Sunday, October 5, 2014

How to Protect Your Conscience While Fangirling

...between you and me, why can't people think?
As implied in my INTJ fangirl post, I was reluctant to enter the fandom life because, to quote the Parrot Sketch, is seemed 'Silly, silly silly!" I saw (romantically) obsessive posts about characters/celebrities and these people popped into my head...
...and then those who weren't having crushes all over the place were moaning about how they were born in the wrong era/world/whatever and wished a time lord would pop out of nowhere and save them from their meaningless existence.

To be entirely, embarrassingly honest, I went through some of this a while back with the Percy Jackson books. Shhh!
I have such a hard time controlling my tendency to fall into escapism, because, as this picture so eloquently puts it,
Life becomes misery while I pine away after fictional characters and worlds. It's like an eternal pity-party. I really didn't want to go through that again. Ever. So when I started becoming more active on the internet, I decided I would try to stay away from exaggerated media-related mania of all sorts. I would read the books, and that was all.
 Ha. Hahaha.
It didn't work. 
Since I discovered some fellow fans who did not seem quite as silly as the others, I decided to check it out cautiously.
I didn't--and don't, want to consume my media like some people consume soda--pop the lid and guzzle mindlessly. For one thing, it makes you burp. For another, you're drinking high fructose corn syrup and don't even realise it!  Here are a few guidelines I've made and try to keep for myself to prevent falling into empty-headed ridiculosity.* I've even categorized them. 

Real People
~~Don't look up actors' personal lives. You will probably learn way more than you wanted to know and feel melancholy and despairing of humanity the rest of the day. Or week.

~~This is a long one...
Differentiate between what people can do and who they are. Someone's talent/beauty/personality is a gift--what matters about him/her as a person is what he decides to do with it. 
Let's say that you're looking at a portrait. This one will do.
You can admire it on different levels.
You could look at it and think 'that's pretty'--admiring the appearance of the subject.
You could look at it and think 'how did she hold that pose so long? I would get so uncomfortable"--admiring the skill/ability of the subject 
You could look at it and think, 'that's a really interesting outfit and background'--admiring the set and content
You could look at it and think, 'oh wow. Those ruffles are great--how do they look so perfect? gah, I wish I could paint hair like that'--admiring the skill of presentation. 
At this point, unless you are an art expert or Sherlock Holmes, you don't know anything about the subject or painter. You're just enjoying the art for what it is, and not who created it.
I try to watch movies/shows the same way. All kinds of people have been given talent in so many areas, and they don't need to be 'good people' to have and use talent correctly. Don't get me wrong; it's doubly awesome when a good person is a good artist, or vice versa. But all too often people confuse the two.  
trying to avoid this...

I can fangirl about James Barbour's voice all day without for a moment implying anything other than that he has an amazing, well-trained voice.  That doesn't mean I think he's nice, or clever, or a role model. I can blabber on about what a wonderful actor Tom Hiddleston is without sacrificing my romantic ideals to him. I can pin as many pictures of JJ Feild as I like without thinking him to be an exemplary human being. I might just like his ears. And his smirk. Or the fact that he looks like Tom Hiddleston. Moving on...
You get the picture. I may jokingly swoon a lot, but I really do try to keep admiration of celebrities in check. Separation of the talent from the person works really well. Wholehearted admiration, from what I've seen, turns into unhealthy infatuation very quickly. And then you get stuff like this...
~~Analyze everything. When you like something, find out why.
 When you sort out the pros and cons, you appreciate the good and true in the story, but you also recognize any false arguments the book/show may be pressing on you. Eat the meat and spit out the bones.
Different people have different safe tolerance levels. I can separate the humanistic messages Les Mis might try to send me and concentrate on other themes (grace vs. justice, redemption, charity, etc.), or enjoy Sherlock, despite the language or twisted worldviews, while a friend or family member may not be ready yet--or ever.

You don't have to embrace everything to love a book or show--we should treat our media like we treat people (only we have more power of selection with media). When we really like someone, we acknowledge their faults and forgive them. Some people are good to be around because they inspire us to grow and learn and love. Some people we shouldn't hang around because they're a bad influence. It's a tricky business. So filter everything you take in. Think about it, compare it with other things--Bible stories, other books, movies, historical events, whatever, talk about it, discuss it.

 Only after I have things sorted out in my brain do I switch on the emotions and allow myself to fangirl. But when that happens, you had better look out.

 It's like checking your sleeping bag for scorpions before climbing in.

 In addition, you'll be able to explain yourself to others a lot more easily. Often I feel like I can't tell people I like certain things without them being shocked and horrified.
I can just hear "Oh, you're one of those..." running through their heads.
So, keep a disclaimer on hand.
Imaginary person 1: "Yes, I love Doctor Who."
Imaginary person 2:*awkward misjudgey silence* oh my gosh she's one of those brainless fans who slurp up all that evolutionary agenda without a moment's thought.
Imaginary person 1: "...I love how they explore sacrifice and love, and the historical episodes are really interesting. There are a few bits I don't agree with, but overall I think it's a great show. Have you ever seen any?"
Imaginary person 2: Hmm. This person has some good pointsMaybe the show isn't as bad as I thought. "No, which doctor should I start with?"
Not that actual conversations work like that, unfortunately, but it's still a good idea to have some idea in case anyone has questions, no?

Problems with Escapism
Ah, the biggie. It took me months, but I finally (thanks mostly to Omnibus) understood why the idea of belonging to my fantasy worlds appealed to me so much. It's linked to this idea:

~~When you find yourself wishing to be part of an epic, remember that you are. I'm not going to delve too deeply into this, but the Bible is seriously the most exciting fantasy story ever written, with the best Hero and the best minor characters. Only it's not fantasy; it's real. All the others, at some level, are just imitating. It's the only book whose 'fandom,' if you will, actually gets to live in its world and participate in the adventure. I personally find that a bit mind-blowing.

If you've made it this far, congratulations!

Do any of you have any tips for thriving in the clutches of fandom?

 *yes, this is a word. I made it up. You have my permission to use it as much as you like.


Natalie Mulvahill said...

Yeeeeeeep. That C.S. Lewis quote sums it up beautifully. Sometimes people judge me for being a fantasy fan (being unprepared for my arsenal of arguments I have ready to fire back). God inspired the Bible as a story. Not a systematic theology book. Or a creed. A story. We naturally desire to be heroes, warrior princesses, knights, or whatever it is you like because that's what we were MADE to be. We love adventure because we were made for a Great Adventure. Everything that humans deeply desire is fulfilled in Christianity. Which. is. awesome.

And what you said about dealing with media the way we do people is well put. Thank you for this post!

Miss Brandon said...

Yes, Yes and Yes! Well done Catie! :D

Rebekah said...

Excellent post- very well discussed! I especially took note of what you said about idolizing actual people... It's so true. As a fangirl, I have to remind myself that Jesus is the only perfect role model.

Joy said...

I've never read a rationalization of fangirling that made as much sense (or used my favorite Lewis quote)... this definitely challenged me to think about my my love of fandoms and escapism while acknowledging that, in the end, there's nothing wrong with longing for another world...
Oh and speaking of great fandoms, have your ever heard of Brandon Sanderson?

Catie Dunlap said...

Thanks, Joy! And no, I haven't heard of him. Should I? XD