Today is the kind of day that reminds me why I love being a fangirl.
If you haven’t seen my next-level fangirling on Twitter, a new Once Upon a Time sneak peek was released today that sent a good portion of the fandom into the best kind of hysterics: gif-using, all caps Tweeting, I CANNOT HANDLE THE FEELS hysterics. In a not-so-shocking development, it turns out that Killian Jones loves Emma Swan. And he wants to give up the thing that’s protected him for 300 years in order to protect her now as she fights to defeat the darkness inside her.
Cue the happy “shipper” sobs (including my own).
Sometimes being part of fandom doesn’t feel like it feels today. Sometimes fandom can be stressful and downright depressing. Hateful words get sent under the cowardly cloak of Internet anonymity. People begin to subconsciously compare themselves or their fandom contributions to other fans. Words like “true fan” or “real fan” get thrown around to defend certain stances in fandoms. (Does a “real fan” always support the show/series/band/team? Or does a “real fan” look for reasons to criticize it?) Certain fans can begin to act entitled or superior or bitter. Writers and actors and athletes get torn down by “fans” on social media. “Ship wars” and ugly fights over favorite characters lead to all kinds of bad behavior.
Looking at it like that, why would anyone want to be a fangirl?
The answer: Because shared joy is the best kind of joy. And the driving force behind fandom—what exists when you take away the handful of needlessly negative voices—is shared joy and love.
One look at my Twitter feed from this afternoon would tell you everything you need to know about why I will always be proud to be a fangirl—even when fandom behavior can make me want to throw my computer out a window. The excitement I got to share with my fellow Once Upon a Time fans was something special, and it’s something only my fellow fangirls (and fanboys) would understand.
Fandom makes you feel less alone. It makes you feel like you’re not crazy for getting tears in your eyes when one character smiles at another (because she finally is able to let herself believe she’s loved!). It makes you feel like it’s okay to type in nothing but capital letters and exclamation points. It makes you feel like there are other people who understand what it’s like to find hope and happiness in the things that make you feel hopeful and happy. And if other people can understand that—then maybe, there are people out there who understand you on a deeper level than you thought anyone could.
And the beauty of fandom is that shared sense of joy and understanding is open to anyone who wants to be a part of it. Fan fiction writers, fan artists, and those who find happiness analyzing scenes and characters (like yours truly) will create things hoping to share their passion and emotions with others. But fandom isn’t just for those people. It’s for the people who share theories with their friends on Twitter or Tumblr. It’s for the people who comment on blogs and message boards big and small. And it’s for the people who might feel more comfortable lurking and not talking openly with fellow fans yet but who are still very much a part of the excitement.
If you go to visit the set of your favorite TV shows, go to all the games your favorite team plays, travel to concerts, or attend big fan conventions, that’s amazing. But it’s also amazing if you share in the joy from the comfort of your couch or bed or office. If you make a fan video inspired by your favorite couple, that’s amazing. But it’s also amazing if you watch that video and reblog it on Tumblr. If you send your favorite actor a gift, that’s amazing. But it’s also amazing to send them a nice mention on Twitter. Every fan contributes to their fandom in their own way. And every contribution has value.
I love watching other people experience joy. That’s why I love being a fangirl. No matter how frustrating it can be at times, I’ll always be thankful I chose the life of a nerdy girl. Because that means I get to be a part of fandoms. And a fandom is a community of people who gather together to talk about what they love and why they love it. It’s a community based on the idea that shared joy is the best kind of joy. And that’s exactly the kind of community I want to be a part of.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cry over a pirate giving a princess a ring for the 100th time today…