Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls by Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis.
Ok, so at this point I think some of you must be rolling your eyes and saying “Another Supernatural book…Get a grip woman!” but honestly I’m enjoying the fandom and any fangirl out there knows when you fall for a fandom you fall hard. You want to be consumed in it, learn all about it, all the things related to it. So this book was perfect for me.
The book documents what happened when “two responsible college professors, Lynn the psychologist and Kathy the literary scholar, fell in love with the television show Supernatural.” but what it really does is peels back the layers and asks lots of important questions about fandom, the rules of fandom, the dos and don’ts at conventions but above all it looks more specifically at females within a fandom and the way they are perceived by, not only the general public, but the stars of the show itself, their families and friends.
I knew as I soon as I started reading that this was going to be I need my sticky post its and my pencil handy. Lynn and Kathy start off by researching the psychology of fandom, why are we drawn to it.
“..watching or just thinking or talking about our favourite show can create an experience of belonging that makes us feel less lonely and buffers us against feelings of rejection.” – Researchers at the University of Buffalo’s Center for Addictions.
Lynn and Kathy found that by retreating to a fictional world it helps people relieve stress and “shores up self-control” something I can completely relate to. After many a stressful day, my head loud with anxiety and exhausted, I’ve gone home put on my pajamas, tied my hair up in a messy bun, turned off all the lights and binge watched at least 4 episodes of Supernatural before retreating to bed.
Earlier on in the book they reference the incident involving the image of “Twilight Moms” that received online ridicule, the women receiving comments like “creepy” “unnattractive” and accusing them of being horrible parents. Thus showing already how “wrong” it is viewed for women to gush or objectify men in any fandom. The ladies look into this a bit more as the book progresses, they touch on the “flying fangirl” incident at the first Asylum convention in the UK, that saw Jensen Ackles being jumped on by a fan who proceeded to cling to him.
“Fanboys are no strangers to fan shame. But while male media fans fear being perceived as not sexual enough (the stereotypical fanboy virgin living in his mother’s basement) female fans seem fearful that being a fan makes them too sexual.”
As Lynn and Kathy say fangirls are viewed by the media/general public as crazy stalkers who can’t see the line between fantasy and reality. They propose that fan shame for females is linked to shame about sexuality. And I have to say I kind of agree with them. I’ve been around plenty of guys growing up (I have an older brother) and I’ve made friends with male colleagues over the years. I’ve been privy to plenty of conversations where a female celebrity has been the topic of discussion and I’ve heard plenty of explicit comments made about said celebrity, however the few times me and other women have discussed male celebrities in front of men and been nowhere near as explicit I have had men roll their eyes and actually look shocked and been like “Alright ladies, calm down!” I’ve even heard the phrase “pack of animals” used. It’s a shame to say that in 2017 this is still the case. Women are objectified continuously by men and advertising companies, but goodness forbid that a man be objectified or woman objectify a man verbally. *rolls eyes* Anyway before I digress and pull out my soapbox, I will move on…
The ladies look at the role of fanfiction within the Supernatural fandom and the various types and what it means to the people who write it. Surprisingly, and again something I can relate to, they found that people who started reading fanfic and then writing it, made them feel more liberated and in touch with their desires and needs. It opened them up more sexually and made them realise that some of the kinks, they perhaps, hadn’t vocalised before, weren’t as strange as they thought because there were others out there with the same kink. When they asked various cast members about their opinion on the fanfiction the reaction was mixed, but generally it was something no one wanted their Mum or Grandmother to find.
Throughout the rest of the book, the ladies look at different things such as what happens when a fan “breaks the rules” or what happens when other fans become jealous of BNF (Big Name Fans) they look at the relationship between the powers that be and the people actually producing/writing the show and the fans. How, often, TPTB don’t seem to know or understand what the fans actually want or how to necessarily market a show or engage with the audience the right way. The ladies often found the answers to these questions through first hand experience, flying to conventions and meeting the cast and crew, even giving us an insight into how their experience of being fangirls impacted on their personal lives and the consequences of allowing themselves to indulge in their love of the show.
Needless to say I delved into this book thinking it was going to be one thing and then found it to be a variation of a lot of things. But I devoured it in no time, it’s provocative and insightful and whilst, for me anyway, it didn’t fully answer some of the questions, it certainly made me think about things differently and come to some realisations.
Star Rating out of 5: 4
“I felt like myself for the first time.”
I’m actually attending my first con this year, and honestly I am already having low-key anxiety about it. I tend to dry up when I meet someone I admire and say nothing at all, wish me luck, although knowing the SPN Family, they’ve got my back! ❤