Fangirls and Politics – A Survival Guide

There is a man currently in the public eye that I despise – perhaps more than I despise anyone else. I outright loathe this man and do not shy away from saying so whenever I’m given the opportunity. Sometimes I feel the need to create that opportunity if one does not naturally arise.

This man is a perpetual crybaby who whines constantly.

This man wants to be adored for mediocre work.

This man is a raging misogynist and has a terribly sexist relationship with women.

This man’s supporters claim that anyone who doesn’t like his work simply lacks the intelligence to understand it.

This man claims to love the institution he helms, yet he dismantles it at every opportunity.

This man actively seeks to destroy the legacy of his predecessor.

I find myself counting down the days until his reign of terror is finally over.

Dear reader, no I’m not talking about Donald Trump. Rather, I’m discussing the blight on society known as Steven Moffat. Unfortunately for all of us, Moffat’s influence will likely far outlast that of Trump’s.

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If your Facebook newsfeed looks anything like mine has over the past several months, then nary a day goes by without political posts making you want to claw your eyes out.

Whether you agree or disagree, there comes a point of saturation where you consider deleting your Facebook page, removing yourself from modern society, relocating to a desolate ice cave in Antarctica (You can get Netflix there, right?), and never speaking to another human being again. Or maybe that’s just me.

Either way, navigating the waters of fandom have given fangirls an advantage in dealing with these tumultuous political times.

RULE NO. 1 – DON’T ENGAGE THE ENEMY CAMP

I’m not advising you to stop talking to everyone who disagrees with your political beliefs.  That would be pretty ridiculous.  Some of the best friends I’ve had haven’t always agreed with me on social or financial political issues.  If my friendships weren’t created on purely political reasons, why would I end them because of political reasons?

There are times when you can have very open and honest discussions, without either side getting offended, about topics important to you. I have a few friends who are hardcore Swan Queen shippers. They all know that I am not. On many occasions we have discussed why they ship this pairing as well as the problematic issues that I raised about them. Each of us listened for understanding, not in an attempt to convince the other that they were wrong.  I’ll offer you a hint, these discussions rarely happen on Facebook, or message boards, or comment sections, or pretty much anywhere on the internet. They happen when each person involved in genuinely concerned not only with the other person’s opinions, but also with their feelings.

I am not going to seek out Moffat-stans in an attempt to convince them that Steven Moffat is a terrible show runner whose “strong female characters” are as tropey as they come. I won’t even point out to them that Moffat not only contradicts the history of Doctor Who, but also previous versions of his own Doctor Who. You seriously want me to believe that no one saw a giant Statue of Liberty strolling around NYC? Seriously? Not one person? Nobody looked up and thought ‘hey, that doesn’t belong here!’

Basically, unless it is a close personal friend, they don’t care about your opinion and you are only wasting your time and your energy. Your time could be better spent asking people in New York if they’d notice if one day the Statue of Liberty just started walking around town.  

RULE NO. 2 – IT IS OK TO TUNE OUT

In all of these political posts circulating, I’m consistently seeing people admonished for failing to keep up to date on every single minute political issue. At the end of the day, we all have the issues that are significant for us – and ones that aren’t.  It is ok that we don’t all find the same issues important.  In fact, this is how we can insure that the issues get covered; even if you don’t necessarily care about them, there is someone out there who does.

Not only is it fully acceptable to ignore certain issues, it is also fully acceptable to turn it all off and tune out at times.  Sometimes it is a necessary step in self-care.

I have spoken extensively on this blog about my falling out with Major Crimes. Even though I stopped watching the show a year ago, this does not mean that I harbor any ill-will toward Mary or her character. It simply means that I cannot watch the show because it does not align with my personal beliefs. Or my sense of entertainment.

When something important does happen, I tune back in to find out what it was. Nobody should be surprised that I tuned back in for the very important Sharon’s going to turn all of the women queer pant suit episode!

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We all have to tune out at times.  That’s the nature of modern society.  Whether it’s your once favorite show or the current political scandal, there’s nothing wrong with shutting it out and walking away.

RULE NO. 3 – WE (HOPEFULLY) ALL LOVE THE THING

This rule doesn’t really apply to the extremists on either side.  There will always be people who declare that Steven Moffat is the greatest show runner that Doctor Who will ever have.  There are also who will fail to give him credit even when he has a good idea. (Even I can admit that I thoroughly enjoyed “The Doctor Dances”) Ultimately though, both sides of the Moffat debate are people who, arguably, enjoy Doctor Who and want to see the program succeed. While critics raise issues about Moffat’s tendency of having the Doctor imprinting on young girls or his treatment of queer characters, these critiques are offered out of a genuine desire to see Doctor Who succeed. Sometimes we get so focused in the minutia that we forget to look at the greater picture; we are all working to protect something that is greater than all of its parts.

