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I've thought a lot about being a fan in the last week. I mean more than usual, which is quite a lot anyway.

Several things contributed. I started writing this a while back and abandoned it, but I'd just been to a Sherlock academic conference, I'd met up with some fellow academic fangirls, and I'd been sucked into a new theatre-fandom all in one weekend. Then I shelved this for a bit. Last night though, inadvertently the desire reared its head yesterday when I got involved in a disscussion where someone said 'but why do you care?' in relation to things fans were saying.

Now in that case it was initially 'because some fans got an interpretation of theatre so spectacularly wrong something had to be said' (not by myself incidentally in this case) but also the comments around 'why do you care' were the closest I've come to being outright fan-shamed in a while. It pushed my buttons. I felt bad for having a rant on my friend's facebook discussion. I fumed a little and came to edit this post.

I've been slowly rediscovering my fangirl side this year. Beginning, unsurprisingly with Sherlock airing at the start of the year. I'd felt a lot of fan-shaming in my direction prior to that to the point I was more and more inclind to hide my fan-side thinking I should probably 'grow up' and certainly couldn't carry on what I'd begun and make it part of my career. At that point however, I decided to say screw it and take back elements of my fannish nature I'd begun to miss. Actually I can pinpoint the specific moment that happened, and the moment I realised it needed to be part of my professional life as well as my personal-something I'd been edging towards for a while. Midway through 'His Last Vow' (right when I was getting very worried for Mycroft's safety in all this, but that's my issue) I realsied this is it, the fanboys made this and they got their wish. Parking issues with the fanboys in question (that is a blog, if not a book in of itself) the point being it gave me hope. It also gave me the sense that it was also kind of sort of maybe ok to be fannish and do it on my terms.

So I started creeping back towards it. Hiding it less, engaging more. Quietly, on my own terms.  I rediscovered and energized that part of me personally and professionally through conferenes and engaging with fellow fan studies academics (or just academics who are fans). Yes aspects of it raised questions, that I'll come to. But on the whole I feel proud to say, yes I'm a fangirl, yes I'm an acafan and yes this is where I'd like my life and career to be.

Attending the conference began to renew this for me. To be in a room where you 'speak the language' even when the analysis and the theory is at it's most complex is such a great feeling. To care about the subject matter is also a wonderful thing. My first conferencing experiences as a PhD student were awful, truly awful. It wasn't until I found myself, almost by accident, at a film and television conference that I enjoyed the expereince. Finally I thought, people who speak my language. Finding your place in academia is a lot about finding 'your people' much like fandom in fact.

Of course there are issues, some of which kept me up later than I should discussing them the night of the conference. Where do we put ourselves in dialogue with fans? how do we ask the harder academic questions when faced with fans who are so defensive of what they love? how do we ask these questions of the things we love? must it even be a question of asking how to work with the fans? are we destined to always be divided from fans?

Then there's the academic stigma. In an arena where intellect is prized 'coming out' as a fan can often feel dangerous. When presenting at my University I've felt embarassed, like I have to play down how I came to do this research. I worry that people aren't listening to what I have to say about the staging of Frankenstein on stage, but are silently accusing me of only wanting to watch Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller writhe naked on stage. I worry that my work on location and identity in Cardiff based drama is dismissed as a crazy Whovian or Sherlokcian stalking filming. I worry it doesn't even get that far, that it's dismissed simply as a girl who fancies Matt Smith/Benedict Cumberbatch/Jenna Coleman/Steven Moffat (ok maybe not the last one) because the inherent sexism in fan culture, in academia means that as a girl this must be my main interest. And while I won't deny I wouldn't exactly kick them out of bed (well again, maybe the last one) finding actors physically attractive has never sustained fannish interest for me. Most of in academic life, all I worry they are judging me for wasting my time on fannish tenadancies when I should be doing something more useful. I shouldn't have time to watch TV, never mind talk about it online. What if they found out I read fanfiction? what if they found out I wrote it?

