Have you ever stumbled across a book that you didn’t realize would change your life? Has a friend ever recommended a show, and you watch one episode just to check it out, only to find yourself completely hooked? Congratulations: You’ve joined a fandom.
As someone who far prefers fantasy to reality, and who often has deeper feelings for fictional characters than people she has actually met, I cherish my fandoms. I thought this a rather self-indulgent idea for a blog post, but as Joy said, what are blogs for, if not self-indulgence? Besides, it might help introduce someone to new/new-to-them entertainment, and I live for that kind of stuff.
This is far from an exhaustive list of the fandoms and obsessions I have collected over the years. But it is in chronological order. I’ve chosen the ones that were either 1.) the most coincidental, 2.) the longest-lasting, or 3.) the most recent.
1. Alfred Hitchcock
Some readers may not realize I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock, because it’s a more “inactive” fandom for me right now. After all, it’s not like he’s still making new movies. But I was obsessed with his films in middle school, I own a few books about him, and I will still enthusiastically participate in a discussion or viewing. He’s also at least partly responsible for my obsession with villains. It all began when I was about 8-9 years old. My dad said, “We’re going to watch The Birds.” I said, “OK.” Two hours later, I was fully traumatized. Yet somehow I still loved the movie, and I watched it repeatedly, followed by Rebecca, Rear Window, and more.
This one has a hazy beginning, but my earliest memory of watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 is being at my cousins’ house when they were watching it. I thought it was hilarious, even though I was about 9 and didn’t get all the jokes. This was when the show was still airing new episodes on Comedy Central, so I found out when it was on, and I would watch it on Saturday mornings (I think…it seemed to be Saturday mornings, anyway).
The basic premise of MST3K is: A man is trapped in a satellite in space and forced to watch terrible movies by a mad scientist who is seeking global domination. The scientist hopes to find the ultimate bad movie to break the wills of everyone on the planet. Fortunately, the man survives these experiences by mocking the movies with two robot friends, Crow and Tom Servo.
The shorter version: A few guys make hilarious commentary while watching bad movies.
I introduced high-school friends to the Posture Pals. The obsession only gained momentum in college, when I got a lot of the DVDs for Christmas, I introduced many new friends to MST3K, and befriended others who already loved the show. It’s been off the air for 15 years, but at least we have Rifftrax now, by some of the same guys.
3. Phantom of the Opera
I have my dad to thank for this one, too. I was 11, and we were going on a trip to Toronto. My dad said, “We’re going to see Phantom of the Opera.” I knew absolutely nothing about it, but I said “OK.”
I loved it, and saw it again. And again. And again. I memorized the soundtrack, I learned the songs on the piano, I read the novel, I read Susan Kay’s Phantom, I waited anxiously for the film version, I wrote fanfiction, and I watched all of the Phantom Reviewer‘s videos. If not for Phantom, I might not have published a novel yet. Writing the fanfic and posting it publicly helped me develop my creative writing and learn to deal better with criticism (positive and negative). Although I’m not a fan of their other stuff, I still owe a lot to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gaston Leroux.
4. Harry Potter
Harry Potter mania was in full swing the summer of 2000, when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out. During a trip to Borders (RIP), I literally thought, “I guess I’ll see what all the fuss is about,” and bought a paperback version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was hooked (before I was even an anglophile!) and devoured the next four books. Then I waited … and read … and waited … and read … and waited … and waited … and read.
I made and deepened a lot of friendships over Harry Potter. The books, with their magic and increasingly dark tones, also helped ease some of the more unnecessarily uptight aspects of my Christian faith. The movies introduced me to some of my favorite British actors. Thank you, J.K. Rowling. Now please, shut up about who Hermione should have married and let’s all move on.
5. North and South/Elizabeth Gaskell
“Emily, you’ll love it! The hero is a die-hard capitalist and he has a great nose!”