Follow these three simple rules and hopefully the next few years will be slightly more tolerable. If all else fails, at least we can all start watching Doctor Who again in 2019. Lastly, above all else, if you ever see the Statue of Liberty out for an evening stroll around Manhattan, whatever you do Don’t Blink!

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This light-hearted list is in no way meant to belittle the struggle of minority groups. We must continue to support disenfranchised members of our society. It’s simply pointing out the connections between real-life politics and fandom politics.

Queer Awakenings and the Middle-Aged Actress

Last month, my external hard drive failed and sent every piece of media saved on it into oblivion.  It was the shit topping of an already terrible year. My hard drive had nearly every movie, television show, interview and convention appearance Mary McDonnell has ever appeared in/at. My Mary folder was the culmination of hundreds of hours of searching the internet, downloading, lamenting the terrible quality of older YT videos, ripping DVDs, and trading with other Mary fans to fill out our collections. It was a near-complete anthology of Mary’s work.  And, in one corruption, it was all gone.  I was (and still am) devastated.

Hot on the heels of my Christmas to New Years rewatch of Battlestar Galactica, I began the arduous task of rebuilding my collection. This evening, in my searching, I stumbled across a fan video that I had never seen before. I paused my efforts to watch it. I’m not sure what my expectations were, but they were exceeded in every way imaginable.

Senior Year: A Nonfiction Musical from CASH|MARY on Vimeo.

Initially, I was pulled in by the title because of an inside joke between a friend and I last year. I almost didn’t survive the video when the first song began. However, I pushed through and I am so glad that I did. I was dumbfounded at how these people had stolen my life. Topics I have discussed in the last 24 hours include: The line “Fuck you too, Carlos” in Passion Fish, Mary’s hair, Mary’s legs, Mary’s giggling, and Mary’s mouth. It is a fair assessment that I relate to this video on a spiritual level.

Once I finished wondering how these people turned my life into a short, I found myself considering the significance of the lead character’s queer awakening courtesy of Mary McDonnell.

“I’ve come to realize this afternoon

Mary makes me swoon.

I think I might be kind of gay for Mary.”

There is more truth in these lyrics than one would believe. I have a group of friends who have all, at one point in their lives or another, gone through a “Mary phase”. While I am by far the most outspoken of the group – and most likely to post on social media and bug my non-fandom friends with my constant Mary talk – we all are/have been attracted to Mary McDonnell.

There are dozens of women in their twenties and thirties walking around this world at any given moment daydreaming about Mary McDonnell.  Don’t believe me? All you have to do is go to the Mary McDonnell tag on Tumblr.  You will find women falling all over themselves for Mary.

blogHere’s a small sampling of my favorite tags taken off a run-of-the-mill picture of Mary as Sharon Raydor on TNT’s Major Crimes.

While Mary McDonnell is my own personal favorite brand of hilarious, fiercely feminist, outspoken, middle-aged woman who refuses to take herself too seriously, I recognize that she is not every woman’s cup of tea. Nearly every older actress in Hollywood today has a group of significantly younger queer fans.

For many queer female fans, these older women are not only crushes; they serve as a girl’s ‘queer awakening’. Queer awakenings are those magical, terrifying moments when a person realizes that they are not straight. Many, many moons ago when I was first experiencing this phenomenon I developed a massive, very scary crush on one of my co-workers. Since I was about 75% sure she was het and I was not at all comfortable with expressing my confusing emotions at that time, I turned to a safer alternative: my blossoming attraction to Olivia Benson on Law and Order: SVU.

Law & Order: Special Victims  Unit -- Season 15 There’s a 0% chance that I’m the only one who’s ever had a queer awakening thanks to Olivia Benson

More recently, I was privy to a dear friend’s awakening. One moment she was completely confident in her heterosexuality.  The next moment, she found herself questioning her identity. All it took was Mary McDonnell and a sugar cube. Ok, and maybe a fair amount of soul searching…

The circumstances vary for each woman, but there are always astounding similarities.

  • One of my dear friends is madly in love with Cher – who’s only about 5 decades older than her
  • Another friend has a serious thing for Carla Gugino (who is the youngest actress in this blog post – but still a full decade older than my friend)
  • My best friend shares my tastes and is smitten with both Mary McDonnell and Amanda Tapping.
  • Then there are all of my Tumblr friends falling all over themselves most recently for Sidse Babett Knudsen from Westworld.

