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Fangirling from an early age...

Tonight, as I fangirled out while watching the original (1990) "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie, it finally sunk in that I have been fangirling since before I was 4 years old. On a whim, after seeing the 4 pack combo on sale at Target (really I only cared about the first 3 in the combo, the 4th movie is a reboot, I believe), I just had to buy it. And I was not disappointed in rewatching and remembering just how much I enjoyed what, unbeknownst to me at the time, was my first fangirl attachment.

Though I didn't know it at the time, and really didn't think upon it much until recently, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (the movies and the cartoons) was the first medium that I engaged in in a "fan" capacity. I was obsessed as a kid, to the point that I actually wrote "fanfiction" (if it could be called that) in a journal, detailing Donatello (my favorite character) being hurt and the others feeling guilty--as they had led to his being injured--and nursing him back to wellness. Yes, my first "fic" was a hurt/comfort, which may explain why this genre still appeals!

It's amazing to think back on and realize just how far back my fangirling roots go. I'd always thought that if I really ruminated on it, I'd find my first "fandom" was Batman: the Animated Series (since I remember making up quite a few stories to myself about Robin being kidnapped/held hostage/hurt--again with the hurt/comfort!). And it was definitely an early fan experience, to be sure. But TMNT definitely pre-dates it; and both are difficult to qualify as a "fandom" since I really only engaged with the show, and not very much with other fans through mediums like fanzines or what-have-you (considering my age at the time, and that the internet was not a widely used exchange, that's not really surprising). However I did have real life friends that would also watch the shows, and I do believe we'd discuss the characters, as well as "role play" when we were out playing. When really thinking on it, I wonder just how much of our childhoods could qualify as being in a fandom?

Anyways, I really had no real point to this posting--other than posting my rambling thoughts on fangirling from an early age--though it is nice to post something again. So what about any of you out there? What was your first "fandom"? And what do you consider "fandom"? How does childhood play revolving around characters from a TV show/Book/Movie/Comic Book factor in? I'd be interesting to read other people's opinions on the topic! (Or if you just want to have some nostalgic TMNT fangirling moments with me, that'd be wicked! Cowabunga!)

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
quiet__tiger
Apr. 15th, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
Ninja Turtles! It's amazing the way such an insane concept (martial arts expert mutated turtles living in the sewers of NY) stole the collective consciousness of America and the world. I made a Ninja Turtle joke last night. One of those things that got into us as kids and will never leave.

I still have the action figures at my parents' house--or at least they *better* still be there--and I know I'm not the only one. I did not, however, write turtle fanfic. :)

If "fandom" is described as cosplaying/roleplaying characters as kids, then *a lot* of childhood is fandom. Sharing made up stories involving existing characters. Of course, that sort of thing is a lot different than engaging in philosophical discussions about characters, motivations, writers, etc. Or just a less sophisticated version of it.

Turtles would be one of my first "fandoms," if we're counting playing as the characters with other people as kids. (I was always partial to Leonardo and Michelango). Or She-Ra, but I don't remember much of that.

It's definitely an interesting question, what is considered fandom, does the definition change as people and technology age, are kids engaging in early fandom by roleplaying. Especially if the concept of simple storytelling--the method by which we make sense of the world around us--is considered, does fandom help us understand our world? Do we look to it to place ourselves in circumstances we haven't experienced personally in order to see how we might behave?

If we're talking about gushing about shows on a more intellectual level, and of course the porny level, Smallville is by far my first fandom, though I tripped into it through reading some Angel stories that I then saw had Smallville stories on the same site.
larsinger29
Apr. 15th, 2013 01:42 pm (UTC)
Ninja Turtles was such a bizarre concept, but it really worked and reverberated across pop culture. And it's quite a testament that it still lives on and resonates after over 20 years since it hitting the mainstream (and that they're making a new movie about it--which I can't even talk about because I'm sure it will be awful).

I love that you have the action figured still! That's amazing. I'm sure I had some back in the day, but they're long gone by now. And as for the fanfic, well, I can't really say it was a work of genius since it was probably limited to very pointed sentences and some drawings. But it was still inspired by my love of the show, which is what it's supposed to be about, right? ;o)

You raise some really excellent questions about cosplaying/roleplaying as early expressions of "fandom", and how changing of age and technology play into things. I know that when I was a kid living in the suburbs, my friends and I would often go out on the street and play "Power Rangers" or "Mortal Kombat" or the ninja turtles in the early days. We'd create stories and adventures for ourselves and discuss the characters (mainly debating who got to be who). That seems to parallel in many ways what fandom currently is (mainly found on the web and in conventions, nowadays), yet I'm still not sure how much of a jump it would be to go from those types of childhood activities to engaging in fandom as adults or adolescents.

