Thursday, September 13, 2012

Terrible mistakes made by the academic fangirl


I am a total twat. But sometimes, I need and enjoy being reminded of that.

I woke up this morning to find that Dudeufugly had found my Youtube video and was not pleased.

Which I deserve.

Once I got over the "cool you watched my video!... and now you're mad at me :(" instinctive reaction I had,  I rewatched part of my video.

Holy shit, guys. I sound like such a douche. Really, if I had never read my blog, had no idea what I was doing, and had just heard me make exaggerated comments about one of the things most dear to you, would you post stuff about how much of a tool I was on Tumblr?

Fuck yeah.

Out of the context of this blog and knowing who I am, what I'm doing, and why, I sound like a total judgmental asshole. Which sucks. This is what I get for starting a vlog in the middle of another blog and assuming that anyone knows what I'm talking about (and oh my goodness, I sound like such a prat. Do people actually listen to me when I talk like that?)

Dudeufugly, if by some magical happenstance you are reading this, I am so, so sorry. This will be the fourth time and the third social media network I will be apologizing on, which seems a bit over-abundant and ridiculous on my part. But I feel the need to do so, since I've acted stupidly on all three platforms. Here is a better explanation of what I was trying to do and how I failed:

I was attempting to express how inclusive Tumblr feels and how, as a person who enjoys using it but is also interested in studying it, it can be a bit ostracizing. It's like showing up in the school cafeteria and wanting to hang out with the cool kids but you don't know the slang or what's popular. And then you learn it, but it just never feels natural to you because you don't quite feel like a native, a natural amongst them. You're always over-thinking what they do, from their secret handshakes and their ways of expressing themselves. You never quite fit in and you wonder why.

Welcome to me in the fan community.

The complicated thing is, it's not like I'm hanging out with the popular kids in a high school cafeteria. I DO follow Tumblr famous blogs, but they're fanblogs for Doctor Who or Supernatural or Sherlock. In a typical high school, they wouldn't be the popular kids. But online they can be - and it's an absolutely phenomenal experience for them, something I have blatantly overlooked and now am kicking myself for being so blind to. Because no matter what I do, I can't slip easily into fan culture. I'm still always an outsider looking in, the one who knows the handshakes and the slang but is always wondering why it's necessary. Why can't we just hang out and chill and talk about how badass John Watson is? Why do we have to use Tumblr in a specific way and express ourselves in a certain pattern?

Because we feel threatened. That's why.

I may not feel as threatened as others because I'm on this weird boundary line between being inside fandom and not, but I'm sure a lot of Tumblr users feel that they need a secret, private space to discuss their interests, somewhere that they won't be judged by their friends, family, and colleagues. I am tremendously lucky; I have friends and family who don't judge me for being a fangirl - and if they do, I simply don't care. I've taken this little mantra by L.L. Hay much to heart: "It does not matter what other people say or do. What matters is how I choose to react and what I choose to believe about myself." I am what I am and I am proud of it.

However, I have to remember how fandom has been treated in my life - it's never been something bizarre or ostracizing for the most part. My dad's a Trekkie, my mom's a Russel Crowe fangirl, I have a lot of friends who are fans of The Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who and so on. It's not that I don't feel ostracized for being a fangirl (sure do; try making friends your freshman year when you tell people your interests are reading and watching sci-fi); it's just that the people who matter to me don't ostracize me for it.

And in that way I am incredibly blessed. Because not everyone feels that way. Not everyone has friends they went to high school with that they can talk to about their favorite shows. Not everyone knows people they are comfortable talking about their interests with. This was a terrible, terrible oversight on my part and for that I am completely ashamed. I'd like to think I have a broad perspective on the world, but every once in a while I tremendously slip up and see just how stuck inside my own perspective I am. You could argue that I can never truly see another's perspective, and you'd be right. But to come across in a way that sounds as if I am judging others for thinking differently is a terrible mistake on my part and one I am disgusted with myself for making.

