Category Archives: Fangirling

Processing Fictional Trauma: Ship Wars Edition

MASSIVE ARROW SPOILERS THROUGH 4×17

I’ve written a few articles now which focus on processing fictional trauma, and all of them have tended to focus on fandom reaction to a certain episode of Arrow/Legends/Flash. It’s usually new content that brings out the emotional challenges within our characters that we as a fandom have to work through and process within and amongst ourselves. This week, however, I think it’s time to focus some attention on the elephant in the Arrow room that seems to grow bigger and nastier every day: The Olicity v. Lauriver ship wars.

OFL

Shipping, while a newer term for this digital age, is something that has existed for as long as television has. Romantic tension and the will-they-won’t-they of main characters is one of the foundations on which plotlines and sometimes entire television shows are built. Sometimes it’s waiting for the seemingly inevitable two main characters to get together (Lois/Clark, Ross/Rachel, Chuck/Sarah), sometimes it’s a love triangle (Katniss/Peeta/Gale, Robin/Ted/Barney, Sookie/Bill/Eric), and sometimes it’s a bit more wibbly wobbly (Doctor/Rose/River, Dean/Castiel, Han/Luke/Leia). But no matter which way you look at it, shipping is the driving force between many, many shows throughout television and movie history.

So what makes the Arrow fandom stand out when it comes to shipping? There’s the (ridiculously) handsome and brooding hero, and a slew of strong, independent, bad ass women (and more than a few men) to choose a ship from. Seems like there would be something for everyone, making everyone truly appreciate the writers and enjoy their time within the fandom. Right?

We have Fleets

Yeah, no.

I hate to say it, because I hardcore love this fandom. But what makes the Arrow fandom stand out is that the ship wars here are constant, they’re intense, and they are unbelievably negative.

Despite there being a whole host of awesome characters on this show, the primary factions in these ship wars are Olicity shippers (Oliver/Felicity) and Laurivers (Oliver/Laurel).  This seems to be because, while the show started out trying to follow comic book canon with regards to Oliver’s love life by building the relationship with Oliver and Laurel (who are together in the comics), the focus fairly quickly shifted to focus on Oliver and Felicity instead. From my understanding, this seems to be because of chemistry between actors, Stephen Amell (Oliver/Green Arrow) pushing for it, and producers not being afraid to go in a different direction from the comics if the story is good. I would imagine this was a highly complex decision with a million different angles to it, but the outcome within the fandom is having two sides. And unlike in other fandoms, these two sides just cannot seem to get along.

So, my general tactic is to look at a difficulty in the fandom and then analyze it and work to explain it through psychological terms. Going through the stages of fictional grief for a character decision? Here you go. Defense mechanisms to explain fandom bickering? Sure. Discussion of the importance of hope both in our show and in ourselves? Yup. This week?

I’ve got nothing.

I'm out

I found and started watching Arrow late last summer during a very dark time in my personal life. I was an emotional mess, my family was a wreck, and I just could not see a way through. I was without hope, and I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world completely on my own. I put Arrow on the TV for background noise. I’m a sci-fi geek, though I wasn’t that big of a fan of superhero stuff, but it would give my brain something else to be distracted by while I hid from the world through fiction and technology. And then somewhere along the way, I was transfixed. Completely taken in. Hooked. And let me tell you why.

The main characters and superheroes on Arrow have no superpowers. They’re not metahumans or aliens. They didn’t get bitten by radioactive arachnids, or drink super Green Arrowserum. They’re just human beings, making choices. Oliver, the ultimate hero, survived unconscionable amounts of trauma. Torture. Isolation. Starvation. Betrayal. Being forced to kill, forced away from his family, watching untold amounts of people die, including having both parents and his best friend die violently in front of him, not to mention the near deaths of basically everyone he loves at one point or another. And yet instead of choosing to isolate himself further, or to give up on humanity, he chooses to fight for good in the world. He channels all of his anger, his sadness, his trauma into making the world a better place. Yes, he has stumbled along the way, and yes he has had his faith challenged and has regressed at times. But he always finds his footing, and he always keeps going, no matter what. He always, with the help of his team, finds hope.

And I don’t know about you, but I find that to be the very definition of inspiring.

So how do we go from loving this character who has struggled so much, has survived so much, and yet has made the conscious choice to fight each day of his life to make the world a better place…. to spewing hatred and negativity to other real people over who this fictional character should love? How does that happen? How does that make any sense?

I understand that we all have favorite characters, favorite actors, and favorite storylines. And as well we should. We are here because something about this show, this fandom, this universe spoke to us. The casual fan may not be so deeply invested in the day to day analysis of all things Arrow, but for those of us in the hard core category, we are here Keep Calm and Love Your Fandom Greenbecause our heart was pulled in by some part of this world that these writers, actors, and producers have created for us. Something pulled at our soul, and when something pulls at our soul, we are invested and want to be involved as much as we can. So… why then does it matter which part of the universe pulled us in? Why can’t we find common ground just on the fact that we love the same show? Each of us brings our own history, our own experiences, our own emotions to any piece of art we connect with. We each view it in a unique way as a result. No two people who view the Mona Lisa or listen to Beethoven’s 9th feel the exact same thing. We can all look at the same thing, watch the same thing, hear the same thing, read the same thing and yet walk away with completely different ideas, thoughts, and feelings.

And that’s not a bad thing. That’s wonderful.

It shows us the infinite nature of human creativity and range of emotion.

So why on earth are we fighting over it?!

Joseph Walther is a researcher in the field of psychology who has a theory called Social Information Processing (SIP) theory. This theory posits that relationships formed online are as strong and somFelicity I Love the Internetetimes even stronger than those formed through traditional face to face interaction. And he has evidence and research to back it up. Now, I don’t have scientific research in front of me for what I’m about to say (maybe someday I’ll conduct some studies if they aren’t out there already), but if positive relationships formed online can be just as strong if not stronger than “typical” ones, wouldn’t that also mean that negativity online can be just as strong if not stronger than negativity we deal with face to face? We so very often think of the Internet as being other than “real life.” Even our lingo supports that. But we all know that in this day and Oliver Laurelage, for almost all of us, what happens on the Internet IS real life. Just like how fictional trauma causes real emotions, social interactions that take place online can and do affect all of us emotionally in a very real way. Some of us may have better boundaries than others, and some of us may be better at finding positive people to surround ourselves with online than others, but at the end of the day, the words that we all say – whether positive or negative – whether online through text or offline through our mouths — do have an effect on others. Our very own Wentworth Miller (Captain Cold) just gave us a very firm reminder of that this very week.

None of us know what is going to happen on Arrow week to week. I understand that many in the fandom think they know what will happen next week, and think they know who’s in the box. And maybe we do. Or maybe, because the universe that Arrow exists in is extremely timey wimey, we have no idea. Maybe we’re being led in one direction by all of the leaks and spoilers (which I won’t mention here, don’t worry), but it’s actually Gravesomething else entirely. Maybe it’s all true but then is followed up with something else just as traumatic but for a different faction of the fandom that we don’t see coming. We can speculate and guess and theorize all we want, but you know what they say about assuming. This is a time where the fandom should be pulling together and be ready to support each other when we do finally understand what this entire season has been driving us towards, which is who is in that damn grave. Because we don’t know what’s going to happen. The support we withhold today may be exactly the support we need next week or the week/month/year after that.

Continuing on that train of thought, here are some concluding thoughts that I am directing at every single person in this fandom, whether Olicity shipper, Lauriver, or Other:

Don’t celebrate someone else’s pain.

Don’t model your behavior on someone else’s (i.e. “I’m going to be nasty because THEY are so nasty.”).

Oliver More Supportive

We are all responsible for our own choices and our own behavior.

Do you want a different faction of the fandom to act more positively? Well, make sure you’re doing so first.

I encourage you all to listen to our writers and to be a beacon of hope, rather than yet another source of negativity in this fandom.

I encourage you to remember all of the amazing things that ALL factions of this fandom have to offer… the amazing insights, friendships, fan art, fan fiction, fun, and laughter.

I encourage you to go back to the root of this show – of doing good in the world despite horrible and traumatic experiences – and incorporate that into your interactions with others, both in the fandom and out.

I encourage you to listen to our Captain and disagree maturely and intelligently, while leaving personal attacks out of it.

In short, I encourage you to act like Team Arrow. Bicker, disagree, and argue if you must. But when the time comes, pull together, defend each other, be there for each other, and most of all: fight to make the world (and this fandom) a better place.

Team Arrow 4

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Processing Fictional Trauma: Broken Hearts Edition

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR ARROW EPISODE 4×16

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

There are episodes of television that make us weep with joy. There are those that enrage us, or those that irritate us. There are those that leave us ambivalent. And then there are those that break our hearts, and even have the title to prove it.

For those who love Olicity (a term that is now officially canon I might add), last night’s episode of Arrow was emotionally brutal. The episode was 100% centered around Olicity angst and grief, with a baddie tailor made to twist the knife. And many of the reactions I saw on social media indicate that the heart shaped arrows certainly hit their emotional marks. People’s reRobinactions ranged from outrage in all caps, to pure desolation. I saw tweets of people asking for hugs, posting every crying related gif Twitter has in their database, and of course the screaming, because emotions were intense. (You can see actual footage of me watching the episode in the gif to the left). And yet, with an episode so chalk full of heart break, an interesting theme emerged within the fandom:

Hope.

While the pre-hiatus episodes of Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow left us with precious little hope, this episode, while stunningly heartbreaking, gave us hope for the future and for our couple once we got past the initial emotional responses. The theme of light versus dark has been strong in this season, and this episode especially seemed to bring in the essence of hope versus hopelessness as a part of that light/dark balance. I’m not an English scholar, and so I don’t pretend to be very good at picking apart the storylines and the intricacies of the plot. But when looking at why individuals may have loved this episode, and why they may want to watch it repeatedly, despite the heart ache, I think that hope may be the primary reason.

In the field of mental health, hope is huge. It is seen by many as one of the firsLOTR Hopet steps to recovery of trauma or mental illness, because if you can’t see hope for the future, why would you even want to recover? What’s the point? Lack of hope means lack of meaning. It means lack of movement, and lack of motivation. There’s no point, so why bother? Hope is, therefore, one of the primary building blocks of happiness, and we are lost without it.

For Oliver, Felicity has always served as his beacon of hope. He had very little when he came back from the island, which is why he pursued his father’s list with such single minded focus… because it was the only meaning he could make from his existence. Felicity pulled him out of that, and showed him that there was so much more. That there Olicity Lights My Waycould be so much more. And that he deserved it. For Oliver, finding hope was completely life changing, as it can be for any of us who have experienced trauma or had our world’s emotionally rocked. But what this episode showed is that Oliver is not the only one who needs a light, and who needs hope. While Felicity’s snark and negativity this week was hard to watch and seemed uncharacteristic, it was also, in my opinion, completely believable. Felicity has dealt with so much, and has done so with grace and with a smile. No matter how bad things got, she always forgives and she always sees the best in Oliver. But even – and perhaps especially – those people with intense amounts of kindness have issues, and have limits. Their ability to forgive cannot be taken for granted.

Which brings us back to why people may be drawn back to this episode.

While we may not all be at Felicity’s level of tolerance and positivity on a day to day basis (because let’s face it, seeing the good in people is every bit as much of a superpower for her as her tech game is), I think that every one of us has felt taken for granted, or pushed too far. All of us have felt ourselves snap, and our ability to cope disintegrate. We have felt Felicity Breakup Croppedwronged by those we love, and have felt the need to protect ourselves. With Olicity, it’s always Felicity dragging Oliver back and restoring his hope. This time it’ll be Oliver that has to do the dragging, and despite my undying love for him, he deserves to have to. And isn’t that what we all want, when we’re faced with feeling wronged? That the person who hurt us will step up and try to earn our trust back, showing us that our faith in them was not misplaced?

Despite the angst, despite the breakup, and despite the snark, what we saw in this episode repeatedly was that Oliver and Felicity love each other, and will continue to no matter what, by their own admission. We see them struggle, and we see them screw up. We see the issues that they struggle with individually, from Oliver’s time on the “island” to Felicity’s abandonment issues, and how those issues collide in their relationship. We look at all of these issues, and all of the drama, and we see… hope. We see that all relationships Olicity Sunsetare messy, and while some of us may be lucky enough to ride off into the sunset, the fact is, you still have to get up the next morning in the relationship and keep going. There can be amazing moments, like first kisses and engagements and even weddings, but the real challenge in a relationship is managing those day to day issues and the randomness that life throws at you. The reality of any relationship is that even the best of us screw up, and everyone has issues that flare. No relationship is perfect, and without difficulty. But where there is love, there is hope.

After processing for a while last night, and into today, the fandom reaction to this episode I found to be beautiful. The ending of this episode was dark, it was bleak, and it seemed rather final. And yet, those who love Olicity believe that this dark time in their Olicity Wedding First Glancerelationship has meaning and will be for the greater good. The fandom pulled together, not to console each other or to debate as it has in the past, but to find meaning in the darkness. The fandom focused on the vows that Oliver said to Felicity, even typing them out to share online almost immediately. We focused on Felicity’s words to Cupid, which show that despite all of the hurt, Felicity does still believe in love, and she does still readily acknowledge the incredibly positive impact Oliver has had on her life. We went back to find beautiful, loving words that Olicity has said to each otheimg_5190r in the past, and we reminded each other that nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. We encouraged each other to keep the faith, and even trended today that “Olicity Is Our Always,” to come together as a community to support each other and the fictional couple we all love. The fandom has worked hard to band together and helpimg_5193 each other see that Olicity will be better for having gone through these challenges, and will be more solid than ever once they come out the other side. We give meaning to their suffering, which in turn may help us find meaning in our own. If these trials and tribulations can mean there’s hope for a better relationship for Olicity, then maybe our own struggles mean there’s hope for a better us too?

For Olicity fans, and for all of us who are struggling with our own crises of faith, I leave you with what I believe to be very applicable sage advice, given by one of my favorite authors, Karen Marie Moning:

Hope Strengthens. Fear Kills.

Stay strong, Arrow fandom. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

 

 

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Processing Fictional Trauma: March Hiatus Edition

MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR ARROW 4×08 & 4×15 and

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW 1×06

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

I posted my first article on fictional trauma back in December after the Fl/Arrow crossover. It was the first time I’d really seen fictional trauma grab hold of fandom in real time, and I was really blown away by not only the emotional impact of the episode on the fans, but how the fandom itself pulled together to process. That article was described by someone as a love letter to the fandom, because we had all pulled together in the face of fictional trauma and helped each other to heal.

This article… is not a love letter.

