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When fangirling goes x-rated. 15, May 2012

Posted by Iphigenia in Fandom, Films.
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I said to myself I would try to keep fandom related musings off this blog. For some reason in my mind, fandom doesn’t equal serious. But why ever not? Am I embarrassed? Do I care what other people think? If I search deep within myself I realise, no, no I really don’t.

However, this post isn’t quite going to be along the lines of me telling you about my favourite things. Someone on a forum I visit daily said something today that has just stuck with me and created this post. We were in a thread discussing The Avengers. For fellow Brits, that’s the Marvel film not the British film/show. I don’t know why I refuse to call Marvel’s The Avengers by the release title over here (Avengers Assemble) – I think I might be a bit of a comic snob. But that’s another article…

Back to my forum conversation. One (male) poster expressed exasperation for what women find attractive. This was a response to me stating that I wouldn’t be surprised if in Thor 2, Loki’s involvement is toned down a little. He’s very much a target of misaimed fandom, albeit he’s a lot more sympathetic than characters like The Joker or even Draco Malfoy. Misaimed fandom is when a character who is meant to be a bad guy, even loathed, appears to stir something in the audience that wasn’t meant to be stirred. This can be anything from finding them more interesting than the hero even though the villain is clearly horrible (hello Joker) or it can simply be you sympathise with the villain because they have daddy issues (Loki). But the writers probably didn’t intend for you to sympathise so much you end up feeling sorry for the guy when he loses. Yet it happens time and time again.

However, because fandom at least on the Internet appears to be mostly driven by women, “stirring what wasn’t meant to be stirred” can go beyond simple character interest. It can take on a sexual element. There are women out there on the Internet right now going absolutely gaga over Loki in his Thor 2011/The Avengers form. I think a lot of it is also aimed at the actor, but Loki in particular is getting most of the attention. There’s nothing wrong with this. I always think that as long as you still know the line between reality and fantasy than a little indulgence in what you find attractive is fine. Some women (or inexperienced teenage girls mostly) take this a little too far, but again that’s another article.

Another (male) poster on this forum stated that he simply could not understand why pretty much everything Loki does in The Avengers has been turned into gifs/jpgs/anything else and posted several times all over the Internet. I’ve seen this view before, lamenting that such attention to detail is often accompanied by women straying into the realms of too much information about what said images make them feel. From “I’d hit that” to descriptions of what they want to put where, I’ve seen it all.

I have to say, I don’t really get it anymore. On the same forum I am sick to the back teeth of seeing Eric from True Blood for example because I don’t think he’s hot. He does nothing for me, I think he looks boring. Sorry Eric/Alexander, but you’re not short of a queue of women (and men) who find you attractive. Me bailing on you is no loss. Anyway, I don’t feel the need to look at endless photos of my famous crushes anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m older, maybe it’s because I’m in a relationship so felt I needed to put a lid on it…I don’t know.

But I haven’t exactly put a lid on it. I still look at other men and appreciate them, shall we say. I know my boyfriend does the same about other women. We’ve discussed it. We’ve both said we know we’re both human and our sexual desires can’t be redefined just because we found one another. We’re in a monogamous relationship but we’re not so clueless that we think monogamy should extend to our brains because even if you try not to, your brain will think it anyway. I said to him just the other night; I can look in the shop window but it doesn’t mean I want to touch. I’m happy with just the one man in reality but you can’t shut off the part of your mind that made you attracted to anyone who matches your preferences. Part of being in an adult relationship is accepting this and deciding where to go with it. We’ve picked monogamy, plenty of others don’t. That’s fine.

I feel like I’m straying off my point here. When I was younger I did obsessively consume images of my crush of the moment. By that I mean famous men. Real life crushes had the added bonus that you could probably look at them in reality quite regularly. Then again, my hormones were raging before Facebook existed so I imagine it’s different for teenage girls these days.

For whatever reason, I have less time for going overkill on the google search. But I do think the Loki fangirls have worn me down. Okay girls, I get it. There’s a vulnerability to that portrayal of him that seems to tap into something that some of us like. I think it’s the eyes. Definitely the eyes. They’re very expressive. I also think that because people keep posting photos of him where I can see them a part of my brain has been unlocked that hasn’t been opened since I was a teenage goth wannabe. 16-year-old me LOVED pale guys with dark hair and blue eyes. Loki’s actor doesn’t really seem to do anything for me when his hair is short blond and curly (sorry Tom) so yes, somewhere in there I am indulging my inner teenage goth who never really left. I just quietened her down a bit.

