Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Fan-What?

There's a conversation going on over at The Absorbascon about the Justice League, and what power combination a composite super-villain would need to beat them singlehandedly. To me, it's a given that all the villain needs is above average intelligence and the Flash's powers. You see, I've thought a lot about this. I've argued it in the LCS. I've used this to make a good case for why any one of Flash's seemingly incompetent Rogues' Gallery members should be able to wipe the floor with any entire team of heroes sans speedster.

This reminded me of a conversation Kalinara and I had yesterday that has me musing on the term "fangirl" today. It's a linguistic issue, mainly. In theory, Fanboy and Fangirl are simply gendered terms to differentiate a male fan and a female fan. In practical use, they have not only a different gender but an entirely different meaning.

Internerd Fan-Fiction is believed to be dominated by women. Particularly Slash Gay Fanfic (but really, how could we tell?). It's also widely accepted that Manga is more popular among female readers. There's enough of a stereotype that combines the definition of traditional femininity, the connotation of "girl" and the idiosyncrasies of fandom to get a very clear picture from the word. It conjures an image of blonde pigtails, a Sailor Moon costume, an armful of pink-covered Manga books and a notebook filled with ruminations on the romantic entanglements of dark, moody, brooding male characters. She's excited by the idea of two gay men not because it affords the opportunity to appreciate the male form, but instead because it showcases two males in a loving, caring relationship. Oh, and she can't get enough of The Angst, it has to do with all those afternoon soap operas she watched with Mama.

There's a mood associated with Fangirl, just as there is a mood associated with Fanboy. The mood associated with Fanboys is that of dimly lit comic book stores, with a table set aside for the Saturday Night D&D game, dark blue/black T-shirts with superhero logos/smartass phrases ("C:/DOS C:/DOS/RUN RUN/DOS/RUN"), an argument about whether the Hulk or Superman would win in a fight, wacky crossover ideas, lifesize cardboard cutouts of Lara Croft, and round the clock internet access. Gay or Straight, he wants to cut the Angst and get on with the Action, he feels the best reason for cheesecake and sexually explicit scenes is the titillating view it offers, and he just giggled at the first syllable in the word "titillating."

Fanboy is a "Blue" term, as in "Blue is for Boys." Whereas, Fangirl is a "Pink" term, as in "Pink is for Girls." There is nothing inherently wrong with blue or pink. Both are fine colors, moods, acceptable lifestyles. But these colors represent traditional gender roles. The pink term of Fangirl embraces traditionally feminine traits like emotional/romantic thinking, pastel colors, cutesy things, and an audible high-pitched squeal associated with hearing about an opportunity to meet David Cassidy. The blue term of Fanboy embraces traditionally masculine traits like logical/statistical thinking, primary colors, blood and gore, and manly grunting/deep voiced "oh yeah"s.

I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the term "Fangirl" -- mainly because I'm not fitting the stereotyped role very well. I'm not a big fan of angst. Not the long drawn out kind. One story of angst, okay, but on the whole I prefer to cut it short and get with the action. I've never been able to get into Manga. As fun as it is to make jokes about homoerotic content in the actual comic, I'd prefer not to read or write an entire fanfic about the encounter. I cheered on Obsidian's coming out partially because it offered a chance to see him in bed with a particularly handsome backup character, but mostly because it put an end to the Constant Angst that was Todd Rice's Personality. A lot of crap can be blamed on repression in this case.

Basically, I, and most of the fans I associate with (of either gender) are a mixture of both types, but leaning towards the "Fanboy."

And none of this occurred to me until yesterday, when we crossed the line. As usual, we were discussing Green Lantern. I'm not sure why the idea came about, but it did, and I asked Kalinara would would win if Guy Gardner (as Warrior, who was basically a shapeshifting Superman with energy blasts) fought Kyle Rayner (as Ion -- not the omnipotent version, but the upcoming somewhat-more-powerful-than-a-Lantern version). I said Kyle and she said Guy. We then proceeded to lay out the circumstances of battle, and hammer out a chart which stated who would win under what conditions, after discussing the planning and combat abilities of each characters.

During the entire conversation, we never once discussed whether they would kiss, or feel bad about the battle afterwards, or even if their clothes would be torn off. Once we'd ironed out the winner in each circumstance, Kalinara remarked that we'd given up female status on this one. I laughed then.

Unfortunately, it's not so funny when you think about it.

17 comments:

  1. Hmm, does that mean you want to rename WFA?

    Sorry, I'll comment with more substance after my brain's recovered from the swiss cheesing caused by this darn report...

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  2. Interesting. This may be generational. When I was very active with Friends of Lulu and hitting the conventions pretty heavily, many of us thought of ourselves as "fangirls" (or even "semipro-girls") because we were basically women who liked to read comics. In truth we were much more "fanwomen" then "fangirls" but we accepted the equivalency thing even though, by and large, fangirls did seem rather more mature in terms of social skills than fanboys. It's interesting how it's changed in the last decade! I kind of think of today's fangirls as "chibi fangirls." :)

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  3. Just shows the general uselessness of gendered descriptors, I guess. The problem is, though, that you can't really just refer to everybody as "fan" as a gender-neutral descriptor because the denotative meaning would just default to what we call a fanboy now, in the way that supposedly gender-neutral terms always default to the male. But you can't really replace it with something else like "enthusiast" or anything, because it just comes off as a euphemism for fanboy, and nobody likes a euphemism.

