Archive for fandom

Oh, The Irony!

Posted in 2012 with tags , , , , , on April 9, 2012 by Kristen

Someday, I will shut up about The Hunger Games already. But unfortunately for you (or fortunately, I guess, if you’re as obsessive as me), today is not that day. Them’s the breaks, kids!

I’ve been re-reading the books lately (almost done with Mockingjay, and all I can say is what I said the first time I read it–why, Collins, WHY? Why must you rip out my heart and stomp on it repeatedly? Honestly. It’s as though you enjoy it.), planning for a second viewing of the movie, and just generally tossing the story about in my head far more than is probably healthy. And it’s gotten me to thinking about an aspect of the books that only recent events could have brought to light.

I wonder if Suzanne Collins had any inkling of the potential for irony that she was letting out into the world when she wrote the stories.

I am clearly not the only person to think of this, but to my credit, I did notice before anyone else pointed it out to me, so I’m claiming that as a personal victory. In any case, as I’ve watched people debate this particularly interesting and potentially cringe-worthy topic, I’ve realized a couple of things. The first is that yes, the fact that there was a movie made of a book that describes people watching children kill each other for the spectacle of it is in fact borderline creepy in its irony and mind-boggling in its meta-ness, no matter how much I love said movie (which is way too much). And the fact that not a few movie-goers went to the film dressed up as Capitol citizens…well, I haven’t allowed myself to contemplate that one for very long.

The second truth is that, while the movie does have a truly noble deeper message that, in my opinion, was artfully and compellingly communicated, that meaning is bound to be lost on more people than I care to think about. They’ll be caught up in the pretty colors and intense action scenes, instead of looking beyond them to comprehend the real point of the movie, which is the place that all that fancy stuff is meant to lead them to. They’ll throw themselves into the fandom with reckless abandon, never dreaming that they are, in a chilling way, proving Collins right about the herd mentality and moral disregard that humans so often fall into. Sigh.

Incidentally, things like this are brought further into the light when I see advertisements for things like Katniss Barbie dolls. Granted, I think Barbies are pretty cool in general, and my inner child is always trying to get me to take a walk down the shiny, shiny toy aisle to look at them (I have now destroyed my street cred for all time. Thank you, thank you very much.), but there are limits to this sentiment. Most of the HG merchandise has been tasteful, I suppose, but there’s something very weird about making a doll out of a character who, for most of the series she inhabits, is trying to NOT be treated like a plaything by the powers that be. The dolls are probably meant to be collector’s items that sit on a shelf, never to leave their box, but…wait, that might be even worse. Either way, there’s a subtle creepiness about the whole affair that just hits a little too close to home for book fans, and I can’t reconcile myself to it.

So basically, these matters serve to highlight the fact that there’s some issues surrounding The Hunger Games that just don’t come up for most (or maybe even any) other franchise series. First and foremost, the series is a biting critique of modern commercialism and sensationalism–maybe even more so than a cautionary tale about a government that grew too big, though that aspect is absolutely crucial as well. By definition, any attempt to capitalize on a series like that is going to feel wildly ironic, even a little gross in some cases, even though that was almost certainly not the intention of those doing the capitalizing. In short, it goes against the very nature of what the books communicate. Any attempt on the part of retailers and fans to engage in the series, like selling replicas or making movies or dressing up like the characters, risks stepping over the hair-thin line between the desire to express one’s love for some great works of art and becoming the very embodiment of exactly what these stories are trying to satirize. Cue shudders.

So am I saying that no one should buy HG merchandise or cosplay as their favorite character? No, I don’t think so. I’ve done both, to a certain extent, so I’d be in a poor position to make such an overzealous claim. I do think there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, though. In doing so, you assume a responsibility that you don’t take on with any other fandom (that I can think of, at least). As I have said before, though not in so many words, just be sure that you aren’t getting caught up in the hype and the glitz just for the sake of it. As long as you know exactly what you’re doing by engaging in the fandom in the myriad ways it’s possible to do so, it’s a pretty harmless activity, and can even be a way to show that you’re on board with the important things that the stories are trying to communicate. And to that, I say simply: Right on.

Your turn! What are your thoughts on this? I’m sure I haven’t covered everything. So do you agree with me? Think I’m way off base or making too big a deal of this? Have something important to add that I missed? Bring it on!

