It’s one of the most charged, misinterpreted, reconstructed, and versatile words in pop culture. It describes everyone from the lines at Comic Con to the audience of a One Direction concert; it’s a word that marketing and strategy teams are trying to define , and not to mention the incredibly appropriate title of an excellent Rainbow Rowell novel. “Fangirl” simultaneously describes and rejects everyone, and it’s unclear who should take ownership of the term, or how.
I first diagnosed myself as a fangirl in 2005, when I rapidly became so obsessed with MuggleCast that I imagined myself participating in the podcast, chatting with the hosts, and inevitably becoming one of their best friends and part of the coterie of Harry Potter nerds discussing our fandom on the air every week.
My tiny corner of the internet comprised of fellow MuggleCast fangirls and boys, and together we engaged in the unspoken agreement that it was okay to listen and relisten to a Harry Potter podcast, that it was okay to be fans of fans because whatever we were, we were in it together.
It took less than two years for “fangirl” to change from our badge of honor to our secret shame. In 2008, “fangirl” was an accusation; we spoke it ourselves, voices dripping with disdain, for the people who flocked to podcasters and musicians and people we were cool enough to discover and befriend years earlier.
In 2009, StarKid appeared on the Internet and created an enormous fanbase — but at summer conventions, the lines, crowds, and screams of the fangirls were something to be avoided and afraid of. Beware of the fangirls , we heard and repeated. As if they could do anything to us besides singing, laughing, and crying (with joy) — emoting, how dare they.
I was a huge StarKid fan — quoting AVPM multiple times a day (it simply seeped into my lexicon and has never left) and wanting to work with the creators — but when I heard the term fangirl, I recoiled. That’s not me , I’d think. I’m in college. I’m (allegedly) an adult. I just love their content and think we’d be great friends! That’s not a fangirl…right??
What is the difference between a fan and a fangirl? Why is it so normal, so en vogue these days to be a fan, yet so alien and cautionary to be a fangirl? Why do marketing teams and media outlets describe fans as co-creators, yet seem unable to fathom the inner workings of the mind of a fangirl?
Why is it bad for a fan to express passion like a girl ?
Modern fandom culture is built around the idea that unbridled enthusiasm is both accepted and embraced. Scream as loud as you want. Smile, cheer, cry, geek out , because this place — this convention, this chat room, this website — is a safe space to love the people and things you love without judgment. When fans judge each other, we undermine the entire spirit and foundation of our community.
I refuse to demonize anyone for unabashedly loving something. The things we care about are as much a part of us as people, places, and events. Some people are louder, prouder, more emotional in the way they manifest their enthusiasm — and that’s totally fine . Be proud of what you love — chances are that you’re in good company.