Fangirl Thursday: Nerdy Girl Housekeeping Notes

With the fall TV season right around the corner (Look for a post new week breaking down the shows I’ll be watching!), it feels like the right time to get a couple of general housekeeping notes out of the way. This season is going to bring about some changes in how things run around here at NGN, so let’s get down to business!

First, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you who’ve sent in letters so far for the book I’m working on. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been moved to tears while reading most of the letters sent my way so far. Your enthusiasm, your honesty, and your vulnerability are all incredibly inspiring, and I can’t wait to share these letters with the world.

With that being said, it’s not too late to start writing a letter (or more letters). The deadline for submissions is January 1, 2016, so keep (or start) writing! Remember, letters can be sent to nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com, and if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to ask me in this post’s comments, on Twitter, or via email.

I plan to keep posting my own letters here, too—and that leads me to my next order of business. The posting schedule here at NGN is going to be a little different from what you’re used to starting in a few weeks.

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Finding Faith: A Letter to Jamie Sullivan

This is the latest addition to my collection of letters to female fictional characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling, and send your letter(s) to nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com!

Source: awalktoremember.wikia.com

Source: awalktoremember.wikia.com

Dear Jamie,

I was 13 when I first saw A Walk to Remember on a snowy Sunday afternoon with my two best friends. Life isn’t easy for a 13-year-old girl. I was caught between desperately wanting to be “cool” and knowing in my gut that I could never really fit in with the “cool” kids. I was starting to ask the big questions about myself, my future, and my faith. Needless to say, you came into my life exactly when I needed you the most.

You were the rare breed of teenage character who genuinely didn’t care what other people thought of them. When you told Landon that, you didn’t say it to impress him or to make yourself look cool or better than your peers. Popularity simply wasn’t something that made you lose sleep at night like it is for so many teenagers—myself included at the time. Of course, you had bigger things to worry about (that pesky “dying of cancer” thing), but there was more to your place in “self-exile territory” than that.

When it comes to your character, Jamie, everything is a matter of faith. And you had enough faith in yourself and your principles to know that you were living the right life for you—regardless of what other people thought of it. The impact that had on 13-year-old me was immediate and intense. You weren’t naïve; you knew people made fun of your modesty, your interest in astronomy, and your religious beliefs. But you also knew something it would have taken me a lot longer to learn without your example: What mattered wasn’t what other people said; it was what you believed. So thank you for showing me that the coolest thing you can be is yourself—even if other people make fun of you for it or don’t understand it at the time.

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Fangirl Thursday: Let’s Talk About Strength

Castle Teen Spirit

COLIN O'DONOGHUE, JENNIFER MORRISON

Today’s post is more of a straightforward essay than a typical Fangirl Thursday discussion-starter, but I hope it still inspires plenty of discussion in the comments because this is a topic very close to my heart.

I say it often, but it bears repeating: I’m a lucky fangirl. In the last few years, I’ve gotten to watch many of my favorite female characters on television grow in incredibly honest, believable, and inspiring ways. I’ve watched these characters grow from places of isolation and fear to places of love and hope. And watching them grow has helped me grow as a woman in ways I might never have without their example.

However, this growth that I find so inspiring is often met with skepticism from other fans—claims that these characters are “weaker” now than they were when we were first introduced to them; statements that people miss who these women were in their shows’ first seasons; and impassioned cries for a return to the “badasses” these women were before they started wearing lighter dresses and hairstyles, smiling more, and opening their heart to other people. These arguments present a fascinating look at the ways we define what it means to be a “strong woman” and how certain definitions of that phrase do more harm than good.

Female characters have often fallen into one of two extreme groups: the damsel in distress who always needs saving or the superwoman warrior who shows no emotion and never relies on anyone but herself. However, there’s a beautiful middle ground emerging in the media right now—especially on television. Female characters are being created who fight for themselves and others but draw the strength to fight from an open heart and steadfast support system. They do a lot of saving, but sometimes they need help to save others and even themselves. That doesn’t make them damsels in distress; that makes them realistic. That makes them human.

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Fangirl Thursday: A Different Kind of Letter

I love birthdays, and this is the last Fangirl Thursday before I turn the big 2-7 next week. Birthdays always seem to make me nostalgic now (Maybe that’s a side-effect of getting older.), so today I’ve been thinking a lot about who I was 10 years ago—the 17-year-old nerdy girl about to embark on her last year of high school before entering a big, scary future. And then it hit me—some of you reading this might be 17 years old right now (or even younger), and I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted today’s Fangirl Thursday post to be about.