Your question about fandom as a place to test out things we haven't experienced (yet) is very intriguing. I think the answer to that in many cases is yes, as often we will identify or gravitate towards one character. I think fandom can definitely help us understand the world better too; it opened up my eyes to a whole range of people, social issues, and complexities that I was unfamiliar with living in a very rural, very homogenous town. It can also be an escape, whether you're 8 or 38, from your normal (mundane, hectic, provincial, stressful, you name it) life. There's so much more to tease out about it, I'm sure, but it really is a fascinating concept.

The first "modern" fandom I belonged to (as being defined by gushing about and actively seeking fic or writing fic, and by being online) was actually a soap opera, "Passions". It's weird to think about, since it was over 10 years ago that I was really into that fandom, but that was my first "proper" online fandom and it was such an integral part of my formation as a fandom participant.

Thanks so much for your detailed comment! It was a joy to read your very interesting and thought-provoking ideas! :o)
eldarwannabe
Apr. 15th, 2013 04:22 pm (UTC)
I find that a lot of my fandom experiences are all mixed-up, timeline-wise. I definitely acted out fanfiction with a friend for Harry Potter and I found ff.net for Animorphs and I started taping shows off the television for Digimon, but I cannot recall what happened when exactly. (DC Comics was late in the game, actually.)

It all probably started when neighbor-boy made me help him act out his Power Rangers plots with all of his actions figures, but I didn't watch Power Rangers and spent most of the time having him explain it to me. :)
eldarwannabe
Apr. 15th, 2013 04:25 pm (UTC)
As to "what is fandom?" I'm always changing my own mind! There's the organized, communal stuff, but lots of things can be done sans other fans -- does fanfiction need to be online to be fandom activity? No, obviously not, but there's definitely this interesting barrier between the development communal fandom circles (of 'zines, LJ, tumblr, forums...) and the wild fandom of individuals or pocket groups of friends.

Oh man, I have lots of Thinky Thoughs on this one. *wanders away to ponder*
larsinger29
Apr. 15th, 2013 07:49 pm (UTC)
It is an interesting question! And one that I don't know the answer to myself, since it seems to fit in so many circumstances. I think it's wonderful that it can be so ubiquitous! But I also worry that because of that nature, it could lead to people twisting it or making it exclusionary.

I could see someone attempt to paint all fandom activity as being childish and foolish because it shares similar qualities with childhood play, thereby diminishing the outlet and beauty that fandom is (and how it can be a gateway for exposure to new concepts or cultures that an individual might not encounter).

I'd love to hear more of your pondery thoughts once you've mulled this over further! Like I said above, I more or less threw this out there to generate discussion because I don't have the answers. But it was an interesting premise that crossed my brain as I reflected on my own fandom journey, and what it meant to be a fan.
eldarwannabe
May. 29th, 2013 12:28 am (UTC)
I could see someone attempt to paint all fandom activity as being childish and foolish because it shares similar qualities with childhood play

This past weekend I had a long argument with a friend about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. I labelled it as fanfiction off the bat and she argued "NO!" vehemently. I maintain that all transformative (written) works are fanfiction but not all fanfiction is quality, of course. I like being extremely inclusive.

Actually, I was in a literary theory class last year and the professor spent a third of the class on queer theory. And I realized that everything I know about the queer community, privilege, exclusion, etc. came from fandom in one way or another. It wasn't something discussed very well in other aspects of my life and as messy as it was in fandom, it was certainly more personal and relevant than it was in any other place.

As to my long rambly thoughts of what is fandom...gosh, I'm always thinking about it. I hesitate to put most of them in a post because there's something so concrete about putting it up there like that, but I'm certainly always struggling to explain the wide and varied ways I see fandom interaction in myself and my friends and online.
larsinger29
May. 29th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know what you mean! Because of fandom and fanfiction, I've been introduced to a whole slew of new concepts (privilege, LGBT issues--to a certain degree, and different forms of misogyny). It really opened my eyes and made me reflect deeper on things I'd just had no contact with prior to engaging with fandom, or helped to shed light on what I was already engaging with.

