In general, sci-fi fangirls (and fanboys) get a bad rap. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and the obsessive, creeped out superfan is a big problem. It’s a problem for perfectly sane fans who respect the celebrities who entertain us and absolutely for the celebrities themselves. As fans we’re tired of hearing questions about whether Joss is bringing back Firefly, or whether John Barrowman and his husband got the lucky rabbits’ feet from your very own bunny that you mailed to their home address last Christmas. We cringe when they ask celebrities for a kiss, or to sign inappropriate body parts (seriously, is any body part really appropriate?), and when they don’t follow panel rules and beg to hand Felicia Day the Penny/Bad Horse fanfic that they wrote. (Complete with illustrations. That one happened). We look at these people and think My god, I really hope they don’t think I’m like that.
Several weeks ago the SpaceGypsies decided we needed to reinforce our beliefs in our image and changed our tagline to REDEFINING THE FANGIRL. We did this for a number of reasons, many of which were highlighted in Wil Wheaton’s post-ComicCon horror story. When I saw his post I realized we should really talk about what that means to us.
But first, I’m going to commandeer my trusty soapbox and tell you a little story.
A couple years ago, I met the lovely Gareth David-Lloyd at Dragon*Con. Gareth was clearly having a rough afternoon. He seemed exhausted, tired and uninterested when I went to his table and while I didn’t let on to him, I felt really let down by the experience. It just seemed so anticlimactic, especially compared to the energetic encounters I’d had with other celebs throughout the day. I didn’t call him a dick, I didn’t try to make him feel bad for failing to entertain me, but I was bummed… until my fellow SpaceGypsies brought me back to reality. They reminded me that he’d spent all afternoon seated beside the squealing masses that descended upon James Marsters at the next table. ALL DAY LONG. No wonder he seemed tired, and besides, everyone’s allowed a crap mood now and again, right?
Here’s the thing, that the very smart Mr. Wheaton touched upon in his rant. Our favorite celebrities don’t owe us anything. They don’t even owe us a good mood or a warm smile that touches their eyes so we can tell they mean it. Sure it feels awesome when we get that, but sometimes it’s the end of the day and the celebrity next door on the walk of fame was just delivered an honest-to-god stormtrooper outfit by a gaggle of screaming girls who lingered for half an hour. I’d want to shoot myself after that. Seriously. No disrespect to Mr. Marsters, but dude’s got some fans… And so, Gareth, my dear, we’re cool. 😉
We sometimes forget this in our world of the archetypal sci-fi creeper: This phenomenon of entitlement is not exclusive to geek culture. Before I wrote about fandom I wrote about music. I went to a lot of concerts, I met a lot of bands, and I got to see the desperation on so many of the fans who wanted to get close to their favorite stars. There were the women who wanted their breasts signed, and who were sure a flash of their thong and the promise of an unseemly act would get them the sexual validation they craved. There were the guys who sent in their demo who actually expected not only to be remembered by the star but to receive a critique then and there or had their hearts broken because no one remembered the CD he gave them the last time they were in town. And, always, there were the people who waited around for hours and hours for the privilege of being breathed on by their favorite star only to call him an ass because he didn’t have time to chat or *gasp* he liked another girl more. Seriously, be wary of writing this off as “a geek thing.” Under no circumstances is this sort of behavior okay.
Being the sane face of the fangirl is part of the image I’ve been proud to portray with SpaceGypsies. We all have our obsessions, our quirks, but we pride ourselves on a respect for the celebrities, their agents, and our fellow fans.
Celebrities are people. No, they didn’t ask to be hounded and stalked and creeped on just because they managed to get onto a popular show so don’t play that game. Some came to the convention to enjoy the energy of the fans, others came because gas and food are expensive and their kid needs to go to college. But they came, and that’s pretty special, and they don’t even owe us that much. Additionally, every fan is not a creeper — far from it. That said, read Wil’s post, and if you think he’s the one in the wrong, you’re part of the problem.
Really, it comes down to one simple thing:
Don’t be a dick.