Stereotypes: this girl’s not a fan

Madison Hines

As I sit here in my Doctor Who t-shirt, with my Harry Potter backpack sprawled open at my feet, and BBC’s Sherlock playing in the background, I can’t help but wonder about the stereotypes surrounding the term ‘fangirl.’ How did it start? Who penned the name? And where, oh where did the rumor of fangirls refusing to bathe in nothing but their own tears come from? (Disclaimer: I do, in fact, shower daily).

Jokes aside, the word ‘fangirl’ does carry a certain obsessive ring to it. If a bespectacled, pigtailed, screaming, fanfiction-writing twelve-year-old practically foaming at the mouth came to mind, then there’s a good chance you’ve fallen prey to the rumors. And while I can consent that, yes, these rabid creatures do exist, I must insist that they do so only to make the rest of us ‘normal’ fans look bad. I, for one, do not wear glasses (anymore), have never worn pigtails (voluntarily), and try to keep my fandom t-shirts limited to one day a week (though I am still working on that one).

In years before the social media bubble exploded over the face of the internet, thus tainting it forever with endless feeds of pointless Facebook statuses (yes, thank you, we know it’s raining), the act of participating in fandom was condemned to the basement. Maybe your mother’s garage, but that’s only if you were lucky.  People only learned about things by way of mouth, and outlets such as the news and radio stations. A new product or idea could only spread if enough people talked about it; however, after things like Twitter, Tumblr, and, unfortunately, Facebook touched down, it became a lot easier for mass hysteria to spread. Someone in Australia can write about a new band or TV show that they like, and a person in California can read about it seconds later. Fandom now has the ability to spread like the plague, and odds are that everyone is probably obsessed with something. Because fandom life and, in turn, fangirls are so wide spread across media, it has become more socially acceptable to engage in the acts of fandom that were previously confined to the dark.

Of course, with the obscure becoming mainstream, there are the rare few who are actually angry that their nerdom sanctuary has been infiltrated. They don’t enjoy having their favorite TV show or book series become a fad that people only partake in to seem cool. Take Doctor Who for example. The show has been around for over fifty years now. It has a steady fanbase that has only multiplied in recent years, which has been great for merchandise production. More fans equals more fun stuff. Which should be a good thing—and is, for the most part. But when you have a person who has seen one episode and then claims to be an expert, because, ‘Look! I have a t-shirt to prove it!’ I can see why some of the longer-standing fans would be put out with the shows new-found popularity.

Honestly, the ‘fangirls’ that I’m used to are incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken people who just happen to be completely in love with fictional characters, and worry constantly over their general well-being and longevity in the show/book/whatever they’re in. We’re not all freaks. So could we please kill the idea of representing fangirls as weirdos, dorks, and losers? Can we please stop being made the butt of cruel jokes and the stars of offensive comics and sketches? Get some new material, please. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve got the latest episode of Doctor Who to catch up on.