That gentleman to your left is Benedict Cumberbatch, an English actor who plays Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s Sherlock series, and he’s at least in part to blame for inspiring this post. I’ve written before about shame in girlish pursuits, and how we’re taught to push down artistic expression as we age to avoid being considered arrogant. I want to look at a similar phenomenon today, one that revolves around fandom and excitement about male bodies and celebrities.
First, a confession. I am active in fandom. That includes fanfiction, the phenomenon that more and more mainstream writers are starting to touch upon, and it also includes good old fashioned squeeing about actors and characters and musicians. These other writers have already covered the importance of fannish community and fanfiction’s power as an outlet for sexual desire, but I want to talk about excitement over male characters and celebrities more broadly, and how misogyny fits in.
A few facts: I’ve been involved in fandom to some extent, mostly secretly, since I was quite young. Through various stages of sexual orientation and gender exploration, I’ve found certain male characters and celebrities attractive. Under a pseudonym, I’ve “squeed” with friends over these characters and celebrities, often for no reason more intellectual than “oh my God look at how well he wears a suit.” When I have let fandom seep into “real life,” I’ve usually tempered the interest by focusing on a more acceptable element of my fannishness, whether that be a literary interest in Tolkien’s works or a geeky sci fi love for Star Trek. I haven’t found that being a fan, in and of itself, is necessarily embarrassing. But the idea of people in my personal and professional life finding out about this girlish “squeeing” was intensely frightening, to the point that as a lesbian-identified college student I assumed that I would have to consider suicide as an option were I found out.
Why so ashamed, you ask?
There are so many things I’ve wanted to blog about – so many! – and regrettably just no time. My last semester of law school is proving no easier than the earlier ones, but fortunately I’ll be done at the end of June and back into the regular-blogging swing. I will try to provide a report on the symposia and conferences I’ve been to recently, as well as other thoughts, soon.
However, on my walk home today I was thinking about obsessions, and it raises an interesting question. Do adolescent obsessions disappear when we grow up? Or do they just fade into something more “mature?”
In my late childhood/early pre-teen years, I was obsessed with that paragon of literary merit known as the Babysitters’ Club. Then around the age of twelve I moved on to the Backstreet Boys, followed by NSync and lesser known boybands. Around fifteen, I shifted out of that (and started liking girls – coincidence?) I had a dearth of obsessions for a little while, which perhaps had something to do with getting better in school, and then at the start of college became obsessed with a local band, some of whose members became friends. They broke up a few years later, and my obsession became Lord of the Rings for a year or two. All of those obsessions came with corresponding friends, and sadly I lost touch with a lot of them as the obsessions themselves faded. However, I do note that the older I get, the more friends seem to stick around.
On my walk, I was trying to see if I could think of any current obsessions. I think you could say that early in law school, food was an obsession, considering how important it was to check my favourite blogs, stay current on recipe-copying, etc. I now have a database of thousands and thousands of recipes thanks to that obsession. Now, though, that’s dwindled a bit. I suppose you could say that I’m obsessed with law school itself, or at least my GPA, which is a little depressing (but would kind of make sense if you consider the lack of obsessions in the part of high school where I was more engaged with learning). You could say that I’m obsessed with feminism or LGBT issues, but that’s also depressing in that I certainly hope those things are lifelong interests, seeing as how I’m planning to make a career out of them. Or maybe it’s reading – I’ve become almost compulsive about trying to finish books, keep track of what I want to read (kind of like the recipes), and read more and more and more.
I’m curious what others’ experiences are, especially those my age (24) and older. Do you still have the kind of obsessions you did when you were a teenager, just more “mature” ones? Do you become obsessed with things like work, school, or family instead? Or do those obsessive tendencies fade over time?