Thursday, June 25, 2015

My Daughter is "Fan-girling" Supernatural. I Feel Old

When I was a kid, being a fan meant watching David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman on TV. It also meant getting all of their albums and playing them on an endless loop until our parents took away our record players in self-defense. It meant having posters of our favorite heartthrobs on the wall and swooning over them. It meant joining a "fan-club" and getting 8x11" glossies signed by some poor intern. 

In college, being a fan meant listening with your friends to 8 track tapes in the dorm room while you pretended to be sophisticated drinking Rolling Rock beer(of course we were 21).

The entire landscape of fandom has shifted with the advent of the Internet. I had no idea how much, until my daughter, 14, informed me that she was a "fangirl". I learned that "fan -girling" is a verb describing what we used to call "swooning." Now, fans get to interact with their actor/actress/musician crushes in ways that we never even dreamed of. There's Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Whosay, Tumblr (I still can't figure out why it's spelled wrong) and a whole bunch of other social media sites where fans can view photos, gifs, and fan art, 24/7.

The only way I ever got to interact with my college musician crushes was to play their music or to watch their TV shows, go to concerts, or read fan magazines. Now, my kid can follow their favorite actor, actress or musician on Twitter and read all kinds of pithy comments by them or by their fans. The fans can interact with each other which brings an entirely new aspect of parenting a teenager. Who are these people that she interacts with in these fandoms?

I went on a search and destroy mission to make sure that things were safe in my daughters world. Turns out my daughter is a huge fan of Supernatural, a television show that has been on for 10 seasons and is renewed for an 11th. She was always talking about Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, and Misha Collins. I became obsessed with figuring out what this "fan-girling" was all about and who these people with odd names were.

I started by watching the show. I "binge-watched" it on Netflix and soon found myself completely absorbed by the story. It doesn't hurt that I actually like paranormal stuff. 

My daughter mentioned that there were all kinds of YouTube videos of "cons" (conventions) where the actors were at meet and greet types of activities. I had no idea what a fan convention was until last year when I took my daughter and two of her friends to Con + Alt + Delete here in Chicago. It is an anime convention. I ended up sitting around in the lobby most of the time as I had absolutely no interest in Anime, but I saw that lots of other people did. They came dressed as their favorite Anime characters. This is known in the vernacular as "cosplay." Some of them performed very elaborate dance routines and sang and danced in the lobby. There were professional videographers there recording every second of the "con."

I started watching the Supernatural conventions on You Tube
and soon realized what my daughter found interesting. The actors in this show are real people. They're married, have kids,and talk about their very normal, very funny, lives.  They use their platform as actors to raise awareness and fundraise for causes that they're passionate about-- depression, mental illness, etc.

And then, there's Misha Collins. He's probably the most unique individual I've come across in a long time.

Misha Collins is a goofball. He has a unique and most eccentric point of view. He can go off on the most incredible tangents and keep you laughing. He uses his popularity to rally his fandom to do good.

He  started, a 501C3 company to get people to be nice to each other--to look around them and see who needed something and then to do something about it. It doesn't have to be some gigantic active philanthropy--it can just be picking up trash, or helping out some homeless people, or singing a song to somebody who needs a song sung to them, or reading at the library. Just any act of giving. It's actually kind of cool.

Then there is  GISHWHES. The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. Yet another fun outlet of weirdness meant to rally people together from all walks of life to do strange and odd things like making wedding dresses out of feminine hygiene products. While they're at it they also are raising money for Random Acts.

His latest endeavor was to rappel 17 stories down the side of a building in California in order to raise money for Shatterproof, an organization that is looking to raise awareness about alcohol and drug addiction.

I have to get my kid credit. If she was going to join a fandom, she picked a good one.

I feel less worried, although it is a bit concerning how rabid some of these fans are. I don't think I would want to be a famous celebrity, always looking over my shoulder for the paparazzi or crazed fans. My daughter seems to take her "fan-girling" in stride though. She has informed me that she does not obsess about the actors she admires, and mostly goes out and does things with her friends, like riding bikes, learning how to take the bus around town, and doing her art. 

It's great having a kid with a good head on her shoulders.