While this is all rather anecdotal, there is growing evidence to support this phenomenon. In Allure’s first “Anti-Aging” survey, they found that “LGBT respondents are more likely to be attracted to people older than them by more than 10 years compared to straight respondents” (Source).

Maxim is well known for their Hot 100 in which the men’s magazine ranks the hottest female celebrities of the year.  Similarly, After Ellen – a site for queer women – comprises their own list ranking “the hottest women, according to women.” While the politics of ‘ranking’ women according to physical attractiveness is a post for another day, it’s important to remember that we all find people attractive. There is merit in examining these two lists because the lists’ demographics provides an excellent contrast between what heterosexual men and queer women find attractive.

Maxim’s list features 3 women over the age of 40: Sofia Vegara (44), Eva Longoria (42), and Penelope Cruz (42).  All of these women fall into the bottom half of the list with Penelope Cruz ranking highest.

By contrast, After Ellen’s list features 22 women in their 40s. Two women in their 50s make the list: Jennifer Beals (53) and Mariska Hargitay (52). There are also two women in their 60s: Dana Delany (60) and Lorraine Bracco (62).  With the exception of Jennifer Beals, who comes in at 77th, the women over 50 land in the top half of the list.  Mariska ranks the highest at 29th – putting her squarely in the top third.

Not only is After Ellen’s list comprised of older women, those women rank higher up the list. While Penelope Cruz (41) holds the 64th spot on Maxim’s list, Angie Harmon (44) is the highest ranking woman over 40 on After Ellen’s Hot 100.  Angie Harmon holds the 5th spot. Danielle Cormack (46) holds the 9th spot and Sasha Alexander (43) is 11th.

There are as many women over the age of 40 in After Ellen’s Top 15 as there are in Maxim’s entire list.

The average age of Maxim’s Hot 100 is 28.42 years old.  After Ellen’s average age is 33.17 years old.

blog-chartFor more visual people, let the charts speak for themselves.  Women skew towards older female celebrities more than men do – in every measurable way.

While it’s impossible to know the ages of women responding to After Ellen’s ranking, it’s obvious that they find a wide range of female celebrities attractive.

So what’s the point of all of this? That “serious kink for women twice my age” trait isn’t as unusual as you might think it is. If you find yourself swooning over an older actress, you are far from alone. Sexuality is a complicated and dynamic human trait. It does not fit into the tight constraints that society often tries to force it into. Exploring one’s sexuality with celebrities or fictional characters is a completely normal practice. In some instances, it can provide a safe alternative not available in the real world – especially if you live in a conservative atmosphere. So you go on and do your thing. Love that older lady in all of her perfection!

And, if you find yourself falling for Mary McDonnell in particular, please come find me.  I haven’t discussed Mary’s legs in about twelve hours now and I can already feel myself going through withdrawal!

 

 

When a good show goes bad

I love Mary McDonnell.  And not in a little, hey I respect her and enjoy watching her work kind of way. It’s more of a Hi, nice to meet you.  I’m Sarah.  Do you know who Mary McDonnell is – because if you don’t I’m about to fix that for you! kind of way. I love her in a gigantic, spend all of my money following her up and down the East Coast kind of way. All of my friends and family know that there is this Mary person that I’m consumed with, even if they aren’t familiar with her work.

So, when I decided to stop watching Major Crimes last year, it came as a surprise to many people – myself included. Major Crimes has many problems: it under-utilizes Mary’s talent (to the point that she began a podcast to appease the increasingly angry fans and give a voice to her character); it focuses far too extensively on Rusty Beck who is not a member of the Major Crimes unit; and it seriously lacks good female representation. However, I continued to watch the program because of my devotion to seeing Mary’s face every week. The breaking point finally came through the show’s perpetuation and glorification of harassment and emotionally abusive relationships.

We all know the story. A woman doesn’t have any interest in a man beyond friendship. That, of course, doesn’t stop him from trying to pressure her into dating him. He misleads his friends and family into believing that there is more to the relationship than there is. When his deception sees the light of day, he tries to gaslight the woman into accepting his lies as fact. This man is Andy Flynn and the fact that Major Crimes felt that this was an acceptable means of navigating Andy and Sharon (Mary’s character) into a relationship is disgusting. I wonder if the writers sat around in a circle and thought to themselves let’s set up Andy and Sharon. But, let’s make sure that we do it in the most repulsive way possible!

