Sunday, February 12, 2012

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.


  1. I don't mind "fangirling" when it's about a fictional character. Sure, it can be a bit creepy, but it's a fictional character. It's when people act that way about real people that I have a problem. For instance, real person fanfiction. It's an invasion of people's privacy. I think it's partially that people forget to separate the actor from the characters they play. This posy rambles a bit, but all I really want to say is that I agree with your post.

    1. Agreed, real person fanfiction definitely involves a failure to separate actors from their characters. Thanks for reading and I enjoyed your comment!