Shame: An Illusion in TV Fandoms

This week’s reading, Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls, explored the positive benefits of fandoms for women. Through digital environments, fans are finally able to embrace their Gleekness and find support with people just like them.

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This book got me thinking about whether I honestly and fully participate in any true fandoms. I’m not sure I’m drawn to the certain film franchises or TV series’ that create these very elaborate fan bases. Am I a professional binge watcher? Absolutely. Would I consider myself to be so enthusiastic about what I’m watching that it equates to fandomness? I’m not sure.

My favorite television show off all time is ER. Random? Yes. I can describe in depth all of the major plot points, give fun facts about the production, provide a background on all of the major actors in the show, but I still wouldn’t consider that being the same as the fan bases described in this week’s reading.

 

For my own personal research, I just typed, “ER Fan Sites” into GoogleThere wasn’t much – a few outdated sites and a couple of Twitter pages (if you see that SaraVictor2 just started following ERratics on Twitter, it definitely wasn’t me). The fact is, ER is a show that all of our parents watched every Thursday night in 90s. Does that decade and therefore lack of technological and communal connection prevent “fandoms” from existing? Or was it just in another form?

Today’s digital world allows for countless amounts of fan environments to develop through blogs, forums, tweets, and several other entities on the web. In the reading, the authors discuss how women feel shame in admitting their various entertainment outlets. Could it be  that this notion of publicly condoning your interests is still fairly new?

In fact, women seem to be vulnerable to feeling ashamed of whatever it is that they use their leisure time for. Traditionally, the more leisure time women had, the more threatening whatever they did to fill it seemed. Women who spent time reading novels (or later seeing movies) were being unproductive—or worse. Things haven’t changed all that much. We may in fact have more leisure time than in previous generations, but we are not necessarily allowed to enjoy it. Our culture sanctions “football Sundays” for men (and Saturdays and Mondays for that matter). But women may sneak off to their computers only after the kids are in bed, claiming a need to write emails or research cold remedies in order to have a clandestine rendezvous with their LJ friends or read some racy romantic fanfiction (Larsen, 31).

As described in the quote above, fandoms are today’s safe haven for women who should “otherwise be sewing and cooking and having babies.” Is the analogy that men are to sports as women are to TV fandoms? I don’t think this is Larsen and Zubernis’ solid thesis, but the book does focus on how fandoms can positively benefit women who are otherwise feeling detached.

A simple question for the class: Do men binge watch to the same extent that women do? And through this activity, does that mean this type of fandom is mostly populated by women? If you are envisioning Twilight, then absolutely. Or is it that this particular activity is normal for men and abnormal for women?

We wanted our book to do something that had never been done before—to celebrate subversive ideas that women were entitled to do things just for fun, that women longed for a community of other women where they could be real, that women were every bit as interested in lusting after hot guys on TV as men were in ogling an endless array of hot girls on film (Larsen, 234).

Star_Trek_Federation_OfficersIt is an interesting double standard, that men have always been “entitled” to be a part of a communal interest, while women have never had an opportunity to do so? I find this slightly problematic, but I think the book is trying to prove that women should not be ashamed to be a part of certain fandoms. But by acknowledging the shame of simply following a television program, doesn’t that legitimize why one would have shame in the first place?

That being said, it seems to me that the only reason we know about fandoms, even if we aren’t a part of one, is because of the outspoken enthusiasm of the members. This doesn’t sound like shame to me, it sounds like fangirl pride.

Larsen, Katherine and Zubernis, Lynn. Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City: 2013. Print.

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