Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Line Must Be Drawn HEYAH!

Hi, I'm Sue. I am more conversational in Klingon than in Spanish. I am not a fangirl, but I am an Anomaly.

Okay, this whole thing started on August 11, when Jen (@Sevryll) tweeted the following:
Got this Google Alert with a heading to an article at the top: "Are You a Fanboy? 19 Signs to Look For". Like it's a disease or something!
The article got some discussion throughout the day on Twitter from the usual crowd, but it got me thinking about the word "fanboy." And - because of the Word Nerds, A Way With Words and Podictionary podcasts - when I think about '"slang" words, I head to UrbanDictionary and Wikipedia to see how words are used, rather than how they're supposed to be used.

UrbanDictionary defines "fanboy" as "a
passionate fan of various elements of geek culture (e.g. sci-fi, comics, Star Wars, video games, anime, hobbits, Magic: The Gathering, etc.), but who lets his passion override social graces." This definition has a very high approval rating - 1180 up, 214 down. For me, the keyword here is "passionate." As for that passion overriding social graces, that's case-by-case in my opinion. And then I pulled up the Wikipedia article on "fan," which states, "Fanboys are often experts on minor details regarding their hobbies, such as continuity in fictional universes, and they take these details extremely seriously."

Okay, well, what about "fangirl"?

Here are three popular definitions of "fangirl" from UrbanDictionary:
*A rabid breed of human female who is obsessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Similar to the breed of fanboy. Fangirls congregate at anime conventions and livejournal. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obesessions. (1146 up, 72 down)
* A female who has overstepped the line between healthy fandom and indecent obsession (663 up, 112 down)
* (derogatory) A female fan, obsessed with something (or someone) to a frightening or sickening degree. Often considered ditzy, annoying and shallow. (308 up, 31 down)

No "passion" there. Only "obsession."

And from Wikipedia:
"Fangirl behavior can vary in intensity. On one end of the scale are those that, while harboring a crush on a particular actor or character, are perfectly capable of understanding that the fulfilment of the crush is never going to happen. On the other end are the girls who are said to be obsessive in their claims on a fictional character, even fighting with other fangirls over who 'owns' the character in question."

I have witnessed the far-end-of-the-spectrum behavior described above, and it's extremely disturbing. I remove myself from that company immediately (usually that company is comprised of girls 13-16 years old, so I didn't want to be there in the first place), whether it be online or in person.

Now, I won't deny that I have a bit of a crush on Dr. Daniel Jackson or that I'm a Picard/Crusher 'shipper. (Yes, there is fanfic in my past. No, you may not read it.) I have met both Patrick Stewart and Gates McFadden, as well as other sci-fi actors, and did not "glomp", "grope", or "tackle." And while a shirtless Michael Shanks might be a nice plus to an episode of SG1, it is not my reason for watching. But most importantly, it seems, I have the ability to recognize fiction as different and separate from reality.

So, why does "fangirl" carry this stigma while "fanboy" has been adopted by the geek community as a term of status? Well, as is too often the case, it seems that the loudest and most extreme subset of a social group, although it may be [and is usually] the smallest, determines how the entire group is perceived. It would be nice if the difference between "fanboy" and "fangirl" was simply a case of gender. Maybe it'll get there some day.

Until then, please don't call me a fangirl.

Anomaly Staff Writer
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kaseycleon said...

Now is that the normal "here" or is it the Picard-ian pronunciation "Heyah?" I loved this post. Reflected some of my own sentiments regarding the subject.

spaltor said...

Definitely "heyah." Always "heyah." Should I change it? ;)

And thanks!

Jen said...

Most certainly: "it must be drawn HEYAH!" Great article, Sue. No, you are not an fangirl... you are an "Anomaly".

Gerald said...

Before I read this article I never considered the word fanboy to be gender specific. Honestly, I didn't, If you ask Jen she can vouch for me I'm very oblivious in my day to day life when it comes to some things. I always thought "fanboy" was used like "guys", You know? Even though it implies men it's still used no matter the gender. Maybe it's just me. I will write this... I like your post.

Oh, and thanks Kaseycleon. I didn't know how "Heyah" was pronounced. I thought everyone was a fan of The Blackeyed Peas or something!?! (shake it like a polaroid camera!)

Later Guys ;)

cosmonaut said...

Thank you for your article, I never thought about this, I heard the term only as self-description, never derogative. Most seem only embarrassed to loose their cool when meeting the subject of devotion.

But this different use of fanboy/girl fits the men=rational, women=emotional pattern. That's why Picard has command and Troi has headaches. :(

There seem to be some misconceptions and stereotyping, I don't see why fanboy/fangirl should not only be a case of gender.

BUT wikipedia is not set in stone, and the people writing about the subject might not be very experienced with the topic. Please go there and do some editing, the article on wikipedia seems biased! :)

wraith1701 said...

Hello Sue, and Q'pla!

I enjoyed the entry; nice job. I have to say though; I never considered 'fangirl' or 'fanboy' to be derogatory terms. It sucks that sites like Urban Dictionary describe them as such, but after browsing through other postings on the site, I've realized that it must be written by 13 year olds.

My policy is, if some stunted kid wants to try and make the terms into insults, eff 'em.

Sue said...

I know UB and Wiki are community edited, and while that editing is often done by the younger community, I've also reference them because of the specific nature of slang terms. I listen to a LOT (probably too many) of etymology programs, and all reference these same sources. They say that while the definitions are not always written as they would be in the OED, the sentiment is generally accurate.

As for the derogatory nature... well, it's not so much associated with "fanboy" any more. It is very much associated with "fangirl." And, no offense to the gentlemen reading, but you probably didn't notice it because you haven't been referred to as such. ;)

Gerald ;P said...

Ah, crap... she's right! We wouldn't know, I've never been referred to as a "fangirl." (At least not to my face ;). If I could only spell touché! Yes! Thank u spell check and once again great job Sue!