Fandom Friday | Welcome Home: Fandom That Sticks

Lately I’ve revisited a few of my favourite TV shows, and it got me thinking about why we re-read/listen/watch certain things. There are a staggering number of fantastic novels, TV series, films, albums etc. in the world, many quite similar, and yet we go back to the same worlds. They’re comfortable, nostalgic even. We know the stories, the characters, the lines; we have control. We know what they’re capable of and while they’re more than likely to leaving us as sobbing messes on the floor (thanks, Rowling) we know it’s coming – and we love them anyway. Of course, even without sentimentality the things that stay with us do so because, well, we like them.

Here are some examples of the things I always go back to, and some of my reasons:

Harry Potter

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I think this one goes without saying, really. Harry has been an integral part of my life since I was 6 years old.  So much of who I am comes from Harry Potter; I wouldn’t be a writer, therefore wouldn’t have done the degree I did, met the people I did etc, etc. Not to mention that so much of my understanding of the world came from the Wizarding World – growing up with such strong messages about almost everything has led to some pretty strong opinions. If you don’t like my hippy-dippy leftist views, blame Potter. As JK Rowling herself said, ‘Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home’- and it has become a home for me. No matter how bad things feel, HP has always been there; and I know he always will.

RENT

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RENT is a wonderful musical. I haven’t been lucky enough to see it on stage, but I watch the film version over and over again. I first watched it when I was 12, and 9 years on I still find new things to love every time I watch it. The messages are powerful, the characters are incredibly written and perfectly flawed, and the music is everything.

Hustle

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Hustle is a TV series by the BBC. The show finished a few years ago, after 8 seasons.  It’s a show that I watched when it very first came out – my dad and I watched every season together, and now watching reruns is a regular occurrence. I suppose I like it because of the nostalgia, and also simply because it’s a great TV show. I probably know every episode inside out, and yet it still stuns me. The programme is so clever and original – I still don’t think I’ve seen anything like it, not really.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling

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Do I even need to explain this?! This Buffy episode has all the best bits of the show in general, and it’s a musical!

The Blessed Unrest

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Now, I have a lot of songs that I listen to again and again, sure, but this is perhaps the only album I go back to in its entirety. I love this album for the messages; I can relate to every single song, depending on my mood and circumstances. As Sara herself says, (although Gravity isn’t actually on this album) ‘something always brings me back to you. It never takes too long’.

What are the things you always go back to? What are your reasons?

See you soon,

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I will come back 1000 times. [x]


Fandom Friday | The Problematic Fave

Problematic favourites – we all have them, whether they’re TV shows, musicians, characters or books. I think everyone has something or someone they love but feel reluctant to discuss or recommend. Personally I worry that if I mention liking something problematic I run the risk of appearing to agree with that thing entirely, when this simply isn’t the case.

The term “problematic fave” has become somewhat of a joke, but I feel like the topic is actually something that is worth discussing seriously. Is it possible to like something problematic without being problematic yourself? How?

Of course it’s possible to like something problematic while still trying to not be problematic yourself – if it wasn’t we would be very limited as to what we could actually like. I believe that the most important thing about liking something problematic is realising and understanding that that thing is problematic – if you’re asking this question you’re probably already there. You can enjoy something while still recognising the bad aspects. Watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s as much as you like, so long as you understand the problem with Mickey Rooney’s Mr Yunioshi.

An example of one of my problematic favourites is It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. This differs from examples such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s in that the characters are intended to be terrible people – they are offensive and non- PC, and often get their comeuppance. The show often gets incredibly close to the bone, and although I enjoy it there are often moments that are incredibly problematic. Yes, this is the point, but it makes it very difficult to explain the show to people who haven’t seen it without sounding like a horrible person. I think what the show does well when you do watch it, however, is having a character step back and acknowledge how problematic the gang’s antics are.

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Found here.

It’s important to remember as well that characters are just characters, and that they don’t reflect writers or audience’s opinions. On the same lines, it’s important to remember that you can separate art and the creator – you don’t have to like an artist/writer as a person to appreciate their work. Justin Bieber’s behaviour is often deplorable, but I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t sing along to Sorry if it comes on in a bar.

Bunny

Photo by Beth at GeekShot Photography, found on her blog.