Last week’s episodes of Arrow (4×15) and Legends of Tomorrow (1×06) caused reactions in the fandom that were every bit as powerful as what happened in Arrow 4×08 (if not more so), but my observation of the reactions of the fandom were quite different.

ARROW 4×08 and 4×15 SPOILERS:

In 4×08, I think we could all agree that Oliver made a bad call. Perhaps an understandable one, but ultimately a bad one. We were shocked. We were angry. We were frustrated. We were hurt. But we primarily agreed.

This week the big reveal happened. We heard Oliver’s side. We heard Samantha’s side. We heard Diggle’s thoughts. We heard Vixen’s experiences. And most importantly, we finally heard from Felicity.

And suddenly, the fandom could agree on very, very little.

On my own Twitter timeline I saw opinions ranging from solid support of Oliver to solid support of Felicity. None of which I necessarily had a problem with, because I understand and support them both. But when I branched out a bit, opinions started getting a bit more forceful, up to and including people calling Felicity a selfish bitch (which Mr. Amell didn’t take too kindly to) or Oliver a lying asshole who doesn’t deserve Felicity. I didn’t see support groups so much as I saw debates, going from those that were lively and good natured all the way up to hurling profanity at each other. It was a little jarring, if I’m honest, as I (naively) thought that now that everyone had put all their cards on the table, the fandom would now feel a bit more understanding about where everyone was coming from. But that was not the case.

So the question I’ve been pondering this week is: why?

After talking with my usual groups of post-game fandom friends to process the episode (some of which led to some of those good natured debates I was talking about), I think I have a sneaking suspicion as to why this episode was so divisive and caused such an This is about heartemotional stir which made it difficult for us to turn to each other. This episode, based on the issues with Olicity, tapped hard into experiences many of us have had with trust in relationships… and it’s likely that we’ve been on one side or another (or both) of the Olicity argument ourselves, and were experiencing high levels of stress and hurt at the time. In psychology terms, one of Freud’s defense mechanisms is called transference, which is where we “transfer” negative feelings we have about one person (in this case perhaps a previous relationship) to another person that may have similar qualities (Oliver or Felicity). Maybe that’s what caused so many of us to lash out about their actions?

From my own personal experience, I can tell you that I totally get where Felicity was coming from. As a matter of fact, her speech about how she understood Oliver’s Felicity Breakup Croppeddecisions but just wanted to be a part of the conversation? I’ve given that speech word for word multiple times, being a step-mother myself for more thanOliver Breakup a decade now. But even though I thought I’d made peace with most of those issues, when my husband sided with Oliver in the argument, my hackles went up and we had a spirited  conversation that ran just shy of an argument… over an episode of Arrow. Which is 100% because of our own issues.

But if my husband and I can relate to the Olicity argument, and have it invoke things in us and our own relationship that bring about those kinds of strong feelings and conversations, I guess that means the writers were pretty damn authentic, even if it was painful to watch.

With episode 4×08, most of the anger at Oliver had dissipated by the next day, and people were working their way towards acceptance, even if they were still sad and frustrated. They were starting to see a way through for Olicity, even if they knew it was going to be difficult. But there was a striking difference between the circumstances in that episode, and those of 4×15, in that this episode was followed up by Legends of Tomorrow, the combination of which ended up being the 1-2 punch for Olicity fans.

MORE ARROW SPOILERS +

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW 1x 06 SPOILERS

In episode 1×06 of LoT, the day after seeing the Olicity break up, we are shown Star City in 2046… in a future where Star City has gone completely to hell. Diggle is dead, Oliver is down an arm (but up a goatee), and Olicity is not together. Basically, we are shown what will happen if Olicity doesn’t make it. And it is rife with sorrow, anger, and pure desolation.

What we are left with, going into hiatus, is a complete lack of hope for the future.

Cant Deal With This Shit Gif

Because the fandom was still reeling from the Olicity break up, and all of the emotions, both fictional and personal that it stirred up, seeing this dark, dismal future seemed to stoke those emotional fires even more. The stakes were shown. Now being on the right side of the debate isn’t just about whether Olicity gets back together, or resolves this one specific argument. It’s literally the fate of the ENTIRE WORLD. Which is obviously one of the primary ways that television differs from real life, but then again… when it’s our emotions, doesn’t it feel like in these pivotal relationship moments that the fate of the entire world is at stake, even if it’s just OUR world? Being right, and being acknowledged as being right, becomes a need that’s almost desperate in nature. In the case of the CW DC universe, whatever side of the Olicity debate you’re on, you NEED to be right or the world will end.

And so back to debating the fandom went.

It’s been a week today since LoT aired, and I semi-purposefully waited this long to post this because I was curious to see how the fandom would resolve this issue, especially when we are staring a month long hiatus in the face. I think… that it’s been a struggle. At the time of my posting this, my current thoughts about the fandom is that we’ve moved on from the Olicity debate (because it’s too painful, or just because we’ve talked Ship Warsit to death? Hard to say…), but are now focused on who’s in the box. Maybe because it’s a potentially happier thought for some (which doesn’t that just sum up this fandom in a nutshell? LOL), though obviously potentially devastating for others. This has led to more negative expressions of emotion between certain factions in the fandom, but of a far less personal nature, I’d say. The debate over who Oliver should love is a topic that we can talk about without getting nearly as close to our own real traumas as discussing the Olicity break up does. It might be a true over-dramatization, but it’s possible that the Olicity/Lauriver debate is as negative as it is right now, just because people are still struggling with the negative feelings, fears, and hurt left over from last week’s episodes and so they’re coming out in other fandom activities/discussions (a defense mechanism known as displacement). Or maybe people are just nervous about the rest of the season. Or maybe it’s a combination of both. Or maybe I’m totally off base. It’s been known to happen occasionally. 😉

One thing I can say is this: Dr. Travis Langley, who has been a big source of professional inspiration for me, teaches college psychology by using fictional characters and their situations. He says that when we look at trauma in the real world, it can be hard to get past the horror to delve into studying the true psychology of it. But when we, say, look at Batman, suddenly talking about how a child may react to seeing their parents murdered becomes a whole lot easier. In processing Arrow this week, I was fully aware that I was projecting many of my feelings onto Olicity, but something that snuck up on me was the fact that I haven’t been mad at Oliver throughout this story line, just a bit disappointed. I knew he was trying to do his best, even though he really could’ve made some better choices. I was able to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I feel that as a man (albeit fictional), he’d earned it. And then I had that moment of clarity… that maybe I didn’t always give my husband the benefit of the doubt that he, too, had earned.

I encourage everyone who responded strongly to Arrow this week (or any show, really, ever) to do some introspection as to why you may have had the reaction you did. Talk to support people about it. Journal about it. The results (and the positive therapeutic benefits of watching TV) might just surprise you.


Author’s Note: Fandom — especially fandom as huge as Arrow — is a far reaching and highly complex beast, and as one person I can only see the parts of it that I can see. If you have a different perspective on this topic, or saw/have seen different things, I welcome your feedback and discussion!

If you want to reach out, you can find me through the comments here, or on Twitter as @drfangirlphd or @Chrisha_DWGrrl.

 

 

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Heroes and Villains NYNJ: The Epic Blizzard of 2016

As Chris and I set out from Cincinnati in our Prius, I had no idea what to expect of the coming weekend. Would the blizzard hit? Would anyone show up? Would Heroes and Villains be as awesome as other cons I’ve attended? Would volunteering be fun and exciting, or would I feel like I was missing out? As it turned out, the blizzard did hit and not everyone showed up. But despite the circumstances, HVFF, Nocking Point, Stephen Amell and John Barrowman FAR exceeded my expectations for a con, and volunteering at this con led to the most fun and rewarding con experience of my life!

Chris and I arrived in Secaucus, NJ late (LATE) Thursday night/Friday morning, as we wanted to get ahead of the storm and we wanted to volunteer Friday morning to help get the con set up. This ended up being an amazing life choice, as pre-con was loads of fun, and I was very happy not to have to deal with travel hysteria that gripped the region on Friday. I also got a response from Barrowman on Twitter Thursday night after saying we were ready to party, which was an awesome way to kick things off. 😉 When we arrived at pre-con, we were directed to set up those giant flags that you see all over con floors. You know, these:

IMG_3778-001

As we put together the flags, we spent some time meeting some new people, making jokes on how we could kill vampires with the flag pieces, and then having some faux sword fights with the long poles, and eventually got everything together and looking pretty. Next it waIMG_3782-001s time to set up the lines for the celebrity booths. Gee, guess whose booth I ended up at? 🙂 While setting up Stephen’s booth is an awesome story to be able to tell, getting it together was actually the stuff of nightmares… and I was quite sure they were going to kick us out for bollocksing up their most important booth because it took us forever to get that thing together as it was supposed to be. His booth had four different lines (Platinum/gold, Celebrity VIP, VIP, general admission) that all kind of wove around each other, and I’m convinced IMG_3785-001that those silver corral line… thingies (see picture) were made by Satan. While it took far, far longer than it should’ve, and required exceptional amounts of colorful profanity, we did eventually get it together, and it looked pretty darn nice, if I do say so myself! After surviving that mess, we were asked to go fix another booth’s line set up (a shock to me, as I was expecting to get the boot for taking forever at Stephen’s…), and so off we went to David Mazouz’s booth to figure out the issue and set it up.

In the course of David Mazouz’s booth shenanigans (btw, it wasn’t set up according to the plan because there wasn’t enough space… we had to get creative to make it look like the plans, but we did it!), we realized that there were a bunch more booths that also needed to be set up. We also realized that we did not even come close to having enough supplies to do so. It was at this point that we had to start stealing from other booths (while keeping IMG_3790-001them looking professional), and rigging things to look decent while keeping them to plan which was… interesting to say the least. I eventually helped with Robin Lord Taylor’s booth, and then went down and set up the “special mystery guest’s” big booth (which I think was probably Stardust’s, which is just tragic because I would’ve love to have seen that showdown…). By the time we got to the mystery guest’s booth we were truly baffled as to how we were supposed to put the queues together with no supplies, so we just hung out for a while hoping for a miracle – which ended up being a lot of fun because I got some time to chat and connect with some awesome new friends! Miraculously… Chris eventually found a whole bunch of new queue supplies, so off we went! With that many people, getting that last booth set up was super easy, and we were so proud of ourselves, Chris decided to give our group a name – the BOOTH BANDITS!

After that, the rest of the evening was fairly low key. Chris and I had dinner, and Esty made it to the hotel. Yay! We followed the Heroes and Villains account on Twitter and Facebook neurotically, as well as checking with Stephen constantly for updates as well. Before the snow had even started in Secaucus, Gov. Christie declared a State of Emergency, effectively cancelling the con for the next day. While ultimately it seemed to the be the right decision, when we hadn’t even seen a snow flake yet, it was hard not to be super irritated (as Stephen seemed to be) at the decision. Even knowing we didn’t have to be up at 5am to get to orientation by 7am, we still decided to go to bed early, with a lot of sad feels due to driving all that way, spending all that time on set up, and not having a con after all.

When I woke up on Saturday, I immediately checked my phone to see what happenings snOMG gifmay be going on that day (as I knew that both the nerds AND the guests wouldn’t just stay in their hotel room all day…), and I was not disappointed. Barrowman had already been on Facebook live, challenging Stephen to a snow angel making contest and requesting we tweet our snow-bound activities to him and Stephen, and Alyssa had made an event with the nerds to continue the party, which appeared to be starting at 11am at our hotel – nice! We (Chris, Esty, and I) took lots of selfies (we do what John Barrowman tells us to!), and then headed downstairs to have breakfast, meet fellow geeks, see Lord Mesa, ooo and aaah over the CRAZY snowfall hapNerd Party-001pening outside the windows (see gif), and find the party. When we got downstairs at 11, the place was WILD! Nerds everywhere! People did NOT let the lack of con stop them from getting in full cosplay and hanging out and partying with other con-goers. We ended up standing in line waiting to get a sketch from Lord Mesa for about an hour before we decided that we probably weren’t going to make it to the front of his line before he left for the Embassy Suites. BUT, that time was not wasted by any stretch, as we met lots of cool people, including Amy and Gloria, who went ended up hanging out with for much of the day!

Since it seemed like the party was moving to the Embassy (as was Lord Mesa), we (Chris, Esty, Amy, Gloria, and I) decided to get our gear on and head out into the snow. I can tell IMG_3822-001you that stories of the blizzard were NOT overstated – it was CRAZY out there! The temperature wasn’t all that bad, but the howling winds (especially in the wind tunnel between the Hyatt and the Embassy) were significant. But once we arrived at the Embassy, we realized that the party was definitely there. Vendors were set up with their wares, selling to would be con goers, a full group of Team Arrow cosplayers were there taking pictures, and groups of people were just all over the pace hanging out and enjoying themselves. Somehow we managed to get a table, and Chris luckily had a deck of Fluxx cards with him, so we set up and played cards which was loads of fun! It felt like summer camp – except with sci-fi nerds in the middle of a blizzard. 😉 Food was scarce, but luckily I had packed a bunch of trail mix and protein bars, so we snacked, chatted about life, superheroes, and academia, laughed, and played cards for hours! I had perhaps hoped that John and Stephen would come down to the hotel lobby (we still weren’t sure where they were at this point), but no such luck. But it didn’t matter, because we were still having a great time. 🙂

At some point during the day, Stephen finally tweeted a picture of himself and Drew standing in the snow by BW3. Not being from the area, we had no idea where that was, but we did realize that we were starving to death. We looked at the restaurants around, and not wanting to walk far we decided to head towards Carrabba’s. As we approached (climbing through giant snowdrifts… fun!), we all kind of noticed that where we were was right where Stephen had taken that earlier picture. I had assumed that he would’ve taken that picture on his way out of the area, but as we approached the doors to Carrabba’s and found COMPLETE INSANITY, we realized that was not the case! Someone standing outside mentioned that Stephen was in there with his family, and said that people wereStephen Drew Snow mobbing him, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when we walked in… but there Stephen was, along with Robbie, Drew, and a bunch of other folks at a table easily seen from the front of the restaurant. So they weren’t exactly hiding. Nor did they seem to be getting mobbed though… I’m sure some people had gone up to say hi, but by and large so far as I could see, everyone seemed respectful. We put our name in for a table (and made some sympathetic gestures towards the servers because WOW they were slammed!), and then hung out. I didn’t want to act like a creepy stalker by staring at Stephen and the rest of their crew, but since we stood waiting for over an hour easily, there really wasn’t much else to do. Not too long after we’d started waiting, though, John and Katrina (Law) showed up, and once he was there I didn’t feel too bad about watching things, as whenever John is in the room (especially when he’s with Stephen!), they’re always putting on a show. And it was quite the show they put on! I can’t remember what happened when, but here are the highlights (in no particular order):

  • John made a video recording of all of us at the restaurant and put it on Facebook.
  • John Face-timed Scott and had all of us say hi.
  • Stephen and John were both all over the restaurant saying hi and chatting with people, both at their table and with others who seemed to be just like us (snowed out con-goers). John at first said no selfies (because it was JAM PACKED), but he, Stephen, Robbie, and Katrina eventually did start taking selfies, and seemed totally open to talking to everyone.
  • Katrina took some selfies, inside, but she and John were both in and out a lot, doing Periscope and Facebook live from out in the blizzard! I know both of them also did selfies outside – I watched John doing some outside while it was still CRAZY snowing, and I got one with Katrina later myself!
  • This one I can’t speak the legitimacy of, as I didn’t hear it first-hand, but it seems that at some point people were told to wait for tables outside, and John spoke the manager to make sure they were brought in so they didn’t, ya know, freeze to death. I did see/hear John come over and check on everyone to make sure everyone was okay. Because he’s awesome.

