Thursday, 23 January 2014

On Being a Fangirl

The Oxford English dictionary describes "fangirl" as a female fan, especially one who is obsessive about comics, film, music, or science fiction. Urban dictionary suggests that it is a derogatory term, and I believe it is often used that way. Usually towards fifteen year olds "obsessed" with Doctor Who or who stand about for hours for a glimpse of One Direction.

It would not be often said of me that I am a fangirl. Certainly not the screaming, hand flapping, typing all in capitals, and/or fainting type. I think I am, in fact, a closet fangirl. I don't jump about madly, but I just get silly grins on my face and go all wobbly inside. A stealth fangirl, if you will. 

I have had the great fortune to meet lots of my favourite musicians, authors, and actors. Please do not think the next few paragraphs are name dropping; I am merely trying to illustrate my point. 

For example, growing up around the American bluegrass and folk scene in the mountains of Colorado, I met and chatted with many folk musicians. I think this is where my love of music came from - sitting on a hillside and hearing music, and getting to chat with the band afterwards. They were such normal, lovely people, and eager to discuss songwriting or their particular love of the banjo. The group Eddie from Ohio I met many times, and were particularly inspiring in the songwriting category; Tim O'Brien, a fantastic and highly talented musician, showed us how simple is sometimes best; and The Waifs, an Aussie trio who were a prime example of how music is just so darn fun. 

The list goes on, but it was meeting and listening to musicians like these that shaped my own musical endeavours, for which I shall always be grateful. Getting to meet your icons is definitely cause for fangirl moments. I did, for instance, nearly stop breathing when I met Joan Baez. Who wouldn't!?

While living in England I was able to indulge in my fangirlish-ness to a surprisingly terrific degree. Everything is so accessible. I visited National Trust properties that served as backgrounds and sets for films (Mr Darcy not included in the tour unfortunately). Wilton House near Salisbury where Pride and Prejudice and The Young Victoria were filmed; Castle Howard in Yorkshire where Brideshead Revisited was filmed; the town of Hastings where they filmed Foyle's War; and so on and so on... (I had nearly four years after all!) 

Most of my favourite authors are from last century, so it is a point of visiting where they lived. Most of the time there isn't a whole heap to see, but just outside of Nottingham I was able to visit the birthplace of author, D.H Lawrence. I think I was the only visitor all week, so the old lady there gave me a personalised tour. We had the most splendid time talking about the author. It gave such great insight to see where the author grew up - how it inspired his stories and his characters.
(You too can visit places of literary connection: visit the National Trust website).

So while most of my favourite authors aren't in the land of the living, I did have the great opportunity to meet two prominent staples of Television at book signings: Stephen Fry and Sir David Attenborough. Most certainly fangirl moments meeting such legends! Mr Fry was a delight, and is enormous in person. The telly doesn't prepare one for his height. I don't know how I kept my head while Sir David chatted with me. He was such a lovely man, and I walked away that day feeling much taller. 

Actors in Britain are also accessible (this sounds slightly stalkerish, but I assure you it isn't). Many return to the stage, so popping down to London to take in a play very easily places you in their vicinity. I once sat in the front row at The Apollo Theatre (the one in which the roof fell in last month) seeing David Suchet perform in an incredible production. I've seen so many great actors on the stage - what I love about it is that I get to see another side of their acting ability. Film is one thing; stage is quite another.

I think people would hate watching British television shows with me because I find myself constantly recognising people and thinking, "oh yes, I've seen them in such and such play!"... While working in a bookshop, I did in fact serve Brendan Coyle, the delectable Mr Bates from Downton Abbey, who was charm itself. My face went very red and stayed like that for about an hour afterwards...I thought my heart was going to leap out of my chest. Worse part was, NO ONE knew who he was. (This was when Downton had only just begun, but still!).

And herein lies the problem with my fangirl tendencies: no one knows who the hell I'm on about! For years my friends wrote it off to, "Who - another old British dude you like?" 

In the "old days" I think people took out magazine subscriptions to things which turned them into screaming fans. Thank goodness for the Internet! Now we can join plenty of others who appreciate splendid, enigmatic acting; those of us who have slight (or not so slight) obsessions with all things Nordic; and can chat about our favourite books or upcoming films. I can go on and on about how Michael Kitchen is brilliant, or why Benedict Cumberbatch and Alan Rickman are by far the best British baddies in the history of American cinema, and there are whole groups of people that agree with me! (Very nice, for a change!) 

Through forums, Facebook appreciation pages, blogs (ahem), fanfiction, conventions, and more, we can express our enthusiasm for things we are interested in and passionate about. We can learn so much from channelling this enthusiasm. For me, visiting the places my favourite authors wrote about gives me such a better idea of the stories; getting that background became part of the reading experience. Or brushing up on some history to better understand a new film - the list is endless of how our interests can broaden our horizons . Equally, being able to meet people you've seen on telly, or admire musically is a terrific (if not slightly terrifying) thing. It brings it all that much closer.

Enjoy your passions. Indulge yourself. The things we are passionate about are important, and should be explored and shared. I know I always will ... (whether you really want to hear about them or not!)