Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fanboys

I believe given the last three impromptu posts, this one is long overdue.  Actually, it's even more overdue because I've dodged around discussing the topic of fanboys for a multitude of reasons.

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1) I myself do not identify as a man, cannot speak for men, and know a relatively low number of fanboys. It's sort of unfortunate (the not knowing a number of fanboys part. The rest are just facts of life and don't bother me what so ever).

2) I tend to focus on feminism. Clearly. And so, I spend more of my time thinking about how fangirls are represented instead of men. A definite oversight, yes, but girls have been greatly misrepresented in fandoms. If you know anything about this "fake geek girl" and "fake fangirl" crap that's been going around, then you you what I'm talking about. (On that note, the comedy site Cracked.com did a post on this phenomenon which is interesting, clever, and mentions Thor and Loki. "If you think the greatest Thor fan in the world is male, wow, you've been using a different internet than me." Great stuff.)

3) I once read this book called American Nerd, back when I was in high school. It was sort of disappointing, mostly because I didn't know anything about Dungeons and Dragons at the time, I wasn't the same sort of reader I am now, and I remember it being mostly about men, and thus had a hard time making it relevant, especially as it seemed to more reaffirm stereotypes rather than break through them. And so, anything I could have gleaned about male fans was lost on me because I wasn't sure how to connect to and read the book. I should probably give it another go, really.

Stereotypes, stereotypes, stereotypes... (http://www.thenoisecast.com)
So this is my pitiful explanation for why discussing fanboys has come so late in the game. But I've been thinking about this post for several days and still find it a challenge. Why? I'll turn to my trusty friend in fan studies Henry Jenkins to give us some insight: "Female Readers entered directly into the fictional world, focusing less on the extratextual process of its writing than on the relationships and events. Male reading acknowledged and respected the author's authority, while women saw themselves as engaged in a 'conversation' within which they could participate as active contributors" (Jenkins 108).  

Good old Henry Jenkins. In this discussing in how male and female fans read texts differently, some distinguishing features can be noted. Female readers tend to delve more into the texts themselves, interacting and conversing with them while males are more likely to see ideas of original authorship and react differently. Perhaps this is why more women write fanfiction and more men play Dungeons and Dragons; one revolves around changing a text while the other involves interacting with an already created one. I personally lost interest in Dungeons and Dragons when I found out that inter-species relationships couldn't exist and you were pretty limited in what you could do. However, I still have a huge fascination for video games (hoping to learn more about them over winter break, actually) and that's a very similar thing. Also, this doesn't account at all for the people (a great deal of them men) who hack into video games and create their own additions/changes. And this is the point where things get muddled.

Something I learned from psychology this year is that often there are more in-group difference than between-group differences. For example, if you look at one racial group compared to another in terms of health, there will actually be greater health disparities in the same racial group than compared to differing ones. I'm thinking that maybe that's how different fans react; that there's really greater difference in genders than between genders when it comes to fannish behavior. Yes, occasionally the type of texts differ (men tend to be sports fans while women tend to be movie fans, men tend to be more focused on plots and action while women seem to be more interested in characterization and actors; this of course is not a clear-cut solid fact, this is just a tendency and more reinforced by society than actual mental difference). From seeing fans interact and react online, there is a TON of difference between female fans, which is what makes fandom so interesting.

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The interesting thing I've gleaned from this is how little there actually is about fanboys out there. If I Google "Fanboys" I get loads of stuff about a movie with the same name. If I Google "fanboy" I get a ton of stuff about a character from "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." But if I Google fangirl or fangirls, I get all kinds photos about their behavior and of course about the countless stereotypes. I can't decide if this is because fangirls are more accepted than fanboys and thus more exists about them (and, in tern, more stereotypes) or if this is just the opposite (that fangirls are actually less excepted and thus there are more outlandish photos and posts critiquing them). Maybe it's neither. Maybe I just get lots of photos about the film (which I haven't seen) simply because it's a film. Maybe neither group of fans are really accepted, which would seem to be the case, as both groups are criticized for their behavior. It's curious that fans of media are so ostracized for their interactions while sports fans are pretty well accepted into mainstream culture (I say as I hear ESPN announcing today's football games from my parents' basement). I'd really appreciate it if fanboys and fangirls could put aside our differences (however large or minimal they may be) and just be fans or fansquees or whatnot.

I realize that once again I have skirted around what exactly fanboys are. And I think that's because I don't really understand how they differ from fangirls, except for what the Jenkins quotes points out, for some fans, not all. However, there is a distinct difference in how culture views each sort of fan based on their gender. Which sucks. (Case and point, check out how the female fanboy is represented on the Fanboys poster amongst the others shown.) So... I've really got no good answer. Again. So this has been a very wayward post but a beneficial one... sometimes meandering around and not figuring out stuff is good.

On that note, I'm going to wrap it up here and wish you all Happy Holidays and a very Merry Christmas! Well-wishes to you and yours in this chilly time of year (well, chilly in my part; I suspect that Minnesota actually become Jotenheim in the winter (I'm actually not complaining, I like the snow)) and I hope you all have a splendid holiday season.

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