Somewhere in this madness we did manage to get a table, and we actually managed to get some food as well! Our server (who I discovered from Stephen’s Facebook post after the con was named Shawn) was awesome and funny and kept his cool AND sense of humor despite the CRAZY circumstances. Thanks, Shawn! Stephen passed our table multiple times, as we were sitting next to the bathroom, but we didn’t really talk to him because… bathroom (we strived to not be creepy and I think/hope we succeeded). Chris, Esty, and I were also going to the Nocking Point party that evening, so we figured we’d get our chance then. After we finished eating, Esty and I decided to hang out for one more drink, while Chris went to take a nap, and Amy and Gloria headed back to their hotel. My vodka and cranberry juice was more like pink vodka (WOO), but the bar tenders were amazing and we met some more awesome con goers and had a great time chatting with them. We still didn’t approach John or Stephen because of the party later, but it was an amazing time hanging out, watching them interact with others, and meeting more cool nerds!

Eventually we decided it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for the Nocking Point party, and so we (and a fellow con volunteer and generally awesome person Jen) decided to head back to the hotel together. Just as we stepped outside, we saw several IMG_3851-001people holding hands, clearly getting ready to do some snow angels. And upon closer inspection, one of them was Katrina Law, who immediately invited us to come do snow angels with her! Uhhhh… okay! Someone had a phone and was taking video of that, but I’ve searched YouTube and can’t find it… if anyone can find it, please send it my way! After the snow angels came a snow ball fight, as Katrina just started throwing them (see video)! She was also awesome enough to take a selfie with me, even though I was a freezing mess and it took me forever to get the camera on camera and off video mode. She laughed with me and waited, rather than racing off… she is the sweetest thing. Thanks, Katrina!

After that, we did head back to the hotel and got prepared for the Nocking Point party. At this point I think it needs to be stated for the record that not only did I wear a dress (not something that happens often), but I wore a dress OUT INTO A BLIZZARD. Only for you, Amell. 😉 We made it to the Expo Center (without me falling in a snow drift with bare legs… win), and got in line. While we were still in the lobby, John came out and got up on IMG_3852-001a chair to let us know that they would not be taking selfies (darn it), and that we should be prepared for ANYTHING (cryptic). Upon walking into the party, we were met by Stephen at the door on a hover board. He said he’d never been on one before, but looked incredibly comfortable with it, and rode along with us as we walked to the party area (which was the panel area of the con floor). Once we made it to the party area, we were given our fancy NP wine glasses with drink tickets, and off we went. Before getting wine, I went and got a t-shirt because I wanted to make sure they didn’t sell out. There were a LOT of people there VIP… so much so that it seems almost everyone who had a VIP ticket madeIMG_3857-001 it (which makes sense because those damn things were expensive!). I got my shirt, then Chris and I stood in the line for wine. When we got to the front, Drew was pouring, and Stephen was standing off to the side. Stephen got Chris’ attention to compliment him on his kilt, and so Chris shook his hand and we stopped and chatted for a bit. Chris told Stephen we helped build his booth (which of course made me hope beyond hope that the damn thing didn’t fall down the next day… LOL), and Stephen thanked us. He shook Chris’ hand again, and then mine… I would’ve given him a hug, but I was holding TWO glasses of wine, and so had to be very, very careful to be able to shake Stephen’s hand without dumping red wine down my dress. 😉

After that we walked around and mingled, and chatted with several different people over the course of the party, including my girl Jennifer from Twitter who SOMEHOW I didn’t remember to get a selfie with! Ungh! Each group of people that I chatted with needed a wine refill, so I ended up standing with them and ultimately chugging my wine once we got to the front so that I could get my refill. This meant that I was rather drunk rather quickly. Oh, darn. 😉 Most of the time my wine was filled by Drew, which was awesome, though at one point John was filling glasses as well (though he didn’t fill mine).

Eventually, after I’d imbibed a fair amount of the Nocking Point white (which was delightful, btw, though I do wish they’d had a sweeter option.. maybe next time?), John and Stephen got up on stage. I cannot properly put into words the magic that happens when these two get together. After having seen them sing together in Louisville, in which they were drunk and everything seemed spontaneous and yet RIDICULOUSLY just… epic, I knew that seeing them together in a planned and controlled atmosphere was going to be amazing. And I was right. I will post the two videos I was able to take below, because a video is worth a million words. At some point my phone ran out of room (seriously the nightmare scenario… Stephen Amell and John Barrowman live on stage in front of me and my phone can’t record… GAH), but I was able to get the first 40 minutes (Do You Want to Build a Snowman, the Q&A, 1000 Years, and Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You), and then Esty and I shared the duties of recording the rest on her phone. I’ll put a link her videos up too, because I recommend you watch them ALL. 🙂

(To watch the rest, click here!)

After the boys were done on stage, we did more mingling, dancing and chatting. If you watched the videos, you may have heard several glasses break while they were performing, which is something that happened throughout the night. I felt awful every time I heard it, because our custom glasses were beautiful! At one point, Jen and I decided to jam out and started dancing like lunatics because… it’s a party, right? But then… her glass dropped and shattered. We were horrified! I felt soooooo awful…. But then just a moment later, a volunteer arrived like a fairy wineglass godmother and gave her a new one! How awesome is that?? I was so impressed by that… Stephen and Drew and all the Nocking Point people really went out of their way to put on an amazing party, even with the challenging circumstances, and they even anticipated the drunken loss of wine glasses!

And speaking of putting on an amazing party, Jen had wanted to meet Stephen because she had taken up archery lessons because of his inspiration, which I thought was amazing. She had a picture of a really bad ass target from archery lessons she’d hit recently that she was super proud of, and just wanted the opportunity to tell Stephen about it and show him the picture. But of course Stephen was all over the party, and had a flock of fangirls following him wherever he went so he was tough to access. But… as Jen and I were standing there chatting, Stephen just happened to walk by and seemed relatively free. I told Jen she should go take her chance and talk to him, but of course she was nervous. Well, it’s way easier to not be nervous when I’m not the one that’s going to talk to him, plus I’ve officially seen Stephen in action enough now to know that he’s a super cool and chill guy, so there’s no need to be incredibly star struck around him. So…. I pushed her, both verbally and eventually physically to go up to him. And she did! She got to tell him about her archery classes, show him her target, and he was super positive about it and impressed with her aim. If I had been thinking more clearly (read: less drunk) I would’ve thought to take a picture of her talking to him, but I was so happy she got her chance that I just stood there grinning like a loon. She was one happy fangirl after that, and so was I!

The rest of the party was more mingling, dancing, and chatting, and was an all-around good time. I had wanted to try to talk to John, but he tended to scurry off whenever I gotIMG_3948 (Edited)-001 close to him. Somewhere towards the end of the evening, Stephen ended up by the photo backdrop, and started taking selfies. Esty and I just happened to be standing right there when that started, so we were lucky enough to get our chances! I continue to be impressed by how people do want Stephen’s attention and are willing to follow him around all night, but DON’T mob him to the point that he can’t do these kinds of parties and mingle like a normal person. He does what he can, leaves when he needs to, the crowd follows security’s lead, and in my experiences so far everything seems to go well. Thanks, fandom!

One last event of note at the Nocking Point party is that, towards the end, my 3-year-old daughter who was with my parents and sister for the weekend, was getting ready to go to bed and wanted to Facetime. It was an interesting place for a video call, but I called her anyway and chatted with her as best I could. As we were talking, Stephen once again got on stage, and since my daughter is a HARD CORE superhero nerd, I let her watch him… and she was SO EXCITED to see the Green Arrow singing! She wanted to say hi to him, but after his number he said we all had to go. I tried to get close to him with the phone, but wasn’t able to get Stephen’s attention (because he was getting mobbed), but Zoey was super excited to be able to see him up close, even if he didn’t say hi. Thanks for making my kid’s night without even knowing it, Stephen! And thanks to Stephen, Drew, John, and all the Nocking Point folks for taking the time to interact with us, perform for us, and throw a damn fine party in the middle of a blizzard!

After the NP Party, we trudged back through the snow and immediately headed to bed, as volunteer orientation – for the con that was TOTALLY HAPPENING SUNDAY! WOO!! – was at 7am, which meant we needed to be up SUPER early to be ready. I can’t say I was at all happy to hear the alarm go off at 5:30am, but we got our breakfast, coffee, and Tylenol (because… wine) and headed over to the Expo center. BIG thanks, btw, to all the people who spent so much time clearing off the steps over there, because that had to be cold, grueling work, and everything looked fantastic!

I don’t remember all that much about the morning, because the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet, but I do remember orientation having a lot of thumpa-thumpa music, which seemed… an interesting choice for 7am with a lot of hungover people, but I’m sure was to try to get us energized. 😉 By this point I had seen my assignment, which was working John Barrowman’s booth (WOOOOOHOOOO). To say I was excited was a slight understatement. 😉 After getting our shirts and all our goodies, and listening to the orientation with Brad and Mike (of which the primary messages appeared to be HAVE FUN, #DontBeWeird & #BeWeirdDontBeCreepy), off I went to Barrowman’s booth.

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A lot of folks at Barrowman’s booth seemed to be con volunteer veterans, so as a newbie I took a back seat and went where I was directed. The very last thing on this earth I wanted to do was anything that might be subpar for John, so I asked a million questions and tried to learn from the veterans as quickly as I could. I was placed at the “front” of the line (which is really the back), meaning that we stood outside the booth and queues and answered questions and directed people, as well as giving out line tickets to save people’s places in line (without them having to stand there) when the lines got too long. We were the first face they saw at the booth, and I took that position very seriously. At first I was apprehensive because I was afraid that it would be so chaotic that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but as much as the chaos WAS real, it ended up being just the most fun thing I’ve ever done at a con. Working in line control gave me an excuse to talk to EVERYONE. I complimented everyone’s costumes, talked to kids, fangirled with all the fans (of both genders, I might add), and had a generally awesome time. John is SUCH an amazing person to meet at a con – he’s so genuine and fun – that even if people were frustrated at wait times, or the general chaos of a post-blizzard-cancellation-con schedule, once they got their time with John they all came out with THE BIGGEST grins on their faces. It was a true joy to watch. And the fact that whenever I got a break, both John and Stephen were within eyeshot and at times looking at them was actually doing my job? Weeeell, those moments weren’t so bad either. 😉

One of my favorite experiences from the con was with a Japanese girl who came to see John. My fellow line control guru Ben and I were working the line at that point, and I think each of us independently noticed this young girl standing there looking incredibly nervous. I checked in with her, and I think Ben did too, and as time passed, she continued to stand there looking completely terrified. When the line settled down a bit, Ben and I talked to her and started to hear her story. It turns out that she is from Japan, and learned IMG_3958English specifically because of John Barrowman in Torchwood, and today was her birthday and meeting him was her birthday present. But now that she was here, she was completely paralyzed. She was shaking, teary.. the whole bit. So Ben and I continued to talk to her and ease her into things in between helping other con-goers. Eventually we had her convinced, though she was still terrified… but I told her in no uncertain terms that John Barrowman is AMAZING, she had nothing to be nervous about, and that when she got up there if she was too nervous to talk, John would. So I gently led her to the line and made her stay there. When she came out, she was in tears but had THE BIGGEST grin on her face! She was so so so so happy… she hugged Ben and I, repeatedly thanked us, took selfies with us, thanked us some more, bowed to us… she was SO happy, and it was just the most awesome thing ever. When I told my husband about it later in the day but before the end of the con, he mentioned that he too had worked with a young Japanese girl that was super nervous to come into the con itself and wondered if it was the same girl. Apparently she later found him again (he was working at the information desk at the front) to show him her photo op with Barrowman (she showed us too – it was AWESOME – there was groping! LOL), and he asked her about me. When she realized that we were married – two of the people that had helped her so much that day – he said her head nearly exploded from excitement! She came back to the booth multiple times throughout the day to give us hugs/bows/thanks and to check in. She was the sweetest thing, and watching her dream come true that day was absolutely incredible!

Before coming to the con, the one photo op I was planning to do was a full Arrow cast picture, which I was splitting with a ton of other volunteers. However, because of the storm, most of the Arrow cast wasn’t able to come, nor were the people I was going to split the picture with. So I had resigned myself to not getting any photo ops… until Chris told me that he’d gotten a free photo op for “being him” (whatever that means… LOL!). So… after conferring with Esty, we decided to get the photo op that seemed to best suit our collective fangirl/fanboy statuses: and what happened is pictured below:

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Best. Photo Op. EVER! P.S. I also hugged John after the picture was taken. I hope I wasn’t weird, but I’ve been dying to hug the man since the dawn of time and with him finally that close I could no longer resist. Love you John!

The rest of the con was loads of fun. I got a few breaks to go buy some amazing things (pictures below), the most important/exciting of which was that I got a print from Lord Mesa! I am SUCH a huge fan of his… and had been attempting to stalk him all weekend to no avail. Being able to get a print from him – especially because it was his version of the cast photo from Louisville, which was one of the best weekends of my LIFE – was perfect! And of course he was awesome enough to sign it for me. 🙂 During the times when John was at photo op and panel, I also got to see a little bit more of the con, and buy some goodies (both for myself and for some friends), so here are some of the highlights:

At the end of the con, we were allowed to get two autographs from celebs that were still there and willing to sign. This is supposed to happen between 4-5, but since John’s booth was so insane and he was signing up until 5 on the nose, I didn’t get to attempt any autographs until after the con was closed. John didn’t have time to sign for too many volunteers, but he did sign for those of us who worked his booth (including personalizing – have I mentioned how much I love him?). I was also able to track down Robbie Amell (squee!), and Lord Mesa (more squee!) to sign, so I was a happy girl. 🙂

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After the con closed and celeb autographs were done, we set to work tearing down the con. I will admit that I had some feels tearing down all of our beautiful flags, and those damn queues that I had spent so much time working to put up, but it was still fun hanging out with con friends we’d made throughout the weekend, and being able to help out the staff. Once the con was packed up, we chatted for awhile, sharing our experiences that day with other volunteers, and then ultimately went back to the hotel.

