Category Archives: Fangirl Life

Alive or Dead, the Truth Won’t Rest: A Letter to Georgia Mason

In honor of Galentine’s Day this year, Katie reopened submissions for The Fan Mail Project and reminded us how important it is for us to use our voice and talk about the qualities and values that matter to us. That it’s important for us to tell our stories. So I thought it was time for me to share another one of my own letters, this time to a fictional character I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The Newsflesh series is one of the pieces of fiction that make up the foundation of who I am and who I want to be and Georgia is a big part of that. And while this letter is addressed to George, I also have to thank Seanan McGuire for every word she’s written in this universe. It has meant the world to me.

If you have a fictional character who has shaped your life, I once again ask you to consider participating in this incredible project. Writing these letters is an emotional experience but so worth it.

Dear George,

More than ever, I wish you were real. I wish After the End Times were real. We may not have zombies for Shawn to poke but we need your commitment to truth and inability to stay quiet about the things that are most important. We need your tendency to dig until you get to the root of a story and your ability to make people care. We need your reminder to rise up while we can.

Thank you for valuing truth. The very concept of “post-truth” or “alternative facts” that we seem to be stuck with right now would infuriate you. But it would also motivate you to push harder and to investigate deeper. You’ve never been content to accept the world as others present it to you and I admire that. You’re always looking for the facts independent of the story, not only for yourself, but so you can give them to your readers. You believe that people are smart enough to interpret facts for themselves so long as they are given access. In that, you may be a little idealistic, but I think it comes out of underestimating what makes you extraordinary.

Prioritizing truth the way you do is hard. It’s uncomfortable when the truth isn’t what we’ve been led to believe. It means constantly addressing those underlying beliefs we’re not even aware we possess and reevaluating them in the face of new information. It takes a lot of mental strength to be able to do it at all, let alone to live your life based on that principal. You aren’t scared by the hard truths because you know that it is only in them that we can truly be free and be better than we were. You embrace that discomfort because you recognize that it often means your information is just a little better than it was before and that is always your end goal.

Continue reading Alive or Dead, the Truth Won’t Rest: A Letter to Georgia Mason

A Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow

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It seems almost cliche to say this, but Disney World is a place full of magic. Whether it was the feeling of flying through Agrabah on a magic carpet in Mickey’s Philharmagic, watching Elsa cover Cinderella’s Castle in ice and snow, or the sight of snow falling over Main Street during the Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, you can’t help but be enchanted by everything around you. But in addition to the magic, it is a place of hope and awe.

If I am remembering correctly, the Carousel of Progress was the 3rd attraction we went on in Disney World and since then, There’s a Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow has been stuck in my head. My friends and I left for Disney World the day after the election. It did not feel like there was any sort of good tomorrow in our future. People were hurting and scared and everything felt very uncertain. But despite all that, I couldn’t help but be moved by the wonder and optimism found in both the song and the attraction. Our technological progress over the years is undeniable (though we’re still not talking to our ovens, thankfully) and it has shaped and changed our lives in countless ways.

Continue reading A Great Big, Beautiful Tomorrow

Let Yourself Be Seen: Vulnerability and Fandom

Navigating fandom is a vulnerable experience, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. We become attached to characters, relationships, and shows because they resonate with us in someway. Sometimes it’s a theme that speaks strongly to us. Other times, a character or relationship provides an example we wish to follow. More often still, at least in my experience, we find a character with whom we are able to relate on some level.

I love this quality of fiction. I love that each person brings their own set of experiences and biases to a work and interprets it in their own unique way. There are certainly overlaps in the way we see things, but no two people will ever see every aspect of fiction in exactly the same way. And that’s exciting! But this quality of fiction that I love so much is also the quality that seems to cause the most hurt.

There are very few people who are naturally comfortable with being vulnerable. It’s an important component to connection but it’s not without risks. Vulnerability opens us up to hurt and that is especially true when we aren’t aware we’re doing it. So when someone views a favorite character in a way that is contrary to our own thoughts, it can make us mad. It can make us want to jump to defend them. I spent a lot of energy in high school arguing with a classmate about Sara Sidle from CSI because I related to her so strongly but wasn’t able to identify or articulate those feelings.

