Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trick or Treat

So it's that time of year again...

Um... yes, that is entirely accurate. It is election time and boy do I know it. It's times like these I am immensely grateful my TV can't get any station other than PBS so I don't have to be attacked by campaign ads every five seconds. I have BBC news set as my homepage on my internet browser and I am continually flabbergasted how many of their news stories about our election; it feels as if the entire world is watching the States right now (and maybe they are). It's not that I don't care about the election; I care very much about it. It's just that it feels like the campaigns has gone on for a century and I'm fatigued by the "he lies and kicks puppies so don't vote for him" rhetoric.

So yes, it is election time. But it's also very close to something that comes slightly before Election Day...
Bingo. It's nearly Halloween. Which means stores are full of candy and costumes, festive places are donned with black and orange crepe ribbons, and there are far too many pictures of zombies everywhere. Just everywhere. This also means it's time for something else: ridiculous binaries between male/female costumes.

I was going to use some examples from a Tumblr called "Fuck No Sexist Halloween Costumes" which clearly shows the differences between male costumes and female costumes and how they are made in stereotypes of both genders. But then I came across a video on Tumblr that I thought would take us in a slightly different direction, be a little less obvious, and give me a platform to discuss something that I care very deeply about. This is from an ABC show called "What Would You Do?" where actors are hired to perform some sort of conflict in a public place and hidden cameras watch observers' reactions. It's part reality show, part social psychology experiment, and... well, I'll let the video speak for itself:

I sort of love ABC for doing this. As shown by my previous post, I really didn't care much about what was considered "boy stuff" and "girl stuff" when I came to toys. For Halloween, though, I mostly dressed in what would be considered "girl" costumes. I never really thought about it, I just went as what I wanted. I think one year I went as a surgeon because my mom and I used to watch ER. One year I was a cross between Hermione and Harry Potter because I have a scar on my forehead (however faint it might be) and have/had glasses like Harry, but have bushy brown hair like Hermione. And perhaps my most versatile costume, my senior year of high school, I went as Agent Smith from The Matrix, which I then also wore so I could be dressed for a debate in my econ class that day. Apparently, as I was not dressed "like a girl" in these instances, it would be gender-bending costumes or cross-dressing. But I never really thought if it this way and it really didn't matter, except in high school. I was concerned about looking boyish because... well, it was high school. I cared about a lot of things that aren't even on my radar of worries today.

But if you'll remember my divergence in the previous post, I have not avoided the influence of gender norms and costumes. My grandmother did make me a Batgirl cape, not a Batman cape, after all. She also made me a wedding dress, which I wore, put on ridiculous amounts of my mother's make-up and ran around the house making a general mess and doing God knows what (not being a bride, I'm pretty sure. There was no veil-wearing, cake cutting, or vow saying with stuffed animals involved. It seems I didn't get the idea of make-believe bride. I just wanted to wear a dress and make-up and dart around like the little terror that I was). Today, I continue to look at costumes and generally end up disappointed with the options for women even though I tend to make my own costumes from clothes at Goodwill and resale stores rather than buying a kit. Generally, when it comes to the kits though, I'd want to go as Iron Man/Woman, not sexy Iron Lady Cheerleader or whatever, thank you very much - though if you want to go as Sexy Iron Lady with a Cheerleader-like skirt, I'm not stopping you. I question why the company made what they made, not why someone wants to wear it. On that note, the female version of male costumes get incredibly absurd pretty damn fast. (Why not buy the male version and just wear them, you might ask? Recall that I am short; no male size will fit me unless I'm wearing hobbit clothes.)

