How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Fangirl

Hi, I’m Katrina and I’m a fangirl.

That’s a loaded word isn’t it? Fangirl.

I’m here to make the statement that more of us fangirl than we realize and more of us should fangirl than currently do. Don’t worry, it’s not an illness and even if it were we wouldn’t want to cure it.

When I hear fangirl I still always imagine fans of boy bands shrieking and screaming when their favourite comes on stage. It’s a negative image but society has told me time and time again that being a fangirl is bad. It’s not healthy to want to watch everything an actor has done. It’s not right to make costumes based on your favourite TV show or comic book because it’s childish.

Then again society has also said that chocolate is bad, coffee is bad and red wine is bad. Then they smartened up and said they were good for you “when consumed appropriately.” Being a fangirl is no different. Consume and obsess appropriately. My golden rule: Stalking and harassing will always be bad and so will hurting others for what they love. No one, not even this essay, can tell you how to fangirl as long as the above rule is followed.

For me fangirl means to lovingly obsess over a person’s work, a television show or fictional character. I learn every nuance and in and out of the thing I’m fangirling over. I watch everything an actor has done and start seeing the little things that make them stand out in a sea of actors and actresses.

Let’s be honest here, being a fangirl can be an addiction. You spend hours online reading fanfiction, more money than seems sane to make the best possible costume or to secure those elusive convention passes that will let you meet that actor that has changed your life. For some of us fangirling can give purpose, give us friends, family, and a creative outlet. Every one is different and everyone “fangirls” or “obsesses” in their own way. Don’t let the word “girl” fool you either. Gender means nothing to fangirling and it’s only because people have such a negative impression of the word that I use it here. I’m not here to say that what you do is or is not fangirling. If you have negative connotations with the word then by all means don’t use it, use another word instead but remember that for some of us there is power in that word. It took me a good long while before I embraced the word and started using it to describe how I relate to the things I enjoy.

If you want to love football and fangirl over it, then go ahead. Do you fangirl over Doctor Who? It’s not that different. They may be taking different avenues but those die-hard football fans and Whovians share more in common than you think. They rearrange their lives to watch the match. They dress in team colors and wear jerseys just like their favourite players. The wonderful “Moths Ate my Doctor Who Scarf” audio and stage show by Toby Hadoke drew attention to the fact that people scorn the Whovian but celebrate the football fan. Why? Fangirling is just loving something so much that you want to think about it all the time. It’s a word to describe discovering new and wonderful things that are related to things you already enjoy.

Here’s how I came to love the word:
About two years ago when a fellow Whovian told me that Mark Sheppard (who had recently been in the series) had been in “all the things” I, being the contrarian that I am decided to take it upon myself to watch everything he had done. I was going to meet him early the next year at Gallifrey One and I was hoping to impress him with this fact.

*Note – this statement: “I’ve seen everything you’ve done” can come across as very flattering and/or very creepy. Tone of voice is everything.

I made a spreadsheet of everything Mr. Sheppard had been in and set about researching episode numbers and where to find obscure series. I talked to other fans online as well, some provided links to Youtube where really old episodes of cancelled shows might be online or a compilation of every time the actor appears in an hour and a half movie. All through this experiment my partner lovingly teased that I was “fangirling over Mark Sheppard.” At first I took offense and then when I rethought it I was doing exactly that and I was having so much fun doing it!

Now this story could end with me enjoying “all the things” and telling Mark Sheppard that I had watched them all and him telling me to prove it, but it didn’t. (Although he did ask me to prove it, thank you Soldier of Fortune trivia paying off.) Instead the story continues into another chapter. Mark is currently playing a character on Supernatural and that is a show I had left behind originally during season three before his character was introduced. I watched the episodes with Mark’s character and fell in love with the show all over again. I then started back at episode one and caught up. I started looking out for other fans and started participating on tumblr and facebook. The SPN Family is so welcoming to new fans and its fanfiction is amazing. I also discovered Firefly and joined a local Browncoats group and started cosplaying Badger. I even got to show Mr. Sheppard himself my Badger cosplay and he loved it!

shepbadgercon

Some of these Supernatural and Firefly fans had other interests like the Walking Dead. I watched a few episodes and like so many fangirls of the show realized how amazing the character Daryl Dixon is and the actor that plays him, Norman Reedus.Remembering the joy and challenge of watching everything Mark Sheppard had done I thought it would be fun to do the same with Norman Reedus. Foolishly I thought it wouldn’t be as tough because he wasn’t “in all the things” and he didn’t seem as well known to me. I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. I still haven’t finished that spreadsheet.

My fangirling was beginning to take shape. I started to learn important things about myself. I like having a goal and an end game. I have trouble trusting new television shows and movies. I tend to find a show I like and stick with it by re-watching it rather than moving on to something new. By “fangirling” and watching everything an actor has done, I know that if nothing else they will be good, even if the plot and everything else is horrible and disappointing. That actor/actress becomes a safety blanket in that new show. Yes, there will be bad movies but there will also be other actors and actresses that will open up whole new worlds to explore.

Sometimes that actor you just adore has a best friend or that TV show has a spin-off. Branch out; explore them! Norman Reedus did a movie called Boondock Saints and his co-lead is Sean Patrick Flanery. The two became fast friends (earning the nickname Flandus) and are just like the twin brothers they portray in the movie. Watching their hilarious interviews and convention appearances sealed the deal of what actor I decided to fangirl next.

Currently these two actors are my “in progress” spreadsheets and I’m about half way through the filmography of each. It’s not just television watching habits that can be influenced by fangirling. You can be inspired to create or even make something of yourself. It may come from an unlikely source. What else in our lives can be affected because we fangirl? The answer is: anything! There is a reason people in the public eye are asked to support a charity. Sometimes we feel like we can take on personal challenges because someone we admire has done the same in their life.

Sean Patrick Flanery (SPF) opened my eyes to more than just movies. He had started a blog: Shine… Until Tomorrow, which aimed to start a community where through some tough love and a distinct lack of bullshit people could solve problems. A lot of the problems revolve around life choices and weight loss but it’s about problem solving at its core. Fangirling over SPF led me to the website and although I read it critically it struck a chord. I wanted to lose weight. I still had to get up and do it but I would be lying if I said reading his blog didn’t give me a little kick to just get up and do it already! Sean’s love of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (he opened Hollywood Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu about 10 years ago) got me interested in a sport that I would never have known about and after years searching I finally found a martial art that I felt passionate about. After trying it out my suspicions were confirmed, it’s awesome!

Every time you insult someone by calling them “just a fangirl” remember what being a fangirl might mean to them. It can mean any number of things: hours of watching the same five minutes of an episode to make gifs for tumblr, seemingly endless researching to find that short film when an actor was just getting started or it could mean knitting for 24 hours straight for a charity that you found because of its founder. Fandom and fangirling has touched every aspect of my life. Most of the friends I have I met because of fannish things. That’s why I’m so passionate about being a fangirl because it means something to me.

You’ll never know what it can do for your life until you stop worrying, embrace what interests you and learn to love being a fangirl.

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6 thoughts on “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Fangirl

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