Fangirl (essay)

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News Media Commentary
Title: Fangirl
Commentator: Elizabeth Minkel
Date(s): January 30, 2014
Venue: online
Fandom: focus on Sherlock (BBC)
External Links: The Millions : Fangirl, Archived version
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Fangirl is a 2014 essay by Elizabeth Minkel. It has a Sherlock (BBC) focus, specifically on season three.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts

This, then, is the B-side. “Diary of a Crazed Fangirl.” That’s reductive, though, and perhaps even a bit sexist. “Diary of a Reasonably Intelligent Adult Woman Driven Slightly Insane by a Television Show She’s Grown Attached To.” Maybe I should just lift the best line from my friend L’s inadvertent chat-poem, and call it, “Sherlock: I Wouldn’t Say It’s Making Me Happy, Per Se.”
This is the story of one person in one fandom, but it’s likely got hints of your story, too, if you’ve ever been involved in this sort of thing. I’d hope that it resonates if you’ve ever really loved something that you haven’t created — the I’d-kill-for-you kind of love of a work of art that inspires others to say things like, “Whoa, whoa, slow down, it’s just a book.” I’ve written about fandom, specifically fanfiction, here before — twice, actually. First, to try to debunk the general “anthropologists discover a wild tribe of porn enthusiasts on the Internet” tone that accompanied approximately 90 percent of the Fifty Shades of Grey coverage that mentioned the series’ origin. Second, to try to debunk the idea that Kindle Worlds, Amazon’s commercially-licensed fanfic project, was anything that literally anyone in fan communities actually wanted.
The three episodes aired over the span of 11 days here in the U.K., each of them pulling in about a third of the British viewing public and millions more abroad, through legal means or otherwise. Moffat wanted an “event,” and he got it, three times over. It felt like every British person on my Twitter feed had a 140-character review. Public opinion appeared to sway wildly from week to week, and newspapers seemed to be hunting for controversy, publishing positive reviews and then countering them with takedown pieces, highlighting the most polarizing voices and muting more nuanced views. They do that with everything these days, you say. They’re just looking for clicks. Yes: we are in agreement! But there is something to be said for placing so much anticipatory weight on a television show: nothing can be all things to all people, and Sherlock felt smothered by the weight of nine million expectations. Tons of people loved it, and were put off by negative criticism; tons of others threw up their hands and said, “This is not what I signed up for. This is not my show.” Others still urged people to calm down: it’s just a TV show after all. But to say this diminishes the importance of storytelling in our lives, in whatever mode. It’s hard not to get invested in stories, and in characters, that we love. That’s what people do.
(It’s worth noting here that a lot of fan communities are most vocally female, and I don’t think that the Sherlock fan community is any exception. It felt like there was a special criticism being leveled at female fans of Sherlock, “silly fangirls,” that sort of thing, dismissed as a group of people who like watching Benedict Cumberbatch ruffle his hair (c’mon guys, this is clearly all humans, ever) or people who welcomed the fair amount of screen time being devoted to character development in these three episodes. Somehow these were female desires being imposed, despite the three men writing the scripts. There’s an analogy in here to modern fiction, in men refusing to read books marked as feminine in some way, that sort of thing, but I can hold onto that one for another day.)
I get invested in this stuff too, certainly; fictional characters from both high and low culture have always occupied prime seats in my mind (palace). In the end, these are just stories, which is what we’re after most of all, I suppose — a way to contextualize our own stories, the ones we tell ourselves to make sense of things. Anything that’s both beloved and serialized has to deal with the disconnect between the stories that its creators want to tell and the stories that fans, from the casual on up to the obsessive, want to see. For me, I suppose it’s like any addiction — I’m so grateful for everything we get, and then, when the dust settles, I just want to see more.