Saturday, February 25, 2012

Barry Manilow and Fangirls

Yes, you read the title right. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, I'm discussing Barry Manilow. Because, while it may seem hard to believe, he was uber popular in the 80s. And part of the 90s - trust me, I know. I was taken to two of his concerts (once when I was four, and again when I was eight). But this isn't about me. Nope, this is about my mother.
My mother, my darling mum, was once a member of the Barry Manilow fan club. She once wrote him a fan letter. She used to go to club meetings because she was happy to finally find others who were fans because she didn't know anyone else who liked him. And then she stopped. Why? Because things got weird. (It's like nothing's changed; except for me, I didn't go to a fanclub but instead joined Tumblr).

Anyway, things got weird. My mother told me the women at these meetings were creepy and obsessed. They made drawings and stories and harshly judged and hated anyone he dated. Because music is so intimate an art form and because so many of his songs were about love, especially sung by a person who seemed lonely. And thus, they think he's actually a very lonely person just looking for the right one. And they, as his biggest fans, are it.

So, this kind of killed my mother's interest in being associated with Manilow's fanclub. And now, having sired a fangirl herself, she's able to relate to my weirdness with Tumblr and writing a fan letter (which I actually did; yikes) and so on and so forth. So thank you, Barry Manilow, for adding a extra bonding layer between me and my mother. Also, thank you for Copacabana, because that song is utterly, brilliantly lame and I love it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Confession

In case you haven't noticed, I've been procrastinating a bit on here. Rambling on about random fangirl stuff. Talking about stuff but not REALLY talking about stuff because, even though the things I'm finding are incredibly helpful, I'm discussing them in a very unorganized was and too early in the process. There is a very simple explanation for this:

I am at war with myself.
One part of me desperately wants to find an easy way of thinking through my senior paper and processing something that's culturally relevant. Another half of me is attempting to solve all my problems by revoking my status as a fangirl and behaving as a mature adult and somehow overcoming this "monster" that is growing inside of me and accepting that I need to get my head out of the clouds and accept reality. Another part of me just wants to talk about how awesome British actors are until I'm blue in the face and scared off everyone I know by my obsessing. Another part of me, the really scary impossible to argue with (or get to shut up) part is the one that screams "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!" and tells me not to limit my imagination, not to leave Wonderland because real life CAN BE Wonderland, to believe that I am the exception, not the rule (no matter how high the odds are stacked against me). It is the side that believes that, hey, maybe I could become famous or maybe I could write the next American classic or maybe I really will marry my favorite actor or maybe...

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. It's the most dangerous word I know.

 "Daydreams were dangerous because they made her wish for things she could never have.”
Julie Garwood, Ransom

Thus, everything I've tried as far as making this blog clear and understandable has failed. My position on fangirls is not at all clear because I both love being a fangirl and hate it. I want to talk about my favorite actors and simultaneously never speak of them again. I want my daydreams to be real and yet I want to shut them out so I can move on and accept that they will never happen... and yet I don't want to give in to a life described to me as mundane and pinch off the reaches of my imagination. I am attempting to battle against my own mind and it is failing.
So, it is now I confess that fangirling is not so easily controlled, examined, written about. I cannot change who I am or what I've become just to try to make myself sound like a mature, self-reflecting writer. I cannot keep giving into whims of wanting to be academic one moment then creating a gushing fan blog the next. I don't know how to deal with trying to be a writer with high aims and saying that we shouldn't idolize actors in such a way that it makes them uncomfortable and makes us seem crazy, even though I'm beginning to do that. And then at the end of the day, all I really want to do is stop worrying about school and work and life, curl up with a book and cup of tea and write a letter to Benedict Cumberbatch to tell him how much I appreciate him.

Regardless, this makes this whole blog writing thing a lot more complex. But probably a lot more interesting. I'm just gonna roll with this and write as it comes and we'll see where we go from there. Yahoo!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Of Hobbits and Hedgehogs

I know I'm supposed to arguing that Martin Freeman is not a hedgehog and thus I should not be making photos that compare him as such. However, I insist in the following picture that this is really just a comparison between hobbits and hedgehogs (long-eared hedgehogs, to be precise) and NOT the actual actor Martin Freeman. Thus, I give you Bilbo and his adorable animal spirit:

Hobbits for the win. Now back to serious stuff :D

Saturday, February 18, 2012


For one brief moment, I'd like to consider fanboys, a sort of parallel to fangirls. Here's how Urban Dictionary defines them:
A passionate fan of various elements of geek culture (e.g. sci-fi, comics, Star Wars, video games, anime, hobbits, Magic: the Gathering, etc.), but who lets his passion override social graces.
In contrast, here's how they define fangirls (or, at least in one of the hundred - and less offensive - ways):
A rabid breed of human female who is obsessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy. Fangirls congregate at anime conventions and livejournal. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obsessions.
Okay, honestly, I don't know what livejournal is; either this post is outdated or I'm not as internet savvy as I'd like to think (honestly, probably the latter). But regardless, you get the point - they're pretty similar. So why am I focusing just on fangirls and not fanboys?