Andy Flynn is the stereotypical “nice guy”. The only thing missing is his fedora. He lies to his family and misrepresents his relationship with Sharon – telling them all that they are dating.  Oh, but it’s cute, he’s so awkward! the fandom screams. Andy is confronted with his lies in front of his daughter and Sharon’s son.  Instead of confessing and apologizing to this woman that he claims to have profound respect for, he insists that they are in fact dating, even if Sharon doesn’t realize it.  When Sharon continues to protest, Andy enlists the help of Sharon’s teenage son.  No Mom, it’s true.  You two are totally dating. Thank goodness that young Rusty was present, otherwise Sharon may have believed that she had some agency – and therefore some choice – in the matter. The fact that the fandom bought into this bull was only further proof that it was time for Major Crimes and I to part ways.

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This is classic gaslighting.  Andy is challenging Sharon’s reality, attempting to convince her that her perception of their relationship is wrong, and that his is right.  Even though any rational adult knows that two people are only dating when they both consent to it, Andy forgoes Sharon’s consent and insists they are together because it’s what he wants. Sharon is an intelligent, capable, mature woman. She does not need a man to tell her how she feels.

If Sharon had a single female friend outside of her workplace (or even a female in the writers’ room), those friends would be telling her to get out. Yesterday. They would assure her that Flynn’s behavior is downright creepy and not at all acceptable.  They would tell her to file a complaint with HR. They would offer to kick his puny ass. They would absolutely remind her over and over again that she is an intelligent, grown woman and no one gets to dictate to her who she is dating – not even her teenage son. Because the real life Andys aren’t cute or awkward – they’re assholes. Hollywood must stop normalizing this type of abusive behavior. It is terrible storytelling and perpetuates harmful ideas.

I love Mary McDonnell – but I love honest female representation even more.

 

 

Bi Visibility Day

September 23rd in Bi Visibility Day. While LGBT members have made huge strides over the last two decades in media representation, bisexual characters are still widely under-represented.  To celebrate today and bring awareness of Bi Visibility in media, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite bisexual characters.  All of these characters are identified as bisexual either by screen depiction or subtext. This list does slant to the sci-fi end of the spectrum, but that’s because I’m me and I know what I like. Here’s my Favorite Bisexual Characters!

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9) James Watson and John Druitt (Sanctuary) – “You don’t know how much you hurt her.” “Her?  Or you?” These two were as in love with each other as they each were with Helen Magnus. Yes, I am cheating right off the bat and tying James and John for 9th.  But I couldn’t possibly choose one over the other – especially when I prefer them together. You will find an absurd number of Sanctuary characters on this list.  I make no apologies for the show’s willingness to show bisexual characters, or my ability to love them all.

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8) Dr. Eleanor O’Hara (Nurse Jackie) – the newest addition to the list, I will admit that I am only currently on the third season of Nurse Jackie. Dr. Eleanor O’Hara is definitely the highlight of the show for me. She is snarky, hilarious, fiercely loyal to her friends, a total mess at times, and dating a woman named Sarah Khouri (no seriously, you can’t make this stuff up)! Best of all, Eleanor’s sexuality is never treated any differently than any other character’s – and it certainly isn’t the most interesting thing about her.  That honor goes to Eleanor’s complete inability to button any shirt she’s wearing.

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7) Cosima Neihaus (Orphan Black) – Cosima Neihaus became a favorite the moment that she professed her sexuality wasn’t the most interesting thing about her. While viewers have to settle for Word of God confirmation when it comes to Cosima’s sexuality, that’s not enough for me to knock her off the list. It’s been a long road watching Cosima struggle to find a cure for her illness before she succumbs to it.  The loss of Delphine didn’t exactly make things any easier on her. I’m saddened to know that next season is the last for Orphan Black but still holding out hope for Cosima’s cure – especially now that Delphine is back.

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6) Dr. Callie Torres (Grey’s Anatomy) – In a lot of ways, I think of Callie Torres as the fairy godmother of bisexual characters. Thanks to Sara Ramirez and Shonda Rhimes, Callie was allowed to explore her sexuality in an honest way that lead her from the belief that she is straight to her first w|w relationship with Erica Hahn, and her eventual marriage to Arizona Robbins. While many of her stories revolved initially around Callie’s newly discovered sexuality, it never felt like a plot device and mirrored, in many ways, real life late-bloomers.

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5) Sister Clarice Willow (Caprica) – If I had to choose a psychotic school headmistress bent on death and destruction in the name of the One True God, it would have to be Clarice Willow. Clarice is part of a group marriage, in which she has numerous husbands and wives.  She’s also attempted to seduce a school girl, and Amanda Graystone – the mother of a murdered student. Clarice is deliciously evil and I can’t help but root for her on some level even if she is the embodiment of the evil bisexual trope.

