Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Fangirl is as Fangirl Does

I've always been...excitable; zealous, even, about things that appeal to me. Because of my introversion, such things tend to be media: books, movies, television, music, plays, podcasts.

Perhaps the best description of this aspect of myself that I've ever heard came from my older sister. Shortly after watching me squee about gifts on my twenty-fifth birthday, she turned to my mother and said, "Tassy's just very interested in a lot of things, isn't she?"

Expressions of my fannishness burst forth in many forms, from an early love of dressing up as my favorite characters to being a monthly contributer on a podcast about BBC Sherlock and using fandom crafts to relate to an adolescent patient.

But let's talk about my experiences from adolescence on. I have tended, as I understand is common in transformative fandom, to go back to this well when I hit a rough patch in my life. As I've been in treatment for major depressive disorder since age 17, rough patches abound.

In 1997, seventh-grade me fell hard for The X-Files. The dynamic between the leads, the presence of a complicated, intelligent, strong female character, the knock-out looks of both David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson...sigh. I wanted to be Scully (and later realized I probably wanted to be with her as well). She's a large part of why I went into medicine, and a good number of my female med school friends have said the same.

I recorded episodes off Fox and the newly-minted FX, yearning to be a completist. I had episode numbers, titles, and synopses memorized. I owned the line of official behind-the-scenes books. And I snuck downstairs at 5am more than a few mornings to read shippy fanfiction over a dial-up connection on my HP Pavilion.

I didn't comment or engage with other fans (and was probably too young to be reading what I did), and I didn't have the words to express why I stopped watching my favorite show after a lackluster season seven.

Now I know that conflicts between the producers and Duchovny led to the shark-jumpy plot line of Mulder's abduction, and the need to be bigger, better, and weirder birthed the "let's show how scared we are of the female body" experience of Scully's pregnancy.

I finally went back for a complete rewatch from 2014-2016, in preparation for the new short series (which was horrible and culturally insensitive in multiple ways), and trying to understand what the hell happened to my favorite show. Meta by online fans and reviews by professionals at the AV Club helped me in my quest for self-education in media studies.

The end of high school was peppered with small fan experiences around Harry Potter, Stephen King, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and the Baz Luhrmann films. I began to be interested in the motivations of creators, and read everything I could about that. (I also entered--and won--a beauty pageant because Miss Congenialty made it seem so fun.)

College was a period of forced maturity (due to the influence of a stuffy boyfriend), but I do remember liking symphony concerts better when I read the blurbs in the program contextualizing the composers and their work...and studying Soviet history and culture as an undergrad truly helped me understand my Russian lit course better. My favorite book is still The Master and Margarita, which makes little sense without the context.

In medical school, I dove into the Twilight phenomenon...but it wasn't about liking the books and movies. I was part of a twisted "not all women" approach critiquing the WTFery we saw in the stories and the fandom. If you want to see a shining example of this trend at its best/worst, my blogger of choice was Cleolinda Jones.

I joined a LiveJournal group dedicated to making as much fun of the series as possible while rooting for the lead actors to get together (such was my introduction to Real Person Fiction--don't @ me). The clever memes combined with asking questions about why in the world this story resonated with so many women led me to throw Twilight parties where we riffed on the movie and ate vampire cupcakes while sparkle-painting Edward Cullen action figures. It was a heady time.

With the few neurons I had to spare during residency, I imbibed a clever, meta-fictional sitcom called Community. This show paid homage to media ranging from John Hughes to Hearts of Darkness with so much cheek, aplomb, and emotion. I followed fan discussion threads on LiveJournal for episodes I hadn't seen yet, and read as much fanfiction as I could get my hands on (nearly all relationship-focused). The return to fandom sans engagement was a welcome distraction.

And finally, in the excess of free time that occurred when I was no longer working 80 hour weeks, and after I had settled into my outpatient practice, I queued up BBC's Sherlock on Netflix. And as soon as Irene Adler revealed she was Sherlocked, I realized I had fallen, too.

Next time in the blog-o-sphere: An exploration of my interest in the Great Detective and detectives in general.

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