1) I happen to be a fangirl, so a more personal angle doesn't hurt.
2) There's more overlap between fangirls and fanboys than these pretty little definitions give way to. Many fangirls are both obsessed with video games and sci-fi as well as obsessed with a fictional character. Like me. Some fanboys are probably obsessed with fictional characters too. However, I don't see a lot of fanboys on Tumblr talking about how awful their lives are like fangirls do. So, while they might have a lot in common, I don't think fanboys show their problems he same way fangirls do. Or at least, if they do, it's to a lesser extent than fangirls.
3) Plenty of people have talked about geek/nerd/fandom culture referring to men. Like in American Nerd. And countless other places. But have there been too many reflections on girl fandom culture? Not that I know of. And while I am focusing in on a really specific instance of fangirls - girls obsession with actors, okay, with British actors - I feel like much of what I'm considering could be applied to other facets of fangirling. And even for fanboys. And while I'd really like to talk about fanboys more (as I feel like they get a lot of stereotypical portrayals of their sort), I've got to place limits or I'll be talking about everything and anything and this will be messier than it already is.
4) Gender roles are a big part of culture. I'm a CSCL student - we talk about this a lot. And while we'd all like to act like sexism is a thing of the past, it's not so much. I am a feminist (which is not a bad or crazy thing, by the way) and I'd like to take a look at how issues regarding sexuality, gender norms, and beauty ideals. Among other things.

So I'm sure I'll mention fanboys at some point again. I feel I kind of have to. But for the purpose of this cultural "meme" of a sort, I'll be focusing on heterosexual girls. Not because other fangirls/guys aren't important but because I need somewhere to start- and that's where it starts. With heterosexual girls. So let's get down to business.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Fame

To continue a previous thought line, I present to you a picture I happened to come across on Tumblr this morning:

1) Ah. Yes. Remember that little thing I said about roles being important in order to develop fangirl attachment? Thank you, Tumblr, for providing a perfect example of this. While I have yet to see Atonement (much to my chagrin) I did read the books some years back (actually, over Valentine's Day my junior year when I got the stomach flu. That was fun). I remember "that scumbag," as the blogger so artfully states. This happens to be the character of Paul Marshall, who (SPOILERS) rapes a woman named Lola. If you were wondering why maybe Cumberbatch didn't get fangirls until later roles... this would probably be part of it. Wow (I kind of wondered if that was the character he played when I realized he was in Atonement, as there's only so many characters in that book. That had to be one hell of a tough role to take on).

2) I would like to draw your attention to the last comment made by one of the Tumblr uses, the one that reads "Thanks for reminding me that I'll probably never meet him in my life." Ladies and gentlemen of the world, I give you the fangirl cynic. The fangirl cynic, I would argue, is small part of every fangirl, the realist part gone bitter over time. With every bright, elated, gushing and cheerful side, there seems to be a darker, depressed, frustrated and angered edge attached. Keep this on the back burner, and I'll talk about it soon. I promise.

And in relation to how I ended the previous post, check out this article where Daniel Radcliff reflects on his co-star, Robert Pattinson's sudden rise to fame. I'd like to dwell a little bit more here on the mentality we (or at least the we I'm familiar with, meaning American society) have in regards to celebrities. This might seem a bit redundant or unnecessary, but sometimes you have to look at the something that seems so common place as foreign or strange in order to get a better grasp of it.

Celebrities are a huge part of American life - sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. I mean, just look at all of the headlines about Whitney Houston's death, and you can totally see how big of a role they play in our society. I wish I had a better understanding/knowledge base for how celebrity culture developed, but now all I can do is wonder and marvel how things like the paparazzi and Entertainment Tonight became a significant part of our lives. Another loose thread to follow up on...

I think the first celebrity I heard mentioned the most when I was young was Tom Hanks. I remember hearing about him a ton in the 90s, along with stars like Meg Ryan, Tom Cruise and, once Titanic came out, Leo DiCaprio everywhere. But Tom Hanks' fans were markedly different than DiCaprio's were. I mean, while both are good actors, both have done a variety or roles, there's an instant difference in what kind of demographic comprise his fans. There's also a difference in levels of investment. For instance, one might really like Tom Hanks as an actor and like some of his films and think he's a really great guy. Fans of DiCaprio, at least from what I recall, were deeply, deeply in love with him and wanted to marry him. This sort of thing just didn't happen to Hanks. Perhaps because the romantic leads Hanks played were different from DiCaprio's. Perhaps because our perception of him is different.

Explanation: You're a teenager in America. You come across an actor named Leonardo DiCaprio. You've never heard of him before, but he's coming out in this movie that's supposed to be a blockbuster and everyone's talking about it. And you start getting interested and listening to people talking about it. And then you go see it and fall in love with Leo.