Beyond that I worry, when I talk to friends, that they think I'm 'just messing about' when I talk about my fannish life, particularity my acafan life. The idea that my University paid for me to go to a conference and talk about Sherlock, must surely have them whispering about my so called 'job'? Or that they judge me for my extracurricular 'fan' life, the idea that 'wait she's supposed to be clever and all she wants to talk about is Doctor Who?'

It's not just restriced to the realm of sci-fi and television (always prime areas for fan shaming) I've felt judged for my theatre fannishness since I was a teenager. Travelling all the way to London and back in a day to see a particular play. Later flying to New York for a holiday, but really to drown myself in theatre. Yes, I have spent thousands over the years on theatre tickets and travel. And though I'm savvy in my ticket buying generally if I really want to see something on stage, yes I will pay what looks like a ludicrous amount of money. I have driven across the country or flown to another to see plays or performers.

On balance this irks me more, because people pay £100s of pounds to see 'big name' gigs. Just because the kinds of actors I'm interested in seeing aren't household names, doesn't make my being a fan of them any less valid. Doesn't make my paying money or travelling to see them in a slightly obscure play any less valid. People wait and jam phone lines for the 'It' band of the moment, or for festivals. I do the same for theatre tickets. When the National, Globe or Donmar open a new booking season, that's my Glastonbury or my Rolling Stones. I personally have no desire to go to a music festival. Firstly my music tastes are so woefully uncool I wouldn't get much out of Glasto. Second I'm a rubbish camper, I'm rubbish with crowds. But I always think, when watching festivals from my living room 'wow if that's your favourite band that must be so much fun' it's just not fun for me. What is fun for me is seeing that one particular play, that one particular actor, often their quite obscure, while yes I will go and see certain TV stars when they do a stage role, when my fannish tastes overlap. Usually in theatre world it's the 'other' one I'd paid to see. Case in point I fan-girled like you wouldn't believe when Hadley Fraser was announced in the Donmar's Coriolanus. That production is a great example of relative fangirling. I fought tooth and nail (no really) for tickets because I love Mark Gatiss. I was fighting off Tom Hiddleston fans at a point when I couldn't even spell his name right. It's not that I dislike Hiddleston, I just get more excited about Gatiss, I also got excited about Hadley Fraser, and about 4 other cast members I knew from other theatre productions. But even within my group of friends going that was both 'weird' and 'wrong' I was 'liking' the wrong person (people). Why? what does it matter? I'm as excited as the next person that we got tickets, does it matter why I'm excited as long as I am?

Theatre was and always will be my real fannish love. And it has particular quirks and etiquette and practices outside of other types of fandom and I love it for it. I love that it's do diverse and obscure that there's on the whole less competition for fans, you like x or y actor or designer or director that even some other theatre fans wouldn't know. But there's such passion. When the two worlds collide as above it gets tickier. I'm never going to deny how exciting it is to see favourite tv actors on stage (well, when they're good) but at times it feels like two worlds collide. And sometimes I want to hide in the other world.

I'm not a particularly 'active' or 'known'  fangirl. I occupy my own little space, engage with a few people. Mostly nobody notices or cares what I have to say. And I like that. I enjoy the small scale engagement and the firendships it's brought me. I was beginning to get the feeling somehow I 'shouldn't that I should be a 'grown up' and go an make friends the 'normal' way. Thing is, I have plenty of friends I made the 'normal' way but when I scaratch the surface you'd be surprised how many of them turn out to be fans underneath. It's like we can smell each other. Actually that's not the case, it's just about recongising in these other humans something in yourself, something you can get along with. And while we're on it, the best of my 'normal' friends are so tolerant, interested even in my fannish activities. No I don't bore them with the finer details of the things I'm a fan of, but they're interested, why? because they're my friends and they're interested in what's important to me.

It's not to say it doesn't throw up issues. Who wants to date a fangirl? again whole books and papers are written on the idea of the 'fake geek girl' and the issues that creates. But in general everyday life, fannish behaviour is frowned upon. If I go on a first date and asked what I'm interested in


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