Today at NGN, I’m kicking off what I hope will turn into a fun weekly feature: Fangirl Thursdays! This was inspired by some of my lovely commenters/Twitter followers (you know who you are), who always seem to find Thursdays a particularly good day for being enthusiastic about our fandoms (especially when Thursdays meant Once Upon a Time sneak peeks). It was also inspired by how much fun I’ve been having discussing the happiest of fandom topics over at TVexamined during Heather’s “Month of Love.”
Every Thursday, I want to celebrate the enthusiasm that comes with being a fangirl (or fanboy—don’t think you’re excluded from the fun, guys). I’ll start with a story about something that gets me excited about fandom—whether it’s about TV, movies, books, or the general experiences that come with being a passionate fan. But what I really want these posts to be is a place for you to share your stories. We have some great discussions here at NGN, so let’s carve out some time every Thursday to have even more of them!
That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.
Those words from F. Scott Fitzgerald speak to the essence of being a fan. Being a part of a fandom is like finding a little place in the world where you feel accepted; it’s like finding a community of people who understand you on a fundamental level because they understand what it’s like to love something that you also love. No matter the fandom—whether it’s for a book series, TV show, video game, or sports team—what makes these communities so special is the sense of belonging they instill in their members. When you’re around fellow fans, you don’t feel judged for caring the way you do about the things that you love; you feel welcomed and encouraged to be as passionate as you want to be.
When members of a fandom come together, it’s a truly special thing. There’s a sense of unity and enthusiasm that can’t be matched. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in more shared fandom experiences than I can count—from midnight releases for movies to playoff sports games—and they all share one common trait: excitement.
Communal fan experiences are moments when joy is shared, and that’s something I think should always be celebrated. My life as a fangirl is filled with happy memories of moments shared with other fans. I waited in line for hours before Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 had its midnight screening, and I enjoyed every second I spent talking to Weasley twin cosplayers, singing songs from A Very Potter Musical with fellow fans, and reacting to the end of a era with people who cared about this series as much as I still do. I consider the first Buffalo Sabres NHL playoff game I attended (an overtime win against the NY Rangers in Game 5 of the 2007 playoffs for those who want to know) to be one of the Top 10 moments of my entire life. And I love those moments in any fandom when a game-changing spoiler or sneak peek is released, prompting fans to go into beautiful hysterics all at once as I try to keep up with the reactions on Tumblr and Twitter.
My favorite fan experience, though, is a relatively new one for me, but it’s been my first real taste of being part of a huge group of people who care about something that has shaped my life since childhood. It’s Star Wars Weekends in Walt Disney World, and it’s a fan event I can’t recommend highly enough for Star Wars fans like myself.
I talked about a lot of the events that take place during these weekends in a post I made last year, but here’s a quick summary: For a handful of weekends every May and June, Disney’s Hollywood Studios becomes heaven for Star Wars fans. There are parades, panels, and meet-and-greets with celebrities (like the fabulous Ashley Eckstein, who I had the pleasure of meeting this year). Everything is Star Wars themed—from the (absolutely delicious) cupcakes to the (stunning) fireworks. It’s paradise for a girl like me who grew up dreaming of being Princess Leia.
The coolest thing about this event isn’t the panels or even the Darth Vader Cupcake, though. It’s the sense of communal understanding and enthusiasm that’s shown in so many ways throughout the park. It’s shown in the way everyone in your ride vehicle cheers when you go on Star Tours for the first time that day. It’s shown in the way people compliment each other’s impressive cosplay ensembles. And it’s shown in the way the mass of people gathered at the park’s entrance all react with applause when the familiar title theme begins playing to welcome you to the festivities.
Throughout the course of the day, my sister drank blue milk (aka Bantha milk) and talked to Zam Wessell and Aurra Sing; I hugged Luke Skywalker; and we both traded with Jawas and shopped at “Darth’s Mall.” Those moments in and of themselves were so cool, but what made them even cooler was knowing that our excitement over them wasn’t going to be met with weird looks from the people around us. They were our fellow fans; they cared just as much (or even more) than we do.
That’s what I love most about fandom gatherings and events like Star Wars Weekends (or my ultimate nerdy bucket list event, Comic-Con). Enthusiasm is encouraged, and you never feel alone in your passion or excitement. You belong.
What has been your favorite experience as a member of a fandom? What movie screening, TV event, book release, concert, or any of the thousands of other experiences we share as fans filled you with a sense of belonging?