“That's weird that you still like that. I thought it was just for kids!”
“Why don’t you just watch something else instead of the same thing over and over?”
“Oh my god, you’re literally obsessed! Why not get a new hobby?”
I’m paraphrasing slightly, but sentences akin to the above are ones I’ve heard (and will keep on hearing) throughout my life. Phrases like these often make me feel sheepish, and make me think that I should reevaluate my hobbies and just ‘grow up’. Just let go of being a fangirl.
Funnily enough, I was talking to an old friend recently whose known me since my younger school days, and as we chatted about Comic Con, she commented on how I’d become a “full-blown nerd” in the last few years. I knowingly replied with, “Maybe I always have been, and you just didn’t know it.”
And that is the truth, because being called a 'fangirl' is very rarely said as a compliment. When that word springs to mind, most people will instantly picture a hysterical stalkerish teenager who swoons at the sight of her idol/s. Everyone likes to focus on the bad points, and many like to use this term to put down female geeks who love a series. To not call them 'true fans' due to the stereotyped behaviour listed above.
In addition, being nerdy when I was in school was not considered ‘cool’. Not that I was ever ‘cool’ in any way, shape or form (no regrets, I loved eccentric High School Hannah) but being a massive geek was just one step further than what I was willing to take. It’s only literally in the last few years that I’ve been able to pluck up the courage to go to conventions, to dress in cosplay, to sing and dance about my fandom obsessions all over social media.
And you know what? I’m so happy about it.
My everyday geek accessory, the Groot Bag, courtesy of LoungeFly
There’s so many elements to being a fangirl that we don’t really discuss. Elements that have certainly had a huge impact on my day-to-day life. One of the biggest things that springs to mind for me, is escapism.
Growing up, I went through some tough times. Experiences that I found hard to process, and it’s taken years of reflection to understand them fully. However, being a fangirl during these times meant that no matter how tough a day was, I could jump online and leave the darkness behind for a few hours.
Fan communities are full of other internet dwellers who love franchises just as much as you. So it was refreshing to open a site and chatter to someone from across the world about a topic that I didn’t feel confident enough to talk about with my usual friendship group. In addition, I could just forget about any other problems for a few hours. I could take time for ME.
To be honest, even now I still use online fandoms as a method of escapism. I engage to unwind: I transport myself to a magical school in Scotland, or a land full of superheroes, or a secret bunker in Kansas, or whatever else I’m feeling like, and I let my imagination run wild.
That brings me on to my second reason for being a proud fangirl: nostalgia. We all have our childhood idols and superheroes that help shaped our lives growing up. Places that we wished we could go to, roles that we dreamed we could be when we weren’t learning Maths and English in our little classrooms.
Well, here’s where my love for Harry Potter comes in. I literally grew up with this series, and Harry’s story was ingrained in my brain.
My bedroom (and now Harry Potter den). Slytherin college sweatpants and cozy cushion from Primark
I remember reenacting scenes from the movie in the small wooded area down my street with my sister and our neighbours. I remember going to ASDA on the day Deathly Hallows was released to pick up my own copy. I remember crying in the Odeon cinema in Warrington in my Potter-esque glasses as the last Warner Bros logo appeared with Lily's Theme playing in the background.
There’s so many more I could add on to this list (I won’t even go near the all the memes and crack vids I’ve encountered over the years), but this series holds a particular affinity in my heart. I still feel that the little ginger girl within me is waiting for her Hogwarts letter to arrive. So I will keep that magic alive, because it’s a wonderful feeling to hold onto.
We shouldn’t be embarrassed to keep a part of our childhood prevalent in our lives. After all, if it helped shape our personalities, then why should we grow out of it? Especially if there are other people out there who share the same interests as you. After all, there’s no real feeling like bonding with a fellow fan over some new exciting fandom news.
And it’s not just the fiction that gives back. What some people may not be aware of is how fan communities give back to the rest of the world through charitable organisations.
I actually got involved in one charity myself. Random Acts, set up by Misha Collins from Supernatural. The charity promotes random acts of kindness across the world, proving that every act of hate can be eradicated if responded to with love. After seeing what wonderful accomplishments it had done, I knew that it was the cause that I wanted to raise money for when I threw myself out of a plane in Lincolnshire.
The money I raised went towards building a free high school in Nicaragua, providing access to education for those who would have struggled otherwise. And truthfully, I wouldn’t have known about the charity had it not been for being in the Supernatural fandom. I know for a fact that there are many other fans out there who have given back to a good cause, all because the fandom has shared these stories among one another.
I actually got to meet Misha Collins and tell him in person about my fundraiser, and I showed him this glorious photo.
You see, fandoms can be immensely powerful things. Especially when it comes to making new friends. Being a fangirl introduced me to the convention circuit, and by attending these events I’ve made friends all across the country. People who understand when I’m a little bit over enthusiastic about a certain series, and therefore don’t make me feel like I'm being 'weird' or 'embarrassing.
And you know how I met these people? Just by striking up a conversation about the fandom that we were both supporting. Because let me tell you, if there’s any place to find a new friend that will entertain your random rants about plot theories and characters, it’s at a con.
But most of all, the pivotal thing about being a fangirl that really makes up the bulk of my personality, is the way it taps into my creative side. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a Da Vinci - I start many projects and only finish a few. And if we’re being truthful, I’ve created many projects around different fandoms. These include stories, groups, forums… and because I’m a fangirl I have the drive to create new stuff, to give back to my fellow fan community.
It’s that same drive that gave me the passion to create this blog. This little space is a way for me to manifest my manic teenage-girl thoughts into some (hopefully) articulate form. I can explore things like Harry Potter related fashion, bars themed around video games and events based off of Star Wars in great detail and share them all with my fellow fans. I can keep up my monthly dose of geek, and still do something productive with my writing.
So, all in all, why am I not ashamed to still be a fangirl at the age of 23? Because it’s not just about being 'obsessed'. It’s about belonging. It’s about remembering the best times in your life. It’s about creating projects that give back to the world, be it through a charitable gain, or a creative one. It’s about identity.
I’m not ashamed. I’m proud to be a fangirl. And reader, if you share the same sentiment as me, then be proud of your fan-identity as well.
Comment below with your thoughts on being a fan!