It's communication and perception: You didn't know who he was before the movie. You hadn't heard of him before. But suddenly a bunch of people are talking about him, and you get the feeling he's really famous. You perceive him as so. You see his film - a blockbuster hit. The more people who see it, who allow him to communicate across the silver screen as only an actor can, the more famous he becomes as other communicate with each other how incredible he is, how romantic he is, how perfect he is. And this snowballs and snowballs and snowballs and suddenly Leo can't go anywhere without being recognized. Welcome to the first stage of fangirling (and Leo's path to fame): Discovery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Search for Darcy

I came across this today on Tumblr:

Ah, yes. This fits in nicely with where I left off in the prior post. Girls I know - not fangirls, just your regular, run-of-the-mill girls, have a type. We do. We look for this type, we judge other men by it, it's kind of a thing we've been socially trained to do. Maybe ALL girls don't do it, but the ones I know do. I'm going to call this construct Darcy - not because all girls look for a man like Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (I'm more of a Mr. Rochester kind of gal, actually) but because it's something most people are familiar with - a sensitive, but strong, romantic male. This is not partial to only fangirls. All girls have a Mr. or Mrs. Darcy in mind.

I would argue, however, that fangirls go a step further. Rather than just having a construct in their head, they give life to this idea, either through attaching to characters on page or screen or to actors/musicians/athletes... you get the idea. And thus, because they have this stronger image - actually WANTING Darcy to be their man or what have you, it become more potent, more powerful... harder to shake off.

Let me try to clarify this. Say you're... okay, say you're me (crap, terrible idea. Too late). Say you're looking for a certain kind of guy... a guy who's funny, but had a dark side. Kind of Byronic. Not hot, at least not the way most girls would describe it. Someone who just... really gets you. Who treats you as your equal.

And then you read Jane Eyre. And you're doomed forever after. Because no matter what, nothing is going to be as a man dressing in drag, as a gypsy, to impress you.

This, of course, is a bit of a problem. Mr. Rochester, despite his awesomeness, is fictional. However, there's a certain thing that gives fangirls like me a nice little loophole. And that's called acting.

Michael Fassbender's first hit on the American screen was Inglourious Basterds, playing the British Lt. Archie Hicox, who slips up on his German and gets shot in the basement of a pub. This did not win him crazy fangirls. Playing Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, I would however argue, did. Did that turn me into a fan of his? Yep. Am I embarrassed that I didn't notice his acting genius in Inglourious Basterds (which I saw before Jane Eyre and claim as one of my favorite films)? Yep. Do you think I'd be the same sort of fan if he hadn't played Rochester? Nope.

Playing certain roles leads certain actors to gain a lot of fangirls. Maybe it's because of their personality that certain actors - especially charming, good-looking Brits/Irishmen - are the type that end up with the roles. Maybe it's just a commonality that a lot of these actors happen to seem so fabulous because actors in America are, well... different. I can't say I've met a lot of Tom Cruise fangirls recently (I'm sure they exist, but I get the feeling they exhibit their fandom slightly differently). Maybe life just imitates art and these men really ARE Darcy-esque. Or maybe they'll just appear that way to us because, well, we want them to be.

But think about it: Colin Firth won an Oscar for The King's Speech, but he's best known for playing Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and in Bridget Jones's Diary. Robert Pattinson first hit American screens in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but only became a hit when he played the sparkly vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight. I saw John Barrowman for years - YEARS - every time I re-watched The Producers but I didn't know who he was until I saw him play Jack Harkness in Torchwood. And Benedict Cumberbatch... you can read about my own discovery of him here, but he's been in films like The Other Boleyn Girl and Atonement, and yet it would seem the fandom only latched on once he played Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock. And now he's super famous. And girls write things like this on Tumblr:

With fame comes great responsibility... wait, no, that's power. And that's Spiderman. Sorry. Point is, I don't think actors are expecting the fangirl thing to happen when they just happen to stumble across a role they like. But when it does, what do they do? What happens next?

I'm so glad you asked. Unfortunately, it's a bit late and I have a psych lab tomorrow. So, I'll get back to you on that.

Nice Guy Finishing Last
I guess to begin with, we'll start in the everyday world of a heterosexual man. Why? Because that's where lots of things start. Lots of things people like to criticize. But this is self-flexing and critical and not going to make any friends anyway (I mean, c'mon, I'm out here critiquing fangirls; it's like I want to get smacked in the face). And this is not your stereotypical, heterosexual male. It's... well, this guy, writing into Dr. Date in the Minnesota Daily:
Dear Dr. Date,
                Long story short, I don’t have a girlfriend and have never been kissed. To top it all off, I’m losing hope. FAST.
                Over the years, I’ve had friends (girls) point out to me that they wished their boyfriends would care about them as much as I did. They’ve told me I’m a nice guy, that I’m funny, charmingly witty and quietly passionate and so on. I’ve been told that I’m extremely smart, and my grades reflect that. And whether it is helping a friend with psychology when I don’t even take psychology or making time to help someone I just met, I’m there.
                (I rate myself as a high 5-out-of-10, but I’m really tall and skinny.)
                Given all these so-called “desired” traits, why do I feel like nobody is interested in me because of the way I look? Do you think there are really women out there who actually can love you even though you aren’t the best looking guy around? Are there girls out there who feel this way too?
Nice Guy Finishing Last In Love?

