The term “fangirl” gets a bad rap because it conjures up images of cooing hordes of women too old for their obsession. Teenagers hanging up posters of Justin Bieber and One Direction in their bedrooms. Wannabes writing less-than-stellar fan fictions. Immaturity. Hysterics. Dreaminess and idealism.
As with all stereotypes, there is some truth in that. But like the others, there can be so much more.
If you know me, you will know that I am a huge nerd about many things. From Harry Potter, Star Wars, and DC/Marvel superheroes, to string quartets, Shakespeare, Johnny Depp, and musical theatre, I’ve had many “phases”, but I never look upon them as that way, not even in retrospect.
So in short, here’s my statement defending the legitimacy of all the fandoms that I belong in.
As a self-identified fangirl, I think it’s a wonderful experience to have that something (or many somethings) that gets me up in the morning, excited to learn more, looking forward to re-entering my fantasies, and sometimes even motivated to create something that others can rally behind.
Sure, sometimes our hearts feel like they are being ripped apart like Horcruxes because we care too much about Boromir or Anakin, but that’s the beauty of living vicariously. Stories, dreams, magic…they allow us to live more than once. We get to do things and feel emotions we normally wouldn’t encounter in our everyday lifestyles.
For me, especially as of late, not only do I live more lives, my fandoms propel me to higher knowledge of myth, culture, language, and history, to name a few. Take Tolkien’s legendarium, for example. If it wasn’t for my reading of The Lord of the Rings, I wouldn’t have gone on to read The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin, or Beowulf, among other works, or known about eucatastrophe, subcreation, the beauty of myth, and the power of a living language.
A necessary part of my fangirling process includes reading all the essays and articles I can find about an artist, director, musician, or author. Yes, I look at fanart and read a fanfic or two, and to join in the rabble, I ship and I dream about my fictional crushes. At the same time, I keep Albus Dumbledore’s ever-so-wise advice in my head:
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” ~J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Though often we wish we could.
I’m sure every fangirl/fanboy has wished this before. That the characters we love become real so that we could meet them. It’s a double-edged blade though, because this world we live in is often so dissimilar and disparate to our fantasies, it would be awful for both them and us if it really did happen. Instead, eventually we wish that we become fantasy. To return to Narnia, or Westeros, or wherever our hearts belong.
Clearly, that’s not going to happen. So here’s the virtue of the fandoms. We love them anyway. We keep this futile hope that our world is only the shadow and reflection of all these other worlds. We keep hoping that our world can become brighter so that one day we can walk among myth ourselves.
…Maybe that only applies to fantasy. And again, maybe not. This is an umbrella article. What about dystopia, and apocalypses, and stories concerning more dangerous times than today? Those give us a certain hope too. We see characters battling hardships more than we can imagine, and that gives us strength. We fall in love with stories of characters with superhuman strength and mental abilities, because we see that they struggle too. We fangirl over people just like us, because…they’re just like us. What does this all point to?
Fangirls are excited over human-human interactions above all else. They have something to fight for, people to love, people to hate. They value standing up for things in spite of fear and difficulty, they love laughter and joy, and (oh boy this is getting cheesy, but) our breed of human, we are undoubtedly, indisputably human.
We’re passionate humans. Courageous humans. Wise humans. Funny humans. Curious humans. Human humans.
Perhaps this passage from The Lord of the Rings summarizes us best.
“And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
“Regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.” The language of music, of laughter, of pain. Where can we find that in ordinary thought? We were made for other worlds, other stories.
That’s why we’re not simply a group of eccentric people goggling over glossy posters and adorable actors. We are the ones who have discovered the magic that can exist in this world – between pages of paper, on a film strip, through words, sound, and music – we’re certain of the “unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing”.
P.S. This definitely applies to fanboys as well! If you guys are out there, I’d like you to know that you are GREAT! Keep fanboying!