That was the first thing I ever heard about the BBC miniseries of North and South, and it did not disappoint. The story, which combined romance with British economic history, was exactly my kind of thing. And yes, the male romantic interest, Mr. Thornton, is a die-hard capitalist with a great nose. (I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about my thing for noses on this blog, but I notice men’s noses the way other women notice the color of their hair, and I have specific “types” that I like most.) Mr. T didn’t make a good impression in his first scene, but after four hours, I was completely in love. I didn’t know about Myers-Briggs personality types at the time, and so I didn’t know that Mr. T and I were both INTJs. I would like to say that he was my first INTJ fictional crush, but I think Mr. Darcy and Dr. House got there before him.
6. Downton Abbey
I’m not a fan of Downton Abbey anymore, really. I still LOVE Season One, but every season after that just gets progressively worse, and I stopped watching it after season 2. Then I found out they killed my favorite characters, and…well, what was the point? But I had to list it because I was obsessed, and because of how I found out about it.
One of my favorite British history blogs mentioned a miniseries that was airing on Masterpiece Theatre, and I decided to watch the first episode online. I don’t remember what that miniseries was called, because I didn’t care for it. While I was on the website, though, I came across the first couple of episodes of Downton Abbey. I was obsessed with all things Titanic when I was 12-13, because I was a target demographic for the movie AND I love history and nautical things. So when I read the premise of DA, I got sucked right in. I loved it. I told other people about it and got them hooked. And, because it was a British production, I recognized two or three actors within the first five minutes.
(Kara and I like to play what we call “The IMDB Game,” where you watch a movie and go, “Where have I seen that actor before?” The challenge is to remember where else you’ve seen him/her before the movie ends and you have to go on IMDB.com.)
Ohhhh, boy, where do I even start with this one? The movie has been out for almost 2 years now, and this obsession is still going strong. It began with Captain America. Actually, it began earlier than that, but CA is what I’m going with. I saw CA because I have a soft spot for Chris Evans, and because Richard Armitage (who plays Mr. Thornton in N&S) has a tiny role in it. So I saw Avengers because of Cap, but when the end credits were rolling, I turned to Bethany and said, “I thought Loki was hot.”
Then I went home and played the IMDB game. I learned 1. Tom Hiddleston’s name and 2. that he also played F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I thought, “Oh, I should see Midnight in Paris,” I knew that my life was pretty much over.
To be fair, though, The Avengers was witty, engaging, and ridiculously fun, and it also turned me into a fan of Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr., and gave me a greater appreciation of Joss Whedon and Mark Ruffalo.
But seriously, the amount of time I spend on this fandom, and related fandoms, is ridiculous. I may need a support group. Please send help.
8. C.S. Lewis
There’s little I can say about dear, dear Jack that I haven’t already said in past posts. I bought a collection of his letters published under the title Yours, Jack a couple weeks ago and decided to make it part of my Lenten activities. I’m not sure if it was a good or bad idea. His insight has already been helpful spiritually, as always, but it’s only fueled my fandom insanity. I love him so much. Many times he wrote about struggles that I have had, and he identifies their underlying causes and solutions so clearly, it blows my mind. I want to take all of my Lewis books with me on my road trip, but since that would involve at least 17 separate volumes (if you count my hefty Narnia boxed set and the cosmic trilogy boxed set), it’s proooobably impractical.
9. Game of Thrones
(Or, as Joy called it, Game of Waiting for George R. R. Martin.)
If I lost interest in Downton Abbey for killing off my favorite characters, I can’t explain how I’ve made it through the first two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I’ve never watched the HBO series, and I am really, really, really trying not to. I don’t enjoy watching graphic sex scenes, and I have trouble watching a lot of violence. I prefer to read about it, where I can kind of filter my imagination and decide how much to visualize and how much to leave blank.
With several of my friends watching the series, endless online references, and a whole summer of people freaking out about the Red Wedding, I suppose it was only a matter of time before I went, “Eh, I’ll see what all the fuss is about.” Now I know. Honestly, I was traumatized by the first book, A Game of Thrones. I don’t know if it was my emotional state (hormones?) at the time, or what. I already knew (uh, SPOILER ALERT, I guess) that Ned Stark was going to die, but it still broke my heart because he became my favorite character, despite efforts to stay unattached. (Is he an INTJ? I was wondering, and I think he might be. Someone else can weigh in on this.)