It’s a good thing too. Teenage to early twenties me could get quite explicit about what I wanted to do to fantasy guys and what I wanted them to do to me. It was a surprise to me at the time that I could feel that way. I’d basically grown up getting messages through school sex education that boys were the ones with the uncontrollable desire and I had to control it by not allowing them access to my sexuality. There’s a lot sex education gets right in spite of what people say. I do think it’s right to tell kids sex feels good and as long as all parties agree and it’s safe, then fill your boots. However, I don’t really remember anyone, even my really liberal mother, preparing me for the strength of my own sex drive and how to handle it. Even masturbation was a taboo activity if you were female. Boys were pretty open with the fact they did it and watched porn. I didn’t even think I could watch porn. So all that was available to me was the fantasies in my head…and if anyone asked if I touched myself, I denied it. I was lying of course.

All this has got me thinking that maybe all these young women who go crazy over the latest heart-throb (conventional or not) are just expressing their sexuality in the only way they know how. They might not even realise that’s what they’re doing. I’m a little upset when I see people calling all the women who do this obsessive and sad and pathetic. How is it any different to the men who no doubt are going on about Black Widow’s arse? I’ve heard plenty of men say some really explicit stuff about actresses and models and singers over the years but they seem to get a free pass. It’s acceptable because sexual banter is seen as blokey. It’s what men do. But if a woman does it, obviously she’s a stalker.

When I was little and first got into comic books and action films, I didn’t realise that they weren’t traditionally meant to be aimed at me. These were things that I watched and read with my dad. It was our daddy daughter bonding and that was it. As I got older I became aware that often female characters are very passive and seem to only be there for a few titty shots. Of course, this has been addressed and you do get female characters like Black Widow who actually contribute something to the plot with minimal arse shots. But I can remember people dismissing comic book films as something for teenage male virgins even less than a decade ago. I think the past decade or so has done a lot to market these films to women as well.

I think it started with Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Personally I think the former is acceptable but flawed and the latter was terrible. Let’s just forget about the plot. One thing that always stands out when I watch those films is how much Batman’s casting was obviously influenced by the decision to choose an actor who got women all hot and bothered at the time. There’s even a few lingering bum/crotch shots when Batman is suiting up in those films. So on a very base level, that camera work was acknowledging that there might be women in the audience who want to look at sculptured bums. I was only around ten when Batman Forever was released so not quite old enough to notice this, or if I did I probably still thought men smell and are icky. And Batsuit nipples will always be stupid.

So then we get to The Avengers. I went to see it with my boyfriend last week and a couple of days ago I realised he had maybe only two attractive women to look at through the whole thing. I had almost the entire main cast. I don’t fancy all of them and obviously drooling over the cast wasn’t our main motivation for watching the film. We both like comic book films because we like comic books. But it was interesting for me to realise that there were certain things that the male cast did where it felt like they had women (and gay or bisexual men, let’s not forget them) in mind. Having grown up feeling like I was a weirdo for wanting to look at attractive men, it was a little strange if not welcome to see a film openly flaunting it. A film in a genre that wasn’t traditionally aimed at women as well! Naturally Black Widow in her tight catsuit was courting a certain section of the audience but it didn’t feel like she was the only one on show. It didn’t feel like she was just for show either! In fact, she was probably one of my favourite characters.

So let the women have their fun. Our sexuality can be as visual and as physical as a mans. I’m not saying that our sexualities are exactly the same but a woman, like a man, doesn’t have one setting. I know everyone likes to pretend that we do (and it’s “I need to feel loved before I feel sexual, can’t we just cuddle instead?”) but it’s bullshit. If women on the Internet want to post about how much gagged Loki made them tingle, or how fantastic was Captain America’s arse, or how hot Bruce Banner was in his human form – actually, I wouldn’t care if there’s a lady out there who likes his Hulk form – then just let them. Most of them know where the line is and won’t cross it. They’re not any more or less pathetic than you for saying “did you see the tits on THAT” And if you’re still uncomfortable being in the cinema with a bunch of women indulging their sexual fantasies, well then, unless they’re actually masturbating in there…get over it.

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