When we jump to anger first instead of introspection, we put up a barrier between ourselves and others to prevent any potential hurt. It’s not inherently a bad reflex. There will always be people who aren’t willing to listen and accept our vulnerability and we never have any obligation to be vulnerable around such people. We don’t have to open ourselves up to people who only intend to criticize or dismiss our emotions. But using that same anger as a weapon to strike out against others neither serves our own personal growth nor contributes to the fandom experience, for ourselves or others. It creates a cycle of attack and defense that quickly leads to a fractured and negative fandom environment. It creates a culture where the act of loving something is seen as an attempt to undermine the feelings of others who disagree at best or an act of hate toward others.

But when we use our emotional reactions as an opportunity to look more closely at ourselves and learn what’s driving that reaction, we are then better equipped to share our insights and a piece of ourselves with positive results. This planned and intentional vulnerability is given the opportunity to lead to something truly beautiful. It is through this shared vulnerability that we are able to form connections that go far deeper than a mutual appreciation for a show or character and lead to profound and long-lasting friendships. Through the filter of our favorite things, we share details about ourselves that we might be hesitant to bring up on our own. We may not talk about the walls we put up to protect ourselves when talking solely about ourselves, but we feel more free to bring it up when talking about the ways Kate Beckett or Emma Swan or Maya Hart inspire us. We don’t always talk about the self-doubt that plagues us despite our best masks, but we can talk about what it meant to us when Raven confided her worries of being broken to Sinclair. Continue reading Let Yourself Be Seen: Vulnerability and Fandom

I Will Remember You: A Look Back on American Idol

As soon as the final season of American Idol was announced, I knew I wanted to write something about the show. This show had an enormous impact on pop culture and gave FOX several years of incredible ratings. It gave them a platform to launch new shows, it inspired several similar competition shows, and while it didn’t make as strong of an impact on the music industry as it may have liked, it did launch the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, and many more. From that perspective alone, the fact that the show is ending is a big deal, even if it doesn’t draw the same attention it used to. But while I love it from a TV history perspective, that not why I needed to write about the show. In fact, the reason I needed to write about it has little to do with the show itself. Instead, in honor of its finale, I want to talk about what one season in particular brought to me as an individual.

It seems that most American Idol fans have one season they love just a little more than the rest. Maybe it was the first they watched. Maybe it was the one in which their favorite won. Maybe it was the one that had the best vocalists. Maybe it was the only one they watched. For me, that season is season 8. It’s not the first I watched (that would be the first season) and honestly, I didn’t even watch all of season 8. But it was the one that will forever be a part of my heart and an important part of my personal history.

As has been the case of most of the media I hold close to my heart, season 8 of American Idol came to me at the start of a transitional time in my life. I was getting ready to start the process of applying to graduate school and deciding whether I wanted to pursue psychology or pop culture studies. I was in the process of defining my own identity and beliefs distinct from the one that had been taught to me through 13 years of religious schooling. I was still struggling with the loss of a few old friendships and was very hesitant to let new people into my life. Then in blazed Adam Lambert.

My mom has been a fan of the show for as long as it has been airing so I would often hear pieces of songs when I went to get a drink of water or ask her a question. If I’m remembering correctly, I wandered through during Adam’s performance of “Ring of Fire” and I was intrigued by him. Then I happened to be back next week for “Mad World” and I was hooked. If I didn’t see an episode, I asked her how he did. There were other contestants I liked but he was my favorite. While both Kris and Adam had strong final performance nights (except for “No Boundaries”, congratulations AI, you found a song that fit neither of their strengths), my prior love for Adam won out and I voted for a performer for the first time since season one. He didn’t win, but I wasn’t concerned. I’d been aware enough of the show and the success (or lack thereof) of the winners to know that the top 3-4 was usually guaranteed to release at least one album. For any other season and any other time, my interest probably would have stopped there. I might have enjoyed a song on the radio by a contestant and that would be it.