This video from ABC, however, takes this issue of girl costumes/boy costumes to a whole new level than just who wears what and how the costumes look; it's about questioning why one gender wears a certain sort of costume over others. Here it isn't just a personal choice made by a kid, it's an issue with what a parent feels comfortable seeing their kid in and what people in the public sphere think is acceptable. While I'm watching this video cooing over how cute the boy looks in the Belle costume, kids on the video are saying, "Those are girl clothes!" and parents are saying, "But sweetie, you'd look so much better in a Spiderman outfit. You can't wear a dress!" and I just want to cry.
Here is a fun historical fact that will make this whole gendered costume thing even more convoluted: in the Victorian era, children were dressed the same regardless of their gender until they reached a certain age. Babies wore white so even that was gender neutral (info from: But at some point in time for the English-speaking world things changed and dresses became read as explicitly feminine regardless of age. Trousers, however, became acceptable for women, while pink and blue became used to distinguished babies from their birth. Color is important, who is wearing what is important, and how they're wearing it is vital. A girl can wear trousers, but if she has fake muscles like the scenario in "What Would You Do?" it suddenly becomes a completely different issue.

I, being a fan of the "dress in a way that makes you happy/feel good about yourself," have no problem with a boy wanting to wear a Belle costume or a girl wanting to wear a Spiderman costume, but I readily admit that if you had asked me about this when I was in middle school or early in high school, I probably wouldn't have had the same response. Yet now while watching these videos, I find it hard to understand why people have a problem with this costume swapping. I'm beginning to forget what it was like to not support the kids in this situation or to never have even thought about it beyond the "this is what we do and this is what we don't do" level. I mean, I refused to wear jeans until late in middle school or so because I was so used to Catholic school uniforms of khaki and polo shirts that when I moved and started going to public school, I felt really uncomfortable in "street clothes" (even though I loathed the uniforms with a furious passion). Needless to say, my opinions have changed and people would say that I'm more "open-minded" now. But the fact that I was once in a different mindset is something I'd like to be able to recall.

Here's why: it seems a lot of the problems with LGBT issues, feminism, maybe even civil rights in general come from responses like, "People who are homophobic are just stupid," or, "People who support LGBT rights are immoral." Comments like this simplify both the issues and the dialogue far too much and leads to name-calling and insults rather than talking about what is going on. We forget the context of the topic and that, in general, change - especially change that's trying to rework society's unspoken assumptions - feels weird. It's this weirdness that generally causes reactions, as strange or uncalled for as they might seem. The thing about humans is that we always have a reason for what we do, even if it doesn't sound reasonable to anyone but ourselves. It doesn't make what people say or do okay or justify their actions, but it doesn't always make them inherently awful people either.
This is incredibly hard to reckon with. For example, I was working for the Minnesota United "Vote No" campaign earlier this week. For those of you not in Minnesota and unfamiliar with this issue, there is a vote this November in regards to whether marriage should be defined in the Minnesota constitution as union only between a man and a woman. The "Vote No" campaign wants people to... well, vote no... in order to keep this ban from occurring, even though gay marriage is already illegal in Minnesota. This vote, I admit in retrospect, is really quite absurd; it's already illegal, so what's the vote doing - making it more illegal? Pretty much. If this vote passes, it will make it ridiculously hard to try and change in later legal work, so between staying the way we are and making this situation more difficult, I support the "Vote No" campaign. I finally gave into volunteering for them because there are "Vote No" people everywhere on campus raising awareness to the issue and trying to get more volunteers. It is the experience I had in volunteering that tested my "people have reasons" theory. (By the way, on a side note, the rhetoric of that "Vote No" image is super interesting. Would love to discuss it but... urgh, I'm already on a massive tangent.)
I was standing on the Washington Avenue Bridge, asking people if they were aware of the amendment and, if they supported same sex marriage, if they were interested in volunteering. Now, I admit that I hate it when people pester me on my way to class on campus, so I felt a bit guilty doing this (I initially volunteered thinking I would get to go around campus and talk about the issue, not recruit more members). But I assured myself that the ends justified the means and that annoying a few people on their trek across the Mississippi River to the West Bank was positive work. I ended up having some curious interactions with people I stopped. Not as negative as another girl who volunteered and, when asking someone if they supported same-sex marriage, was told to "go to hell." However, it wasn't exactly easy for me either. When I asked one girl if she was aware of the marriage amendment, she gave me a rude sneer and turned saying, "Yeah, check out the pin on my backpack!" She had a "Vote Yes" pin on the bag and, before I could even react, she gave me a piercing smirk and strode off. When I asked a guy if he knew about the amendment, he said, "I'm an anarchist. I don't vote," and walked off with nearly the exact same sneer as the "Vote Yes" girl. And finally, and perhaps hardest for me to accept, another guy told me he had no opinion on the issue either way and left me fumbling for what to say. No opinion? I raged in my head as he walked away. How could he have no opinion? "Gina you utter doofus," I would think later. "You had no opinion at one point in time. And then half of your friends came out of the closet and suddenly having an opinion really mattered."