We said goodbye that evening to Esty, as she had to pack up to travel home. Luckily she doesn’t live far, but it was still sad to see her leaving, and to have the weekend coming to a close. As Chris and I packed up to leave the next morning, we were both able to reflect on the weekend and see how much fun we’d had volunteering, and how much more a part of the con we’d felt doing so. After attending Wizard World Louisville, I had worried that nothing would ever be able to top it. While not necessarily surprising, it was awesome to truly now know that any and all cons where the Arrow cast are are basically amazing.

To Stephen, John, Brad, Mike, the Heroes and Villains staff, all of Nocking Point, as well as the Secaucus Hyatt and Embassy Suites, and Carrabba’s…. thank you. What could’ve been a complete nightmare with tears and disappointment ended up being yet another of the most epic times of my life. To this fangirl, you guys are truly super heroes. ❤

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Wizard World Louisville 2015: The Stuff of Legends

Author’s Note: I am horrified that it’s taken me almost two months to get this written up. However, since leaving Louisville in November, my life has consisted of hospitals, holidays, and one illness after another (combined with dissertation deadlines, which was super fun). So, I’m sorry this took so long to get up, but hopefully it will help us get through this last week of hiatus, as well as to infuse some happy into an otherwise tragic week.

To Alan Rickman and David Bowie, I hope you’re having an amazing time wherever you may be. We miss you both already, and will continue to do so. Always.


The trip to Wizard World Louisville started as so many do – a road trip, caffeine, drive through food that’s terrible for you, and some music (in this case, my husband’s newly found interest in Chipmunk’s music that’s been slowed down to sound like 80s sludge rock. No joke). Chris (the husband with interesting musical tastes) and I rolled into Louisville about 3pm that Friday, immediately hitting the convention floor while I proudly 20151106_210157364_iOSsported my Stephen Amell VIP badge that I was incredibly stoked to have. As this was my first con since finding (read: becoming completely obsessed with) Arrow, and was going to be my first time meeting Stephen, I was already having some nerves. But Friday was lovely because I was able to walk the con floor, shop, chat with people, and know that the majority of the Arrow cast hadn’t shown up yet so there was no pressure or concern over trying to get to a certain place at a certain time. On Friday I had just planned to look and see what kind of fun fandom things were on display and being sold. But instead, I ended up buying so very, very many things because the art at this con was outstanding. Jewelry, wall art, vinyl stickers, Christmas ornaments… this place had it all. I felt slightly guilty about buying so much the first day, but I didn’t want anyone to sell out of the things I thought were awesome, and so I bought some stuff. And I have no regrets. 😉

Friday after con Chris and I went out for dinner at this gorgeous Old Spaghetti Factory across from the convention center. As we have a 3-year-old and very busy lives, it was incredibly nice to be able to go out and have an honest to god date with good food and even *gasp* an alcoholic beverage. We also checked out the unofficial after party at Bourbon Raw, and while there didn’t seem to be much going on that we could see, it was still nice to hang out at a bar like a grown up for a change. After an all-around lovely day, we headed back to the hotel and I prepared for Saturday.

Because Chris didn’t have VIP, and my VIP was for Saturday, I knew I was going to spend most of Saturday on my own. I got up early and got meticulously ready in my previously planned outfit (even though I brought three alternative outfits just in case – I mean, I’m a nerd but I am a girl) and got to the con by 9:30am. I didn’t want to be first in line for Stephen’s first autograph session, but I did want to get there fairly early to make sure I 20151107_143448331_iOSwas able to get in the first group at least, so that I could do photo op right afterward, and then be able to focus on panels for the rest of the day. This ended up being an amazing life choice for a variety of reasons. After they let us onto the con floor, I ended up in line by two incredibly awesome people (HI STACEY AND CLAIR!!!), and in an incredibly awesome place to see eeeeeverything that was going on at the table before the line started moving in earnest. Stacey, Clair, and I got to know each other while standing there waiting for Stephen to get there, because none of us could hold the fangirling in at that point! Also, chatting with them helped me manage the insane nerves I get every damn time I meet an artist/actor/singer/writer etc whose work has been super meaningful to me, which I will forever be thankful to them for.

Stephen arrived just a few minutes past when he was stated to appear, and security walked him right past us (!!!) to his table, with the long line of fans cheering the sight of him, myself included! I will say at this point that the only experiences I have to compare this to are that of meeting David Tennant at Wizard World Raleigh and Philly. David – and those of you who have met him can confirm this – puts off this aura or vibe or whatever of just – ENERGY. Pure, crackling, pump-you-up, better-than-coffee energy. He exudes it, and it is catching. And while I love – deeeearly love – being around it and just the overall feel of it, it doesn’t help my nerves much. I’m pretty sure I’ve sounded like a complete idiot every time I’ve met David because my brain is going a mile a minute and I just… literally can’t even. Stephen, however, was kind of the counterbalance to David’s high energy. He was every bit as present and engaged and clearly excited to be there, but Stephen exudes this sense of chill that I wasn’t expecting. It’s hard to describe accurately, but once he walked in, I felt like I could breathe a lot better, which was… unexpected, to say the least. But also absolutely awesome. What I had brought for Stephen to sign was a dummy title page of my dissertation, which I just recently got topic approval for. My dissertation is on how science fiction fandom involvement through social media can affect mental health, and as Arrow is one of my primary science fiction fandoms and has been very motivational for me in many ways, I wanted to have Stephen’s autograph on the title page to hang in my office. After sitting and just… watching him for several minutes (I didn’t take any pictures, because the Wizard World staff was VERY vocal about not doing so…), the line eventually began to move, and we weren’t able to see him until we were at the front of the line. When 20151107_155657226_iOSit was my turn to meet him.. well, I know for a fact I can’t tell you exactly what happened because as zen as his vibe was, I was still pretty concerned with trying not to sound like an idiot, which took most of my brain power. I can say that he gave me his full attention, and actually read the paper that I put in front of him. He seemed to really listen when I told him what I was writing my dissertation on, and seemed to think it was pretty cool. He signed it, with his customary arrow underneath, which I was excited about.. but then he paused, thought for a minute, and then added an A+ at the bottom of the paper. It’s such a silly little thing… such a small gesture. And yet it meant so much to me, touching two things that are so near and dear to me: fangirling and academic perfectionism. 😉 At that point, all of my energy went into not tearing up and looking ridiculous – and then Stephen reached out to shake my hand. I’m proud to say that I was able to put my paper back down, transfer my bag from one hand to the other, and shake his hand while looking him in the eye, without tripping, dropping anything, or saying anything I later regretted. Hot damn. 😉 Overall, the autograph session was simply amazing. New awesome friends, a positive experience with Stephen, and an amazing piece of paper to hang on my wall to motivate me through the rest of this dissertation process!

Directly after the autograph session we had to make the decision on where to go next. The original information we had said that the photo op was at 11:30, so we assumed we could line up right after autographs (we were done by probably 10:45), but once we got there we were told that the line didn’t form until 11:30, and photo ops weren’t until 12 or 12:15 (I can’t remember). As Stacey, Clair, and I were still hanging out and fangirling over our autograph sessions (and the fact that we actually all spoke English and didn’t do anything embarrassing, much to all of our amazement!), we decided to hang out by the photo op in the line-for-the-line that was forming. Since we had such a long wait, I decided to go track down a water fountain and a bathroom (I was still too nervous to eat – happens every damn con – but I figured I should at least hydrate if nothing else), and then come back to the line. By the time I got back, the official line had started far earlier than we were told, so I didn’t get to hang out in line with Stacey or Clair, but by this point we had found each other on social media to keep in touch, which was great! The line for the photo op was pretty uneventful, but did move quickly once Stephen came over (he was running pretty well on schedule, which was impressive). When it was time for my photo op, I was nervous again. The photo lasts forever, but the photo ops themselves happen SO FAST that when IMG_2360-0you have anxiety like I do, the fast paced high emotion environment can be a little overwhelming. I had all these plans for how I wanted to stand to look my best, head up, hair back, blah blah blah. But when I got up to Stephen, despite the fast paced nature of the operation, he put his arm around me and pulled me in TIGHT. It was so unexpected that all of my plans went out the window. All I could do was smile! So, the picture is not one that I feel is terribly flattering of me, but… when I get frustrated looking at myself in that picture, what I will remember is being VERY happy, and being held VERY tightly! As well as the fact that I finally, finally got to look Stephen in the eye and say “thank you” – and while I’m sure he thought I was just thanking him for the photo op, in actuality I was finally thanking him for all of the joy he and his show have brought to my life, as well as his positivity and his encouragement for us to live Sinceriously. The picture of me was less than awesome, but the experience itself was amazing.

After the photo op, I had a bunch of time to kill before the panels. Since my hotel was right around the corner I decided to head back and drop off my autographed paper so that it didn’t get bent in my bag, to also try to eat something, and then go back to the con and just hang out in line for the panel at 2:15. Finding where to line up for the panel was a slight adventure, but with the help of con volunteers and a flock of other fangirls (of all ages, I might add), I finally made it to the right place… and was ultimately able to get front row/center seats for the full cast Arrow panel itself, which was incredibly unexpected! I’m used to DragonCon and other cons where lines for panels go around city blocks. Being able to walk right into the front row was amazing! I also ended up sitting next to a fellow Arrow/Whovian/academic (HI LANA!) who I’m fairly convinced I was separated at birth from. You can read her blog about the weekend here!

Sidenote: Lana is a River Song cosplayer, to the point that it’s her Twitter handle and clearly a very important part of her life – which I think is awesome! However, there is one character in Doctor Who that I’m really not a big fan of, and do you know who it is? River Song. I mentioned this to Lana, and it didn’t matter at all. She and I still chatted and fangirled, and still loved and appreciated each other’s devotion to Doctor Who and bonded anyway. So, it is possible to have strongly differing opinions on characters, and yet still get along and bond over love of a show regardless. Take note, Arrow fandom!

The Arrow panel itself was outstanding. In attendance were: Stephen/Oliver, David/Diggle, Willa/Thea, Paul/Lance, Katie/Laurel, and Barrowman/Malcolm. A few things were very clear from the panel: 1. The cast truly is a family and are all completely comfortable with each other. 2. Stephen is their leader. And 3. They give him a lot of (good natured) shit for being their leader. 😀 Watching them all interact was absolutely fantastic. They seem to have an amazing time together, and you can tell that they really, really appreciate all of us and they seem to really feed off our energy. I’m sure that by now there is tons of video out there of the panel, so I won’t bore you with tons of details. However, notable moments would be: Barrowman giving a very naughty “ride” to Katie and Paul to bring them up on stage, the reenactment of Barrowman’s FABULOUS dance move to mess up Stephen on their first day of filming (so freaking much awesome…), and David Skyping with his son during the panel (sooooo cute).

The next panel after Arrow was John Barrowman’s solo panel. I should note that somewhere in here while waiting for a panel to start, I was able to see and hug my girl Court, who I was SO excited to see! My one major regret if this con was that we did not get any time to hang out and talk. I intend to fix that at a con in 2016! Since I had a Stephen VIP and not a John VIP, I had to leave my front row center seat *sniff*, but was still able to find a reasonably good seat off to the side. However, once John got on stage, he recognized that there were a fair amount of empty seats, and so encouraged us to all move up and squeeze in. So we did, and I was back in the front row. 🙂 If you’ve never been to a panel of John’s, it needs to go on your bucket list immediately. He is so open and so fun and so… HIM! His panel consisted of him walking around the stage, taking questions and talking about things that are important to him. He told (complete with acting out the scenes) about the huge number of takes it took for him to kiss James Marsters on Torchwood, which was so hysterical I could barely breathe. At one point he told the story of when he and Scott got married after gay marriage was legalized here in the States. What was beautiful about the story was not just his own ceremony, but the feeling of camaraderie and love that sprang up between them and the other gay couples there also getting married. John and Scott apparently were witnesses for several, and also took video of many ceremonies so that those couples could have those memories. He capped it off by singing a beautiful song (which I have video of and will upload when my phone stops being a jerkface). 🙂 He also took questions from the audience, and gave some advice to teens, which was to not take shit. If someone does or says something that’s not nice, say something back. You don’t have to take things just because you’re young. Stand up for yourself and fight back. I thought it was excellent advice and wish to hell someone had told ME that when I was a teenager.

The other part of John’s panel that was memorable was his story about David Tennant on the set of Doctor Who that I hadn’t heard before. He said that they were filming a scene together and were hungry, so they got some chips (French fries) and decided to eat them in the scene which they thought was a fabulous idea! Well, they had to film the scene multiple times and from a ton of angles, so three hours later they were STILL eating chips, and hating their lives. LOL. John’s facial expressions while describing their feelings about still eating chips were freaking hysterical, and it wasn’t hard to image 10 and Captain Jack sitting around bitching about eating more chips, but putting on their typical cocky smiles for the cameras.;) 

The next panel that was again in the same room, making #conlife that day exceptionally convenient, was Bruce Campbell. My husband is a MASSIVE Burn Notice fan, and so he’s been wanting to see Bruce Campbell for a long time. I, too, love Sam Axe, so I was happy to stay and check the panel out. Bruce definitely ran his panel differently than I’ve seen before… he had a cosplay contest of Ash’s from the Evil Dead, and then had all cool cosplayers come up to show off their costumes. He would randomly give people $1 if they did something he liked, and totally trolled anyone that was actually able to ask him a question (which he took from people at the mics, but also just yelled out from the audience). Overall, it was entertaining, just definitely different. 😉

The next and final panel of the day was Stephen himself. Since I was VIP, I was again able to get a very nice seat without having to leave the auditorium (again near Stacey and Clair – yay!), which was amazing. Stephen’s panel was probably the most low key of them all – it was him and the moderator and they just sort of sat and chatted, with the bulk of the panel being questions from the fans, which I thought was awesome. Stephen talked about how he met his wife (he Googled her after seeing her on Mad Men), how he got into acting, his thoughts on Oliver, including his future and his past, and his feelings on Olicity which made a packed auditorium all swoon in unison *dreamy sigh*. My very favorite part of his panel, however, was his answer when asked what the weirdest fan interaction he’s ever had was. I’ve heard a lot of funny stories from a lot of celebrities over the years, because people get a little crazy when celebs are involved. But Stephen’s answer was simple and sweet: He doesn’t consider any of the fan interaction’s he’s ever had to be “weird” or “bad” because he knows that everything the fans do comes from a place of joy. It was just the most beautiful answer. I still get teary thinking about it. So for all of you out there concerned (as I was) that you may make an ass of yourself in front of him, apparently there’s no such thing for him, because he knows you’re there because of your love. What a perfect thing to say.