But once again, it was Adam that kept me invested. His Rolling Stone cover got so much press, both the fact that it was the runner-up on the cover and not the winner as well as the admission of his crush on Kris. At some point that summer, I stumbled across a Livejournal post celebrating Adam and Kris’s friendship, which led to a fan community, which led to a year I won’t ever forget. 

Continue reading I Will Remember You: A Look Back on American Idol

I’m An Optimist, Not an Idiot: A Letter to Savannah Monroe

Nine months ago, Katie launched The Fan Mail Project. In honor of today’s deadline for letters, I thought I’d share another one of mine. Today is all about my love for Hellcats’ Savannah and how she reminded me of two influential people in my own life. 

Dear Savannah,

My final two years of cheerleading was bittersweet. Our captain graduated and her loss took much of the energy out of the program. I was still getting to do what I loved but not nearly at the same level or with the same number of people. It dampened a lot of my love for the sport but it’s impossible to be fully rid of something that meant so much to you. It’s been nearly 10 years since I last picked up my pom poms and I’m happy to say that thanks to you, a fuller version of my love of cheerleading has returned.

Thank you for being proud to be a cheerleader. It’s hard for people who aren’t involved in it to truly understand what goes into the competitive side of cheerleading. It’s seen an activity that is performed for the benefit of other people rather than something that pushes you and is personally fulfilling. But you never let that stop you. When others were dismissive, you shined brighter. Cheerleading wasn’t a popular thing to do at my high school. We won the first state championship in my school’s history and no one cared. It’s hard to remain positive about something when the general response is that of apathy or disregard. But we did it anyway. You would have loved my captain, she shared your passion and even came from a similar background as you. It was her who initially sparked my love for the sport by showing me everything it could be and instilling a level of confidence in myself and my abilities I didn’t know I had. It was you who made me reconnect with that girl.

Continue reading I’m An Optimist, Not an Idiot: A Letter to Savannah Monroe

Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang

For those of you who don’t know, my friend Katie (creator of Nerdy Girl Notes) is writing a book! She believes, as I do, in the power of the media to shape us and positively impact our lives. So she created The Fan Mail Project as a way for us as fans to say thank you so some of the fictional characters who have meant the most to our personal development and to highlight all of the good that comes from having diverse, positive examples of female representation in the media. The submission deadline for letters is 3 weeks away, so there is plenty of time to contribute yourself or spread the word. If you need somewhere to start, here’s a few suggestions of characters who aren’t yet represented in the book but are often cited as making a difference. Or if you’d like to see more examples of letters, Katie’s can all be found online as can the contributions of other fans

Dear Cristina,

I’ve always believed that there are some people who come into our lives exactly when we need them. These are the people who fill a piece of your heart and never really leave us. This is who you are to me. I met you a year ago. I was nicely settled in at work, doing a job I enjoy, but am not particularly passionate about. You were a first year resident and already sure you were taking the right path. You were a little off-putting at first, with your confidence and lack of interest in sugarcoating your thoughts. But you quickly revealed a deeper inner life and drive and in you, I found myself.

I didn’t find myself in all of your many positive attributes. I admire your unwavering sense of purpose and your dedication to all things related to cardiothoracic surgery. I cheered at your many successes in the operating room and with your research. But I don’t share that soul-deep certainty that I have found what I want to do with my life. You give me hope that one day I will and that I can approach it with the same tenacity and devotion so thank you for pursuing your dreams without hesitation.

Instead, it’s been in your weaknesses that I am most drawn to you. When you had your ectopic pregnancy and tried to push through like everything was fine, I recognized that impulse. I recognized the need to be strong and not show that you were hurting because in your mind, there was no reason to be. You didn’t want the pregnancy, so you weren’t grieving over a child in the same way you could have been. So life and work continued on and you probably even thought you were fine for a while. But as you and I both know, emotions aren’t that convenient and logical, as much as we wish for them to be at times. When we finally give in and allow ourselves to breakdown, we do it in a big way. Thank you for being so much like me in that moment. Thank you for making me feel less alone in my somewhat ineffective way at handling events and feelings that are beyond my control.

Continue reading Be a Force of Nature: A Letter to Cristina Yang