The Empowerment of Fangirls

There are some things that women just have to learn to accept.

The first (and perhaps the most difficult) is that we are women. The second is that we have been taught since childhood that only men have the power to define what a woman can or cannot be.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and I’m not writing of a particular person or populace, but of Western society as a whole. And, as a whole, we’ve done a good job of recognising that women are capable and should have rights…and we stopped there. Yes, we’ve come a long way since the Dark Ages, but there is still one thing we aren’t.

We are not seen. We are not heard. In a world that feeds on the entertainment industry and social media, we are the consumed and not the consumers. Hollyweird has turned us into a formula: long hair, good tits, and big doe eyes that look good on a movie poster.

Consider Megan Fox’s character in the first and second Transformers movies.

This scene was totally and completely necessary to the plot.

Do we remember the character’s name? Probably not. Can we name one thing she liked aside from Shia LeBoeuf and his sweet ride? No. How about her family? Does she have siblings? No? Don’t remember? Did she have any skills/talents, aside from maintaining perfect lip gloss in the middle of a alien robot/army fight in the middle of the Sahara Desert? No? So who is she and why is she in the movie? Sex appeal. She’s the part of the formula that equates danger and machinery with sex. Does she need a name? No, because in the formula, she’s long hair, good tits, and pouty lips. She doesn’t need a name, because her part in the movie doesn’t require one.

Now, do you remember the name of Shia LeBoeuf’s Transformer car?

Bumblebee.

Think about that.

Can you name one unique thing about Bumblebee?

Sure; he has to speak through songs on the radio.

We remember the name of a robot, but not a woman.  We remember characteristics of the robot, but don’t notice if Megan Fox’s character has  a brother or a sister. Yet, we accept it, and when people ask us what we thought of the movie, we say, “The CGI was fucking amazing.” Because it’s the formula. We expect big tits, loud explosions, and cheesy jokes.

Now, let us consider Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, a film saturated with male superheroes. Can you name a female character?

Black Widow.

What’s she like?

Her name is Natasha Romanov; she’s an assassin; she may or may not have hooked up with Hawkeye in Budapest; and she can outsmart the demigod Loki.

Bad ass and sexy–the kind of sex appeal that should be in every blockbuster.

Black Widow is not the main character of Whedon’s big budget superhero flick, but she is a well-rounded one. Now, I’ve praised Joss Whedon before for his portrayal of women, and I will probably continue to do so for many years to come because, hey, the guy is awesome and he knows how to write a fucking good script and not be sexist. But, as much as I love Joss Whedon, why should we leave it up to a man to redefine how women are portrayed in Hollywood?

Why don’t we do it for ourselves?

No, seriously. Why don’t we do it for ourselves? 

Let’s think of the fangirl and what it means to be one. Fangirls define the fandom. Visit Tumblr and type in “BBC Sherlock” on any given day if you don’t believe me. Know what you’ll find? Fanart, fanfiction, forum discussions, and critical second-by-second analysis. Moffat gave the Sherlockians 7 hours of footage; the fangirls created decades’ worth of works sprouted out of the canon. It’s intimidating, at first, to see how committed fangirls can be to a particular fandom. I think it’s beautiful, because that kind of dedication, that kind of passion, can change the status quo if channeled in the right direction. We, the fangirls, we’re off to a good start. If a show creator (MOFFAT!) does something we don’t like, he bloody well knows it in mere seconds thanks to the Internet. If we love something, well, it goes on Tumblr.

Our fierce dedication could break the Internet if Moffat pushes us too far, I have no doubt.

Recently, I read a few articles about this year’s San Diego Comic Con that broke my fangirl heart. Girls are bulled and labelled “fake geeks” and in general, passed over. Sexism exists, even in the geek world, and even Michelle Rodriguez has something to say. Our world, our entertainment, is male dominated, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the way in which society represents women can be inaccurate, crude, and sometimes downright disgusting (see above section on the Transformers). We should be appalled every time a woman become part of the Hollywood tits-hair-doe eyes formula; we should want to change how things are done.

So why don’t we?

We are fangirls, and if there’s one thing that Tumblr shows the world, it’s that we aren’t lacking in creativity. We can take a single ten-second frame of a show and write a 150,000 word fanfiction; we can analyze the Reichenbach Fall until Moffat has no choice but to give us Series 3; we can break twitter/tumblr with a Mishapocalypse.

So I have a theory. If every fangirl wrote one original poem/short story/novel/film/play, just one, and then sent it off to an agent/journal/voodoo witch doctor, the status quo would begin to change. If we write the kind of women we want to be portrayed as on the silver screen, we can change what we see. If every single fangirl did it, the entertainment industry would change around us because of us.  J.K. Rowling did it. Suzanne Collins did it. Hell, even Stephanie Meyer did it (although she apparently wants women to be as interesting as cardboard).

Together, we can change the status quo. A while ago, I wrote a short script of a breakup between a call girl and a waiter, one fangirl’s original words: “Summer Fling: A Break Up in One Scene.”   I’m not sharing this for praise or recognition; in fact, if I had my way my words would remain in my head for all eternity. But, staying silent changes nothing. I’m sharing this to break the silence, to change the formula; it’s not perfect, but it’s a beginning.

We do not fit into Hollyweird’s formula. Change isn’t easy; sharing your writing isn’t easy, but we are fangirlswarrior princesses, and we are strong.  And remember, my fandom friends, that the pen is always mightier than the sword.

Let’s go forth and write for change.

-The Collected Canadian

8 thoughts on “The Empowerment of Fangirls

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  2. Reblogged this on RandomSoju and commented:
    This is a great blog about the power of fandom, and that as usual the role of women in fandoms is always downplayed. And let’s be real, the fangirl label is a double-edge sword. I will admit I have thrown it out there as a derogatory comment, but I have learned that is not fair. Because I am too am a fangirl. There is the stereotype of the the half illiterate, quite uninformed, im speak, squeeing teen girl that has her attention deficit lens turned to sharp focus on a fandom or celeb, and two weeks later in squeeing in delight over something else, but if you cross her bias of the moment, beware! There are the Korean sasaeng fans and netizens that pretty much make everyone shake their heads. We witness the influence, and as some people feel, intimidation factor, of the Cassiopeia Fan Club. I participate and read various commentary on blogs and pages of fandoms I enjoy, and it always bothers me when some young and clueless type of the fan girl type squees a little too loudly and gets jumped by other older, smarter, more educated commenters, who often like to throw out that derogatory, “stop being such a biased fangirl” comment. There are some such commenters on some boards that I feel intentionally lay in wait, waiting for someone to make a certain kind of comment or hit on one of their pet peeves, so they can “school” the unknowing fangirl on why their bias sucks or why they are blinded by their fandom. These ambushes seriously annoy me, because these people seem to forget that THEY too are fangirls, or they would not be there to start with! Wow, that turned into a bit of a rant. My point being, we all have our opinions and fandoms, and fangirls are a big friggin deal, and this blog vy The Collective points out, why are we not using that power to make changes in how women are portrayed in our fandoms? Maya Angelou said, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels.” For example, why are we Korean Drama fans not demanding smart, capable, female lead characters that own their sexuality and their lives? Let us get out there and write the kind of female characters we want to see in our fandoms.

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