My name is fangirl; we are legion

Recently, the power of the fangirl has been seen as having potential economic power, especially with the huge opening of New Moon. And regardless of one’s own personal feelings about Twilight , these fans have power in through sheer numbers.

I’m not sure why this is a sudden revelation, but it likely has to do with the more familiar “hiding in plain sight” fangirl of the comics, gaming, sports, music, etc. variety, considering that in *all* of those areas, the stereotypical fan is a dude.

“[Male fans] tare tolerated as “normal people” at Comic-Con while hordes of girl fans [of Twilight] are not.”

Jezebel has an interesting post on this “chicks spend money on entertainment!” phenomenon:

New Moon explodes the myth… that fanboys hold all the power,” Pamela McClintock writes for Variety. … Women buy movie tickets, and we’re interested in great stories with women in the lead roles. And! Fangirls should be taken seriously. As Women & Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein writes for The Huffington Post:

… I’m not trying to say that all women’s films will be as successful as New Moon because that’s silly. These kinds of movies come along rarely cause Hollywood hardly makes them. But this weekend’s number indicate that they should make more of them.

But not all women like gender-specific (or directed) fandoms — and sometimes girls and women are looking for non-sexist, non-racist material regardless of whether there is female representation (as a edit to the Bechdel rule).

But there are often different ways in which women and girls approach fandom, in economic and other ways:

  • What does the crazy fangirl plotline on Supernatural mean?
  • Why is there a wave of hardcore bands with female-centered names with no female members (Daughters, Baroness)?
  • Why does so much of Genghis Tron merch seem appropriate to decorate the room of a small child?
  • Was the way the Doctor decided what happened to Donna an assault?
  • Which reboot, Star Trek or Sherlock Holmes, better lives up to its slash potential?
  • Is the new Powergirl powerful or sexist? Or both?
  • What is the reason there has not been a mainstream popular girl-focused manga/anime series in the U.S. since Sailor Moon?
  • Will wizard rock and twi-rock find mainstream success, considering nu-goth?

And these types of questions are more important in connecting with female fans as a big opening weekend for one movie in a popular book series because (secret here!), the next girl/women-focused movie isn’t going to do as well.There are still plenty of ways of energizing female fans — but figurine washing laundry and contests to ComicCon that don’t allow female fans just aren’t going to cut it in this brave new fandom world.

 

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Wizards and Vampires Singing in Harmony – Wizard Rock, Twi Rock and DIY music.

Like other grown fangirls, I have a recent history of reading fantasy literature book series that I’m too damn old for. (Harry Potter, Twilight)

While not an active fan of either, I’ve certainly followed both series, their subsequent status as a pop culture phenomenon and the resulting psychotic fan activity they’ve both engendered. (I’ll get to that later.) Even before the movie came out (still haven’t seen it, BTW) some media critics were already eager to make Twilight into the next Harry Potter, and the book sales alone offer plenty of hard evidence to base that declaration upon, though it’s clear that Twilight has a long way to go to reach the incredible global influence that Harry Potter has: Stephenie Meyer’s series has,of now, sold 25 million copies worldwide, impressive until you compare J.K. Rowling’s 400 million copies sold worldwide.

Either way, it’s easy to see that both series are bonafide fan phenomenon and even if there is not direct overlap of fan involvement from Harry Potter to Twilight, (though I suspect there is) Twilight fandom activity certain matches the fervor HP fandom. Harry Potter wiki? Meet Twilight Wiki.  Huge semi-academic convention? Oh yeah, they’ve both got it. (Though HP has several.) Delusional fandom acting out in bizarre ways? Settle in and spend some time reading about Twilight and HP fans’ crazy antics. It’s gonna take a loooong time.

But the most interesting shared phenomenon is the trend of garage rock bands being formed by fans of both novels. Harry Potter fandom started the trend with its own brand of Harry Potter inspired music, “wizard rock,” which is a bonafide phenomenon in itself: the genre has spawned  over 200 bands, according the Wizrocklopedia, the genre’s own news blog, an EP of the month club, even a documentary that came out earlier in the year. Harry and the Potters, a pioneering Wrock band, started their own label.

Not too long ago, I learned that Twilight fans have jumped on the rock bandwagon too, Check out the Bella Cullen Project’s YouTube Music video:

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and these dudes, the Mitch Hansen band and their ode to Twilight werewolf Jacob Black:

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I’ve been following the Wizard Rock phenomenon for awhile now because of my interest in music and my own fascination (and admiration) of these bands (mostly kids and teens) who have fashioned their own DIY subculture and microeconomy, selling CD’s, playing alternative spaces like libraries and coffeeshops, building a subgenre and a community from the ground up. Once again, it’s the 1000 true fans idea put into practice.

