Fangirl Thursday: Coming Home

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When a television show you love ends, it can feel like leaving home. But when a television show ends years after you stopped really loving it, it can feel like hearing that the house you grew up in—but have since moved far away from—is going to be torn down. You might not have the same connection to that place anymore, but you still feel that loss, and that loss makes you think about who you were when you lived there and how much has changed since then.

I haven’t watched American Idol in years, but for a brief time, that show and its fandom were my home. So before it ends tonight, I wanted to look back—not so much at the show itself (because people far more talented than I am have done that already) but at its impact on my own life as a fangirl.

I was an Idol devotee for its first two seasons. I had a picture of Justin Guarini in my high school locker and worshipped Kelly Clarkson. (Let’s be honest: I still worship Kelly Clarkson.) I saw the Season Two contestants on tour, and, yes, I will admit to casting more than one vote for Clay Aiken. That show was something my family—even my extended family—wanted to watch and talk about together, which was rare at the time.

But as time passed, I drifted away from Idol, only returning for occasional episodes and each season’s finale. In fact, it was during the Season Eight finale that I saw Kris Allen and Adam Lambert perform “We Are the Champions,” and I knew right away that I was in trouble. Allen had the cute, singer-songwriter vibe I always adore, and you had to be crazy not to be drawn to Lambert’s incredible voice and magnetic stage presence. When coupled with the genuine friendship I saw on display when Kris was named the winner, I knew it was only a matter of time before I fell down an Internet rabbit hole, trying to catch up on everything I missed during the season.

During my trip down that rabbit hole early in the summer of 2009, I encountered a LiveJournal community about American Idol, and it felt like finding a home. The people there were smart, funny, and just as obsessed with the show and its contestants as I was. It was the same magical feeling I got when I discovered my first Star Wars fan site and visited MuggleNet for the first time. I didn’t feel alone anymore. But I didn’t have much experience with actual fandom participation. Sure, I’d posted on message boards about So You Think You Can Dance and even had my own blog about my hometown hockey team, but this was bigger and crazier than a message board and much wider in scope than the Buffalo Sabres fandom. I was scared to make that jump from lurker to participant in the discussions.

But then it hit me: I wanted to be a part of this. I didn’t want to watch everyone else having fun and making friends like I did in the Alias fandom back when I was in high school. I wanted to have fun and make friends myself. So the night of the first stop on the Season Eight tour, I stopped lurking and started commenting, and I never looked back.

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Daily Dose of Feelings #2

Television comedies make me cry just as often as (if not more often than) dramas. There’s something uniquely moving about seeing characters so often associated with silliness and laughter presented in emotionally vulnerable states, both happy and sad. In my opinion, there’s no better example of this than the episode of Friends featuring Chandler’s speech to the woman he and Monica were hoping would choose them as adoptive parents for her baby (or babies, as it turned out).

I remember watching this scene at my grandparents’ house when it first aired and trying not to let anyone see me tearing up. It was one of the first times I remember watching a television moment and thinking I want a husband like that. The sincerity in Matthew Perry’s performance absolutely floors me to this day.

You can keep your big Ross and Rachel kisses; to me, Chandler telling Erica, “My wife…She’s a mother without a baby,” will always be the most romantic moment Friends ever gave us. It’s such an honest, real depiction of a husband supporting his wife through something that affects so many married couples.

To see sarcastic Chandler Bing stripped of all pretenses and telling a relative stranger through tears how much it kills him to not be able to give his wife a baby is such a great example of a character’s journey adding to the emotional power of a scene. We watched Chandler grow up, become a husband, and, finally, in this moment, become a father-to-be. And we watched it happen organically, realistically, and—in this scene especially—emotionally. When Chandler and Monica celebrate his happy news, it feels truly earned.

Like yesterday’s Sawyer and Juliet vending machine reunion, this is a scene with emotional staying power. Years later, it still puts a lump in my throat and makes me hope for a husband who loves me like Chandler loves Monica.

“God bless you, Chandler Bing!”