And the response:
Nice Guy,
                Life is long, and the world is large. There’s someone out there for everyone. Just think about the last time you were in a giant lecture and there were two acne-crusted freshmen holding hands under the parka they were using as a blanket.
                But you gotta drop the ‘tude, man.
                Why are you giving me this résumé of your qualifications as a man?
                Great girls go for terrible guys; great guys go for terrible girls. There’s no formulaic trump card.
                Just get yourself into a Zen mood and go with the flow.
                Someday you’ll find a girl who’s into a guy obsessed with taking inventory of his “desired” traits.
Dr. Date

Okay, okay, so Dr. Date isn't always the gentlest of responders. Sometimes, he's a bit harsh. But sometimes, sometimes he speaks to greater possibilities than he states. For instance, when I first saw this, I felt for "nice guy." I'm in his situation in some ways - I don't have a boyfriend, have never had a boyfriend, and have never been kissed. For a moment, I was half-tempted to write into the Daily myself and tell Dr. Date to set us up. And then I realized that I couldn't, shouldn't, and wouldn't. Namely because of these three reasons:
  1. 1) Dr. Date is right - making a resume of your qualifications is too "in your face." If this guy is like this in an anonymous letter, what's he like in person? He comes off as a bit desperate, and that's off-setting.
  2. 2) I don't do blind dating. I've hardly done dating in general, so blind dating is a big "no." Mainly because all I know about him is what he says he is: nice, charming, etc. I went out on a date with someone like this once - who thought he was a totally nice guy. But I'd asked him out and he never showed any further interest in going a first date and discovered he was just bad with girls in general. Therefore, I'm kind of in the place of waiting for guys to show interest. But really this is all caught up in point three which is:
  3. 3) I know what I'm looking for and I'm not going to take any risk unless I am certain it's worth it. I'd rather date only once than waste a lot of my time with guys who I don't even like. I've realized a big factor in all of this is maturity - I've only actually fell for a guy in my own age range a few times because I'm always looking for someone more mature - and thus older. I don't want to risk getting my heart broken in a dating climate I don't understand. 
I bring this up because point #3 is where I want to begin this fangirl thought process (and on of all days, Valentine's Day!). I am sure this guy who's writing in to Dr. Date is a nice, amiable fellow. I am sure he will find a nice girl who care about him and love him. But without knowing him, meeting him, even knowing what he looks like, I can suddenly generate a thousand reasons why I won't take the risk of going out with him. Partially because of my own experiences. Partially because I'm just not comfortable with that kind of thing. Partially because if I really wanted to go out with a guy, I would ask him out (I've done it before, it's awkward but doable; I've just rarely found anyone I actually WANTED to ask out. But that's a tangent). But really, when I saw this article and I started thinking about this, what did I do? I compared this guy - this guy who I know nothing about - to the portrait of the perfect man I have in my head (who, for illustrative - and honest - purposes, I will deem as Benedict Cumberbatch. In other instances, I will refer to John Barrowman, but for now, we'll begin here. God, I owe these two men a thousand apologies. Not to mention Martin Freeman...) The point is, I referred to a mental construct of what I believe myself to be looking for - not an actual person, but a idea. A mental Mr. Darcy, if you will. 

Thus begins our grand adventure - a poor, single man wondering why girls don't date him. Maybe it's because the girls he knows only date jackasses. Maybe he's a jackass. Maybe he's just unfortunate. Or maybe, there's a lot more girls than we think constantly comparing men to Mr. Darcy. To be continued...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Of Hedgehogs and Martin Freeman

Finally, at last, I shall extricate us from this monotonous "this is what's going on" introduction thing and get into posting cool stuff. Before that, however, I will pause and give a little background on the purpose of this whole shebang.

I named my blog what I did for a reason - there's a popular Tumblr trend of comparing Martin Freeman to hedgehogs. Now, while this is all fun and cute and kind of funny at times (mainly because hedgehogs are ridiculously adorable), I feel rather bad for Martin Freeman. I mean, if someone told me I looked like a hedgehog, I can't promise I'd have a totally positive reaction to that. I mean, yes, hedgehogs are adorable, but if you were a BAFTA winning British actor, is that really the first thing you want people knowing you for? "Hey, you're that guy who looks like a hedgehog!" Yep. And I'm that writer that looks like a rabbit. Funny old world.