After Stephen then accepted his award from the mayor of Louisville (which he seemed mildly embarrassed about because he’d made some comments about things he’d change about Louisville if he were mayor, such as traffic issues around the Derby, as he had no idea the mayor’s office was there… LOL), then it was time to decide what to do with our night. I caught up with Stacey and Clair again, and we all agreed to go back to our rooms and freshen up, and then probably hit the official con after party at Bourbon Raw. I was starving to death since I hadn’t eaten throughout all the panels, so Chris and I headed back to the hotel and dropped off some of our gear, and then went out in search of food. We ended up at TGIFridays, and had some food along with a fair amount of alcohol. Obviously the hope was that we would run into Stephen and the crew out somewhere, but we caught no sightings. As we were eating, however, a friend of mine on Twitter tweeted a picture that she’d just taken with Stephen as he was out getting dinner with John (and the rest of the cast as I learned later from Paul Blackthorne’s pictures). Because I am a complete lunatic, we decided to walk around 4th street and see if we could see them, or find the restaurant it looked like they were in. I wasn’t going to approach them, since I’d already met him at the con, but catching a glimpse of them out and about would’ve made my fangirl heart pretty happy. We found the restaurant pretty quickly, but it seemed like they had left, so we headed back to Bourbon Raw to catch up with Stacey and Clair who were having dinner. And of course had more drinks, because why not?;)

Bourbon Raw was where the official after party was supposed to take place, but even the staff there didn’t know about it, so it was pretty uneventful. There was a back room (kind of) that we thought maybe was housing the party, so we slipped back there after they were done eating, but were immediately told it was for volunteers only. So, we decided to wander around a little bit to see if we could have any Arrow sightings, and eventually ended up at the bar at Stacey and Clair’s hotel, because we were about 90% sure it was the host hotel for the celebs and we’d be able to see them walk through the lobby if they came in, which again, would’ve warmed our little fangirl hearts. We had a great time hanging out and chatting… it turns out Stacey and I read a LOT of the same fanfiction, and follow a lot of the same people on Twitter. We chatted about Arrow gossip and fandom in general, and had just a completely lovely time. We were just saying that we should pack it in for the night when my Twitter alerted… Stephen had just tweeted about being at a dueling piano bar without Brother Sal. And I knew our night was about to get eventful, as we had passed a dueling piano bar just a few buildings down. Chris, being the amazing man that he is, offered to stay and pick up the tab (btw, he recounts the weekend’s events in his blog here) while Stacey, Clair, and I headed with great speed down to Howl at the Moon…. and we were NOT disappointed! Upon arriving at the bar, we paid the cover and went in, and went to the bar to get some drinks… and the entire Arrow cast was standing there, drinking, having fun, and being generally awesome with what looked like their organizers/handlers from the con. The smiles were large – both theirs and ours. An amazing day had somehow just catapulted up to legendary!

I will, at this point, stop to discuss my general thinking about meeting celebrities. I’ve discussed in another blog my level of social awkwardness when it comes to meeting celebrities. That issue tends to primarily come just from the fact that it’s such a high stress, quick meeting that I get anxiety and flustered (though I did pretty well with Stephen earlier that day and was feeling good about that). This was not the first time I’d seen a celebrity out in public, but the one and only time I’d ever approached a celeb in public was David Tennant, and I truly felt like I’d done the wrong thing when it happened so I was very wary of doing it again. In public, I feel like they’re just people on their own time living their own lives, and likely don’t want to be constantly interrupted by fans, especially when they’d been signing autographs and doing photo ops all day. So, I kept my distance because I didn’t want to bother them, but was truly very happy just being in the same place and getting to watch them interact. It should be noted at this point that I didn’t change clothes from what I wore to the con, so I was wearing Arrow jewelry and carrying a TARDIS purse, so my fangirl status wasn’t exactly secret even without me approaching anyone. But I ordered a drink rubbing elbows with Paul Blackthorne, and I smiled and said hi to Willa when she walked past me and made eye contact. And I drank my drink and sighed lovingly in the direction of David, John, and Stephen because…. well, they’re David, John, and Stephen.

My girl Stacey at this point decided that she had had enough alcohol to be absolutely fearless (god I’m jealous) and jumped right in with both feet. Within 20 minutes, she’d gotten a selfie with Willa and  John, had chatted with Paul, and all of them had been incredibly awesome and open, which of course made me reevaluate my stance on things, but I clearly had not had enough alcohol. 😛 (P.S. She managed to nab a selfie with everyone except Paul by the end of the night because she is a fangirling rock star). After standing at the bar near the cast and their friends for a while, I started hearing them talk about “9-5,” but I wasn’t sure what it meant. After a few minutes, suddenly everyone left, and I just assumed they were getting ready to leave the bar because they’d had long days and it was getting late. So I move up a bit to watch the dueling pianos from up in the bar area…. And suddenly I see John Barrowman on stage, talking to the pianist, and taking a microphone. My drink went down, and my phone came up. OMG. The details of my thinking get a little hazy here, because John got on stage and CLEARLY introduced them all as the cast of Arrow (so much for me thinking they didn’t want to be approached by fans!) and said they’d be singing 9-5. I swear to god I heard my fangirling brain break, and I’m quite sure I made some kind of embarrassing excitement noise, because I may be 37 years of age, a well-educated and highly responsible functioning adult, but HOLY SHIT THE CAST OF ARROW WAS GETTING READY TO SING ON STAGE LITERALLY RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME. I challenge ANYONE to play it cool at that point! 9-5 was amazing (video below)… they all were reading lyrics from their phones, hugging and singing, obviously having a fantastic time. If I hadn’t known it before, this cinched it – these people aren’t just co-workers, they are truly friends. They were obviously SO comfortable with each other, were having a great time together, and being able to witness it truly felt like a gift. Then at the end of the song, Stephen takes a mic and talks to the pianist, obviously getting ready to sing a song of his own (more embarrassing excitement noises.. thank god for the loud bar). It’s amazing and epic, so here’s the video of both of those songs – trust me when I tell you you’re going to want to watch the whole thing. 😉

After their karaoke, it again appeared that they were leaving the bar, or maybe that was just my assumption. But they ended up staying and sitting/standing/dancing near some tables in the front by the stage. The real timeline at this point is definitely hazy because the night had already taken on a kind of dream-like quality, and add in alcohol and the whole thing was just completely surreal. Here are some details I can remember, in no particular order:

  • John and Katie are some naughty people when they get together and did some seriously dirty dancing, both on stage and off – they are definitely friendly. LOL
  • Stephen also did a lot of dancing and socializing, as well as a lot of singing and has an amazing voice.
  • All of them were drinking – shots were being done, plus mixed drinks and beer, though John, Stephen, and Katie seemed to be the heaviest drinkers that night and were definitely having a good time. 😛
  • David seemed pretty chill, and sat at a table for quite a while. My husband made it arounChris and Davidd to him, and David was happy to chat with him about the show, and Chris’ love of Diggle’s military background, and Chris’ own military background. David mentioned that he very nearly went into the Marines himself, and has tons of respect for military folks.
  • Somehow a drink got broken at their table, and David and Willa’s jackets got covered. Ugh.
  • Willa went out to the patio section of the bar to sit with some people out there.
  • Stephen and the rest all took pictures with anyone who asked, and were all super cool about it. I eventually decided I would start asking for selfies, since they were all so open about it, but could not for the life of me get to anyone. Just as I’d finally be able to get through the bar to one of them, they’d get up and leave. Sigh. Lol.
  • There was much dancing by everyone, both on stage and off. The house performers also pulled some people up on stage, and even I was up there at one point. Stephen wander20151108_055535232_iOSed up and was standing right in front of me on the floor as I danced on stage, and I finally worked up my nerve and asked him if I could take a picture. He seemed to think about it really hard (he appeared to be rather intoxicated… LOL) and finally said yes. So I jumped down…. And John came and whisked him away. SMH! I did, eventually, get a picture with him before they left.. and even though he was the only one of the cast I was able to track down, I was still one happy fangirl. 🙂
  • At one point Katie and John were dancing on stage in front of me, and Katie wanted a picture of her, John, and Stephen. She handed me her phone, and I took the picture, though Stephen had wandered off so it ended up being just her and John. I hope she liked it. 🙂
  • For the life of me, I can’t remember if it was before or after Stephen and John did their finale number (see below), but at one point John came up in front of us on the stage and began shaking his ass in Chris’ face. Chris, being the good sport that he is, began “playing the bongos” on John’s ass. John, being who HE is an20151108_054723389_iOSd needing to be as outrageous as possible (god I love him..), then pulled his pants down… and Chris continued drumming on his tidy whities! And so then John (who was drunk as all holy hell by this point.. I mean… not that he wouldn’t do this sober, but just saying.. lol) then dropped his pants entirely, and not only did Chris continue playing the bongos on John’s BARE ass, but at this point I really felt that I needed to get in there myself, and so I gave John a few swats of my own. 😉 #lifegoals P.S. John Barrowman has the smoothest ass I have ever felt in my life. I have absolutely no doubt that he moisturizes. 😉

The climax *cough* of the evening, however, came when Stephen and John got back up on stage, obviously getting ready to sing again. I have absolutely no idea about the timeline at this point in terms of what happened when or how, but I do remember that once Stephen and John were on the stage (and my brain started functioning again), my phone again came out, and my god am I glad it did. There’s no need for me to describe the awesome of their karaoke number of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” as my video of it is here. I suggest you watch it. Multiple times. No, seriously. 😉

After they were done on stage with that song, I think that’s when they were ready to leave. I tried to track down John for a selfie, but he was running around crazy so he wasn’t able to stop. Everyone got together in a group and they all left together, wandering through the cold night. Stacey, Clair, Chris, and I all left the bar at that point as well, and headed back towards our hotels (we were staying in different hotels, but wanted to walk Stacey and Clair back before we went our separate ways). The Arrow crew seemed to be headed in the same general direction as we were, but we maintained a respectable distance (I think/hope) so we didn’t seem like crazy stalkers. 😛 Ultimately, I think we all floated on air back to our hotels after seriously having the best fangirling night ever. To Stephen, John, Paul, David, Willa, and Katie: From the bottom of my heart, thank you. That night was the stuff of fangirling legend, and the fact that you were so open and fun with us meant the world!

After taking what was essentially a nap, we got up and ready for the next day (which included some pain relievers and loooots of coffee for sure). I wanted to get there early because I had already planned to get selfies at the table with Paul and David, plus I also wanted to get an autograph from John so that I could A. Be sure he didn’t mind if I posted the karaoke videos (and I knew there was no way I would be able to get near Stephen again to ask *him*), and B. I wanted John to sign my dissertation as well, since his passion and love for fandom has been such an inspiration for me. So we got there when the con opened, and I started staking out the autograph tables. Most of the cast were supposed to be there around 10am I believe, and strangely enough, by 10:30… not a single one of them was there yet. I can’t lie that this made me awwwwfully giggly. 😉 At one point I asked a volunteer if they knew why the Arrow cast was late (just because I was curious to hear what he’d say), and I was told that they were staying in a hotel that wasn’t nearby and had some traffic issues. And then I had to turn around and immediately leave before I laughed in his face. Poor guy. LOL

Eventually the cast did roll in. To my eye they seemed to be moving a bit gingerly, but of course they all looked as sexy as usual (seriously, it’s not fair that they can all look that good hung over… not… fair…) and jumped into their fan interactions with their typical gusto. At this point I decided to get in line for John first, since I knew he’d be the hardest to catch. Chris stayed in line with me, and when we got up to chat with John he was amazing, as always. I told him about my dissertation, and he seemed genuinely excited about it. We talked about how we both feel that fandom is an amazing coping skill and 20151108_185538464_iOSoutlet, and he of course clarified that I was going to prove that fandom is GOOD, to which I said that that’s certainly my hypothesis, but the research data will have to speak for itself when all is said and done. The fact that he was excited to hear about my research was so meaningful that I don’t even have words. I hope that my research ultimately does everyone in the community proud! As we were getting ready to leave his table, I mentioned that I had been at the bar the night before, and he got a funny look on his face… and then told me that he’d lost three hours of his life last night from the alcohol. LOL I told him that I had video of their karaoke, and asked if it was okay if I posted it. He said that it was my video, and so what I did with it was my business, which I countered with yes, but it’s your FACE. Ultimately he seemed not only okay with me posting videos, but excited about it and just asked that I made sure to tag him in them if I posted them on Facebook/Twitter. He did also then stop me for a second and ask if the karaoke was *good*…. which I assured him it was. How could it not be? LOL Just as we were walking away, Chris also mentioned that he’d “played the bongos” on John’s ass the 20151108_190320023_iOSnight before… John kind of got this “Oh god what else did I do that I don’t remember” look on his face… we all laughed for a bit and then ultimately took off. From there I believe we headed to David’s booth. While waiting for David (whose booth was right next to John’s), I saw Paul come over and start chatting with John, who was laying on the floor behind his booth. I watched Paul take a picture (I couldn’t see of what), and then start laughing and showing the picture to everyone around. I was dying to know what was in th20151108_193509226_iOSe picture since Paul always takes the best ones… I was not disappointed when he posted it later. 😉 Once we got up to David (after chatting with some lovely volunteers and fellow con-goers), I told him that he and the group had put on quite a show the night before, and he said “Oh yeah? Wait… do you mean here, or at the bar?” When I said the bar, he just laughed… and then we snuggled in for a selfie (where I would’ve happily stayed for several hours, but wasn’t socially appropriate…dammit…). We then headed to Paul’s booth, and this is when he was still deciding on the logo for his next t-shirt campaign, and had the two logos on his table for us to vote on. I told him that I LOVED the “Keep Rhinos Horny” design, and he got out his phone and went through his texts before he found the graphic that he was planning to use to show us. I told him in a was a definite winner and that I would fully buy one (which I have and it’s AWESOME), and we took a selfie and off we went. 🙂

After all of this, I had officially accomplished everything to make this the best con in the history of ever, but there was one last thing that I wanted to do. I had met Dr. Travis Langley earlier in the day at his table and chatted with him both about his writing and my own research. He has three books out: Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Night, Star Wars Psychology: The Dark Side of the Mind, and The Walking Dead Psychology: Psych of the Living Dead. As these are basically the coolest books ever, I wanted to go to his panel where he talked about the psychology of Batman. I was not disappointed. His 20151108_172103964_iOSpsychoanalysis of Batman was incredibly thought provoking, and made me sit down and really think about diagnostic criteria as they relate to some of my favorite fictional characters, as well as talking about Post Traumatic Growth (PTG), which is the idea that we can not only not be traumatized by something horrible happening to us, but we can also be better and healthier as a result of healing from it (something that I believe I have experienced). Applying that to comic book heroes was a major “EUREKA!” moment for me, as I see a lot of fictional characters – especially the Green Arrow – in very different terms now, and it’s spurred me to think more critically about the psychology of all the fictional characters I love, which has been a lot of fun for my psychology nerdy self!