These people's opinions are not so far removed from mine; I was raised Roman Catholic and didn't truly know what "being gay" meant until I was fifteen or sixteen, when one of my friend was the first to come out, very simply with a question of, "What if I were gay?" It was sort of a surprise at first because I didn't see it coming, I didn't know what being gay meant, I didn't even really know what being straight meant, and I certainly had no idea how I felt about any form of marriage. And now here I am eight years later blogging about gay rights for the love of Pete and wondering how others could be so "narrow-minded" (I'd apologize for the ludicrous amount of scare quotes in this post but I'm not sorry. I dropped in on Cultural Studies 1001 today because I a) miss that class a ridiculous amount and b) my professor Robin said he was going to discuss Tumblr. But amidst all that the class discussed Stuart Hall and primary definers and who gives words and news meanings and definitions. And now I'm hyper-aware of word choice in this post. Oh yes, CSCL 1001 - you've still got it).

I would like to reiterate that I am NOT defending people who choose to vote yes on the amendment or who think being gay is immoral. Nor am I supporting people who say that being homophobic just comes from stupidity and those us who are supportive of gay rights are "more educated." I think both groups happen to be educated, just in different ways. I of course have a bias towards a certain sort of education and that leads me to support gay rights and support the "Vote No" campaign and support my friends who identify in the LGBT community. But I also am fighting to remember when thinking about gay rights was as foreign as the concept of dark matter and knowing about the true spectrum of LGBT issues was as unknown to me as the theories of Stuart Hall. I was not always the person I am now and I hope that this helps me keep from reacting angrily towards people who do not share my opinion. They do have a right to their opinion and, even though I disagree with them, they have the freedom to express it. It's just very frustrating when they do so rudely and you have no time to react and no ability to respond because there they go on their jolly way across the Mississippi with their position reaffirmed by themselves and you've gotten no chance to discuss with them what you really are standing out there in the cold for.

I guess what I'm saying is I'm kind of disappointed in the Vote No campaign. They told us in the brief training I got that if someone tells us that they don't support same-sex marriage, we can't talk to them because it's not worth our time or there's nothing we can do or something to that effect. But that's the entire reason I got out there in the first place - I want to change people's minds. I want to know how to respectfully debate with someone on this topic. I want to know how I should have responded to the anarchist and the opinion-less man without getting angry or rude and without impugning their position. The question really comes down to whether or not we can really change people's minds (boy Robin, I picked a great day to sit in on the CSCL class) and whether or not this is even possible.

Ever the romantic optimist, I want to believe that it is. In this political climate, it's really hard to have a conversation that doesn't end with someone getting upset unless you happen to agree on the issues discussed. People don't like contradictory information so when cognitive dissonance starts to appear in their mind, they either have to change or reaffirm what they already believe, even if it doesn't make sense. In the case of this video, people are stuck between what society has taught them (girls wear dresses, boys don't; girl are princesses and boys are superheroes) and what the innocent little kids want (to wear costumes from the "other gender"). Almost all of the people in the video did this. Except for the woman at the end. She provides support for the little girl who wants the Spiderman costume and explains why the girl's mother is reacting the way she is. She voices the opposition respectfully and without fear and I think it's that moment that really captures what I wish I could do.

I've written this really long gigantic post because I had an opportunity like that and I blew it. Last summer, I was waiting for a friend of mine in Hollister who had gone to a changing room to try on a pair of jeans when a little boy started looking at the perfumes on a display table not far from me. He went to spray it on when his mother came over and told him to stop it, that that was for girls and that he didn't "want to smell like a girl, [did he]?" I was filled with sudden fury and I wanted to tell the mother that the boy should be allowed to wear whatever sort of scent he wanted, but I didn't. She had two older girls with her and the last thing I wanted to do was embarrass a woman in front of her children and tell her how to be a parent. But I still kick myself that I didn't say something. It wasn't that I didn't know what to say, it was that I didn't know how to say it. Being the change is really freaking hard.

