I was Skyping with a friend last night, and in-between discussions about siblings, singleness, church, work, and the wedding we recently attended, we spent a great deal of time fangirling. Topics included The Hobbit, Thor 2, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the trailer for the Captain America sequel.
. . .
Just before signing off, she said she was glad to be able to talk to me about these things, because many of her other friends look down on her enthusiasm. I said she can always count on me to fangirl with her.
This was a significant moment. I’ve been having a stressful time in dealing with that aspect of my personality. And this time when I say “personality” I don’t mean “INTJ” but just me as an individual.
I’ve been searching for a new church and a small group within that and trying to meet new people, which is always absolutely exhausting. Being an introvert, one way I deal with this exhaustion is to be alone, and retreat into my head.
This usually means pondering “fandom” things: my favorite books, movies, TV shows, songs, characters, stories.
All these things aren’t “real,” yet are significant in my life, both inside and outside my head. I started to feel insecure about some of this—that I care more about movie-premiere dates than wedding dates, that I will always choose a Rifftrax Live event over going to small group, that I am more interested in the lives of some fictional characters than in some people I know. I was wondering if this made me cold, uncaring, shallow, inhuman, or of questionable mental health.
Obviously sometimes I must put these preferences aside and make efforts for real people. But reality is boring; I much prefer the imagination. Then I think that I shouldn’t be like this—although that “should” comes more from outside influence than some deep-seated conviction.
But then, last night, I sat down to read Scripture and turned to I John. That book has a lot to say about Christian love, and emphasizes over and over again how important it is that children of God love one another, because that is how Christians are (or should be) identified.
Then I got to thinking: Am I a crazy fangirl who loves this fictional, fantasy stuff because that’s one way I was meant to show love?
Can fangirling be a way of loving others—within appropriate boundaries?
I believe it can. Sharing interests, and enthusiasm for those interests, builds bridges between people. It creates and establishes relationships. Often, it involves some level of trust and acceptance, especially where differences of opinion or taste are involved.
(And I say “within appropriate boundaries” because, as with anything good, it can be distorted and taken too far. C.S. Lewis once said that evil is “simply good spoiled.” It can be loving to get excited with a friend over a new TV episode. It is probably less loving to tempt that friend to lust by sending her a picture of the TV show’s dreamiest actor.)
Of course this is not the same kind of love as feeding the homeless or saving a baby from a burning house. There are many different ways to demonstrate love. But I do believe that fandom can be one of those ways.
. . .
It makes sense. People bond over this stuff, even if it’s “imaginary” and “not really important.”
The earliest thing I remember about Joy is that she loved Harry Potter, and loved that I loved Harry Potter. (I’ve made quite a few friends over that series.) Kara and I met in a Bible study and an English class, which are both srs business, but we really bonded over random movies and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Bethany and I bonded going to see Win a Date With Tad Hamilton freshman year. Josh and I became Marvel-movie bros. Micah and I became friends watching The Office.
Fandom can also be an expression of love when it’s something you yourself aren’t a fan of, but you go along with it because you recognize that it’s a part of that person and who they are and what they enjoy and value. That takes acceptance of one person and trust in another, and both things are important in relationships of all kinds. When I reach a point where I confess to being a fan of something I’m a little embarrassed about—whether it’s obsessing over a particular actor or enjoying a pop song unironically—and the other person is cool with it, that earns my trust and loyalty big time.
In The Four Loves, in his chapter on Friendship, C.S. Lewis writes, “The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'” He goes on,
That is why those pathetic people who simply “want friends” can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. … There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers.
We can learn a lot about ourselves, our society, our world, and other people through fiction. And being a fan of things that aren’t “real” isn’t shallow or unimportant if it contributes to friendship, to the demonstration of love.
Thinking about all this made me feel better about being a crazy fangirl. Maybe I’m this way not (just) because I’m slightly mad and struggle to cope with reality, but because this is how I best relate to people, a way that I specifically show love.