Letters have been very important to me lately, so today I’m going to write another one. However, this time I’m going to write to a real person—the person I was 10 years ago. Maybe—hopefully—those of you reading this at a similar point in your life will find something good to take away from it. And maybe those of you who feel like sharing could write some advice you’d give your younger self in the comments.

Dear Katie,

I feel like I’m writing this to you from the other side of a canyon. So the first thing I want to say to you is simply this: You make it to the other side. There are times when it’s going to be scary and lonely and difficult—times when you feel like you’re going to crash if you look down—but you make it. You reach a place where you feel comfortable in your skin, where you feel proud not just of what you accomplish but of who you are—all of who you are. Your life isn’t perfect 10 years into the future—and it’s certainly not what you think it’s going to be in 2005—but you’re happy. And trust me, you’re going to reach a point where that becomes the most important thing, even though it’s going to take you a lot longer than it should to reach that point.

You’re a nerd, Katie, and you need to stop acting like that’s something you need to hide from people. It’s a part of you—the part that cries when you think about Alias ending, the part that downloads fan videos about Charlie from Lost, the part that still reads Star Wars fan fiction (You never stop doing that, by the way.)…Being a nerdy girl isn’t something to be ashamed of; it’s something to own with pride. Ten years from now, it’s going to be the way you define yourself to the world at large, and no one who matters is going to think less of you for it. In fact, proudly calling yourself a nerd is going to draw people to you like never before.

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Fangirl Thursday: Worth the Wait

Source: abc.com

Source: abc.com

I’m a pretty spoiled fangirl when it comes to “ships.” From Sydney and Vaughn to Leslie and Ben, most of my favorite fictional pairs got together after only a couple of seasons of waiting.

However, we all have those fictional couples who taught us patience. Whether it was for Mulder and Scully or Luke and Lorelai, we’ve all known the pain of waiting season after season (after season) for longing looks and banter to turn into something more. We’ve all known the fear that maybe the show would end before we’d know what it’s like to see them as a couple. But we also all know the pure fun of these long-term “Will they or won’t they?” couples—the excitement that came every time they hugged after an intense moment, the hope we felt every time they smiled at each other, and the sense of certainty that each finale would be the finale when the finally got together (only to have that certainty be dashed time and again, until one finale suddenly became the finale).

The first fictional relationship that taught me the value of patience was Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series. I came into that fandom as a 13-year-old who had the first four books at her disposal. By the end of the second book, I knew Ron and Hermione were going to end up together. (I mean, come on; they were the Han and Leia of children’s literature.) But the wait for them to get there was torture. I started the series in eighth grade; I finished it the summer before my sophomore year in college. During that time, I had to suffer through books where they spent half the time not talking, different significant others for each of them, and the constant fear that one of them (Ron) was going to die before they got together. But also during that time, I also got to experience the little details that make those fictional relationships—the ones where we feed on every little interaction—so special: fights during the Yule Ball, names called while drifting in and out of consciousness, comforting hugs, and kisses on cheeks.

It’s those little moments that we often have the fondest memories of when we think back on a given “ship.” Because those were the moments that we analyzed for hours and hours with our friends both online and in person, building our case for how we knew they had to end up together. It’s that way with all slow-burn fictional couples. The waiting teaches us to appreciate the value of one line, one touch, and one look. Sometimes that’s enough to sustain us through even the darkest “shipper” seasons.

When it comes to television, as I said before, I’m pretty spoiled. However, I paid my dues with Castle. I spent four full seasons watching Castle and Beckett’s relationship develop from tension to respect to a love they were both finally willing to admit and accept. I knew from the end of the pilot that I was hooked; I was going to “ship” those two characters until the end. And while there was never really any doubt that Castle and Beckett were going to end up together eventually, it still wasn’t always an easy ride.

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Fangirl Thursday: You Never Forget Your First

Source: starwars.com

Source: starwars.com

When it comes to fandom, first loves often last a lifetime. The first character you ever really related to, the first “ship” that melted your heart, the first book or movie or TV show that kept you up way past your bedtime just thinking about it—they stay with you forever. And like the best first loves, they change you in ways you probably don’t even realize until years later. They become so wrapped up in the fabric of who you are that you don’t know who you’d be if you hadn’t picked up that book or changed the channel at the right time or popped in that VHS tape—and you don’t ever want to know, either.