After coming out of Dr. Langley’s panel, I realized that John had been live on Facebook while we were in there (so not long after we’d left his table), so we watched the video. In it, he mentioned being hung over as all hell (LOL), the night before at the bar, and the fact that “some people” had said they had videos of their karaoke that they were going to post. After squealing and fangirling my behind off in the middle of a crowded hallway (god I love sci-fi cons… no one ever judges you), we set off to finish our shopping, get ourselves together, and head home. I was straight up emo about having to leave, as I had truly had the time of my life, but it was time to get back to reality. *pout*

As it happened, reality still got to wait for awhile, because on our way out the door, we ran into a couple that had interacted with John in his Facebook live video, so we stopped and chatted with them for a while about their adventure trying to get John the cool mug he wanted. 😛 We also got to see amazing pictures being posted by the cast as they were making their way back to Vancouver, as well as other people’s pictures and stories. I uploaded the karaoke videos to my YouTube on our way home, and had an amazing time sharing those with the Internet, as I knew that everyone in cyberspace would love them every bit as much as I did. The icing on the cake was when John Barrowman himself found my tweets of the YouTube videos and retweeted them… making my Twitter light up like a Christmas tree on steroids, and leaving a permanent smile on my face for a long time. 🙂

My experience at Wizard World Louisville was one of those weekends that I will remember absolutely forever, and that was a true game changer for me. The time I spent with friends, both old and new, was incredible and I could not be more thankful for the awesome people I got to surround myself with. The professional inspiration I got from Dr. Langley, and from talking to Stephen and John about my dissertation has already been inspiration enough to keep me going through some tough academic times, as well as inspiring me to reach higher and farther than I’d ever dreamt of before. And as for the Arrow cast… to be that close for that long to people whose work has brought me SO much joy… to see that they’re so open and thankful to be doing what they’re doing, and yet so damn much fun and so ridiculously talented in everything they do… it’s indescribable. Now that I have some perspective, I don’t think I’ll ever feel awkward or star struck or nervous around any of them again. I’m so thankful to them for not only doing what they do, but also being so engaged and positive with their fans. This fandom may have its oddities and its quirks, but this weekend solidified for me that the Arrow fandom is definitely where I’m meant to be. And while Stacey, Clair and I even still have a digital chat room where we take turns tantruming over wanting to be back in that glorious weekend of fangirling bliss, in being in such an awesome fandom, I’m pretty sure that even better is yet to come. And that makes me one happy fangirl. 🙂

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 Ending author’s note: I hope you enjoyed reading about my fangirling adventures! Please feel free to read and share. Also feel free to share the pictures, just use the typical fangirling code and give credit if possible/applicable. Thanks for reading! ❤

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Processing Fictional Trauma: Olicity Edition

ARROW SEASON 4 EPISODE 8 CROSSOVER SPOILERS. BIG ONES.

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

I’ve been involved in fandom throughout my life, but it didn’t occur to me until last night that when it comes to television fandom, my involvement is fairly recent (2012). It also didn’t occur to me that when it comes to television fandom, most of my emotional involvement/devastation has been in shows that I’m watching on Netflix – not live. And so I haven’t lived through a fandom’s real time emotional aftermath of a show which has deeply affected me. (Sidenote: I do still watch Doctor Who, but Moffat’s writing doesn’t do for me what RTD’s did, so I don’t count it). The Arrow/Flash crossover episode last night was… well, emotionally devastating I think is the only thing that even comes close to describing it.And watching the fallout in the fandom was both excruciating as a fangirl, and fascinating as a clinician/researcher.

SPOILERS: The emotional devastation of last night was especially brutal because it happened TWICE. The first time, Oliver actually (in my opinion) does things fairly well, or as well as can be expected given a highly complicated, highly emotionally heightened situation. But Felicity’s control and abandonment issues flared, and Olicity essentially broke up (though that’s up for interpretation). And then, ya know, everyone died (which has its own emotional implications – I can never UNSEE that. THANKS FOR THE TRAUMA, ARROW WRITERS). So Barry goes back in time, thank god, and fixes things. Oliver and Felicity will get a second chance at the baby momma issues, and it’ll definitely be better this time, right? Because nothing could be worse than them breaking up. Right? Second chances are always better? RIGHT? Nope, this time around, it’s Oliver whose issues flare, and he therefore reverts to old habits and his biggest flaw – keeping secrets from those he loves for reasons he believes are noble. So instead of an explosion that can be worked through, now we have deceit. Which is so much worse.

As an individual fan who watched the end of that episode (and who was SO CONVINCED Oliver had grown and was going to do the right thing here…), my reaction can be summed up in one gif:

Arrow Expletives

I was upset, angry, frustrated, sad… you name it. ALL the emotions. I have conversations going on with multiple people through multiple social media, looking at the situation from every conceivable angle, playing devil’s advocate, arguing with other people playing devil’s advocate, venting feelings, trying to understand… and somewhere in the emotional blowout, a few things occurred to me:

Observation Number 1:

Right before my eyes, the fandom was going through the stagArrow Felicity NOes of grief. The first stage – denial – was all over the place. Tweets of “OMG please tell me that didn’t happen” or “NOOOOOOO” were all over the place. I may have sent several of my own.

Denial was quickly (very, very quickly) followed by the angerArrow Im Going To Kill You stage, which is where we all spent a great deal of time. Anger at Oliver, anger at Felicity, anger at the writers, anger at Barry, anger at Samantha… just… all the anger. I’m forever amazed at Twitter’s technological power, because social media was lit up like a Christmas tree. EVERYONE was online, ranting and raving, venting their anger.

Then came bargaining. The “if onlys” and the “what ifs…” abounded. “What if he tells her next episode.” “What if this is all some elaborate ruse.” “What if Barry goes back in time again.” “If only Barry had flashed out of that conversation and didn’t eavesdrop.” “If only Oliver had thought it through.” “If only the writers weren’t lazy and incompetent.” Clearly the bargaining phase has some hand holding with the anger phase, but I still saw it clearly defined.

Then came depression, which started to come out late last night, but I saw a lot more of this morning. After the venting and processing and writing and shouArrow I Cant Do Thislder crying, people seemed to move past their anger. They started to understand that maybe Oliver messed up, maybe Felicity did too, but they’re both human, and it happens. They started to understand that unfortunately, as in real life, we mess up. We make mistakes. And our beloved Olicity, who we love so dearly, is going to have to live with the consequences of those mistakes. The depression centers around knowing what our beautiful couple is going to have to live through, and wishing we could help them avoid it, but knowing we can’t.

Finally we come to acceptance, where I think many people are at this point. The stages of grief are such that we don’t necessarily go through them linearly, and we bounce back and forth. Acceptance doesn’t mean we aren’t still mad at times, it doesn’t mean we aren’t still Arrow Hurts Worse Curaredepressed about it, and wanting to bargain a way out. But it means we’ve come to a place where we can understand what happened and why (even if we don’t agree with it, and even if we’re still angry about it). We can accept that something awful is going to happen, but we can also see a way through. We can accept that Olicity will make it through, because that’s what they do. And even if we still desperately pray for a scene where Momma Smoak smacks Oliver soundly on the back of the head for his idiocy, or perhaps a scene where Zoom beats the holy crap out of Barry again just so we can have that visceral satisfaction of watching it, or even having Samantha be in the grave (with a death that’s hopefully appropriately awful because yep, the anger is still there), we have accepted that there will be awful things to come for Olicity, but that they will get through. People make mistakes, personal growth takes detours, but we will keep the faith, because Olicity is endgame.

Arrow Olicity Crossover Snuggle 2

Observation Number 2:

The second major thing I noticed, which goes hand in hand with the stages of grief, was just how intensely emotional so many people got because of what happened last night. There’s watching something happen to someone else, and feeling upset about it. But that’s not what happened last night. So many seemed to treat it as if it were happening to them, not to Oliver and Felicity. That what Oliver did – Arrow Screams Internallyfrustrating as it may be – was like a personal slap in the face. At first glance, this is the stuff that makes people look at fandom – especially science fiction fandom – and dismiss us all as crazies (even as they paint themselves different colors and weep over the losses of football teams… but okay). But here’s the thing. The reason that we all react so strongly to what’s happening on the television is because TV, film, and literature – all art really – exists because we see ourselves in it, and it reflects our feelings back to us. We process our own issues, our own grief, our own tragedies by watching similar things happen to fictional characters who we, through becoming engaged in their world, come to care about deeply. We see parts of ourselves in Felicity, and in Oliver. We see our own issues, our own shortcomings, our own traumas, and our own hurts. It’s part of why we all react differently, and have differing views on what happened on screen, because we’re all processing it based on our own unique experiences. TV, film, and literature are ways that we can process and manage our own feelings in a safe environment. Having someone we love betray or lie to us is an experience I’ll bet most of us have had. But it is far easier to rant and rave and cry about Oliver doing it to Felicity than it is to dig into our own stuff. But I Arrow Felicity Cryingdon’t believe it’s unhealthy to rant, rave, and cry about Oliver… just the opposite. I think that in expressing our anger about Oliver, and our fears and frustrations and hurt for the future of Olicity, we’re processing and healing some of our own fears, frustrations, and hurts. As long as you’re not completely avoiding your own feelings, and can recognize how they enter into your feelings about your fandoms, I think fangirling/fanboying can be an amazing outlet and a great coping skill.

Observation Number 3:

The third thing that I think is fantastic is how much fandom was there for each other after this episode. The Arrow fandom is a bit different than other fandoms I’ve been a part of, in that there is a lot of bickering and negativity on a day to day basis that I’m just unaccustomed to. However, with that said, when the emotional shit hit Arrow Olicity Hugthe Olicity fan, on my timeline at least, the negativity towards each other diminished, and the fandom was able to pull together and aim those feelings of negativity towards the characters and the show, while supporting each other. I saw fandom support groups all over social Arrow Oliggle Hugmedia, and was part of several myself. People were struggling with their own emotions from the show, but were huddled in groups processing it together. People within the fandom that were long friends, and people who didn’t know each other well at all… were all coming together to talk, to process, to grieve, to cry… and to support each other. Arrow Roy Thea HugObviously there are exceptions to every rule, but I was impressed by the fandom’s ability to support each other last night, and even today. My hope is that we can at some point reach the ability to support each other and be kind to our writers and producers (even Arrow Lance Sara Hugin our fury and disagreement), but I’m still encouraged by what I saw last night and today. And what I saw was a fandom that was hurt, upset, and angry but that could help support each other, help each other process, and take turns helping each other heal and keep the faith.

The Thrilling Conclusion:

While the rest of the world may mock us, our passion, and our excitement for a “silly” television show, what I saw last night was inspiring. What I saw were people who were emotionally invested in the health of a relationship they love. What I saw were people open to discussion and processing of feeling, and open to helping others process and deal with their emotions as well. What I saw was a community of people having strong feelings, who banded together to help and to heal. Set within the context of the bigger picture of the challenges our world faces, the negativity that we face, and the divisiveness… Maybe fandom is just one small piece of the world, and Arrow is just one small piece of that small piece… but I am once again inspired by the power of fandom, and honored to be a part of it.


Author’s Note: I’ve been so thrilled to read all of the positive reactions people have had to this article. I’ve loved hearing how this has helped people view their attachment to these characters in a different light, and give a sense of validation for those feelings. Hearing that so many of you can relate to the feelings described in this article further highlights that while the characters and stories may be fictional, the feelings they invoke in us are very real, as are the relationships we form within the fandom as a way to enjoy, process and cope with those feelings.

As I am writing this at 7:40pm EST on 12/9, I am sending out a collective pre-mid-season-finale hug to the entire Arrow fandom! Here’s hoping we can again pull together to help ourselves process and heal from what is likely to be a new wave of emotional trauma. 😉 Please cope (and drink) responsibly!

Hugs and Love…

-Chrisha

 

 

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Meeting Stephen Amell

This is just a quick purely fangirling post, because I met Stephen Amell today for the first time at Louisville Wizard World. Because I just recently got my dissertation topic approved to study how science fiction fandom involvement through social media affects mental health and psychological well-being, I printed a dummy title page for my dissertation for Stephen to sign. I explained to him that because he and his fandom were part of my inspiration and motivation, I wanted him to sign it. He said it was awesome, signed it, thought for a minute, and then added an A+ to the bottom. Just that little gesture was so meaningful, and seriously touched my little academic perfectionist fangirl heart. ❤



I also got my picture with Stephen. While the picture is less than flattering of me, which is disappointing, there’s a bit of a reason for it. I had all these plans for how I wanted to stand to look my best, but when I got up to Stephen, he put his arm around me and pulled me in TIGHT. And all of my plans went out the window. All I could do was smile! So when I get frustrated looking at myself in that picture, that is what I will remember… Being VERY happy, and being held tight! As well as the fact that I finally, finally got to look Stephen in the eye and say “thank you” – and while I’m sure he thought I was just thanking him for the photo op, in actuality I was finally thanking him for all of the joy he and his show have brought to my life, as well as his positivity and his encouragement for us to live Sinceriously.

Thanks again, Stephen. 🙂

-Chrisha

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Our celebrity significant others: The what, where, why, and how of parasocial relationships

On social media these days, the term fandom is thrown around a lot. I don’t know if we can say that the general public knows what the term means, but on Twitter, Tumblr, and many corners of Facebook, the word is used liberally and unashamedly, which warms my little fangirl heart. I’ve even heard some celebrities use it, giving further credibility to the term, which is also very exciting! However, there’s one term that I haven’t heard thrown around much, despite the fact that we all engage in it every day… and that is parasocial relationship.

