The Gateway Fandom

Earlier this week I was scrolling through the geek section on Pinterest because that’s a thing I do. Those are my people; we speak a common language (or, some of us do. I won’t claim kinship with all of them). And anyway, Pinterest is the easy way to see what’s happening on the interwebs without actually searching stuff out, and since I’m fundamentally lazy that makes it a pretty sweet situation. Anyhow, I was scrolling through the geek boards and I saw this pin:

Aside from the excruciating misuse of a comma in the first sentence and various grammatical errors in the second, which made me cringe, I had to laugh, because Harry Potter was one of my first fandoms. [If you don’t know what that word means, congratulations–you may not be a geek. Basically, it refers to a community of people who are excessively enthusiastic about something, especially books, movies, tv shows, etc. Think Trekkies]. But it wasn’t my first fandom, so I started trying to remember what was. I read Lord of the Rings my freshman year in college and I grew up watching Star Trek and Star Wars, though that was really before I had given in to the dork side so I wasn’t really a full-fledged fangirl over either of those (at least not at that time).

The next thing I can place on the timeline, then, is Stargate SG-1. And, yeah. I was totally an SG-1 fangirl. I looked at the fansites, I knew ALL OF THE THINGS, every episode, all of the connections, even what all of the acronyms stood for. I was kind of embarrassed, but y’all. I couldn’t help myself. I didn’t really want people to know what a geek I was (I was young enough to care about that), so it was like my shameful secret; I found myself quickly shutting down Stargate webpages when people walked into the room. Well, it certainly isn’t the coolest (I mean relatively cool) fandom, but it seems hilariously appropriate that my “gateway” fandom was the one with the actual gateway.

But Harry Potter came the next year. When I finished college and felt sad that most of my friends were moving on and I was staying in Abilene, and sad that I didn’t know where my life was heading, or if I really believed in my dreams anymore, I spent a week at Hogwarts. At that time, only the first five books had been published (the sixth came out later that summer), and I read all five of them in just about a week. And that was it. It was Harry all summer after that. Y’all, I even went to the library and checked out a collection of critical essays on the series and read it (clearly, grad school was a foregone conclusion, even before I knew it). I went to the midnight release for The Half-Blood Prince, although I didn’t go in costume. Remember that thing about me being lazy? It applies double to costumes. It’s not that I’m not geeky enough for cosplay, it’s just that I’m too lazy. (Don’t know what cosplay is? Congratulations again!).

That was also the beginning of what has become a pattern for me in the summer. After an academic year of reading so much stuff that is serious and erudite and often devastating (Irish and postcolonial literatures can be pretty wounding), I tend to retreat from the real world in the summer, and that typically involves a silly obsession and, most often, a new fandom or two. Year before last I read over a hundred comic books, and I read The Hunger Games trilogy in a few days. The year I was diagnosed with thyroid disease, I consumed the Percy Jackson series in about a week, and the Artemis Fowl series after that.

But it’s not always in the summer. I fangirled over Lost for awhile, but they lost me after the penultimate season (I didn’t watch the final season until last year). And Firefly (I mean, it’s basically a Western in space. I am the ideal audience for that show). I’m with the rest of the fandom still in mourning for the untimely cancellation of that show even though it’s been a decade since it was on the air. Earlier this year, I couldn’t stop watching Heroes on Netflix, even though I didn’t have time to watch it. There were some unnecessarily late nights in the fall because of that show. It was equal parts distressing and a blessing for that show to only have four seasons. Okay, probably more of blessing, all things considered, but you know. I need to know what happens after Claire jumps off that tower. Will Sylar go back to his old ways? YOU CAN’T END A SERIES WITH THE WORDS “TO BE CONTINUED.”

[Not all of my obsessions are that geeky. Some are practically respectable. Sports (um, watching them; let’s not be silly), especially basketball (you might guess my team if you know my dog’s name. It’s not the only reason for her name, though), The Olympics every other year, dog training, DIY projects and home design, and gardening are a few things I’ve been intensely interested in from time to time. But those things tend to run a little cooler than the geekier things. I guess I like the fantastic elements of the geeky stuff the best. Horses don’t count on this list. That’s a whole different category of interest and obsession.]

This summer, it’s been the BBC shows. I’m all caught up on Sherlock, I watched six seasons of Doctor Who (the last one isn’t on Netflix, yet, to my chagrin), Merlin and Robin HoodDoctor Who is definitely my favorite of the bunch, but I’ve enjoyed them all. I also watched Dollhouse (not BBC) because, let’s face it, I’ll watch anything Joss Whedon is involved with. I would bounce to Game of Thrones next, but HBO is selfish and won’t give me a way to watch it without downloading it. And I don’t want to own it. I don’t even know if I’ll like it (except that I will. Of course I will. Anyone who knows me know I will, except that it won’t be my favorite because it’s not comic. But I still don’t want to buy it). But short of that, I’ve now at least dipped my toes in almost all of the big fandoms. When I scroll through the geek board on Pinterest, I get almost all of the posts.

But here’s the thing. I laugh at the jokes and I’m (somewhat) tolerant of the theories and thoughts that fans post about their favorite show/books/what have you. But as I was wrapping up Robin Hood this week, I realized that none of these fandoms are quite my people, because while they want to talk about who should be in a relationship with whom and spin dizzying theories about the innerworkings of their fandom’s universe, I really want to talk about the Girardian rivalry between Gisbourne and Robin or women and power in Robin Hood. Guinevere as the angel of the house and Morgana as the madwoman in the attic in Merlin. Modes of violence and the problematic nature of heroism in Doctor Who. Power and homosocial bonding in Sherlock (or, really in everything). Sexuality and female power in all of the things, or, similarly, the contingency of female power on a more powerful male’s approval. Alternate encoding of goodness for male and female characters. Attitudes toward death and the environment and religion and bodies and disability and modes of morality and fictional versus real places and notions of paradise . . .

Good grief. Grad school did this to me. Grad school is a gateway to ↑ that sort of thinking. Critical theory geek compounded with general geek. Ladies and gentleman, presenting Shanna Early, Geek².

But here’s what I’m thinking: maybe I’ll write about some of this stuff here. Spur, at least, will be glad that I’m not telling her about Girardian rivalries (again).

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2 thoughts on “The Gateway Fandom

  1. Me! Me! Talk to me about the intersection of fandom and lit theory! I love basically everything you mentioned and kept thinking, “WE ARE GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH FUN TOGETHER.” We’re geeks of a feather, kid!

  2. Loved this post, Shanna! If you write something about Doctor Who through the lens of feminism, I will read it. And there is some of that kind of stuff out there. I got a book called “Chicks Dig Timelords” for Christmas, all essays written by women, some of them fluffy, but some legitimate lit theory. Keep writing, Shanna. I love your posts about geekdom, in both senses of the word.

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