After the first book, I decided I wouldn’t read any more. But I still wanted to know what happens, so I went on Wikipedia to read the synopses of the sequels. I found out that, being very much pro-Stark, I was in for a world of heartbreak. This only traumatized me further. To make matters worse, I finished the first book the day before I had my surgery. The anesthesia screwed with my emotions and my mental state for a while, such that I was still sobbing over Ned and Robb on the way to my two-week follow-up. But a few weeks and a clearer head later, I decided I still wanted to read the rest. So I bought, read, and finished A Clash of Kings, and now I’m waiting for A Storm of Swords to arrive from Amazon.
We’ll see how I feel about reading the rest of them when I’m done with that.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
It took me a while to see Frozen. The movie had been out for months already when I went to see it, and it wasn’t a high priority. I just kept hearing about it online and elsewhere, until I just had to find out … yup … what all the fuss was about.
I loved Frozen, but I don’t really know what to say about it. I already overanalyzed the movie’s villain (sort of). I grew up with Disney, I love musicals, I love snow and winter, and I. Love. Elsa. (Yes, SHE is an INTJ. I’m certain of it.) I love Olaf and Kristoff and Sven, because they are adorable. I haven’t stopped listening to “Let it Go” or “For the First Time In Forever” for weeks. I couldn’t wait for the dollar theater to see it a second time, but I will see it a third and fourth time too. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, it’s touching, it’s cute, it’s dramatic, and it’s surprising.
. . .
And now, some Fandom Honorable Mentions. These are fandoms I can’t completely leave out, but they weren’t quite as coincidentally happened-upon.
— Sense & Sensibility/Jane Austen
My earliest memory of anything Jane Austen is watching the 1995 Sense and Sensibility with one of my stepsisters. It became one of my favorite movies, but the first time I saw it, I hated it. I couldn’t remember names and I lost track of what the heck was going on. All I remembered about it was that “Hugh Grant is in it, and Kate Winslet marries some old guy.” As a die-hard (hurr hurr) Alan Rickman fan, this is hilarious to me NOW.
I watched it again in college, loved it, and read the book, which I love a lot less. Then I took a Brit lit class in which we read Pride and Prejudice, I watched the 1995 miniseries with Colin Firth, and my love for Jane Austen was solidified. Now, I’ve read all her novels except Mansfield Park, which I hated and couldn’t finish, and watched many, many film adaptations.
Unlike many Austen fans, I’ve never been that interested in the author’s real life. Then, in an unfortunate example of breaking the Benedict Cumberbatch rule (Tom Hiddleston is in it for about 5 minutes total), I watched the dreary and dreadful Miss Austen Regrets, and it almost put me off Jane Austen completely.
— Horatio Hornblower
Spring break of my senior year of college (2007), Kara and I went to see the movie Amazing Grace. I was interested because it was my favorite period of history (18th century Britain) and because it centered on the abolition of slavery in Britain and the classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” a favorite topic of my favorite history professor. This was the first time I had watched anything with Ioan Gruffudd, who played the lead role as William Wilberforce. I knew going into AG that Ioan had played Hornblower, but I’d never watched it. Once he became my latest actor crush, however, I watched the whole Horatio Hornblower series, and formed an obsession that inspired my first novel, several blog posts, and my England vacation last year.
Because Benedict Cumberbatch has a small role as Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger in Amazing Grace, I found out about him the same time as I found out about Ioan Gruffudd. (And said, “Benedict Cumberbatch? What a great name!!“) With fewer credits under his belt, there was less of an opportunity to form an obsession, but I did manage to watch some more stuff. I claim major hipster points for knowing about his talent before he was cool. I wasn’t a huge fan, though, until Kara informed me that he was going to be in Sherlock. I’ve never been a fan of mysteries or crime-drama, though I do like some Agatha Christie and I was a fan of CSI: Miami for a few seasons. I’d also never read any original Holmes stories (and still haven’t). So Sherlock went on my “things to watch” list, but I didn’t watch the first series until I was sick of hearing how great it was from everyone else on the planet. (I had also seen and loved Martin Freeman and Rupert Graves in other roles too.) After that, of course, I was hooked.