Another example of one of my “problematic faves” is Isabella (Bunny) Bennett. Bunny is a member of Steam Powered Giraffe, a band who perform as steampunk robots. A while back she caused quite a stir online after making several jokes about eating disorders and self harm. It became important for the band to emphasise that their work isn’t directly connected to the people – fans don’t have to like them as people in order to like the music and surrounding art (Bunny and fellow band member Sam often sell prints and band merchandise that they have drawn themselves). Further still, you don’t have to agree with everything Bunny says/does to like her in general. I like Bunny and connect with her in many ways, but these jokes were shocking and not something I support at all. I find it important if “Saladgate” comes up to reiterate that I don’t agree with the joke at all, but that I still like the band and the people.

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I mean look at that costuming. Found on the Steam Powered Giraffe website.

While you don’t have to like a creator or even the whole piece of work, it’s incredibly important to recognise and address problems with them. We cannot ignore problematic aspects of film, music, literature etc, or this adds to the problem. We have to say “I like this, but I don’t condone [offensive aspect]”, in order to send a message to creators about what is and isn’t acceptable.

What are some of your “problematic faves”? How do you describe them to people?

See you soon,

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Fandom Friday – My 5th Nerdaversary

I grew up in a world where being passionate about something, almost anything in fact, was enough to label you a ‘nerd’ – and a nerd wasn’t something you wanted to be; John Green was a name only known on YouTube, and geek culture wasn’t a fashion trend, it was something to laugh at. Reality wasn’t like the Disney movies, where you had to be some kind of ugly science genius to be a nerd (and even that was bad enough) – you just had to care about something.I don’t know if that’s just part of being a teenage girl, if it was just another shitty side effect of 2009 or what, but it sucked. Being a fairly smart kid with a thing for books, this wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted – pretending not to like anything is exhausting. Being ‘cool’ was more important than anything, even to the adults in my life.

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Harry Potter and Social Issues -Could JK Rowling Have Gone Further?

It is undeniable that the Harry Potter series deals with social issues in many ways – they are written into the text in such a way that has shaped the way generations have and continue to view the world. Millions of young people have grown up with Harry, often looking to the Wizarding World for guidance. It is unsurprising, then, that as we and our society develop, that we both appreciate the ways the series explores social injustice and acknowledge the aspects that are unsatisfying. While the series tackles many issues in an immensely overt way, there are things that could be improved.

Hermione, for instance. In the current stage show, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Hermione is played by Noma Dumezweni. Many were unhappy with the idea of a black actress playing her. Others however, myself included, feel that Hermione as a black woman adds to Hermione’s story. She faces racism in the wizarding world for her ‘blood status’ – she’s a muggleborn, which is frowned on by some “purebloods” – wizards born into wizarding families. She faces immense prejudice at the hands of Draco Malfoy and other purebloods, and in the film series has a racial slur, “mudblood”, carved into her arm by Bellatrix Lestrange (Deathly Hallows, Part 1).

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Noma Dumezweni. Found here

In the novels, JK Rowling doesn’t specify the colour of Hermione’s skin. While I believe that writers should limit character descriptions and leave the reader to garner their own impressions of the characters, stating that Hermione had dark skin could have strengthened the impact her struggle with racism stronger.

Another aspect I feel could have been explored was Dumbledore’s sexuality. Rowling revealed on a book tour for the last novel in the series that Dumbledore was gay. Many LGBT+ people look to the series for it’s messages of acceptance and love, and relate to struggles such as Hermione’s. A gay character further opens up the world to LGBT+ people, however Rowling chose not to write in Dumbledore’s sexuality – at least not overtly. Of course it would be difficult to publish a children’s book, particularly in the 90s and early 00s, with an openly gay character – but considering the immense success of the Potter series, I seriously doubt sales would have been that affected if she had written it into one of the later novels.

In a book series that has taught me and so many others about acceptance, love and equality it is disheartening that some things like these examples that could have easily been included were left out. At the same time, the series isn’t solely a social commentary, and manages to balance discussion of several important issues with magic, dragons, mermaids, Dark Lords and even the odd Quidditch match. We can make several real life comparisons and learn a lot from the series, even if it isn’t perfect.

See you soon,

Ro x

Featured Image by Vondell Swain