Once you can get over the fact that its rock based around a children’s book series, and the music is of … er… varying levels of quality, you see that these kids are creating an infrastructure for DIY music production and distribution that rivals what a lot of professional punk and hardcore bands are doing these days. It’s pretty inspirational and something that  even professional bands could take a page from.

There’s a very long history, of course, of filk music, sci-fi and fantasy devotees creating music based on their fannish preoccupations, but the music itself, more often than not, stayed contained within fan communities, Wrock and Twirock bands appear to have bigger goals. These kids are playing out, performing for fairly large audiences, distributing their music to other fans across the globe. Are they professional? Semi-professional? Something in between? Are they threatening the brand integrity of the media that they are helping to promote or do they deserve corporate support for pouring time, energy and cash into what is essentially grassroots promotion of these book series? I doubt most of these kids even think about these issues, they are more concerned with expressing themselves creatively and sharing their efforts with other fans.

Last week, the LA Times published an article about the Twilight Music Girls,  several musicians inspired by Twilight director Catherine Hardwick to write music based on the books.

“It was back in July that we got to meet with Catherine Hardwicke and talk to her about the movie,” [musician Kris] Angelis says. “We were saying that we had been inspired to write songs about ‘Twilight,’ and she said, ‘You should form a group. That would be so much fun.’ So it was Catherine Hardwicke who put the idea in our head. We formed the MySpace page that night.”

I highly doubt we’ll see Warner Brothers or Little, Brown and Co. the respective corporate owners of Harry Potter and Twilight) come out publicly in support or even acknowledgement of Wizard Rock or Twi-Rock, but at least in the case of Twilight, there is some definitely buy-in and support of the fan-inspired music from some of the creative voices behind the series, who see the value of encouraging this fan activity. I have a feeling we’ll see more of this.

True Love Waits?: What happens when OMG OTP Vampire sparkly meets abstinence WSJ editorial

Please, for the love of all fandoms, know of what you write, oh editorial writers who wish to use fannish examples to make your non-fandom points. Is the relationship between a centuries-old undead bloodthirsty killer and a virgin girl who wants to join him in sparkle really an ideal abstinence relationship?

Today’s lesson comes to you from the Wall Street Journal editorial page where Donna Frietas uses Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga as an example of literature that promotes abstinence until marriage.

[Meyer] knows that romantic tension is often better built with anticipation than action. That there is enough excitement in gazes, conversation, proximity and maybe a few stolen kisses to keep young lovers busy for years — if they allow themselves to indulge in this slow kind of seduction.

Ms. Meyer’s fans agree. This vampire love story has captured more than their hearts — it has them demanding that young men behave like gentlemen. And it also has them waxing poetic about what sounds a lot like abstinence.

For those of you who have not completed the series or don’t care about sparkle/intense vampire love, the quick plot summary is: having the main characters be abstinent through the first three books does not prevent the main characters from making lots of other choices you would prefer your children not make (should the opportunity present itself).

Parents: If having your children be abstinent is a goal, no vampire-based work will help you achieve that. Think: Vampires have non-consensual interactions with others because of their (blood)lust! If I was now a teenager, the actual life lessons I would have learned from the Twilight series is to never have children … and not read anything else by Stephenie Meyer.

Let’s just say that the final paragraphs of the editorial hardly touch the bizarre issues in the last book Ms. Meyer has decided to place upon her young impressionable mostlikely future sexually active readers.

As clergy and parents and even a few teachers struggle to make a case for abstinence among the young, it may seem strange and unexpected that Ms. Meyer has served up one of the most compelling and effective arguments for abstinence in mainstream American culture — through a teen vampire romance. It may also be that she is trying to stay true to her faith’s teachings on sex even within her fiction. Regardless, Ms. Meyer has somehow made not having sex seem like the sexiest decision two people can make and has conveyed this effectively to her teenage audience.

Some of her young fans are hoping for a sex scene in “Breaking Dawn,” however. As one girl told me: “I’m looking forward to Bella and Edward getting married so they can have sex.” What a novel idea.

While I previously would have recommended these books for tweens and teens, especially those of the emo persuasion, this book’s extreme switch now puts the whole series into the realm of I don’t want to go there, just read it if you must.