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Living in Los Angeles and working in film and television (and having a few friends who are actors), I like to claim I don’t get starstruck. “They’re just people too,” I scoff, never failing to add that I’d “much prefer to work with them anyway because that amount of one-on-one time where you study them honing their craft is so much more meaningful than the five seconds you spend standing next to them, smiling for a picture.” And that’s all true, but after attending last weekend’s Supernatural convention and then spending the subsequent Monday scouring the internet for similar ones– and for a camera with a minimum 12x optical zoom to take downright awesome pictures at similar events– the lesson I have learned is that I really do love meeting my favorite celebrities in any setting. As much as I may try to deny my inner fangirl, I cannot do so successfully.
There is nothing wrong with fandom, despite some of the early conditioning we might have faced that it was something of which to be ashamed and therefore keep to ourselves. After all, we are an image-conscious society whose media re-enforces (or at least it used to) that Coke-bottle glasses-wearing, inhaler-sniffing, downright bony boys are the only ones who enjoy sci-fi, and they are not fit as friends. It used to be that years ago those who were diehard into works of fantastical fiction, like comic books, sci-fi films, or even video games, had to hide their collections in their basements or face mockery at school or work. And isn’t that why so they identified with so many masked superheroes in the first place? Because they, too, had to hide their real identity when partaking in such “work?”
Regardless, those days are no more. People are suddenly realizing that fandom is a good thing: getting excited about something and having a passion for something is a positive (though not necessarily lucrative) activity. “Geek” is a label that has been “taken back” and is now worn proudly. “Dungeons & Dragons,” “World of Warcraft” and other RPGs– the very games that the stereotypical “guys who couldn’t talk to girls” played– are now responsible for bringing guys and girls together. Even Comic Con has become mainstream, and major movie studios and networks unveil new projects there every year to a subculture that they know can make or break the popularity (and ultimately the box office) of their project. With the exponential growth of digital technology and the internet over the past few years, fans have become celebrated, not scorned, for their involvement in their favorite programs. It’s much easier for fans to find each other now; no longer are the days of buying a ticket to a convention half-way across the country and hoping you’ll bump into some like-minded folks there. Now fans attend those conventions already knowing the others in the community and chatting with them on fan sites or forums. And while message boards and fan fiction still run rampant, they are now considered somewhat old-school in the way of showing one’s devotion, as more and more from the YouTube generation create mash-up videos, re-cutting scenes, dubbing dialogue and/or music, and adding in their own visual effects. Fandom allows many a chance to explore artistic outlets and then share their creations with a global niche community; talents are discovered; passions beyond the show are found; and careers can be made. And that IS lucrative.
A friend of mine who was a screenwriting major in college admitted to me once that she only started writing scripts because she would watch Days of our Lives and think “I can come up with better stuff than that!” She began drafting fan fiction in the early days of AOL, and it got a pretty good response, which prompted her to continue and even branch out into creating her own characters and plot ideas. Her love of writing grew from there. Similarly, I first learned proper script formatting by purchasing an autographed copy of a Days of our Lives script off eBay and creating tabs in Microsoft Word. I then churned out half a dozen feature length scripts while still in high school (only two have survived since then, though).
Now, granted, I was attending last weekend’s festivities first and foremost as a member of the press (or so I told myself to keep the giggles down when slipping my arm around Jensen!), but as I stood asking fan after fan how they first got started watching the show and what kept them coming back week after week, I couldn’t help but nod along as they gave their answers. In my head I was screaming: “Me, too!” and I just wanted to get into a debate with them about specific details in episodes they singled out, like what they thought the bad thing Dean did in his past was that caused his eyes to bleed in the “Bloody Mary” episode. I was overwhelmed by a sense of belonging I don’t feel too often (none of my friends share enough of a devout interest in the things I do to warrant them paying to attend such an event with me). Every single person I encountered welcomed me with a smile on her face and a happy attitude; they were there to make friends with other fans, and it’s comforting to think that I can go back to such a convention in a few months or even a year– alone– and find plenty of people with whom to spend the day discussing our favorite episodes and subplots.
Thinking back, this is not a phenomenon unique to the fan culture of Supernatural. I first experienced it years ago when attending Days of our Lives fan club weekends, and I still keep in touch with a handful of people I met at such events. More recently when waiting to meet Mariah Carey at a signing in Glendale, it was easy to fill the two hours with conversation with those around me in line: we already had one very important thing in common, and just this weekend standing online to enter the Passions estate sale I chatted with both fans who had watched from day one and those who were just there to snag some cool stuff at lower prices.
So perhaps it is time for me to embrace the culture even a little bit further; perhaps I need to log into those fan sites and forums and officially join my rightful place in the community: “Hello, fans, here I am!” Because the next time I go– and there most certainly will be a next time– even if I am doing a piece, I want to feel free to unleash my inner fangirl and fully “geek out”– quite possibly including some high-pitched cheering and all. ;D
write by Jerrick Layland