So, I leave you with the hopes that I and others will figure out how to say it. Because this stuff matters, very very much. As I begin writing the paper for my senior project, words become incredibly important and vital in order to express what I am dealing with - how members of LGBT identified groups such as asexuals and transexuals push back against "the norm" of society on Tumblr, using their fandoms and their posts to do so. This in itself is a phenomenon which is nebulous and changing and not widely discussed in what is called "low culture." Am I incredibly excited about working on this? Hell yes. Do I have a completely clear idea of what I'm doing? Hell no. But it's going to be fun. 

This has been a very, very long post once again (which is great for me, I'm getting my old groove back :D). If you've stuck it out this long, congratulations: in gratitude, here's a hedgehog pretending to be Gene Simmons of the band Kiss.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


In my film class the other day, we watched To Kill a Mockingbird to focus on title sequences in a unexpected but wonderful divergence from the planned syllabus. When the title score began to play I sudden had a strange realization: I have had this main theme stuck in my head for years, appearing and disappearing sporadically, so that the simple melody is recognizable but I can't place where I've heard it but when it appears, so do a long stream of memories. Then I rewatched this film and was finally, finally able to place where the earworm had come from. And suddenly things began to make a lot of sense, considering I first saw this film when I fourteen or fifteen and music was beginning to take over my life.

Contrary to where this blog post seems like it's headed, this is not a discussion of my musical tastes (that would just be confusing and strange and would be utterly irrelevant and get us nowhere). No, this is a discussion of the unusual instances where something becomes important to us but its source or appeal wanes and fades from us until one day, something triggers our memory of it and we remember how important it is to us. If there is a word for this experience, I would love to be enlightened and aware of its existence because I have no idea what this could be called.

Much like the haunting theme for To Kill a Mockingbird that has hovered in my mind for the past several years, torturing me with its importance and elegance but evading its origin, there are a number of cultural texts that have waxed and waned in importance in my life, only to return with an explosive realization of "aw, yeah, that!" One of these, of course, is Sherlock Holmes. I saw The Great Mouse Detective when I was four and proceeded to fall in love with the movie (so much so that through much of kindergarten and first grade, I daydreamed that everyone I knew had mouse surrogates of ourselves, living mirror versions of our life in underground, only in mouse form. I take it I was a rather unusual child). Which of course eventually led to me falling in love with various mystery series until I came across Sherlock Holmes in my teens. For much of my life, my love for this sort of detective has been bouncing around in the back of my cranium but it wasn't until the recent revival of interest in Holmes with the Guy Ritchie films and the BBC show that it hit me how much this particular fictional character means to me.

But there's another example of this strange phenomenon that has hit me with a vengeance: that of my love for superheros.
When I was growing up, Batman made a big hit in film with the Tim Burton version (okay, I realize that this was made before I was born. But sometimes it feels like I was actually born in the late 80s for unexplainable reasons, which is mildly unsettling) and then the Val Kilmer version and the George Clooney versions, which we really shouldn't mention because while Clooney may be a great actor, Batman and Robin was pretty awful. Because my parents didn't emphasize that certain interests were for "girls" and others were for "boys," I thought nothing of having both a fascination for both Disney Princesses and Batman (even if my grandmother did insist on making me a Batgirl cape instead of just a Bat... person, shall we say). And thus I spent a lot of time between the ages of six and seven or so playing with Batman action figures and coming up with evil schemes for the Riddler to throw at Batman.

