still a true fan. It doesn't matter if Ты like the adaptation еще than the original nor if Ты prefer the original to the adaptation. I just don't see the need for people who like the original media еще to have such a superiority complex.
Finally Ты don't need to own all the merch или any at all to be a true fan. Some people just aren't interested in fangear others don't have the money to blow. Likewise with cosplay. Cosplay is expensive shit. Whether Ты make your own costume или not, it's expensive and sometimes time-consuming.
I lied...this is the finally. To go with cosplay are Cons. A person doesn't have to attend any cons to be a real fan; like cosplay cons are expensive shit (especially if they are out of state или country). Or--for all Ты HP fans--you don't have to go to the Wizzarding World of HP ever in your life if Ты don't have the money. You're still a fan, end of story. Excessive spending doesn't make Ты any еще of a Фан than the Далее guy.
And these points are just scratching the surface; these are only a few of the things I've been told and/or seen around the net.
Ты can totally be and are a true Фан of something if Ты hold one или еще of these opinions. Why? Because everyone has a different perspective; everyone has gone through different things and has different knowledge levels and therefore everyone has different points of view of the same show/book/movie/band. Just because someone holds a different view point than your own, doesn't mean they are any less of a Фан than you.
To sum up; the notion of a 'true fan' and the very term 'true fan' is bullshit. :)