It's so easy to get into this little comfort zone of academic fangirling, where you're neither here nor there, but floating somewhere in between. You think that no one's going to react because you're used to no one caring about your opinions. You think you're doing fangirls a favor by trying to better express how they act. Except you start slipping into the mass culture idea that fandoms are strange and pathological and bizarre and obsessive. And you slowly slip into exactly what you don't want to do. But it's too late - you've separated yourself from the fan culture and they don't want you back; they don't want to be represented by someone who seems disdainful of what they care about so much. You don't want to go into mass culture because you don't agree with them and you're disliked by them - they still see you as the fan and they don't like that you're so open, so passionate about your interests. You don't entirely fit into all of academia because you keep getting weird looks from people when you tell them that you're final project is on fangirls, because you can hear them thinking in the back of their minds, "Wow, people are trying to cure cancer and she's studying that?" You think you know what you're talking about when you describe Tumblr but you don't get it because you no longer use it for the same reasons as everyone else. You don't understand that by talking about it, you ruin the secrecy of it and the privacy that people hoped to gain in order to openly talk about their interests. You forget that, while hipster blogs view the rules one way, fandom blogs view them another, as a means to keep haters out. Because while I may not see this strongly expressed, some people really, really think fans are weirdos. And they feel the need to express this strongly and frequently.

So, when someone like me decides to make a vlog and post it to her blog, but doesn't realize that watching it only on Youtube makes her look like a jerk, but she never intended to post it on Youtube, she meant to post it through Blogger but their video uploading thing sucks and she didn't think about listening to it from a different vantage point... things get messy and people get upset. And while I feel very, very bad about upsetting Dudeufugly, I'm very glad she let me know about her dislike of it. Because for some reason, it took me this long to connect the dots between all of this. Maybe it was reading Henry Jenkin's Textual Poachers or maybe it was realizing that I stand outside fandom while trying to stand within it that finally helped clarify things to me. It's too bad it took someone getting upset with me to understand this. But it's better in the long run.
Because if I seriously want to study fangirls (and I really, really do - we're/they're a fascinating, intelligent bunch), I'm going to have to accept that not everyone is going to be so happy about that. People are not going to be pleased to see I've linked their blogs in my posts and using them as textual examples. Do I have the right to do that without their opinion? Do I have the right just because it's on the internet and it seems like it's fair game? Do I really have the right to go into a group and say, "See, here's what's going on - what can we learn about ourselves from them"? I happen to believe that everyone is a fan of something, whether people show it or not. Some of us do show it and I'm curious to see why - honestly, I think the expressive lot might be happier and better off. I'm not trying to make fans look crazy or strange; if anything, I'm trying to fight against that. But every once in a while I mince my words, I don't explain myself enough, I try to keep things funny and light and upbeat and tongue and cheek without stopping to realize that not everyone understands what direction I'm coming from, that I am starting to sound exactly like what I'm trying not to do. Being a fangirl who's aware of what's going on but happily embraces it instead of fighting against it and analyzing it as I do would be so much easier, it really would. That's what I was attempting to express in the vlog and failed. I sort of envy fans who are able to do this, to just reblog photos and not to always think so deeply about what it means to be immersed in images and gifs and communicating online. It blows my mind how similar we are and yet how different. And how I can never go back. Once I started seeing the world through this view, you can't undo it. It's like becoming a fan - once these shows have this much meaning, you can't just leave it behind and go back to wherever you were before. I'm stuck in this double no man's land between fandom and academia.

But I have to say, I like it here. I really do. I get to experience the warm, inviting culture of the fandom and think about it in terms of what it means for us/them in society. I just have to keep in mind that because so many different things are converging together, I have to be really clear about what I'm trying to say.

And not make Youtube videos without scripts. :P

Again, I'm sorry. But I'm human and make mistakes. You probably hate me now, Dudeufugly, and that's okay. You have every reason to. I didn't mean to sound like I was attacking your blog; I really rather like it, seriously. But also, thank you for reminding me that A) I make a lot of embarrassing mistakes, B) my writing is better than my speaking, and C) context matters.

Here is an apologetic hedgehog with my regrets.

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