I’m looking forward to the Supernatural fangasm on Oct. 8, when season 9 begins, and had been looking forward to the publication of Fangasm by Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis on Oct. 1 since I’ve been reading their blog of the same name. Even before Lynn’s response to my inquiry about an advance copy, I got my pre-ordered copy in the mail.
My daughter’s college friend Andie got her hooked on Supernatural, and she got me hooked on it (I told the story in my post about Frost’s sonnet “Design“). We then proceeded to get my son hooked on it, watching an entire season between chess games when we were in Vancouver, Washington last August for the Denker and U.S. Open. Finally my husband agreed to start watching a selection of daughter-selected episodes, and then joined us in watching season 8 as it aired. (The last time we watched something as it aired was the first season of Northern Exposure in 1990.) What we all like best about Supernatural is its sense of humor and the way it plays with the fourth wall.
Eleanor not only got me hooked on the show, but on the selection of images, analysis, and fan fiction available on tumblr. It helps that she prefers Dean while I prefer Sam, but not enough to make mother-daughter fangirling entirely comfortable for me. So imagine my delight when I discovered that Kathy and Lynn discuss this:
“…women are in many ways just as constrained as ever….This gets even more confusing when you factor in television networks that market actors who look like Padalecki and Ackles or studios who cast the likes of Twilight’s Robert Pattinson to appeal not only to young girls but to their mothers. We are told to look and like, but when grown women succumb (and admit) to desire, TPTB [the powers that be] get nervous. Something about turning men into lust objects apparently is unsettling and needs to be controlled. Thus ‘Twi-Moms’ are depicted as creepy, ridiculous, unattractive, and bad mothers to boot.”
Their conclusion–largely drawn from their own immersion in the fanfiction available on Live Journal before 2010–is that they found “the freedom of expression, sexual and otherwise, that exists in fandom to be nothing less than life-changing.” They were reading and writing “slash fiction” which is about two men together and which they entertainingly describe explaining to various men over the course of their research (“two women together. sexy?” well…). They also explain the appeal of “Wincest,” something I didn’t like before reading their explanation because I thought it had to do with brothers–why can’t brothers love each other without sex involved? But it’s more of an aesthetic appreciation; Lynn explains it, at one point, by saying “a lot of fans don’t like anyone coming between the boys.” It’s all much more playful than I thought at first. (Shipping fictional characters)
I love the description of Kathy’s reaction the first time she met Jared Padalecki because, as they point out “her anxiety about getting up close and personal with celebrities is shared by many fans….In Kathy’s case, it was more the fear of sounding like an idiot.” Yeah, because what do you say to the person who plays a fictional character you love…and looks exactly like him?
The authors declare that “fandom gave us a reason to get out of our comfort zones,” describing the money and time they spent, starting with buying DVD sets and ending with flying to conventions during times that posed difficulties for their family life. Their devotion to fandom has opened up a new path for their careers, and they are now known as experts in fan theory and popular culture. I haven’t done anything nearly so far out of my comfort zone, but I do wear this Supernatural-saying button, as it’s increasingly true:
The main pleasure of reading Fangasm is in the stories about where these fans went and who they saw. Freshhell will like the aside about 17-year-old Lynn’s successful attempt “to talk their way into one of David Bowie’s suites of hotel rooms.” I especially love the story of their first pilgrimage to Vancouver, B.C. (where Supernatural is filmed), and the description of their first interview with Jim Beaver (who plays the character Bobby Singer) at his home, especially the part where he says “it’s interesting to see how invested people are. Not just in the show and the characters, but in the minutiae of it.”
One of the best parts was coming across the attitude of the then-girlfriend (now wife) of one of the actors: “when you watch the one you love being loved by all these people, it warms your heart.” That’s how I would hope the actors and their families would react to most of the fans. That’s one of the main points Kathy and Lynn make about fandom, “that passionate doesn’t equal pathological.”
Of course, what I wanted out of this book was the answer to a question that M. Night Shyamalan evidently asked Kathy and Lynn about writing the book: “Here you are, two really intelligent women, and all of a sudden you find yourself on the couch with a bag of Doritos waiting for the next episode of Supernatural to come on and it’s like, how did I get here?”
What I got is validation for the feeling that being a fan is a good thing, that “watching or just thinking or talking about our favorite show can create an experience of belonging that makes us feel less lonely and buffers us against feelings of rejection….These one-sided relationships show many of the psychological hallmarks of real ones–being in the ‘presence’ of the parasocial partners or thinking about them brings the same benefits as being with ‘real’ friends–people are more empathic, more open, less aggressive, and feel better about themselves.”
Yes, imaginary friends are a good thing. I knew that.