DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. Despite the clever subtitle, this piece does not constitute legal advice, nor does the reading of this piece create any attorney-client relationship.
Each of us is a fan of something or someone. It’s human nature to admire other people, hobbies, sports, etc. This article is dedicated to a subgroup of fans – those of us who admire celebrities – and it is my hope that you will consider what I have to say, and become a better fangirl than you already are. There’s always room for improvement, right?
The word “fan,” according to Merriam Webster, means “an ardent admirer or enthusiast.” The word apparently comes from the word “fanatic,” which according to the same source, means “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” Sound familiar?
Somewhere along the way, the word “fan” stopped being emphatic enough to describe the depth of our devotion, especially to celebrities, and the words “fanboy” and “fangirl” were coined. According to the Urban Dictionary, “fanboy” is used mostly for male gamer geeks, but “fangirl” is used mostly for female geeks who lavish their enthusiasm on actors or fictional characters. For this article, I will use “fangirl” to include all people, regardless of sex or gender identity, who are devoted followers of a celebrity.
I started thinking about how fangirls behave shortly after creating an account on Tumblr and found my people. The object of my current fangirl crush is Jeremy Renner, who has a large following on Tumblr, but I also know fangirls of Tom Hiddleston, his character from The Avengers and related movies Loki, Landon Donovan (midfielder for the LA Galaxy and US Men’s National Soccer Team), and Sam and Dean Winchester of the TV series Supernatural, to name just a few. Fangirls can create a fandom out of anything or anyone. We have also redefined the word “obsession,” as I will explain.
Fangirls use the word “obsession” because frequently the object of our enthusiasm is a ubiquitous, if intangible, presence in our lives. I work out my obsessions by writing original stories using the current object as a mannequin upon which to hang a character. Others paint pictures, write music, or write fanfiction. These obsessions are usually not harmful, especially to the object, because most fangirls understand that the affection, adoration, and dedication involved is a one-way street. The objects of our obsessions are, for the most part, completely oblivious to the hordes of people who adore them. (Tom Hiddleston is a notable exception, as his Twitter account shows.) I think that in general, this is the way it should be. Celebrities need to be able to focus on their work and their private lives, and do not need to be distracted or disturbed by the “intense uncritical devotion” we would like to smother them with.
However, sometimes fangirls can take things too far, presuming on the celebrity’s patience and time. For example, recently when Tom Hiddleston was filming, crowds of people waited outside for him to leave the set. Every day, he would spend as much time as it took to greet them, sign autographs, take pictures, and generally be an awesome person. But did it occur to any of those people that he might be tired and need to go rest before filming again the next day? I don’t know the answer to that. I wasn’t there. But it seems to me that taking Mr. Hiddleston’s attention away from his work may endanger not only his ability to maintain his filming schedule, but also his connection with his fan base. At some point in the future, if his fans keep this up, he will have to choose between work and his fans. He will be forced to withdraw from us, and then what?
An even more extreme example of a celebrity’s unpleasant experience with a fan happened to Jeremy Renner. After rebuffing a fan’s advances, the fan stole his cat. Let me repeat that. The “fan” stole. his. cat. Is it any wonder that Mr. Renner now takes extra measures to keep his private life private?
Which brings me to the whole point of this rambling. The key to being a good fangirl is simple: Remember that the person you love, the one you have long conversations with in your head, the one who may feature in your sexual fantasies – that person does not exist. He (or she) is merely an amalgam of interview snippets, characters, and photographs. The actual person has his own dreams, desires, and ambitions, and they do not include you. Even if you are blessed enough to spend a few minutes in his company and he is polite and charming (I witnessed an act of kindness by Nathan Fillion that ensured that I will be his fan forever), he does not know you. He owes you nothing.
So, here are the very simple rules for being a fangirl:
1. Respect the privacy of the person you adore.
2. Make no demands on his time or his person that he does not initiate. If he does initiate contact, such as an autograph session or appearance at a con, remember not to overtax his good nature.
3. Remember the difference between fantasy and reality.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, but it’s the way both to keep your own sanity and not end up on the wrong side of a restraining order.