For me, it always comes back to Star Wars. I first discovered the original trilogy as a little girl of no more than five or six, thanks to my two older cousins. I have fond memories of pretending to be Princess Leia as I ran around with them on the playground, rushing from the “Death Star” (the jungle gym area) to the “Millennium Falcon” (the swings) as we made our escape from my dad, who was always Darth Vader.

While these early years of Star Wars love gave me my first fictional role model in Princess Leia as well as a certain fondness for scoundrels before I even knew what that word meant, it took until I was 12 for me to really consider myself a Star Wars nerd, complete with the deep sense of engagement, passion, and enthusiasm I attach to the idea of being a nerd. It was the during the spring of seventh grade that I re-discovered the series that had been such a big part of my early childhood, but I now was able to throw myself into it with the single-minded devotion only a preteen girl can possess.

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Choosing to See the Best: A Letter to Emma Swan

This is my newest addition to my collection of letters to female fictional characters who’ve inspired me throughout my years as a fangirl. If you have a letter of your own you’d like to share, check out this post to learn more about the book of letters I’m compiling, and send your letter(s) to nerdygirlnotes@gmail.com

JENNIFER MORRISON

Dear Emma,

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about a lot of characters over the years, but you’re the one I’ve written about the most. Writing about you pushes me to be more vulnerable, more honest, and more open—even when it’s terrifying. You’ve made me a braver writer, which has made me a better writer. And somewhere along the way—as I started writing all those posts and essays about your journey on Once Upon a Time—I started becoming a braver and better person, too.

Writing about you demands bravery that matches your own. But one of the things I love most about you is that your courage runs so much deeper than vanquishing villains and traveling to unknown realms. Breaking the Dark Curse at the end of Season One wasn’t accomplished because you fought a dragon. It happened because you were brave enough to finally believe you could truly love someone and have them truly love you, too. I don’t face too many dragons in my everyday life, but I do know what it’s like to be afraid to open your heart to people. So thank you for giving me an example of bravery I can relate to.

Thank you, also, for giving me an example of optimism I can relate to. Optimism is a part of your genetic makeup. However, heartbreak made you believe that shutting down those parts of you that wanted to hope would protect you from being hurt again. You spent so long looking over your shoulder—preparing for another disappointment—that you didn’t let yourself see potential happiness when it was right in front of you. And when you did see that potential happiness, it scared you. You feared that for every good moment, a bad one was waiting right around the corner. It was impossible for you to believe things could simply be good.

I know that fear all too well. I’ve struggled with anxiety for many years, which means I’ve spent too much time preparing for something bad to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was hard for me to appreciate good moments, because I was often worrying about the potential bad moments to come. My natural instinct is to be hopeful, but as you face the disappointments that come with growing up, sometimes it feels safer to just stop hoping.

That was the state of mind I was in when I discovered Once Upon a Time. Then, I started watching your story develop, and I started writing about that development. I saw someone who was scared to hope letting herself believe in the possibility of good things. I saw someone who was often too focused on bad moments starting to accept that things can be good. I saw someone choosing to be happy, and it didn’t make her naïve or weak; it made her stronger than ever.

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Find a Happy Place

First and foremost, I wanted to once again thank the lovely and talented Heather for steering the good ship NGN while I was away. The posts she wrote while I was gone were fantastic, and if you haven’t read them yet, I suggest you do so ASAP.

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About a week ago, I returned home from another fabulous trip to Walt Disney World. I’ve said many times that I see WDW as my personal “happy place”—the place where I am the best, brightest, and happiest version of myself. Every time I visit WDW, I feel encouraged to be unashamedly enthusiastic about the things I love, and if that’s not balm for a fangirl’s soul, then what is?

I’ve written about Star Wars Weekends at WDW before (and I’m sure I’ll do so again at some point this summer), so I’ll try to keep this brief, but I think there’s no better representation of the way WDW fosters a true sense of community and joy among nerds of all kinds than this annual celebration of all things Star Wars. From the impassioned cheers when the movies’ theme begins playing before the park opens to the thunderous applause after the fireworks end at the conclusion of the day’s festivities, my Star Wars Weekends experience this year was once again filled with a sense of shared excitement and fun unlike anything else I’ve ever felt as a fangirl.

This year more than any other, though, I was reminded that all of WDW—not just Hollywood Studios during Star Wars Weekends—is a place where people come together to experience what I feel is the very essence of fandom: celebrating what makes you happy and sharing that happiness with those around you.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (6/7-6/14)

Hello again, this is Heather taking the reigns on the best of the TV this week. 