For some reason or another, I left this interest behind me and moved on to other things (Star Wars, mostly, and then other Disney films). It wasn't really until the film X-Men was made that I found myself thinking, "Oh yeah, superheros, awesome." But I didn't have the quite the same fansqauee reaction to X-Men or The Fantastic Four or Spiderman that'd I'd had for Batman; there was no sense of glee and utter enrapture. I thought it was specifically Batman that fascinated me and thus Marvel and the rest of the DC universe didn't appeal. This was partially reaffirmed when Batman Begins and The Dark Knight came out. But these were darker, not like what I grew up with. So while I enjoyed seeing Batman again and loved the Joker, it was different, much different. It wasn't that I didn't like it; it was just that my fansqueeing "yay, superheros!" watching experience was much different. Mainly because my favorite character was the Joker, the villain, and I found myself complicatedly enraptured by the antithesis of whom I was supposed to be rooting for. Oops.

And then came Iron Man.
I was not very familiar with the Marvel universe when I saw this film (other than X-Men, from what I had seen in the films, and what I'd seen in the first Spiderman film) but Robert Downey Jr. being badass was enough for me to fall head over heels for both Downey and the film. This was pre-internet involvement and pre-college so my fansqueeing stayed mostly in my head. Then Iron Man 2 came out and I was reminded that, hell yeah, this was pretty awesome.

And then the consecutive Avengers movies started being released. Somewhere between seeing Captain America and finally renting Thor before The Avengers was released, I remembered my childhood fascination for Batman and realized I'd returned to it. Only this time the focus was on Marvel. But my favorite character, like when I'd watched The Dark Knight, wasn't necessarily the good guy.

In some mad combination of my earlier love for Batman and my new appreciation for the Joker in The Dark Knight, both Thor and The Avengers found a way to blend two aspects so that, I suppose, it was inevitable that I would A) become an Avenger fan, B) develop a great admiration for another British actor known for his kindness, intelligence, and cheekbones (what, is this a thing now?) and C) fall into the same boat that it seems 50%* of other Sherlock fans are in.

* This is not an actual statistic. I did not do an actual survey to come up with this number. I am actually a really terrible psychologist/statistician, FYI.

I would blame Tumblr for leading me down this road but I'd been shown millions of images of Tom Hiddleston and Loki before and it didn't really affect my interest. But something about rewatching The Avengers changed this. Maybe it was because I'd seen Thor again and realized Loki is an absolutely brilliant character. Maybe because I have the tendency to really like Byronic heros/anti-heros and lo and behold, Loki's pretty Byronic. Maybe I'm just doomed to like very talented British actors known for their cheekbones.
Yep. Resistance is futile.

I also think there might be something to the overlap between Avenger fans and Sherlock fans. A certain perception on Tumblr seems to be that Sherlock fans have gotten a bit antsy in waiting for the new season and thus have started "invading" other fandoms. But I think it speaks more to something along the lines of whatever caused me to feel about The Avengers in the way that I used to feel about Batman when I was younger. Whatever caused the writer of this very entertaining Avengers fanfiction to make Loki a Disney princess and caused Gingerhaze to think of the utterly brilliant idea of making The Emperor's New Groove and The Avengers a crossover (it seriously works, trust me). Whatever causes people to think of crossovers in the first place and causes fans to fall into certain communities and share certain interests and talk about similar things. Not all fans are the same but it's astonishing to me when I look at someone's Tumblr blog and realize how much we have in common. Perhaps it's an overused sentiment that "birds of a feather flock together" but it seems that there's something about these cultural texts that draw people to them. While I may be a fan of The Avengers while someone else is a much bigger fan about X-Men, we could easily have a conversation about our love of the two because A) It's the Marvel universe and everything overlaps and B) our passion for both said comic movies would likely be similar and we could easily discuss our fascination with both. There's something to be said about what exactly makes a fan; all fans may be different but they also share a whole heck of a lot. 

However, none of this explains why the them from To Kill a Mockingbird was stuck in my head for years and secretly influencing my life without me even knowing it. Alas.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where am I and where the heck am I going?

This blog had grown a great deal since it began as a meandering stumble through Tumblr. I've learned a lot, confused myself, messed up, and found a lot of great picture of hedgehogs. But as this is now a limb of my senior project, the question, "where is this going?" has become really bloody important.