Fandom interaction is so varied and covers so much. As much as I dislike the format, the way it's being expressed and cultivated on Tumblr adds a whole new dimension to it. It truly is hard to pinpoint it down to just what fandom is. It seems to evolve and mutate as the members and technologies change. I think, perhaps, that is what makes it so wonderful.
larsinger29
Apr. 15th, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
FF.net is like the gateway drug of fandom/fanfiction (though, actually, I started my online presence at the "Coffeerooms" forum, but ff.net wasn't far behind that!). Seems like everyone lands there at some point, but most don't stay there long. Or I should say, don't stay ONLY there. (I'll admit it, I still go back to ff.net, but mainly via their alert system for when authors I follow update. Or when I'm linked there. Rarely just to randomly search.)

If "play" counts, I started with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, Mortal Kombat, and Batman. My online interactions started off with soap operas during high school (Passions and Days of our Lives), then transitioned into the DCAU during college (Justice League, Batman:TAS--a return to my childhood fandom), which morphed into the broader DCU (end of college and beyond), and finally ending up in Torchwood/Doctor Who approximately 2 years ago. And even though there was somewhat of a progression there, I definitely have continued dabbling in a few of the fandoms simultaneously (though the soaps are mostly done for me, now).

It's really just something to see the ways in which our fandom interests have changed and grown as we've done the same. I think it stems from our joy in sharing our love of something with other fans (or in that burning desire to dissect and/or correct issues in something we love).

eldarwannabe
May. 29th, 2013 12:35 am (UTC)
Oh, I was there for a decent while, even while I was on LJ. These days, though, I think people are more likely to start on tumblr and there's certainly a lot more...let's call it "beginner" fanfic being posted on AO3 these days. (Certain fandoms for me are only on ff.net. Outsiders, Four Brothers and Animorphs spring to mind as slightly older fandoms that have an old cache of ff.net fic I've yet to see reposted elsewhere.)

I'm always saying that I never leave a fandom, just lose interest for a while. I am always THRILLED when I can find DCU fic I want to read. (It's hard when you don't slash many people. :/) But I think play is a place a lot of people leave unless they transition in LARP, which is a little fascinating. Because it's such a natural starting point, but it doesn't go much beyond them?

The desire to connect is the lifeblood of shared fandom, I think. Certainly I have lots of fandomy thoughts and idea I don't share, and there are plenty of lurkers always, but the desire for interaction is what makes it for most people. I doubt I would have sustained half of my interest in things if I wasn't finding such fascinating stuff from fans.
larsinger29
May. 29th, 2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
Agreed on your last point. Fandom definitely springs from a desire to interact with other fans and share the love. It's a way to confirm that my love of something (tv show, movie, comic, book, etc.) is not unusual and is shared by others. It's also a great way to explore things further, and to see analyses from different points of view. I love the discussion of characters and their motives, what intrinsic elements are necessary to their characterization and what flaws they attempt to overcome. Sometimes it's easier to passively do this by reading old meta, and other times it's the right time to exchange ideas as things develop. Either way, it's an avenue to relate to others and to build up a feeling of community and belonging over a centrally held idea (in this case, love of something entertaining).

FF.net is, for all its flaws, still a repository of some amazing fic and authors. And some fandoms are definitely more prevalent on there (and only there). For me, I associate it primarily with DCAU fic, since that's where I launched from. When I expanded to LJ it seemed that most of the DC fic was comics based, with the occasional dip into the animated universe waters. But that could just be my view, and I didn't do a good enough job hunting on LJ for more animated centered comms. I wonder if perhaps that was a casualty of my branching out into the larger DCU as well as a new platform.

DC has been, by far, the fandom I've stuck with the longest. But there are times when I wane in and out of that 'verse. I've recently just gotten back into searching for new (or re-reading old favorites) in that fandom. But it's also hard because it seems that output is at a low, and the effects of the reboot are still being felt and impacting fannish activities, I think. Sadly there are some fandoms that I have left permanently. "Passions" because the show became garbage...and then was cancelled. And "Days of our Lives" because I just moved on. Still have fond memories of my times in those fandoms though, and of the awesome people I met who really shaped my fan experience and writing abilities.
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