i've been thinking a lot about my sophomore year of college lately, mostly because i've found myself, over the last eight months or so, deliciously backsliding into fandom, a pleasure i first really experienced at that time. i rapidly realized i'd been a fangirl all my life, but it was only at age twenty that i found a community and could give my enthusiasms a name. it was like a homecoming. fast-forward ten years and i've loved arthur conan doyle and his puckish sherlock holmes for a long time now, but sherlock (bbc) has given me a new venue for thinking about how and why fandom is such a crucial and fascinating cultural phenomenon, especially for young women.
in college i was a lotr fangirl, with some harry potter thrown in for good measure. i imagine myself back in that tiny dorm room outside of philadelphia, an old stone building full of women, giggling with my other fannish friends. one in particular, c, was the companion with whom i would frantically refresh the library of moria website, waiting for updates. late at night we'd push slapdash missives on scraps of notepaper under each others doors -- "why haven't they updated yet?! its 12:02!" we had a game we played, c and i, along with one other friend, m. we each had our crushes on some celebrity or other and would sit around and talk about them as if they were our boyfriends -- "i told him not to call me when i'm revising for an exam! i wouldn't call him in the middle of principal photography would i?!" -- it was a joke, a way to pass the time, and we called it "the lie," a space where anything could be true and safe. over the course of a year, it became a part of how we interacted with each other: writing postcards from each other's love interests, professions of adoration that included veiled fandom references and things only others like us could understand. we stayed up until the early hours watching our boys appear on snl and late-night talk shows. we shared fanfic links over AIM in the days before facebook, before gmail, before archive of our own. we tacitly admitted the private purposes to which we put our bookmarked stories; we talked about sex.
it sounds ridiculous, creepy even, but i can promise you it wasn't. we weren't belieber-style rabid fans who cried hateful tears when the object of our affections held hands with another human being in public, got a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, had a child. we weren't in love with these men or even the characters they portrayed. what we loved was the world we created for ourselves. what we loved was the acceptance, the freedom. what we loved was each other.