The term is probably not used much because it’s a little daunting and not at all self-explanatory, despite its importance. So what is a parasocial relationship? It is essentially the relationship that an individual has with media or a celebrity. Such relationships tend to be one sided (I say “tend to” because social media is changing this somewhat, but I’ll get to that in a bit…), but are still immensely strong. When you think about pieces of popular culture that have affected your life — television, movies, music… maybe even games or comics – I think many if not most of us can look at our interactions or feelings about those things as a kind of relationship. Dictionary.com defines the word relationship as a “connection,” and I absolutely have a connection with many popular culture icons or entities. The difference between a parasocial relationship and fandom is that parasocial relationships are one on one between you and the media or celeb, whereas fandom is a community and is therefore many, many connections with other people who love what (or who) you love. The idea that parasocial relationships tend to be one sided, where as fandom is not, can make parasocial relationships both safer and more challenging all at the same time.

I will preface this now by saying that I’m not an expert in the field of parasocial relationships. I’ve run into the term multiple times while studying fandom, and thought it was super intriguing and wanted to write about it, but the more I look into it, the more I understand that the rabbit hole surrounding the term is a deep one. Research on the topic isn’t new by any means, and has been around since the 1960s. There’s studies looking at how these one sided relationships can help individuals form identity and self-esteem (especially in childhood), how they can lead to dangerous/stalkery type behaviors (yes, stalkery is totally a word), and how social media is changing things. Maybe someday when I’ve read all of that research I’ll get more in depth, but for now I’ll just keep it superficial and tell you the basics of what I’ve learned and what I think you may think is cool about it.

The primary reason I think parasocial relationships are interesting is because literally everyone has them. Whether you’re hard core into fandom activities, or you’re more of a recluse, everyone in this day and age has some kind of relationship with some kind of media. While it’s not really possible to be a part of a fandom without some kind of parasocial relationship, you can totally have a parasocial relationship without being part of a fandom. For example, my relationship with the New Kids on the Block is one of the longest and strongest relationships of my life, parasocial or otherwise. They were there for me during the Backstage to meet husbanddark and traumatic days of my adolescence, and I would imagine some researcher somewhere would love to know how that affected my identity development, self esteem, moral development, and overall attachment (spoiler alert: it did, a LOT). When they came back together in 2006, they were one of the first celebrities to use Twitter, and it brought the relationship that I had with them to a new level. However, despite my most valiant efforts to be a part of the fandom, I found most of the people in the fandom to be… well… less than welcoming, we’ll say. Not all of them – trust me, I have some AWESOME NKOTB fan friends — but most of my interactions were negative enough that I no longer felt comfortable in the fandom itself. So. My relationship with the New Kids (parasocial) continues to be massive and real, but my existence within the fandom not so much. I’m sure others can relate with their own parasocial/fandom experiences.

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David Tennant and I at Wizard World Philly.

What I also think is interesting is that people involved in media (celebrities, execs, who knows who else) are starting to recognize the strength and power in these relationships, and are looking to encourage them. The sci-fi/fantasy world has cons all over the place where people can go and meet their favorite celebrity (Wizard World, DragonCon, ComicCon, etc),  musicians are offering more and more meet and greets before shows for hardcore fans, and even authors are not only having book signings but massive book launch parties and conventions to celebrate the universes they’ve created, not to mention places like the Hogwarts SelfieWizarding World of Harry Potter which are now all over the world. Lots of celebrities are taking to social media to interact with fans, and sometimes it seems even developing some real relationships with them. Parasocial relationships are becoming somewhat less para, and somewhat more social. But that brings with it its own set of challenges.

Obviously I’m not a celebrity and I don’t really know any celebrities so I have no idea what it’s like from a celebrity’s point of view, and while I’d love to talk to some and understand, at this point I can only guess. What I can say is that from down here in the land of civilians, there are a lot of pros and cons about interacting with celebrities as much as we get to these days. The pros are obvious. When Jonathan Knight from the New Kids joined Twitter and I got to see the stupid, mundane stuff that he does on a regular basis, he went from being this ultra private man who I knew very little about (and yes, had put on a giant pedestal), to being a real guy with feelings and a job and 3rd grade boy humor (god I love it, even though I roll my eyes so much at his tweets…lol) who I felt closer to. Even though he rarely, rarely responds to me, just being able to have a platform to communicate with him in an immediate way which he MIGHT see is so extremely cool. And on those few occasions when he’s Jon DMtweeted me (twice to be exact), the squeeing has been REAL.;) Knowing that our worlds can possibly brush against each other’s so regularly makes the parasocial relationship feel less one-sided, which is exhilarating. The time that he spends sharing his life with us also makes me feel that he’s thinking of us even as he goes through his day to day life, which also makes me feel valued as a fan.

The downfalls are there though too. The more a celebrity puts themselves out there on social media, the more open they are to negativity, harassment, and even abuse and stalking. I know Jon has had people take clues from his tweets and show up at a job he was doing (working in real estate) that he was less than impressed with. David Tennant has called Twitter “stalking by committee,” I would imagine because he’s seen some things he can’t unsee there, and then of course there’s Stephen Amell and the recent Amellygate. I believe those things are likely frustrating for celebs, but they do have the opportunity to express their outrage pretty publicly and get some catharsis. But what about us?

I know countless people who have had strong, deep parasocial relationships with celebrities who have then met those celebrities and been disappointed. Never meet your heroes, right? Well, back in the day it was pretty rare to be able to engage with your heroes, but these days the chances are greater. But as many of these interactions are either under high-pressure in a few seconds at a con or backstage, or through text-based social media which is notorious for misunderstandings, all of this celebrity interaction can lead to high (or even impossible) expectations that aren’t met. But worse yet, despite the issues with these interactions being relatively small most of the time, it’s also hard to resolve them and move on since the relationships are still so primarily one-sided.

What do I mean? Well, here are a few examples I can share, as I seem to have a Felicity Smoak-esque level of social awkwardness when interacting with celebrities.

SentenceFragmentsExample 1: We all know how strong my relationship is with the New Kids. Well, when they reunited, I fully bought VIP passes which had backstage passes so I could FINALLY meet these men who I’d loved for so long. Backstage, when I went to say hi to Danny, he basically didn’t acknowledge me, as he was very, VERY clearly eyeballing some hot girl in our VIP group and literally following her around. As I had some real body image self-esteem issues at the time, it was hurtful. But obviously since I only had 3 minutes in their presence, and that included meeting all five and taking a picture, I didn’t exactly have time to mention it, talk about it, or process it with Danny himself (plus I was so star struck I wouldn’t have been able to talk anyway, even if I’d had an hour). So, even though I had a 20 year long relationship with this man that was life-changing for me, I had no way to work through this negative thing that had happened, as I have no access to the guy. Just enough access to be dangerous, apparently, which was tough. Logic states that it was their first reunion tour, he was single, and he had a momentary lapse in judgment and so obviously I’m not going to write off 20 years because of one interaction. But it did suck, and having no way to resolve it sucked too.

Example 2: Last year (2014) I went to Vancouver on a grand adventure to see David Tennant filming Gracepoint. Not because I’m a stalker (I swear), but because my life was epically boring, I needed some excitement in my world, and I’d never done anything like that before. So a Twitter friend and I lost our minds, and off we went! While we were there, we discovered we were staying at the same hotel as David. And though we tried to meet him on set (and leave him alone at the hotel, despite seeing him there several times), we weren’t able to. So on our last day we got desperate and approached him at the hotel for a picture. He was super nice and completely wonderful, but I’m also pretty sure he was fairly annoyed. So I felt awful. But then we ran into him again later that evening and he said a very animated “HIYA” to us. And feeling bad about earlier, we just smiled and left him alone, all standing around different parts of the lobby awkwardly doing nothing (we were waiting to be seated for dinner, he seemed to be waiting for a ride). But then later realized that THAT was probably rude too, since he likely wanted to try to talk like a normal person and instead we acted like star struck teenagers. *head desk* Now I get to live with this forever, because even if I *did* get the chance to explain it to him (highly unlikely), I’m quite sure he wouldn’t even remember. Which should somehow make me feel better about it, and yet doesn’t! Sigh…

Example 3: During a recent Facebook live chat, Stephen Amell stated that he wasn’t sure when Season 3 of Arrow was coming to Netflix but that he really wished he did know because people keep asking. Wanting to get that answer in quickly, I typed out “October 7, I believe.” Well, Stephen went on to chat about the premiere of Arrow Season 4 (also on Oct 7) and then looked at his feed, saw my statement, and I guess thought I was correcting his math, since he’d said it was a certain amount of days to the premiere? So.. he said my name (SQUEE), but was a bit snarky about it because he thought I was being snarky. This is the tiniest of tiny misunderstandings… seriously no big deal… but considering this is literally the only direct interaction I’ve ever had with him, and he thought I was being a jerkface, and so then he was a bit of a jerkface, it’s irritating. Lol. I tried to tell him what I meant, but with 20,000 people also typing, there was no chance he’d see my clarification. Sigh. Not a big deal, and I’m over it, but just another example of how social media can lead to interactions with celebrities that don’t go as planned, but with us having no chance to rectify these small issues, leaving these lingering little things unresolvable. Don’t worry Stephen, I still love you. But I wasn’t being a jerkface. Promise. 😉

As fans, we now ultimately live in a world that is radically changing the entire landscape of how one goes about being a fan. Whether you’re into sports, music, science fiction, superheroes, books, fantasy, or any other host of media productions, if there’s someone you really want to meet or interact with, chances are if you give it a solid try, you’ll get that opportunity. SocialDelete Tumblr internet history and gifs media has made the world smaller. I know for a fact that at the time I wrote the original draft of this blog, Jonathan Knight was sitting on a cruise ship in the Atlantic with several thousand fanboys and girls on the New Kids cruise, and I know much of what he did the day I originally wrote this because social media (from him, the other guys, and my friends on the ship) had let me know. I also know that if I had enough money, I could’ve been on that damn boat with him (and I will one day, if it kills me). As of the day I’m posting this, some current happenings are that Jon’s extra pissed off at Texas, Stephen Amell in coming to Louisville this weekend with damn near the entire Arrow cast (and also nearly froze his boy bits off last week filming in the ocean), and Emily Betts and Colton Haynes had the most epic Halloween costumes ever. I think this has a lot of implications for parasocial relationships as technology grows and changes.

This weekend I’ll be meeting Stephen Amell for the first time, which I am rather ridiculously stoked about. But meeting him is going to be a bit strange because of the ways technology has changed parasocial relationships. Stephen is on social media almost every day, and is ridiculously open in the things that he puts out there. I know more about what Stephen is doing day to day than I do about most of my extended family members, let alone the celebrities whose work I adore. I’ve met numerous people online over the years, and have shared those day to day things. You come to know people — or at least feel like you do — despite having never met in person. And then when you do meet in person, it’s like getting together with an old friend. It’s one of the things I love most about the Internet! But with Stephen, it’s that type of online relationship, but it’s one sided. So when I meet him, I’ll have this level of comfort or familiarity (like meeting an old friend) that he won’t have, because I’ll be a complete stranger to him. Just an odd dynamic that I haven’t run into or really thought about before. I’m sure that Stephen deals with that a lot — people that think they know him for real, when obviously none of us do — but it certainly must affect the way he interacts with fans, and how fans interact with him. The psychology of it all is just very interesting to contemplate.

Ultimately, I believe that we are always going to have those connections with media, because that is the very purpose of media. Reading or watching stories, listening to music, watching sports, etc, these are all ways in which we process and reflect on our own emotions, which is why we find things we so readily connect with. That’s been around for centuries if not millennia, and won’t change. What has changed, however, is our access to the creators of these things which are so important to us. While this can absolutely mean that we can become that much closer to these things that are so near and dear to our heart, it also means that our heroes are likely not going to be able to live up there on the pedestals we used to create for them. This can be inspirational in showing us that they really are just like us, and any one of us has the potential for greatness. It can make us feel a part of the process, and a part of their world (cue Little Mermaid singing), which I know is exciting for me. But I think that it means that we also have to be somewhat more forgiving of the humanness of the celebrities that we love so much, as if we have additional access to them, it means that they are going to make mistakes because they are human, just like us. But of course on the flip side of that, with so much media, so many celebrities, and so many ways to communicate with the rest of the world, it also means that celebrities will need to take much greater care with their interactions with their fans, as it will become harder for them to live in their ivory towers, being arrogant, aloof, and separate from the rest of us. I love David Tennant because he seems like a genuinely nice, caring, and good person on top of his incredible talent. If he was an ass, it absolutely would affect my feelings on supporting him and his career, no matter how epic is acting is. This means that the celebrities of today have to be not only talented, but decent people as well. I have to say, while that does seem like a tall order, I think being a decent human being should be part of the job description for basically everyone, so I don’t feel too bad about it. And so even though I’ve had some awkward interactions with the New Kids, David Tennant, and Stephen Amell, I still look forward to seeing them again at concerts and cons, because I’m confident that I’ve chosen to engage in parasocial relationships with the right people, and I guess as fans in this day and age, that’s the most important thing we can ask for.

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Filed under Fangirling, Mental Health, Research

What I Want to be When I Grow Up

Little Engine That Literally Can't Even

With my dissertation topic (which is studying the relationships between sci-fi fandom involvement, social media, and mental health) gaining recent approval from my school, and having SO many people on Twitter wish me well and be excited for me (*waves to Twitter*), I thought I’d write a little bit about what I’m actually doing for my dissertation, and what my perfect world end game is.

People have been asking me what I want to be when I grow up for as long as I can remember, as I’m sure they do everyone. The frustration for me is that, despite going through grade school, a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and now even a doctorate, until the last year I really didn’t have an answer to that question. My strategy has been to keep going to school (which is something I’m pretty good at) and hope that something would eventually pop up. Interestingly enough, I think that strategy may have worked, if what I have found I want to do is something that I can somehow find a way to get paid to do.

People always tell you that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Well that’s fan-freaking-tastic if what you love is arguing with people (law), fixing people (medical, mental health), playing with numbers (accounting, business) or other such things that have a pretty direct career correlation. Well what about people like me whose passions involve fandom and traveling? Last I checked, no one is hiring professional fangirls to fly around the world to sci-fi cons. Sadly. I would be sooooooo qualified for that position. Also, the application would be amazing….