An example of the Freeman-hedgehog business on Tumblr
Now, actual Tumblr blogs exist out there that continually compare Martin Freeman to hedgehogs out of humorous appreciation, such freeman-or-a-hedgehog, and I don't want to come off as a hater. I don't hate their blogs. But, I am being critical. And being a fangirl has consequences. This is just my way of illustrating that point. And because, honestly, deep down I am as much of a fangirl as the rest of them and getting people to visit my blog would be sensational. So yes, I did this for a bit of wow factor. But it's also a culturally relevant thing - two birds with one stone. As long as it doesn't turn into a "we have killed all the killable birds" situation. (No, that's not a quote from a movie. My roommate's Russian teacher said it, and I love it.)

So, without further ado, it's time to get into the nitty-gritty. No more dipping my toes in the water - it's time to dive in.

6 Stages of Fangirling, or: a Penultimate Intro

This is a little something that came across my Tumblr dash. Originally written by hananananargh, I thought I'd share it here as a basic introduction to the complexity of fangirls:
  1. discovery“who is that sex god and why haven’t i noticed him before”
  2. research“i have to find out everything about him omg what is his full name what is his birthday do you think he has a wife does he have children does he like jam does he like cats i wonder what photos there are of him is he even real omg”
  3. obsession“i love him so much omg what you like him too no you can’t have him he’s mine no i must collect everything relevant to him i need it all he’s mine MINE”
  4. plotting“hello google can i have a recipe for the strongest love potion in the world thank you or can you just give me a list of ways to successfully seduce a man that’d be great”“  
  5. depression“i hate you you’ve ruined my entire life why are you so perfect why don’t you know me why does everything suck omg my life is over and it’s all your fault”
  6. acceptance “i have accepted that i will never know you but i will continuously love you and i am okay with that”
Note: this was also tagged "gpoy to all my 50 husbands." (gpoy, for all of those out there like me - who only discovered what that meant through the use of Urban Dictionary and many hours spent on Tumblr, is short for "gratuitous picture of yourself." Honestly, it's kind of a way of saying, "This is TOTALLY how I act! LOL!") There are so many ways I could unpack those six little words, but I can't here - not yet. That will come later

I love this list. It's like the world is doing my work for me. I don't have to go out there and write up my own ideas of how fangirls act - a fangirl already did it for me.

And what a fine little list it is. Of course, these characteristics are different for every fangirl (my stages of research and depression have been far more muted, I think) but it's the perfect little rudimentary device for me to organize my thoughts out here. In my psychological mind, it's like the five stages of grief - a useful way to determine what's going on, but not set in stone. One will bounce around between stages and, once one celebrity has been relegated to the "acceptance" department, a "discovery" comes along and it starts all over again. The cultural studies part of me is screaming, "Fascinating! Look how a phenomenon, considered illogical by so many, has logical themes! Brilliant!"

The blogger part of me is just very, very grateful that I have finally decided upon an organizational technique. As I have yet to actually clearly express where exactly I'm going with all of this, the stages list at least gives a sort of layout for further expedition. But now it comes the time for me to state

Which is not set in stone, actually mandated by an academic authority, or even really a thesis yet. Because I'm not yet a senior. And this is just a big idea balloon. But doesn't THESIS sound so much more legit than IDEA BALLOON? Yes, of course it does.

But here's the gist: Fangirls occur (as you might have gathered from previous posts) due to a certain zeitgeist of our time. There is resurgence of Romantic ideals in a very modern world with a very complicated dating climate and a very uncertain idea of what exactly one's "goals in life" should be. There are many, many lonely girls, unhappy with school, unhappy with life, dreaming for a Mr. Darcy or an Edward Cullen or a Bono or what-have-you to come and wake up their lives. This is not exactly a philosophical pursuit. This is not exactly psychological, or historical, or sociological, or anything like that. This is me, trying to make sense of what I see, using the theories I've been taught, and applying my own life experiences to a subculture I think is totally fascinating.

I know I promised that there would be exciting, fun stuff (and I didn't totally lie - the stages list is pretty fun). But one final intro post is necessary to lay this all out (in this rather unclear, haphazard format I've already latched on to) and we'll move on to examples and stuff. Because penultimate actually means second to last. And if you didn't know that, then hey! You just learned something. And you get to hear me blabber on about why all this is happening for one more post. Lucky you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

But WHY?!

Okay, that was a little bit of background (okay, a LOT of background) to set you up with where I'm coming from. I promise not every post will be as long as those two... but I can't promise they'll all be super short either. Sorry, brevity is not my strong point.

The things is, why should you care about why I just spent all this time blabbering on about my experiences as a fangirl? Why should you care about fangirls in general?

Because culture is awesome.

Not good enough? Okay, Entertainment Weekly just ran an article on Shippers (part of fangirling, we'll get to that, eventually) in their most recent issue. Urban Dictionary gives 54 definitions for the term. Tumblr is FULL of fangirls. It's a huge phenomenon. And one that I don't think has been studied too closely.

Right off the bat, I would like to assure you I AM NOT A VOICE OF AUTHORITY. I am an undergraduate in psychology and cultural studies. I don't even have a the diploma yet. I'm just musing and pondering and stating what I think. I am not a professional and I certainly don't intend to utterly act as one.