This is where I am not:

- Pathologizing fandoms (aka: There is something wrong with this and it needs to be fixed): For one, I would be pathologizing myself. If I wanted to do that, I would take more abnormal psychology courses and fall victim to psychology student syndrome and think I have every disorder in the DSM. Also, this stance is not very happy and nice at times. Also, it's:

(I like the trope of using this photo. Whoever created this screenshot is my hero.)

Yes, I do not agree that fandoms or the people in them are pathological (aka crazy). If anything is pathological, it's the society, not the people.
- Taking I/O (Industrial/Organizational) psychology again: Unrelated but important. It's like someone decided to take everything I dislike about psychology and society and put it in the same place. Wait, everyone is capable of the same skill set despite their social circumstances and we can test for anything and money makes the world go 'round? What is this? The good news is now I know that I dislike this subject and it boldly shows the weaknesses in psychology like nothing before. But my professor for it rather awesome and seems a bit skeptical of certain theories herself so that makes it better. But non mi piace

- Creating cute little categories: I might have started with an attempt to do that in the "stages of fangirling" (which I still use as a tag, perhaps for ironic reasons) but that certainly didn't last long or hold up to well. Why? Because fangirls/boys/aliens/squees are incredibly diverse. And trying to pinpoint "this is exactly what's going on" will fail as badly as an attempt to cook brownie batter in a waffle maker (long story; I was told insistently that it would work). Using such categorizations is out of deconstructive interests for me now. However, it remains fangirls/boys/aliens/squees are different from non-fans and those two categories exist. But fans themselves are a widely diverse group and, as there is no good word to describe fan activity, I shall stick to fansquee (the long list of modifiers used above merely to make a point. And to be annoying).

- Freaking out about the number of page views I've gotten: I will not freak out. I will not freak out... Because the Blogger page view counter is working again (yay!) and that number is increasingly large (o.O). I would question why people keep visiting this blog but then I'd be questioning why I'm writing it in the first place and that would probably end in a self-reflexive existential debate. Maybe later.

Where I am:

- I am not certain of anything. I am certain of everything. There's a lot of shades of stuff (fifty shades, you might say ;D) and I am enjoying the confusion and awesomeness that comes with exploration. Like the 9th Doctor says about time traveling: "You can't just read the guidebook, you've got to throw yourself in! Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers! Or is that just me?"

- Look, stuff!: There is a lot of this. A LOT. Mostly gifs. And photos of gentlemen with distinctive cheekbones. And an ever increasing number of books for me to read and films for me to watch and so and so forth.

- I get to practice my writing (a lot) and have its polished or unpolished product read by anyone. And you're still reading this. Bless you.

- I think I found a topic for my senior project.
More on this later, once I'm certain elaborating on the topic won't jinx me and cause everything to reach a sudden dead end for no obvious reason.

So that's that. Really just mental housekeeping on my part, cleaning up the clutter so I can get back to my usual stream of blogging. Which will resume shortly!
 *sigh*... I know. School is getting in the way of my education and whatnot. Once midterms are done though (and that's next week), things will be calm for a week or two. Even if it is almost Halloween and thus madness will ensue, I will have time to blog :D Allons-y!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I think I broke Blogger

I took the weekend off to do some hanging out with friends and have now returned to my computer for school work, only to find that both the stats and the pageviews on my home page of Blogger are at zero. As in no one has ever viewed this blog, ever. Though I believe that to not be the case. At all.
It's not that I care about the page view counter, it's that I care about the blog working properly. And because I'm now concerned that all of my blog drafts or posts will disappear overnight, I'd kind of like the annoying little graph and number counter to return please, oh Google overlords.

Anyway, this is a pointless little post simply taking note of my ongoing failures with technology. New post coming soon. But for now I'm back to writing a paper on the limitations of cinematic auteurism...

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

BebopBatch or: how being a fansquee broadens your horizons

I apologize for my lack of posting here; I got caught up doing some fictional writing this weekend and neglected to finish a post here. And then I got caught up working on this lame I/O psychology project (my God, I've found the one part of psychology I truly, truly cannot stand) and having to accept the fact that I have essays for class to write and midterms I should "study" for (I use scare quotes because I'm not sure I can call how I prep for psychology midterms studying). Anyway, here I am, here this is, I'll stop rambling.
With the mention of Kpop and Gangnam Style previously, I was reminded of something I found months ago, threw in a blog draft, and never wrote up a post on it. Which is a shame. So, without further ado...

