As a self-described fangirl, the question I am most asked is, “So… tell me why you love this _____ so much”, or its counterpart, “What’s the deal with this movie/book/convention/music that you’re obsessed with?” Every once in a while, it devolves into the more crudely phrased blanket statement, “You’re into some really weird stuff” (actual quote).
Being a geek has never been an easy thing: it may have all started when you were a kid on the playground that got picked last for kickball. Maybe it started when you reached your college years and realized just how much you loved Star Trek or how hard you shipped Ron/Hermione (that one was for you, J.K.). Whatever the case, with every transition to the geek side there also comes the inevitable throng of critics and the unhappy deluge of pessimism and name-calling.
Originally the term “fangirl” was used to describe a girl or woman perceived as obsessive or shamefully devoted to a particular niche or faction of society, but the last time I checked, being passionate about something isn’t an excuse for someone to label you as “strange.” So the next time you’re confronted with the term, be brave. Being a fangirl isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s not delusional or erratic behavior, and it certainly doesn’t make the subject of your affection any less important. Breaking that destructive thought process can be a weighty task, so I’ve included below a how-to guide on successfully embracing your role as a modern-day fangirl:
1. Know that you’re not alone.
Just because one person tells you that the things you like are “out there” or “random”, it doesn’t mean that thousands of other ladies (or gents) around the world don’t like it just as much as you. The first time I realized that I was not the only girl in the universe to have chosen Wall-E in my Netflix queue over The Vampire Diaries, I was relieved. In fact, I soon discovered that there are approximately one-bajillion people in the United States alone who cry as much or more than I do during robot-centric films, and for that I am extremely grateful.
2. Ship what you want, where you want, when you want.
No, that’s not a UPS ad (although it should be). If you’re relatively new to Geek Culture, the term “shipping” implies a desire to see two characters romantically or platonically linked. So let’s say you’ve been watching The Hunger Games a lot lately, and you find yourself daydreaming over what Katniss and Peeta’s children look like or what the last kiss between them in Catching Fire really meant. And then BAM, someone shows up and annoyingly insists that “they’re just fictional characters, geez….” The appropriate response to this is, “What’s your point?” Because really… what IS their point? Who cares that you want Katniss and Peeta together so much that you think about it during your lunch break? And when someone tells you that Supernatural’s Dean and Castiel can’t be together because “Dean is too manly and Castiel is an Angel”, or John Watson and Mary Morstan are “too boring” to be together? So what? It’s your headcanon and no one else’s. Feel free to imagine what Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) really got up to in Budapest, and kindly tell your detractors to go pound sand.
3. Cosplay as your favorite character, no matter your gender, ethnicity, height, weight or hair color.
The one thing that always frustrated me as a tiny Asian kid was the fact that none of the Disney princesses looked like me (of course, this was during the time of the dinosaurs, long before Mulan had been released). Still, I truly enjoyed dressing up as Belle and Princess Jasmine any chance that I got. When college rolled around and costume parties became cool again, I jumped in head first. After showing up to a friend’s raucous soiree dressed as Hermione Granger one year, giant hair and all, I was irritated by the number of people who immediately assumed I was dressed as Cho Chang, simply because of my ethnicity (Hello… was Cho a Gryffindor? DO YOUR RESEARCH).
Whatever happens, don’t let anyone get you down at your next Con because they don’t think you’re tall enough to cosplay as fem-Loki. If you feel like dressing as Captain America, don’t get yourself in a slump because someone rudely points out that Steve Rogers was a dude. I’m pretty sure Steve Rogers himself would be more than willing to straighten them out for you.
4. Write those fanfics, girl.
Fanfic (or “Fan-Fiction”) is often portrayed in the media as the product of a deluded group of individuals who have nothing more to do in life than sit in their parent’s basement and argue over the real meaning behind the show LOST. This is untrue. Blasphemously untrue. I’ve chatted with plenty of fanfic authors in real life who are the smartest, wittiest, kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. The one common theme between them is their devotion and passion to their chosen show/movie/book. To be able to have a back-story and subsequently build on that pre-deposited foundation at an unprecedented level has always astounded me. Some of these authors “fics” are so well-written, so genuinely portrayed and so magnificently executed that you have to stop and wonder whether they’re just fans or whether they’re the actual script-writers hiding behind an AO3 pseudonym.
So, to any fanfic authors out there: keep on writing. Your stories are just as valid no matter how much that anonymous creep on the internet tells you that they aren’t. You are a writer: don’t allow anyone to convince you otherwise.
There’s an idea that has permeated society, that if you’re a guy and you really enjoy Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings, you’re a fan or, more lovingly, a geek. If you’re a woman and do the same? FANGIRL. “She’s a fangirl.” “All she cares about is the love-triangle.” “You’re just obsessed with how hot Fili and Kili are.” “Oh my god, you get psycho-crazy over the dumbest things.” Enough. Don’t relegate my passion for a TV show to the Looney-Bin. As Nerd Machine co-founder, Zachary Levi (of Chuck and Thor 2) once said, a nerd (or fangirl) is someone “whose unbridled passion for something defines who they are as a person, without fear of other people’s judgment.” Don’t let the label “fangirl” scare you. Let people know that you care about whatever it is you care about without apology.