However, that doesn't mean this won't be interesting, thought-provoking, or something along those lines. I hope it will. I would simultaneously like to brainstorm ideas for my senior project while also making (somewhat) of a difference in the weird, wide world of culture. Fangirls exist for a reason. They do what they do because of important factors. And I'm going to investigate why.

For those of you who are still awake, good job - you get brownie points. Next time, on to the fun stuff.

Confessions of a Self-Depreciating Fangirl, Part 2

To continue from before, something happened the other day. I became suddenly aware - and obsessed - with a new celebrity.

His name is Benedict Cumberbatch.

Yes, poor Benedict Cumberbatch, poor, poor Benedict Cumberbatch, who has girls declaring themselves to be his future wife because he, unlike so many celebrities fangirls pine over, IS UNMARRIED.

Not that it stops fangirls from obsessing over married celebrities but, you know, the potentiality of this situation not ending tears is slightly less from the fangirl perspective. Here's how it reads to them:
He's not married! He's so talented! He's so handsome - and those cheekbones! And that voice!* If I could meet him - it'd be perfect!
*They always mention his cheekbones. And his voice. Yes, I did bring up his voice before - he sounds like he could be related to Alan Rickman and it's fucking brilliant. But the repetition of the cheekbones thing... yes, he has a very nice facial structure. But talking about slicing tomatoes with his cheekbones... too far, girls. Way too far... 

I had some variation of this thought the other day (minus the cheekbone bit). Which was nothing abnormal - I talk about celebrities. A LOT (and dammit, he DOES have a fabulous name). But I found myself realizing I'd latched on to this fangirl idea of getting married to a celeb. And I freaked.

Okay, a brief history of me as a tween. I began my earliest fangirling when The Lord of the Rings movies came out (Aragorn all the way, baby). And I went pretty hardcore when Gerard Butler played Erik in The Phantom of the Opera. However, I was fourteen, and had absolutely no interest in dating anyone, no matter how wonderful and famous they were. Because I was fourteen and really yet unaware about life in general. Point is, I was not like other teenage girls who were buying shirts that said, "Mrs. Pitt" and "Mrs. Affleck" from Claire's and convinced that somehow, despite the thousands of girls who were wearing those shirts, they were all going to end up married to said celebrities. Even at the age of fourteen, I thought this was baloney.

So somehow, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one, I've regressed immensely, to a prior state I was never actually at (well, there was a sort of similar instance where for a few days I thought I might actually get an acceptance letter to Hogwarts, but that didn't last too long for me. I wasn't feeling too secure about my studious nature at the time).

Here's probably how it happened: I'm on Tumblr, ensconced amongst all these photos of celebrities, and suddenly I start seeing all these posts about peeps being fanatic about their favorite celebrities. It starts to look normal to me, and I find myself slipping in and doing the same thing. I found who Benedict Cumberbatch was in part BECAUSE OF Tumblr. But here's where it went different, where it didn't morph into a previous favorite actor obsession: the first thing that really caught my attention wasn't just a photo; it was a quote from some article where Cumberbatch - according to a Tumblr user quoting the article ("I saw it on the internet, it's definitely true.") - said that his biggest regret was not having kids by the age of 32.

Whomp. Just like that I was suddenly, emotionally attached to a man I've never met. This is not unusual - this has happened a bajillion times. What WAS different was how I reacted to it, that I didn't just care that he was attractive and intelligent and talented; no, I also cared about his emotional well-being on a level I can honestly say I've never reached before for a person I've never met, never seen in person, never in lived in the same country as. That was warning sign number 1.

Warning sign number 2 was spending more time on Tumblr than on anything else. Not because I talk to people on there (I really don't; I don't get how that works with just an ask box and a bunch of photos). No, it was because I wanted to see all of these new photos of my new favorite actor and share in the experience of people knowing who he is. And slowly, I realized I was getting jealous of the other people out there who I once sympathized with; where once I felt we bonded, I suddenly felt jealous of; as if they were trying to prove themselves a better fan than me. Big old warning sign number 3.

And then, I was on Tumblr and I saw this gif set I'd seen before: Cumberbatch dancing to "Thriller" at a party. Only there were a bunch of comments talking about how it had been stolen from a Facebook profile and that it was never meant to be shown to the public. Tumblr people were asking for it to be deleted and not reblogged and to address whoever had originally posted it it. But it was too late. I was incredibly creeped out.

I began wondering... How may of these other photos out there are NOT supposed to be released to the Internet? And not just for Cumberbatch - for Michael Fassbender, David Tennant, etc. etc. etc. What do these guys actually think of their fans? I mean, I want to be a famous writer - how would I feel if people posted this sort of stuff about me? (Freaked. Totally freaked. I'd appreciate it at first but then once I started seeing stuff about me everywhere, I'd totally flip out.) So why would we treat actors any different than we'd treat ourselves?