Whilst browsing Facebook one day, I was looking at updates from the GHA (Gallifreyan-Human Alliance, a local Doctor Who fan group based at the University of Minnesota) and found this post:

Utterly disoriented, I went to the Facebook page and became even more disoriented. First off, the photoshopped pic of Cumberbatch with curly (but not quite Sherlock-curly) hair completely threw me off, because it looked familiar to me, like I knew the person in the photo, but not like "oh, hey, that's my favorite actor;" more like, "Hey, I went to high school with that person." That kind of familiar. Which was utterly bizarre and made my head hurt. Secondly, I had no idea what Cowboy Bebop was. First impressions made me think modern musical about the wild, wild west. Wrong. So wrong.

Before Wikipedia, I merely would have shrugged and shoved my confusion aside. But because Wikipedia exists, I was discover just what Cowboy Bebop was:

I was sort of kicking myself when I found out it was Japanese anime. Several of my friends from high school were/are huge anime/manga fans and I have some limited (so limited I really shouldn't mention it but going to because I have at least read a manga) knowledge of it. I felt like I should have heard of it before but hadn't. I mean, bounty hunting cowboy space traveler, dealing with themes of existentialism, ennui, and loneliness? Yeah, totally should have heard of this.
(Brain still trying to register this photo as an image of a person I've met. Stop it, brain.)

It's incredible the number of things I've been unaware of and then suddenly I'm exposed to it and I'm left wondering, "Wow. I've gone through how many years of my life not knowing something like this exists? What a shame." Generally I've had this revelation with books and music for the most part (especially because I've taken to listen to the Current, a local radio station that has the most fantastic music library known to man, and thus have been having my ear drums blown by great songs I never knew existed) but now it's a constant stream of thoughts like, "Wait, Steven Moffat made a modernization of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I'm just learning this now?!" and feelings like, "Where would I be if I hadn't decided to buy that Michael Chabon book or watch Midnight in Paris?" and various cries of dismay such as, "Do Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch have to keep doing roles that are totally interesting and engaging so that I spend my weekend ruing the fact that Netflix's instant play selection is rather lacking from their cinematography?" and "Will I ever get caught up in Doctor Who when I keep watching other TV shows that are recommended to me?" But the big two are: "Why do I keep buying books when I still have a pile of books I haven't read?" and "God, Bon Iver is so great. How many times can I listen to "Skinny Love" on repeat until it's unconsidered unhealthy?" (Answer to the Bon Iver question: The limit does not exist.)
I've certainly realized in the past month or so that there's a lot of things I'm aware of, a lot of things I care about that were unknown to me a year or even just a few months ago. And that the list of things I'm interested in reading/watching/listening too/seeing is growing exponentially. Of course, some of this is due to being in college, surrounded by a multitude of texts and a series of opportunities I wouldn't get elsewhere (ex: going to see an Italian rock star named Jovanotti at First Avenue. Why? Because why not?). But also, being on social media sites like Tumblr and interacting with fans makes a big difference. Thanks to my friends Ashley, Paulina, and Kelsey, I've heard about books and ideas and films and fanfics I wouldn't have otherwise. Thanks to seeing posts on Tumblr that referenced something I'd never heard of before, I am now aware of thousands of texts I wouldn't have been otherwise (however, I still have zero idea what the heck Homestuck is). Because I followed people like Gingerhaze on Tumblr, I am now utterly addicted to the webcomic Nimona and constantly checking it, even thought I know it's only updated twice a week (but it's fantastic, I just like looking at it and reading it anyway).

Basically, being in a fandom has expanded my awareness and interests in about a hundred different directions, and I'm going to end up spending the rest of my life reading and watching and exploring all of this. And it couldn't please me more :D
No idea what this book is actually about, but I feel the urge to appropriate the term to my own uses...