TTD Number Three

Posted in 2012 with tags , , , , on April 2, 2012 by Kristen

It’s time for another TTD, brought to you by a very cheesy rhyming title. Yay! Here ’tis:

At the risk of further revealing how shallow and narcissistic I am, I just have to say this–one of the things I miss the most about not living near any of my friends is that, when I discover something cool (book, movie, music, place, blah blah blah), I don’t get to geek out with them about it. I can do that over Facebook, sure, but there’s nothing quite like doing the whole “Look at this awesomeness! Just look at it!!” bit in person, or going on and on about the virtues of a particular thing only to conclude that there are just no adequate words, or to engage in what my friend Caleb calls a “kicky-leg moment” (if you are female and have ever watched a swoon-worthy movie, you know what I’m talking about).

I can talk about these things with my parents, because they are gracious, wonderful, patient people, and seem to be amused by my childish antics. But I’m telling you, it’s just not the same. So I exist in a near-constant of geeky energy, with no satisfactory place to expend it (fan art helps, but it’s still like having an itch I can’t quite scratch). Which is simultaneously glorious and slightly painful, and doesn’t help my tendency to be a space-case.

Oh, well. Yet another unexpected facet of the strangeness of adulthood. At least for me. I doubt any of the rest of you have this problem. But I never did claim to be 100% sane, now did I?

Part of That World

Posted in 2012 with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2012 by Kristen

Fandom is a pretty weird thing, when you think about it.

At least, it seems to be in my case. With the recent release of the Hunger Games movie (and the fact that it seems to have currently hijacked my life. Ha…see what I did there? Talk about nerding out), this is naturally something I’ve been thinking about a lot, as those old, familiar feelings and motivations that accompany each new thing I’m crazy about have returned in full force.

You see, whenever I really like something, be it a movie, a book, a place, or any other fan-able thing, I’m never content to just simply like it, as any normal person might do. No, indeed. I quickly acquire a desperate need to be a part of it in some way. I turn into a ravenous fan who has an innate need to geek out over every little thing, to let the item in question occupy my thoughts for far too long, to fantasize about being an extra in the movie/living inside the book/moving to the place, to creep on the actors and actresses (let’s face it; mostly actors) via internet (and to try not to think of the horrific awkwardness that would ensue if I were to ever meet them in person, much as I’d like to), to make ill-fated attempts at auditioning for plays in order to be like the actors I so admire, to buy the merchandise, to draw fan art like crazy (this one is productive, at least). It’s a little scary sometimes.

So why do I do it? Is it because I prefer the various alternate worlds of the fandoms in question over simple, cold reality? Um, duh. But it’s more than that, I think. A combination of things, really. It’s appreciation for something beautiful and intelligently made. It’s the unshakable envy that comes from wishing I’d thought of something so great. It’s wishing that I could jump into the skin of the characters and somehow become as wonderful and amazing as they are, especially when I am feeling as though I am neither (which is all too often, I fear). And in the best of times, it’s using that fanatical energy to spur me toward making stories of my own.

It’s the same sorts of things that I imagine incite sports fans to indulge in their own brand of craziness. I’ll try to be as quick as I can with this metaphor, because come on. Sports are gross, you guys (no offense to those of you who have been blessed with more athletic ability than me–i.e., any at all–and who consequently aren’t bitter toward the mere mention of sports…). As incomprehensible as I find sports fans to be most of the time, I have recognized a peculiar kinship with them. I mean, when it comes down to it, we’re doing the same thing. They yell about great plays and bad calls; I go nuts over brilliantly executed/meaningful moments and get inordinately angry over inconsistencies. They memorize the players’ stats; I watch special features and read fun facts. They buy jerseys and caps; I buy posters and (usually subtle) replica jewelry. And on it goes. It’s the same desire to be part of something that we will never be able to do more than piggyback onto; it’s just manifested in different ways.

So where am I going with all this? Well, I suppose that in the midst of these musings, I’ve thought about the idea that humans everywhere have a need to be part of something wonderful and big and exciting outlandish, whatever form that may take. Reality is nice and all, but there comes a point when it’s not enough. It’s at that point that an undefinable longing comes, making us think that there’s got to be something more out there that we must strive to find. That point comes sooner for me than most people, perhaps, but its essence is no different.

So is fandom useful? I don’t know. It would certainly be a much more boring world without it. And maybe it comes down to the fact that we can’t understand real things for what they truly are until they are explained to us through the filter of a created work or the life of another person, or even just a simple game. Perhaps it’s that hunger for truth, for a new way of thinking and understanding the world, that keeps us ceaselessly trying to escape into fantasy. And while some of us may go about it more shamelessly than others (ahem…), it’s a vital part of who we are, colorful and crazy and over-dramatic as it often is. So revel in it, friends. You better believe I’m going to. And just maybe we’ll pick up something lasting and valuable along the way.