This week on television started with a heartbreaking sacrifice and a ride on a dragon on Game of Thrones and ended with a shocking reveal on Orphan Black. Along the way, we also saw the ceiling rain blood on Penny Dreadful, learned Jesus is alive and off to boarding school on the season three opener of The Fosters, watched Liv give up her chance of curing herself on the first season finale of iZombie, saw Evan and Paige experience their first setback on their quest to become parents on Royal Pains, and had nightmares after one of the more horrifying images Hannibal has served up for us.

There were two serious contenders for my pick for this week and they could not have been more different. One was quiet and chilling, the other made my jaw drop out of shock. While I loved the reveal that Mrs. S’s mom was both the Castor and the Leda original (though it was almost too much connection for me), I had to go with the quieter moment for my pick.

By now, it’s no secret that Hannibal is as beautiful as it is horrifying. It is capable of creating stunning visual images and accompanies them with a gorgeously operatic soundtrack. When that is combined with what is perhaps one of the most twisted, destructive and intimate friendships I’ve seen on TV, the end result is nothing short of spectacular.

The shot of Will wandering through the catacombs forced the viewer into his mental state. It was dizzying and disorienting with a sense of foreboding as we watched Hannibal silently follow him. It was an immersive moment of television that left the viewer unable to look away.

But what made this moment my pick were the three words Will spoke and how they get at the heart of what makes Hannibal such compelling television for me, even in the midst of all the gore and darkness. “I forgive you”. Not words often uttered to the man who killed the girl you considered as a daughter and who nearly killed you. Yet Will Graham is incapable of doing anything else when it comes to Hannibal Lecter.

Their exchange in the beginning of the episode was the best summation of their relationship. They have changed each other. Not necessarily for better or worse, but these two men are who they are at the start of season three because of each other. No matter what he does, a piece of Will belongs to Hannibal just as a piece of Hannibal is Will’s. So he offers forgiveness. Because as Inspector Pazzi recognized, there is power that comes from knowing. Hannibal and Will are inseparable and Will knows that, as much as he knows that the body in the chapel was left for him and as much as he knows that Hannibal is there, unseen, in the catacombs with him.

What was the best thing you saw on television this week?

Embracing What You Want and Need from Television and Quitting What You Don’t

Hi everyone, this is Heather filling in while Katie enjoys a well-deserved vacation.

A few weekends ago, the first season of Outlander came to a spectacularly graphic end. The third season of Hannibal started last Thursday with its artistically dark and twisted viewpoint. This weekend, a brutally dark season of Game of Thrones will draw to a close. Each of these shows has sparked discussions about when the violence and darkness becomes gratuitous. This season of Game of Thrones has been especially prone to such conversations. Two episodes in particular, sparked such outrage and unhappiness that some viewers (myself included) have simply chosen to walk away rather than subject themselves to more of the seemingly increasingly violence.

These vocal choices that some have made came with an equally vocal set of assumptions about the way these viewers have previously interacted with the series. Whether those assumptions come out of defensiveness or passion for a favorite show, the result tends to be that the group who stops watching feels like their reactions are being dismissed or are somehow incorrect. While I can’t speak for everyone who has made the decision to stop watching, I can offer up my own perspective on my personal viewing habits and what I am asking for from a television show.

It’s not that we’ve suddenly found ourselves shocked by the horrors of this fantastical world. Those who are still around in season five have watched Ned Stark’s beheading, have made it through the Red Wedding, and have seen Ramsey destroy Theon and raise up Reek in his place. We’ve seen these characters become paralyzed, lose family members, be raped or threatened with rape, and inflict any number of smaller cruelties against each other. There is no doubt that Westeros and Essos are harsh, dangerous places to live or that this show has never shied away from portraying the darker side of humanity.

It’s not that we wish to deny that our world, in both past and present times, can be cruel place. There is undoubtedly darkness and evil. We see it on the nightly news or read about it in newspapers and online. To pretend as though any fictional universe could exist in a land that is free of all the problems of our own would be dishonest and frankly, probably a little boring. People are always going to struggle. Someone will inevitably do something terrible to someone else. They will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles and not all will make it out in one piece.

To pretend that the darkness is all that exists, however, to me seems equally dishonest. In previous seasons of this show, we’ve seen genuine connections between these characters and the goodness of which many are capable. These moments may not have ever been the most prominent feature of the series, but they were always there. Even in this season, we saw Varys placing his hope in Daenerys’s ability to bring about a better world. All I’m asking is for more of that sort of hope and more of the genuine connections of which I know this show and the world it is set in possess.

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