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4) Captain Jack Harkness (Doctor Who) – How does one even explain the majesty of Jack Harkness?  A former conman from the 51st century, Captain Jack is a joy in the sense that he genuinely finds everyone attractive.  He finds the beauty in every creature that he encounters.  He is funny, flirty, and a pure joy to watch (On DW at least, not so much on Torchwood). Doctor Who manages to walk the thin line between Jack’s openness and comfort with his identity, and the feeling of gratuitous bisexuality.  No one ever takes issue with Jack’s sexuality, and that makes it easier for viewers to accept it as well.

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3) Dr. Michelle Kessler (Inhuman Condition) – If you haven’t watched the web-series Inhuman Condition yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m not even saying that just because of my massive crush on Torri Higginson (but it doesn’t exactly hurt).  It is an amazing series that draws viewers in quickly and keeps their attention throughout.  The highlight of the series is Dr. Michelle Kessler, who self-identifies as bisexual in the fifth episode.  This is phenomenal when you consider the fact that the only other character on this list to use the term is Callie Torres (and it took her seven seasons to use the word bisexual).  When the series begins Michelle is separated from her wife and seeking comfort from her ex-husband (hey, I never said Michelle made smart relationship choices!).  Later, after the ex-husband acts like an ass and nearly gets Michelle killed, it’s back to the wife, Rachel.

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2) Nikola Tesla (Sanctuary) – I really cannot overstate my love of Nikola Tesla. His genius, his wit, his sheer ego, they all delight me to no end.  Before he had even spoken his first words, I was already infatuated with him. His shameless flirting with Helen Magnus stole my heart in ways it probably shouldn’t have.  When he showed a very piqued interest in Lieutenant Hallman (“Normandy”) it became clear to me that Nikola was bisexual. Apparently, the very obvious subtext between Nikola and Hallman wasn’t as clear to everyone else.  However, I challenge you to go back and re-watch both the scene in which Nikola opens the bottle of champagne and when he uncovers Hallman’s secret.  If you still believe Nikola’s straight then I really don’t even know how you’ve made it this far on my blog.

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1.) Helen Magnus (Sanctuary) – The queen of my heart is also the queen of this list. What’s better than a bisexual character? How about an immortal bisexual character who is as crazy as the day is long. Helen Magnus has had plenty of romantic entanglements in her 279 trips around the sun, including a relationship with Amelia Earhart.  Helen’s sexuality was confirmed in the season four episode “Monsoon” when Helen and Charlotte Benoit shared a passionate kiss – or two – after a rather daring escape. It’s worth noting that the second kiss had not been scripted.  Amanda Tapping felt that it was important to show that Helen was attracted to Charlotte and welcomed the attention.

And there you have it! Do you agree with my list? Are there any other bisexual characters you think I should check out? I’d love to hear all about them!

Happy Bi Visibility Day to you all!

 

 

Our Fangirl Foremothers

Yesterday was Helen Magnus’s 279th birthday.  As an avid Sanctuary fan I celebrated the day with an obligatory Facebook status noting the importance of the day. As well, I shared one of the many Helen Magnus fan videos I’ve created over the past few years. Seriously, sometimes I don’t know what my normal friends would do if I didn’t bring so much culture into their lives.  They should really appreciate my efforts far more than they do. Later, I engaged in typical fangirl speculation with my friends regarding what gifts the rest of The Five yes they are still alive. This is MY game. would be giving Helen for her birthday this year (Nikola’s gift would be an expensive bottle of wine that he’d then drink two-thirds of).

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279 years old and still slaying

I have been a fangirl since the first time I realized there were people on television worth fangirling over. I’ve been an avid Star Trek fan for as long as I can remember.  I am named after a Star Trek character. I remember when Star Trek VI came out and my parents pulled  my brothers and me out of school early to go see it.  The first time I picked up a package of hair dye, it was because I wanted my hair color to match Angela Chase’s from My So Called Life. I was already rocking the Dana Scully hair bob. When my son was five, I dragged him to our first convention. I made the seven hour trip to Philadelphia twice in three weeks in order to see Mary McDonnell’s play The Cherry Orchard.  I have written academic papers on Doctor Who, Battlestar Galactica, Sanctuary, and Star Trek Voyager. I was even on a panel at San Diego Comic Con last year! At the time of posting this, I am actively stalking an upcoming convention’s website to find out which day one of my faves is going to be there (If you could get on that, Creation, you could save my poor brain a lot of stress).  Very few people would question my fangirl credentials.

