1. Fandom (in general)
I have a lot of fandoms. *points to tag list*
I've been in fandoms of varying kinds since I was 14, though my interest and level of participation has grown and dwindled and been different for every one. My first fandom was Red Dwarf (also the first thing I wrote fanfiction for, though I didn't know that at the time) and my level of participation was to buy all the books and make a nuisance of myself on the school bus with herringprincess and Gemma. We wrote Christmas carols and created a theme park.
Since then there have been lots more - X-Files was the next big one, then Star Trek: Voyager (and DS9 to a lesser extent), Phantom of the Opera, Rocky Horror, Farscape, Sunset Boulevard (you'd never guess!) and Buffy, with the most recent being Ugly Betty and some dabbling in Pirates of the Caribbean.
I don't know why I pick the fandoms I do, but it's probably not a conscious decision. It just happens. There's a spark of interest; I catch one episode and the characters intrigue me. I am cursed with managing to catch shippy episodes ("Coda" was my first Voyager ep; I got into 'Scape with the "Look at the Princess" trilogy), which is unfair because I immediately have to know more. Some of my fandoms are just a part of who I am - like Phantom - because I've grown up with the soundtrack. And some of them - like Sunset - just grab me by the throat and don't let go.
I think life without fandom would be boring. I would never be able to sustain regular viewing of something without becoming a part of its fandom, because it would seem pointless. Fandom is the fans giving something back, to each other and to the object of their geekery. To just watch something without acknowledging its genius or staying power just seems selfish to me.
The thing I do find quite interesting about fandom is the weird paradox wherein we can debate aspects of a fandom and engage in intelligent discussion for hours at a time, yet when we have the chance to come face to face with Someone Important involved with said fandom, we turn into gibbering idiots who can't string a sentence together. Or that might just be me. ;)
2. Phantom (duh!)
POTO opened when I was five years old, and someone copied the soundtrack for my mum shortly afterwards. She fell in love with it, and shortly after the musical opened the released singles were all over the radio. I have a very vague memory of hearing one of them at the time, though I can't remember which it was now. In any event, my mum used to play the soundtrack a LOT back in 1986-7, and took me to see it in London when I was six years old. We saw it then with the second West End cast - Dave Willets, Michael Ball and Claire Moore. I don't remember anything about that day except for the staircase at the start of Act Two, and going to McDonalds afterwards. ;)
Anyway, in 1997 (10 years later), POTO was finally doing a UK tour, so we booked up to see it. I had this thing back then, after I first saw Cats, that I wanted to learn the words to something (or at least hear the soundtrack) before I went to see it, so I spent two weeks or so before we saw it - August 26th, I can remember, five days after the UK premiere of the first X-Files movie - listening to the soundtrack on a cassette copy. The copy had a mysterious, regular 'thunk' going all the way through it (only obvious in the silent bits) and also cut off the end of Act One very slightly, midway through "All I Ask Of You", because it's just slightly longer than one 90-minute tape. It wasn't until I bought the CD that I heard the soundtrack properly. :P
So there I am, aged 16, listening to Phantom... and I could remember most of the music from 10 years before, even though I'd not really realised at the time. I could even remember some of the words - specifically "sweet intoxication" from "Music of the Night", hence why I named a fic after it. We saw the tour and the rest is history. It wormed into my brain and took up residence.
Since then? I've seen it in London, and burst into tears when the overture started. I've read the original novel, the prequel and the godawful sequel, and I've seen a fair few of the movie adaptations (my favourite is Lon Chaney; I'm not fond of Claude Raines; the 2004 version has to die), and I've visited the location which started it all, the Palais Garnier, twice. The story behind the myth is fascinating, as is the story behind the musical's conception. Erik is one of literature's great anti-heroes, and perhaps one of the most mysterious and enigmatic. Nothing more or less than that.
It's a fandom which divides people: there are book elitists, musical elitists, annoying movie fangirls and people who love it no matter how it's done. I doubt Gaston Leroux ever anticipated what he started when he wrote the novel, but we thank him for it. :)
3. The X-Files
Firstly, click on a "fandom: x-files" tag, to read my various ramblings.
This is a fandom which literally took over nine years of my life for its duration - or seven at least, as the final two series were when I started watching other stuff more regularly and went away to University. I initially started watching it when I was 13 or 14 (by the time it hit the UK, anyway) because I had a growing interest in the paranormal - aliens, ghosts, UFOs - and it seemed to fit the bill. I watched it regularly, and then, when "Irresistible" aired, something changed. I became absolutely hooked on Mulder and Scully. X-Files turned me into a shipper - or at the very least, it dragged that innate tendency kicking and screaming to the fore, because I'd always done the shipping thing without realising.