  • Current fandom:
  • OTP:
  • Currently watching:
  • Most frequented vacation spots:
  • Number of fandom cons attended (please list all con names/dates/locations/photo ops/VIP):
  • List at least three references (use Twitter handles please):

I digress. Anyway, I’ve never been able to figure out how to turn my passions into a job, let alone a career, and so I’ve always just accepted that I’ll have to do something for a living that’s at least tolerable, and leave my passions as my hobbies. Until the last year, when I had an epiphany. The way that Capella University sets up its doctoral programs is that all coursework is done online, but there are three in person gatherings (called colloquia) where you come together with other students and professors to begin laying the groundwork for your dissertation. These colloquia were the absolute best times of my doctoral program so far, hands down. And somehow, somewhere (I’m still not sure where I got the idea specifically), I realized that maybe… just maybe… I could write my dissertation on fandom. I got many crazy looks, and noooo one had much of any idea what I was talking about (that’s a whole other blog entry into itself), but through the experience of developing my research plan for dissertation I’ve realized something freaking amazing: there is science to be done in the field of fandom and mental health.

I think that we can all agree that fandom is here to stay. Social media has exploded, and people have taken to Twitter and Facebook (not to mention Tumblr and god knows how many other sites I don’t even frequent) quite literally by the millions to engage in fandom discussion and general fangirling/boying over our favorite pieces of pop culture. While fandom has been around since the dawn of time, social media has made it much more immediate and much, much more easily accessible. I’m no longer writing a pen pal about my New Kids on the Block obsession and waiting weeks if not months to get something back. Now I’m on Twitter meeting new fangirls/fanboys every single day and chatting about shows online in real time. There is scientific research backing up the fact that fandom is growing, and is becoming ever more powerful in bringing people together and in influencing the object of fanships (Obst, Zinkiewicz, & Smith, 2002a, 2002b; Recuero, Amaral, & Monteiro, 2012). There is scientific research backing up the fact that being part of a sports or music fandom can affect psychological well-being and even suicidal behaviors (Andriessen & Krysinska, 2009; Hirt, Zillmann, Erickson, & Kennedy, 1992; Stack, 2000, 2002; Wann & Weaver, 2009; Wann, 2006). There is scientific research backing up the fact that people can become addicted to their parasocial relationships of choice just like they might a drug (Rudski, Segal, & Kallen, 2009). There is scientific research backing up the fact that social media in and of itself can have a massive impact on wellbeing, both positively and negatively depending on the circumstances (Caplan, 2003; Davila et al., 2012; Giglietto, Rossi, & Bennato, 2012; Nabi, Prestin, & So, 2013; Sanderson & Cheong, 2010; Strano & Wattai Queen, 2012). So we know that fandom (especially online) is growing, it’s not going away, and it’s likely affecting our mental health and well-being. But that’s all we really know at this point.

So what do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be a scientific researcher who applies science to the psychology of fandom. My fellow fangirls and fanboys, I think it is time that we recognized that we wield a tremendous amount of power. There is a massive world inside our electronic devices, and it is real. No longer should there be a distinction between “online” and “real life” because online IS real life (if you truly want to nerd out on this topic, check out Joseph Walther – his Social Information Processing Theory is one I plan to use in my dissertation, and is super relevant). But with great power comes great responsibility (sorry, I couldn’t resist…). We know that fandom has power, but science and good old fashioned common sense would state that there are likely both massive pros and massive cons from fandom participation. If it’s not going away, and it’s going to be a large part of our lives, then I feel it’s our responsibility to understand it and harness its power. We need research that discovers what the benefits of fandom participation are, not only so that we can feel justified in our involvement, but also so that professionals in mental health can understand it and so it can be used to help more people. But we also need to understand what the potential pitfalls are and how fandom can be used negatively, so that we as fans can recognize the warning signs in ourselves and others if people need help, keep ourselves safe and healthy, and also keep the objects of our fan-love safe as well. We have an amazing thing going here, but it’s critical that we understand it to the best of our abilities. Online fandoms aren’t going away. This is the New World Order. And now it is time that we understand what that means for us going forward.

So yes, this is what I want to do with my life. I’m passionate and excited about it in a way I’ve never been passionate and excited about anything before, not to mention determined. I want to meet all the fanboys and girls, and I want to understand everyone’s stories about fandom and parasocial relationships (I’ll write about those soon…). I want to dig in and see how fandom is both helping and hurting us. I want to validate our love for fandom, while also keeping us all safe. And yes, at some point it would also be super cool to discuss fandom from the perspective of the objects of fandom to understand how that power and responsibility affects them. And if that means I have to travel to all the Wizard Worlds and Dragon Cons and Comic Cons, then gosh, I guess I’ll just have to work through that challenge.;) But for the first time in my life, I can say that I have a deeper purpose in wanting to immerse myself in that world other than just to hope I can speak in full sentences to David Tennant this time, drink Nocking Point wine, and check out all the amazing cosplayers and fan art. I’m pretty damn excited about working on my dissertation, and ultimately digging in to this work that needs to be done. And you know I’ll keep you all up to date on my progress as I go through the process!

P.S. If anyone wants to hire a fandom researcher, definitely let me know. My desired career isn’t exactly mainstream, and I have yet to see any postings looking for fandom researchers on CareerBuilder, though I remain ever hopeful. 😉 @drfangirlphd @Chrisha_DWGrrl

References

Andriessen, K., & Krysinska, K. (2009). Can sports events affect suicidal behavior? A review of the literature and implications for prevention. Crisis, 30(3), 144–52. doi:10.1027/0227-5910.30.3.144

Caplan, S. E. (2003). Preference for online social interaction: A theory of problematic Internet use and psychosocial well-being. Communication Research, 30(6), 625–648. doi:10.1177/0093650203257842

Davila, J., Hershenberg, R., Feinstein, B. A., Gorman, K., Bhatia, V., & Starr, L. R. (2012). Frequency and quality of social networking among young adults: Associations with depressive symptoms, rumination, and corumination. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1(2), 72–86. doi:10.1037/a0027512

Giglietto, F., Rossi, L., & Bennato, D. (2012). The open laboratory: Limits and possibilities of using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as a research data source. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 30(3-4), 145–159. doi:10.1080/15228835.2012.743797

Hirt, E. R., Zillmann, D., Erickson, G. A., & Kennedy, C. (1992). Costs and benefits of allegiance: Changes in fans’ self-ascribed competencies after team victory versus defeat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(5), 724–738. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.63.5.724

Nabi, R. L., Prestin, A., & So, J. (2013). Facebook friends with (health) benefits? Exploring social network site use and perceptions of social support, stress, and well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 16(10), 721–7. doi:10.1089/cyber.2012.0521

Obst, P., Zinkiewicz, L., & Smith, S. G. (2002a). Sense of community in science fiction fandom, part 1: Understanding sense of community in an international community of interest. Journal of Community Psychology, 30(1), 87–103. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jcop.1052

Obst, P., Zinkiewicz, L., & Smith, S. G. (2002b). Sense of community in science fiction fandom, part 2: Comparing neighborhood and interest group sense of community. Journal of Community Psychology, 30(1), 105–117. doi:10.1002/jcop.1053

Recuero, R., Amaral, A., & Monteiro, C. (2012). Fandoms, trending topics and social capital in Twitter. Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2, 1–24. Retrieved from http://spir.aoir.org/index.php/spir/article/view/7/pdf

Rudski, J. M., Segal, C., & Kallen, E. (2009). Harry Potter and the end of the road: Parallels with addiction. Addiction Research & Theory, 17(3), 260–277. doi:10.1080/16066350802334595

Sanderson, J., & Cheong, P. (2010). Tweeting prayers and communicating grief over Michael Jackson online. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 30(5), 328–340. doi:10.1177/0270467610380010

Stack, S. (2000). Blues fans and suicide acceptability. Death Studies, 24, 223–231. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/074811800200559

Stack, S. (2002). Opera subculture and suicide for honor. Death Studies, 26, 431–437. doi:10.1080/0748118029008676

Strano, M. M., & Wattai Queen, J. (2012). Covering your face on Facebook. Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 24(4), 166–180. doi:10.1027/1864-1105/a000076

Wann, D. L. (2006). Examining the potential causal relationship between sports team identification and psychological well being. Journal of Sports Behavior, 29(1), 79–95. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.library.capella.edu/docview/215874095?accountid=27965

Wann, D. L., & Weaver, S. (2009). Understanding the relationship between sport team identification and dimensions of social well-being. North American Journal of Psychology, 11(2), 219–230. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=psyh&AN=2009-08708-002&site=ehost-live\ndan.wann@murraystate.edu

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Filed under Fangirling, Mental Health, PhD, Research

Amellygate: The Aftermath

So, to say that I’m nervous about posting this online would be an understatement.

I’m concerned I may be losing my mind. 

The season premiere of Arrow is this week, the fandom is in its happy place, and the last thing anyone wants to do is rehash recent negativity when there are Olicity teasers to be had. 

But this topic has just not left me alone since the Stephen Amell debacle (which I call Amellygate in my head) and so I felt I had to write about it.

What is it? It is the topic of racism in the United States.

The recent absurd arrest of Ahmed for building a clock, and the subsequent Internet explosion when Stephen Amell attempted to speak about the issue of stereotyping reaffirmed that racial tensions are HIGH in this country right now. While 99.9% of the interactions I had with people online about my previous blog were positive, one recurring thing that came out of that conversation that was new to me was the idea that if you’re white, you shouldn’t be talking about race.

There are people that looked at Stephen, and yes even a few that looked at me, and decided that regardless of having no knowledge of me, my family or my experiences, the fact that my profile picture shows white skin means that I am not entitled to an opinion on the topic of racism in the United States because I don’t experience it. Most people did not approach things that way with me. Most people were awesome. But I was and continue to be completely blown away by how much of this attitude was thrown at Stephen, and I’m still working on processing it. Hence the writing.

I have been involved in the LGBT community for most of my adult life, fighting and protesting, letter writing and marching on the community’s behalf. If you look at my social media profiles you will see that I am a woman and I am married to a man. But you know what? In all of my  years I have never had an LGBT person tell me that I couldn’t have an opinion about LGBT rights because I’ve never experienced their discrimination. Not once. It’s never even been insinuated. In their community I have been called an ally, welcomed with open arms, and thanked for supporting and accepting them. Not that I’m in it for the thanks, but the point remains… even if I haven’t been denied a marriage license, denied housing, or denied service (seriously Indiana, I’m still not over it…) due to my sexual orientation, they don’t care. They just want help. And they are happy to accept that help from non-LGBT folks, and even hand out that special ally designation so they recognize that we are a part of the fight and they’re thankful. At least in my experience.

So then we get to what happened during Amellygate with regards to race. Obviously people were very clearly angry at Stephen for stating his opinion, as they felt that it was inappropriate and took away from the conversation about Ahmed (though I would respectfully point out that if you want a conversation to be focused on a certain thing, talking about that thing and only that thing and not discussing any celebrity scandals might be the best way to keep the conversation where you think it should be, but maybe that’s just my opinion…). In the course of that full-Internet conversation, I heard time and again people saying to Stephen that he’s a rich white man so he would never understand. That he can’t talk about it because he doesn’t get it. And then I had a few people say essentially the same thing to me, when never in my life before had I heard this. Stephen ultimately apologized, saying he’s Stephen Apology Bordernot a scholar in the field of religion or race, he’s just an actor with a high school education and he should leave these things to smarter people. I was pretty disheartened to hear him say that. I know why he did, and I absolutely respect that he wanted to lay things out, face things head on with positivity and grace, and move on, but do we really live in a world where you have to have a PhD in something for your opinion to be taken seriously? Well, no we don’t, because I’m very nearly PhD in the field of mental health (which focuses heavily on issues such as race and oppression, btw) and there are those who don’t believe I have a right to an opinion either. And lets not kid ourselves that all the people hurling their two cents at Stephen all had doctoral degrees, because it’s the Internet and opinions are like assholes… unless you’re a celebrity, apparently, and then you’re supposed to sit there and look pretty and be quiet about potentially hot button issues.

I’m projecting again. Yes, I’m frustrated at the abuse Stephen took and his statements that he’ll leave it to “smarter” people, when I’m the first to tell you that I know plenty of stupid people with PhDs and plenty of brilliant people without even a high school diploma, and no amount of book learning can compare to real world experience. But I’m displacing because I’m still working through how quickly the conversation went nasty and exclusionary, with finger pointing and hate, but with so few attempts at offering solutions to these overarching racial problems. It seemed like the perfect time for people to have a conversation about better ways for us to work towards avoiding both what happened with Ahmed, but also making society safer for all minorities, but instead the conversation became just so mean that all anyone wanted to do was put it behind them and forget about it.

But forgetting about it won’t fix the problem.

I live ten minutes from where Sam DuBose was recently shot and killed by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop. It’s sad that I was actually genuinely surprised when the city stepped up and handled the situation as well as they could, as Cincinnati is not exactly known for our ability to gracefully handle racially charged issues. I’ve lived in Cincinnati most of my life where epic racial tension is ever present and always simmering just beneath the surface of everything. And I hate it.

Earlier this summer I had to sit down with my 14 year old biracial step-daughter and tell her about the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Whether it’s naivete or dumb luck, she’s never had to deal with blatant racism, which both thrills and terrifies me. Terror got the better of me that day, and my husband and I felt that we needed to have a very real conversation with her about racism and racial tensions in our country and in our area so as to keep her on guard and safe. I still can’t even think about that conversation without tears, as I had to put a look of fear in my child’s eyes that day for something she should NEVER have to worry about. But when she goes back to her custodial home in one of the most racist areas of our state, the gut churning fear for her is real, and so I did what I felt I had to do to keep her safe. Even if it broke my heart.

At this point, racism is so ingrained in our culture, so systemic that it can be hard to understand where to start.

So here’s the real focus of this article: When it comes to combating racism in this country and in the world, I want to help.

Let me say that again: I want to HELP.

Tell me how. Educate me. Help me stop being part of the problem, and become part of the solution. I can completely accept that good intentions are not enough, so tell us what to actually do.

Don’t tell me what not to do. Leave the snarky comments on what’s already been said out of it. Let’s avoid sarcasm and personalized negativity. Tell me, and therefore the rest of us, what we can do to help. Because I can guarantee you that most people out there like me want to help, but I’m not too proud to say that maybe we think we are and we’re not. Maybe we’re doing the wrong things. Maybe we’re not as knowledgeable as we think we are.

So help us help. Teach us how to be your allies.

Let’s get away from conversations that include nothing but the problem, and work towards more discussion on the solution.

In all of the crazy of Amellygate, two of my good friends mentioned something that stuck with me. First, that we should remember what we were feeling that week. And second, that a good dialogue with understanding helps. Imagine what we could learn — could do — if we just took the time to talk to each other, and hear each other?

I believe in my soul that there are FAR more of us that want to fix this than people who don’t. So lets work together to make it happen. It is time. And I believe that if we work together, have compassion for each other, and educate and share with each other, we can do it.

So let’s.

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