Thanks mostly to the internet, I live in a world that accepts – even if it still doesn’t understand – geek culture. While the acceptance of geeks has been on the upswing since the turn of the century, it wasn’t always so easy for those of us who loved science-fiction, superheroes, fantasy or other less “mainstream” entertainment.

When I was in high school, I was the only person I knew who watched Star Trek. When friends would find out that I watched Voyager religiously, they would say things like “I never would have thought that,” or “Really? You like Star Trek?” My personal favorite was always “You don’t look like a Star Trek fan.” Nearly two decades later I’m still not sure what a Star Trek fan is supposed to look like. I never hid the fact that I was a Trekkie (I recently found an old Spanish assignment in which I’d talked about Kate Mulgrew).  But I  did not embrace it in the way that I do now.

Part of this is due to the fact that when I turned 30 I stopped giving a frak about what other people thought of me. But part of it is also due to the changing perception of what it means to be a fan. Even still, female fans have always had to contend with a double standard that male fans have not. Many female fans have to pass litmus tests or be deemed fake geek girls by fanboys. If you find yourself in this situation I have one piece of advice.  Tell those fanboys to go to hell because you should never have to prove your right to enjoy fandom  to anybody. Here’s one of my favorite responses to the “fake geek girl” myth.

While I don’t want to get into the sexist internal aspects of fandom, because that will derail my post, I will point out that it’s still much more acceptable for a man to be obsessed with a television show, comic book, or video game than it is for a woman. In recent years, women have become more vocal about fighting back and defending their right to exist within the world of fandom.  But there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

All of this is bringing me to a point, I promise.  Yesterday afternoon I was having lunch with my mom. After I told her that it was Helen’s birthday, she delightfully made a Facebook post of her own noting the significance of the day.  She’d told me earlier this week that she missed Sanctuary. Earlier this year I’d convinced her to watch.  Right now she’s making her way through Stargate SG-1. And when she gets through that I’ll introduce her to the love of my life, Laura Roslin.

She told me about a game she plays, and how she modeled her world after Chulak…complete with pyramids, a sarcophagus, and implied Goa’uld technology. At this point, my son interrupted her and told her that she was ridiculous. And I watched all of the joy fade out of her face. My son and I had a small come to Jesus moment about how insulting other people’s interests is rude and uncalled for. Then we talked about how everybody geeks out to something. My mom said that she gets that same response whenever she expresses something she likes….people tell her that her interest is weird.

Now, I’ve seen my share of ridicule and attempts at shaming over my fangirling.  But I also have a devoted, strong group of fangirl friends and you’ve not seen supportive, until you’ve had fangirl friends! Between our Situations and Feels Emergencies, we support each other fully, remind each other that our fangirl interests are valid, and above all else we remind each other that “normals” are just jealous of how committed and passionate we are. Ok, that last one might be a stretch.

Seriously though, my mom grew up in a time when she was taught to be embarrassed by her fangirl tendencies. She was scorned or ridiculed because she dared to enjoy things fully.  She was denied the ability to reach her full fangirl potential because it wasn’t socially acceptable. She wasn’t given the opportunity to connect with dozens of other girls or women across the world who liked the same things that she did.

What’s a modern fangirl to do when presented with such a dilemma?

First and foremost I made her aware of John Barrowman’s beautiful statement on being a geek. John Barrowman summarizes my “Frak the haters!” sentiment in a much more eloquent manner.

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As fangirls, we have an obligation to support our fangirl foremothers – those who were never able to experience the community that we now enjoy.

The next time that you find yourself laughing at the Tumblr user over 30 (Get off my lawn kids!  We were in fandom while you were still in diapers!!), or asking yourself at what age you have to stop liking “trivial” things, or  just having fun in general, just remember that fangirling has no expiration date.

Modern fangirls have a responsibility to those who came before us.  We should fully appreciate our opportunities to express our love of all things sci-fi, superhero, or whatever your particular interest happens to be.

Always remember John Barrowman’s words.  Never become the “asshole”.  Life is hard enough.  Let people enjoy whatever helps them get through it.

Michelle Kessler – Bisexual Extraordinaire

Earlier this week, I had a discussion on Facebook about a recent article I read. The topic was on whether or not explicit confirmation is important when it comes to queer representation.  I took the stance that confirmation for the sake of confirmation is pandering, insulting and shouldn’t be done.  As far as I’m concerned, not all queer characters are the same; and there’s a good way and a bad way to treat a character’s sexuality. Confirming a character’s identity is great, but it should never be the main focus of the character’s arc.