After that my viewing was specifically with that in mind, and I was quickly completely obsessed. I have so many books - both official and unofficial - it's terrifying. I don't have all of them, but I'm getting there. ;) I mean, this thing literally took over my life and ate my mother's money. I said to Vickie the last time I saw her, being my partner in crime at the height of the obsession, how marvellous it was when the only thing we had to worry about in life was the latest cliffhanger. I remember endless summers of writing my 'scripts' and my 'guidebook' (in my self-important 16-year-old manner) and weekday morning bus journeys of providing Jennifer with post-episode summaries, because I had Sky and she didn't. :)
I ran into someone from school once, when I was at Uni, and they asked if I was still obsessed with X-Files - at that point I was happily geeking over Farscape, I think, so the question stumped me. But I reckon if you were to ask anyone else, they would still associate me with that programme, because it was such a massive part of my life.
I started re-watching because I felt as though the series deserved to be looked at again. I've loved every minute of it. In retrospect, I can see exactly why I fell for the show so fast, but it's also been a fascinating journey to analyse it from an older perspective. If I'd started watching it again now, I would still have fallen, though my geekery would have been much different. It's a fandom I hold close to my heart for so many reasons - making me a shipper, being my first online fandom - and one which I think will never really die. Mulder and Scully are one of my very few uber-ships (the list includes Norma and Joe, and you've seen my ramblings on that subject...) and are the entire reason my interest in the show remained, which makes it hard to be objective. Whilst it was fun at the time, being on tenterhooks for that first kiss in "Triangle" (or "Millennium", if you prefer), it has been twice as interesting to watch it again, 10 years on, now that I know so much more about 'human nature' (in fandom) and shipping in general.
Again, click on a "writing" tag. ;)
I've told this story countless times, but once more won't hurt. When I was six or seven years old and doing creative writing in primary school, I decided that I wanted to be a writer. I've had lots of different ideas since then about what I wanted to be - an astronaut, a vet, a costumier for the theatre - but writing has always been consistent.
I spent precious time at University writing fanfiction (and some original stuff) which should have been better spent writing essays or reading novels. It's an integral part of my fandom appreciation, for starters, as well as being a hobby, but more than that it's just... something which is a natural reaction to things in my life, whether that's angst, random amusement or excitement. As my writing has improved, my artistic ability has gotten rather worse, which I think is because I discovered the absolute joy of being able to paint with words.
These days? Well, since the Infamous Brain-Breakage of 2005, I have been struggling to regain my writing momentum. My trouble is that I write best when I'm half-asleep or at two in the morning, and working full-time scuppers that productivity. I can write until 1.00am, of course, but then I'll be in no fit state the next morning to function. It's a bit of a catch-22. At the moment I'm also in this awful rut of "what's the point" (the Friday I'm not updating about brought this up, too) and it makes me disinclined to write anything down. I'm hoping it will pass eventually, because writing makes me happy. I had a brief flurry from February to May last year and then dried up again, and it was marvellous.
It's more than the basic process of writing, but all the parts - envisaging, creating the plot, making sense of it, compartmentalising it into digestible chapters and then turning the bare bones into a work of art. It's true of fanfiction and original work alike. It's being able to create something from nothing at the drop of a hat and translating the images in your brain into something others can see. It's making poetry out of prose and rhythm out of chaos. There is a beauty to words and how they are used which is endless, infinitely appealing, and for me that's what writing is about. It's more than churning out pulp fiction for quick cash; it's creating a carefully-crafted thing of beauty.
It's also, alas, the only thing I've ever been any good at. :P
5. Musicals (in general)
I like musicals. As you might have guessed. I like seeing them live, I like listening to them, I like singing along to them, and I like watching them on television. Musicals were an integral part of my childhood - I've already mentioned POTO, but apart from that I went to see my father (and mother, early on) in any number of amateur productions, mostly Gilbert and Sullivan, who were undoubtedly the Andrew Lloyd Webber of their time.
I have what is known as the ALW Gene. It's that thing in your brain which turns you into a wide-eyed, open-mouthed, braindead fangirl from the first chord of "Music of the Night", or makes you root for the underdog, or makes resisting a love duet totally impossible. I am a sad, sad product of Mr Lloyd Webber's musical hallucinations, but I wouldn't change that for anything.