Because we idolize them. Honestly, if I met one of the actors I've mentioned, I have no idea how I'd react. I can't truly imagine it. Well, I mean I do imagine it but it's not authentic. In my mind, I'm all cool and collected. In reality, I'd probably be having a fit and pass out or just be too nervous to even say anything.

So there's this conundrum here - the want to treat actors like you would anyone else (because, after all, that's probably what they want and if you want hang out with an actor, you don't want to be the crazy one who's built a shrine out of printer paper and teacups in your room), but also the need to respect them, to express your admiration (which then gets totally carried away here). And you get stuck in fangirling.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Well, fangirling is easier than some other options. Let me explain:

1) As I've mentioned here, it's less riskier than actually getting involved in relationships. In this case , the only person who can break your heart is reality - and even that can be eluded for an extended period of time.You keep telling yourself that anything is possible and that you could totally wind up marrying someone famous someday. And you keep those voices in your head telling you you're just being silly silent a while longer.

2) It's easier to let it go than fight it, especially if you're in school. I mean, I sat through 30 plus minutes the other day in a psych lecture, discussing the flaws in an experiment. 70% of the things students said were confounds WEREN'T and we spent forever discussing why so. Unfortunately for me, I get this stuff within the first five minutes. And for some inexplicable reason, even as a junior, college is boring for me. So I spend the rest of class bored out of my mind and daydreaming, wishing for an escape. It's no wonder that I want to be swept off my feet by some dashing actor.

3) In relation to the first point, there's this predominate feeling that a lot of these fangirls don't have boyfriends and can't get boyfriends, for whatever reasons. Boys ignore them, they get "friend zoned," they just have bad luck... you get the idea. So, it's like this decision that since they can't get a normal guy, they might as well reach for the stars and dream of something impossible.

This all sounds rather sad and disturbing and disheartening, I know. I'm sure all fangirls aren't this way, but the more time I spend on Tumblr, the more I see girls like this. It makes me realize that this part of myself - this repression of obsessing with actors, inability to get a normal boyfriend, dreaming of perfection - isn't as abnormal as I'd thought. But now this powerful, potent release is no longer comforting. It's terrifying. I'm no longer alone, but I still feel the urge to run away from myself. I hate myself for acting this way. But I just feel more insecure, more trapped by my own life - trapped by school, trapped by circumstances, trapped by things I have to do but don't want to - and I'm back to wanting to escape as I was before.

And as much as daydreaming can be fun and wonderful, it can also be dangerous. You've got a good picture of why. A friend of mine once said that most of her life is lived in her head, which I found profoundly sad. Not having actual actions, just dreaming out what you want to do rather than actually being able to do it. While the importance of imagination is great, its power can go too far.

Perhaps my want for action is what made this situation different. I had the sudden urge to meet Mister Cumberbatch. Okay, obviously fan girls want to meet all of their favorite celebrities. I want to meet John Barrowman, but more out of a "wow, we'd be great friends; I feel like I already know him" vein. This current case is markedly different. This is more like, "Hey, I know nothing about him, but I feel like I understand him better than anyone else." Which is totally weird. And probably what 80% of other fan girls feel. So tough shit for me.

However, also in combination with this is the whole issue with photos and videos being released that aren't supposed to be, in which I feel the desire to prove that not all fans are not so incredibly creepy. Which is impossible to do while feeling like a creep. So of course I found myself trying to not be creepy, to try to be a fan without being totally mental about it - an elegant, mature adult who just happens to fancy an actor. While all the time, in the back of my mind, I'm trying to figure out how I could get to London and "stumble across" Cumberbatch during the Olympics or something as equally absurd (because, you know, out of 7 million people there plus however many millions will attend the Olympics, I'm going to be able to find ANYONE). It's a like a constant battle, trying to not feel like a tween about this (it's interesting that all the imagery about fangirling comes from young girls. But that's a topic for another time). And now all this self-reflection, and reflecting upon reflection, is a bit much. I've just got a whole lot of words on a page and no clear idea of where to go from here. All I know is that I want to be recognized for who I am, not a mindless, faceless fanatic. So I'm limiting my time on Tumblr, reminding myself that actors are people to (unlike what Max Bialystok might say in The Producers), and that I am young and naive and very good at being both things and that I might as well accept that I'm going to do stupid stuff. But the least I can do is limit the embarrassment I cause for myself and for others. Because these actors I adore so much deserve better than... whatever this attempt at explanation and apologizing this is. Sorry, great thespians, and, while I won't pretend that you're reading this, I extend an apologia for this league of fangirls. You're going to hate me because of this blog. But I want to understand where this fangirl obsession comes from - and I'm starting here. And an extra expression of regret to the fine Mr. Cumberbatch as the unknowing example in this RIDICULOUSLY LONG post. Many apologies, dear sir... you've been dragged into the realm of cultural theorizing. It's only going to weirder from here.