I took issue with the article for two reasons:  firstly, one of the current examples of “ambiguous” sexuality the author noted was Jillian Holtzmann (which never felt “ambiguous” in my book); my second issue was with the fact that the author failed to ever state what counts as confirmation for them.

For the most part, I forgot about the article and the discussion.  Fast forward to this evening.  I’d recently decided to watch Stargate Atlantis (I avoided it for the longest time because I absolutely despise Rodney McKay). But I was already fascinated by Elizabeth Weir, from her episodes on SG-1, and decided it was finally time to see her storyline through.  Which, I did until the last agonizing moment.  Since then, I’ve been on a pretty significant Torri Higginson kick.  All of my fandom friends realized this would happen the second I told them “hey, I think I’m going to watch Atlantis.”

 

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But seriously, why wouldn’t you love her?

Tonight I decided to watch Inhuman Condition because I knew that it was a new web series in which she played a therapist. The episodes revolve around Torri’s character (Dr. Michelle Kessler) treating patients with inhuman conditions: lycanthropy, zombie-ism, and an unrevealed condition.

It is a web series so there are certain allowances you have to make when watching. During the first two episodes you could visibly see Torri’s sound pack on her back.  It has very limited sets: Michelle’s office, Tamar’s kitchen, and Linc’s bedroom. But, the story line is solid and entertaining in a way that I find most web series fail to be (sorry Carmilla fans).

In the 5th episode of the series, Michelle is having a discussion with her daughter’s father about her recently failed marriage and her ex-wife moving away (their daughter going with her).  Then this happens:

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and then I died

I flailed.  I downloaded the episode immediately so that I could gif it. I told all of my friends to watch it. I basked in the glory of a female character saying the actual word bisexual to describe herself to others (and the adorable face after is just the cherry on top).

It took Michelle Kessler five episodes (or 31 minutes) to self-identify as bisexual.

By contrast, Orange Is the New Black released their fourth season this summer and we are no closer to hearing Piper Chapman (or Soso, for that matter) use the term.

Lost Girl wrapped their last season this year, and to my knowledge Bo Dennis never did use the term. I stopped watching after the fourth season.

I only watched the first two seasons of The 100. However, it is my understanding that even though Clarke Griffin is bisexual, the term is not used because such terminology is not a part of the world they live in. If I’m mistaken and that has changed, I will amend this.

Amanda Tapping always insisted that Helen Magnus was bisexual, and the subtext was present.  The issue was finally put to bed in the fourth season when Helen had a brief encounter with Charlotte Benoit.  Yet even with three canon bisexual characters and two heavily implied, the term bisexual was never uttered on Sanctuary.

Even Callie Torres (Grey’s Anatomy) took seven seasons to use the term herself.  That’s 147 episodes! One of the most beloved, and best portrayed bisexual characters in television history took 147 episodes to self-identify as bisexual.

All of these characters are bisexual.  They are all valid (if stereotypical, at times) representations of bisexuality whether they use the term to describe themselves or not.  I still maintain the position that it’s not even necessary for all of these characters to self-label if it can’t be done in a way that’s true to the character and not just for identifying the token other.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t revel when characters like Michelle Kessler declare loudly and proudly who they are.

 

 

 

When your fave turns out to be a big ol’ meanie

I have been very fortunate in my fan life. This is largely due to the fact that I am a tried-and-true sci-fi fan and sci-fi fans get pretty much unparallelled access to our faves through the majesty of sci-fi conventions.  Over the years I have attended numerous conventions, both large and small, and gotten to meet so many of the actors who portray my favorite characters. Still working on meeting Amanda Tapping (if she could just stop cancelling con appearances), but let’s not dwell. Overwhelmingly, these experiences have been positive.

Edward James Olmos is literally the nicest guy.  Teryl Rothery told me that she loved my shoes and admired them repeatedly. Kandyse McClure spent five minutes complimenting my hair. John Billingsley walked up to me at a con and said “I know you,” after I’d hung out with him in the hotel lobby at a previous con. I have met Mary McDonnell four times, each time being better than the last. And the stories go on and on.

I don’t say all of this to brag. I say this to preface what I am about to talk about. It is always encouraging when you meet someone who is as genuine in person as you’d hoped that they would be.


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However, there is a darker side to fandom and celebrity-meeting that a lot of people don’t want to talk about. What happens when you meet your favorite celebrity, and discover that they are not at all who you thought they were?