Musicals come under a lot of pressure. Opera and theatre elitists see them as something to look down upon - they're not quite opera, not quite drama, but something in between. More than that, they are appreciated by the Common Man (and we all know how outraged those opera elitists were when Lesley Garrett tried to bring opera to the masses...) For those who are neither opera nor theatre elitists, musicals are seen as something a bit sad to be laughed at, not "real music" or "pop music", but something actually akin to the posher end of the market. What's worse, ALW musicals seem to come under even more pressure than the rest, as if they're the Mills and Boon of the musical world. Andrew Lloyd Webber gets a lot of stick, because he's popularist and knows what people like, and he milks it for all its worth. But you know what? He's a millionaire. He found a formula that worked. So who are we to bemoan his fickle nature?
The main reason I love musicals is because, really, for a long time, it was all I've ever known in terms of music. I didn't listen to much else growing up; I watched The Sound of Music and Wizard of Oz constantly, and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" was the first song I ever learned by heart, when I was 4 or 5 years old. Back in the early 80s when I was in primary school, I really liked Kylie Minogue. As did we all, I would imagine. Except according to so-called 'friends' in my class, I wasn't allowed to like Kylie, because they did. The alternative being Bros, I was therefore stuck without anyone to like. It sounds like a really silly reason not to have discovered pop music properly, but when I was six years old, impressionable, shy and desperate to be liked, I did what people wanted of me. I wasn't allowed to like Kylie? Fine, I wouldn't like Kylie.
That sort of mentality sticks with you. I got through primary school okay - I played piano, so I got my music fix that way, and actually I wish my classical knowledge was better as a result. When I got to secondary school, however, I started to feel the pressure. This was the early 90s, the time of Take That, East 17 and Nirvana. I couldn't like any of those bands, because everyone else did. I knew their songs, obviously, but the weird thing was, because I'd grown up with this mentality that I Only Liked Classical Music, I got it into my head that I actually didn't like pop music. When I hear those old Take That classics, I can actually now appreciate them better than at the time. It's odd. While everyone else was having teenage crushes on Mark Owen (blech), I was happily geeking over Red Dwarf - go figure.
Subsequently, I got further into musicals. Cats came when I was 14, then Phantom at 16, and then Les Mis. I started collecting compliation CDs like there was no tomorrow, desperately clamouring for more musicals and more songs, more KNOWLEDGE of this mysterious phenomenon. By Sixth Form I knew more about musicals than I probably should have done, though obviously it did nothing for my street cred, especially if you combine that with my X-Files obsession.
Something changed when I was 16, however, when I discovered Catatonia. I was already something of an outcast by that point because of X-Files (I do find it strange how all these assocations Erika gave me seem to link up. :P) and Catatonia released their "Mulder and Scully" single. Crystal dared me to buy it, thinking I would go through with it. The inner fangirl, though still embryonic at that point, simply didn't care, and I bought it without even thinking.
By the time they'd released "Road Rage", I'd decided I quite liked them. And the reason I COULD like Catatonia was because nobody else did. Except my friends, who mattered, rather than the people who didn't.
I started my belated music journey from that point. I've made some glaring stumbles along the way - I admit, Rembrandts and The Rasmus were probably a mistake - but my CD collection is actually quite sizable now. It's still majoritarily movie soundtracks and musicals, but I'm reaching the point where I don't even care any more. I'm so sick of music elitism.
I got a bit off topic there, but it serves to explain the importance. As to why I continue to enjoy musicals, it's purely because they are about emotion. Moulin Rouge hit that nail very effectively on the head; when you can't express something in words, use music. Sing a song. There is a psychology to musicals; people are not blurting randomly into song, they are having a conversation or thinking something through. It just happens to be set to music. Dance numbers are symbolism, not deliberate attempts to alienate us. This is why the movie of Chicago bugged me - it did absolutely everything wrong, drew attention to the songs and alienated the characters - and De-Lovely was spot-on - the songs were an extension of the conversations.
I like melodies and harmonies and haunting dischords, and I like meaningful lyrics. Musicals hit all these notes. I like knowing what characters are feeling when they tell me in song; to me that makes more sense than Shakespearian soliloquies. There are countless other reasons, but they are probably so innate now that I couldn't tell you them.
So: forget your elitism. Forget the Rodgers and Hammerstein cliches. Musicals are a phenomenon of the modern age, and long may they reign!
Hmm, very thought-provoking associations. Cheers, collie_wing!
I like this meme. Give me more things you associate with me, f-list!