    I guess until a better term comes along, I'm just "into comics."

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  4. what the hell is Slash Gay Fanfic?

    do i really want to know?

    does it involve Guns 'n' Roses? or is it a different kind of Slash?

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  5. I have as much Manga as I do Comics.

    I'm not a real fan of the Angst though. More of a romance reader myself.

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  6. Slash is fan fiction in which two male characters have a romantic or sexual relationship. The word refers to to the symbol between their names--I think the original was Kirk/Spock. Lately it's being generalized to any combination of genders, which is why people sometimes emphasize the "gay" part.

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  7. I love that, nine times out of ten, if I comment on the Absorbacon, the thread just dies.

    ...oh, right, gender descriptors. How do you feel about "girl drinks"? Because I'll pound about forty of anything with a wee little umbrella in it, connotation be damned.

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  8. I still like Geek....

    Its fun for boys or girls

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  9. I say we replace the terms with "fanbrat", "fantwit",
    "FANatic" and "FANtastically involved".

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  10. So who won? Kyle or Guy?

    ummm, oh yeah. Geek works for me too.

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  11. Fangirl-- I embrace it like I do geek, nerd, and other terms that could be used in a deragatory way, but if you call yourself them first...you own it.
    Considering at the con I can be a fangirl, and not the alternative for women, a booth bitch...Your everloving redhead fangirl here.

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  12. This is a conundrum. I'm definitely there with you in the Guy vs. Kyle thing... my usual reaction to "fanboy" nonsense like gore and horror and blood and stuff is "Ew" but that's also my response to "My Pretty Pony" and "Sailor Moon"...

    And I loves me some "Conan" but don't own a sword and wouldn't wave it around if I did...

    Wasn't Shiva also the "Creator of worlds"? I fear that is too oft forgotten of late, which is sad. Sci fi of late seems to focus on the blow up real gud, instead of the fragile and precious idea.

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  13. Uh, no, Brahma was the creator, Krishna was the protector, Shiva (a guy) was the destroyer.

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  14. And all are but aspects of Brahman...

    "Without any origin or end, Mahadeva (The Great God) Shiva is the supreme Creator of all. The three eyed Lord, Shiva is known by a thousand name and is worshiped in bodied, bodiless, Aum-kar and Linga forms. Mahadeva is full of mysteries. All the great saints, devotees, philosophers, teachers, preachers, yogis and even Gods failed to unveil all about him. In his popular aspect, Rudra is a member of triad, along with Brahma and Vishnu. This Triad form the top most group that controls all the aspects of the universe. But in truth, Shiva is the supreme creator of all – even the Triad."

    "To Create the Universe, Lord Shiva separated his power (Shakti) from himself. Shiva represents the Masculine power, while Shakti the feminine. Since both masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) are part of him, shiva is known as Ardh-Nar-Nari-shwar (God who his half male and half female)."

    The point being, indeed, why the continual artificial separation of male (post-Mahadeva Shiva)/female (post-Mahadeva Shakti). Not to argue the finer points of literal interpretation. Can't we move beyond the surface of gender and perceive the sameness rather than dwelling upon the outward difference--which is what I seem to think the Hermit Queen's essay was attempting to touch upon?

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  15. Batman's brain and Flash's body?

    Good, but I'd rather see Superman's disembodied head! All heat vision and super breath... Man, pretty much my dream job for life would be to write 1960s Justice League comics. There's also this one about the Door-Men, who can use Wonder Woman's body to enter any round room...

    But anyway. A terminology argument. I'd say you can either ignore the term "fangirl" or work on redefining it.

    I'd opt for option A cause I'm lazy, and I'm way to scripting this story where Wonder Woman and the Atom find these aliens who are actually the living consciousness of Martian Cities...


    (Word Verification: Roahr. badass.)

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  16. I'm taking back "fangirl"! Fangirl 4 Life!

    I dunno, this is one of those things where I encourage people who'd dub themselves "equalist" to just go ahead and use "feminist" and let their opinions speak for themselves. Go ahead and use "fangirl" and let people sort you out.

    Or maybe I just have this urge to type "fanboi". I know. What.

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  17. As someone coming to this party about four years late, I have to say: I have never seen "fangirl" or "fanboy" defined the way you did. Usually, I've seen a modifier in front of them, like the name of a character or series or author or genre or occasionally celebrity. I've never seen them used to denote a fan of comics like that. For that, I've seen "comic-geek." The connotations of "fangirl" you described brings to mind the terms "otaku"(a gender-neutral term) "cosplayer", and "yaoi fangirl"(not as common a phenomenon as many seem to believe. really.) to me, but I grew up in a very geek-friendly environment with a great deal of exposure to anime fan-dom (what can I say? I worked at a con for two years. and lots of guys like manga and lots of girls like the manga that's aimed at guys and contains more explosions than angst). The image you described as "fanboy" I would put "comics" in front and also would describe as "D&D geek" or probably just geek in general. I've been in the anime, manga, and Star Wars fandoms for most of my life and really never use certain terms without modifiers because they're too broad in meaning.

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