I’m not talking about someone having an off day.  That happens to all of us.  I’m also not talking about celebrities being less than accommodating to fans invading their personal lives/spaces. Their desire to be left alone during their down time is absolutely justified.  I’m talking about those encounters at public functions that make you question why you ever invested any energy into this person. I’m talking about ‘mean’ celebrities.

Several years ago (well, I guess almost a decade now), I went to a small convention to meet an actress I will not name. I’d followed her career for many years and was ecstatic at the opportunity to see her at a con.  Unfortunately, The Actress didn’t want to be at the convention – and she wasted no opportunity to make it known. She was standoffish, and at times down right rude to attendees who had traveled to see her. During a Q & A session, she grew visibly annoyed with a fan asking a question about an episode that The Actress could not recall. Her autograph session was rushed and she kept her head down, acknowledging only a handful of the people who spoke to her. Her photo session involved her offering a half-hearted smile and nothing more.  Apparently eye contact or any other form of acknowledgment was too much for her that day.

While I was upset, I rationalized that perhaps she was just having an off-day and I tried to remind myself that at least my friends and I had gotten to opportunity to meet her. Even though I’ve worked in the hospitality field for over a decade, and I can show up day after day and behave politely and professionally, I excused her behavior. I wasn’t ready to admit the truth yet.

Several months later, at another convention by the same company, The Actress’s behavior became the topic of discussion again.  We had befriended the organizers of the convention and they filled us in on her nothing-short-of-diva behavior and how ugly and condescending she had been to the staff. This apparently wasn’t her first time doing this either. When I got home, I began re-reading articles, interviews, any and everything that I could get my hands on, hoping to confirm that the convention staff was simply over-exaggerating and she was still the positive role model that I had believed she was.

I found the exact opposite.  Interviews were full of self-appreciation, over-inflated ego, and nastiness toward female co-stars that I had previously overlooked. When she made a passive-aggressive statement about one of my other favorites, I threw my hands in the air and walked away.  The rose-tinted glasses fell off and I saw The Actress as she really was, not through a lens of appreciation. The Actress I had spent so long admiring was a person undeserving of such time and energy.

It was heartbreaking, but I learned some very important lessons from the experience:

In fandom, it can be very difficult to make the finite line where the character ends and the actor begins.  We spend so much time enjoying and admiring characters, and then their actor is just walking around with the character’s face on.  It’s very easy to project feelings from a character onto an actor.  While the actress may be the living physical form of the character, it’s important to remember that so many other people play a part in forming the character: script writers, directors, editors, and on and on and on. It taught me to be more discerning in where I choose to focus my fangirl energies – to stop ignoring problematic things.

You absolutely can dislike an actor and still adore a character. Let me say that again. You absolutely can dislike an actor and still adore a character. Do not ever let anyone tell you that your dislike of the actress means you dislike the character. That’s a load of bs. It took me time after my disappointing realization to accept this, partly because I bought into that lie that other fans were telling me.  I had to stop watching the show all together for a bit. I stopped talking to other fans about my negative experience.  After some time passed, I realized that The Actress’s character will forever be one of my favorites. Nothing will change that. In fact, when I stopped misplacing my affection for the character onto the actress who portrayed her, I appreciated the character even more.

It will suck. Finding out that someone you admired is not a very nice person is disappointing. It hurts. A lot.  The longer that you’ve admired them, the more intense the disappointment will be. But as with any other disappointment in life, it will get better.  Once you stop spending all of that energy on the wrong person, you can find the right fictional lady (because let’s be real – fictional ladies are the most worthy of appreciation) to flail over.

There are so many genuinely kind people out there.  I’ve read many stories of people having bad experiences with one celebrity and it turning them off of the entire experience. That is a perfect means of coping with the disappointment. It also showcases exactly just how much the whole thing can suck (See above point).   However, I want to remind you that there are so many genuine actors out there who are kind, generous, humble and worthy of being appreciated – like Mary McDonnell, who builds other women up instead of tearing them down, delights in her fans, remembers them, and donates profits from every convention appearance to charity. You didn’t really think I’d forget to mention Mary McDonnell here did you?

Celebrities are just like everyone else. There are nice ones. There are ugly ones. Navigating the waters can be daunting. But it can also provide you with legendary stories. If I’d let one bad experience (and one mean celebrity) turn me off to the entire concept of conventions, I would have missed out on walking up to Mary McDonnell’s C2E2 booth this year with my dear friend Suz and hearing Mary say ‘Ladies, it’s been a year!  How are you?’ I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.