Confessions of a Self-Depreciating Fangirl, Part 1

Let me set this up for you: I have this absurd desire to be famous. Wow, okay, who doesn't, right? Actually, I never used to care about that sort of thing (well, maybe I did, but I'd convinced myself otherwise). Then something happened - A) I realized that 75% of the people I knew in high school didn't know who I was,* B) I wasn't going to be able to me a music teacher and change lives in a small, sweet way like Mr. Holland, and C) If I couldn't do what I originally planned, then dammit I might was well go big and become the next big American writer. Or some shit like that. And people were finally going to appreciate me and care and it didn't matter that most of my teachers couldn't remember my name and I never got asked to Homecoming or Prom and that one little asshole in my AP Psych class insinuated that I'd never get married. No, none of that would matter when I could roll up to our high school reunion as a fucking millionaire and a best-selling author. And that the fact that they never thought I was cool was an utterly moot point. This is not original. I know. But it's how I've felt since graduation, and it's how I still feel now.

* I'll never forget the time one of my high school pals was trying to convince me that people liked me and he asked this guy named Sam who was walking by, "Hey, Sam, do you like Gina?" To which he replied, "Who's Gina?" I'm pretty sure this was a common reaction for most people. Even in my graduating class (which had around 400 people, mind you. My school had 2000 students, so maybe I should stop whining and be glad anyone knew me at all).

So I have an obsession with fame. How American. In turn, I have an obsession with famous people (which I have discussed multitudes of times and will continue to discuss, because I'm a Cultural Studies major and that's what we do. And I just have a lot of feelings). I also have an unfortunate trend of thinking that actors who happen to play my favorite characters or characters I grow to love, who are very handsome/charming/dashing, and say something that I happen to agree with are suddenly the EXACT MAN I AM LOOKING FOR IN MY LIFE. I am not alone in this happening - I see it all across Tumblr. Which is a great sort of, "Hey, look, I'm not alone!" tool - which is nice for the first few weeks. But then you - okay, I - started to get creeped out. Because it's just SO MUCH FANGIRLING.

I can understand a little bit. Okay, John Barrowman is one gorgeous man - for those of you who don't know him, he's a Scottish-American actor, best known for his portrayal of Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood. I'm kind of obsessed with him. In fact, I had a page on my other blog to try to focus some of the fangirling so as not to make a bunch of nonsense posts. But then I looked at it the other day and thought it was creepy. So sadly, it is no more. You're welcome, John Barrowman. Not that you read this. Unless you do...

See? See what I did there? FANGIRLS THINK THIS ALL THE TIME. They think that their favorite celebrity is secretly reading their blogs. They think that for some reason, Mr. Famous Talented Handsome Celebrity will swoop down from his very busy, hectic life into their very dull, mundane ones and sweep them off their feet to some exquisite life full of roses and awards shows and awesomeness. I am not making fun of fangirls out of spite. Because I find myself wishing for these same things.

And you know another thing that's stupid? Oscar Season and Valentine's Day - two things that should NOT be this close together. For the sake of the fangirls, it's very, very dangerous. I was wondering if anyone's ever tried to crash the Oscars in order to see their favorite actor (probably yes. I feel like it'd be pretty easy - get a nice dress, tell them you're a Baldwin, you're in). Also, Valentine's Day produces a deep melancholia for most people who are of the single state. Which only doubles the power of the fangirl obsession.

I could very easily let myself continue down this path of constantly blogging photos of celebrities I have crushes on and flipping out over them and being totally obsessive, like a little kid watching a puppy in a shop window (wow, nice self-depreciating imagery there, right? Demeaning actors into puppy-like images. I can't decide if that's truthful or too harsh a way of describing this phenomenon). But the other day, something happened. Maybe it's because I'm tired of feeling stuck between the ages of fifteen and thirty. Maybe it's because my mind is being enlightened because of my On Television class. Maybe it's because my fangirling went to a whole new level.

I'm going to continue this in part two. Readers beware.

The First Post, or: An Explanation

Hello world. I am not a hedgehog. Nor am I Martin Freeman. I'm just your regular run of the mill twenty-something, who had a "great" idea whilst procrastinating from writing a paper about Baudelaire and comedy. The laundry room of my apartment had just been mopped because the washing machines were leaking, interrupting me from my procrastination and daydreaming about attending the BAFTAs (because the BAFTAs are totally happening right now and I can't even watch them on TV because no one in America cares about it). Then it struck me.

"Hey!" I thought. "I've been blogging for over a year now on Culture Vulture. I just wrote some posts about being a fangirl. I'm clearly totally being a whiny little fangirl, complaining about having to write about Baudelaire and mopping up leaking washing water instead of attending the BAFTAs, like some sort of ridiculous modern-day (and not even properly comparable) Cinderella. I SHOULD TOTALLY BLOG ABOUT THIS AND USE IT TO WRITE MY SENIOR PAPER NEXT YEAR."

That's where this started. And now here I am. Being a whiny little fangirl critiquing whiny little fangirls. Let's see where this goes.