2016 was a complicated year. I navigated my way through the end of university, a couple of frustrating part time jobs, overseas travel, new relationships, and most importantly: my mental health. Walking into 2017 I can say I’m a healthier and happier person than I was this time a year ago. But 2016 didn’t come without challenges, as I’m sure we’d all agree.
Looking back on 2016, one thing I find hard to dwell on is how I lost touch with my creative side and, in part, my relationship with fandom. Elements of anxiety and depression pushed me away from writing and engaging with my favourite movies and shows and their surrounding fandoms. The second half of 2016 proved to be a battle creatively, and after struggling to make my way through the depths of the ever-brilliant but dark and complex world of Orphan Black, I began to shy away from anything thematically similar. Despite constant reminders from friends that I really need to watch Stranger Things and Black Mirror, I haven’t been able to bring myself to start them.
I won’t pretend this odd state of not wanting to get involved in popular dark shows and fandoms doesn’t have anything to do with the treatment of many queer female characters in 2016, a topic we’ve covered heavily here on The Fandomentals since March when we lost our grimdark sci-fi queen Lexa. When all your faves die it’s easy to lose momentum and fail to find solace in things you once loved; even when you know that deep down there’s a light in the dark. Although hope may not be lost, sometimes it’s best just to step back and take a break. In order to clear my head and start afresh in 2017, I’ve spent the last several months in what I like to call a Fandom Holiday.
I left my familiar world of sci fi and fantasy and took a trip to Stars Hollow and Seattle Grace. Yep, I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls and Grey’s Anatomy.
While other writers on The Fandomentals have done a fabulous job writing on both of these shows in a dutiful fandom-ly fashion, I’ve written nothing about them. Nada. Zilch. I’ve done no analysis, written no essays on female relationships or queer characters, penned not even a thought on either of these two shows. And to tell you the truth, it has been amazing. As much as I dearly love over-analyzing media and talking about the importance of storytelling and diverse representation, watching something relatively light-hearted (Grey’s Anatomy finales, I’m temporarily ignoring you) without getting involved in external discourse of any kind has been a refreshing experience.
I learned that when you can’t bring yourself to engage in fandom, fandom is still there. While we like to think of fandom as the word to describe the community and conversation surrounding a show, fandom actually still exists whether you participate in a group or not. Fandom is simply to be a fan of something, to root for it and be invested in it. It’s to be emotionally wrapped up in the journeys of the characters, to cry for them, to laugh along with their stories, to follow them from season to season and take part in their arcs. The beauty of stories is how they can speak to us deeply even when we do nothing but sit back and listen. Gilmore Girls and Grey’s Anatomy may not have the realistic dilemmas and social commentaries of other television shows, but they still had something to give me. I marveled at Lorelai Gilmore’s quick wit and cried with her during Rory’s graduation. I fell hard for Dr. Callie Torres and cheered for all my baby intern characters as I watched them become real doctors. People in real life teased me for loving these apparently “silly” or “soapy” shows, but I’ve spent enough time now in fandom that I refuse to call anything a guilty pleasure.
I love what I love and I will wear my love on my sleeve.
No matter how you participate in fandom, fandom will be there for you. I found ways to be passionate and thoughtful about stories and characters even when my feelings of anxiety and depression made it difficult to write and work. I have friends who have told me that characters or shows have saved their life, and I’ve learned that no piece of media is too big or too small to have this kind of impact. Never underestimate the power of a story, for every story is a journey not unlike our own.
For all of us here on The Fandomentals, I hope that 2017 is a year of creativity, passion, achievement, and new experiences. But even in the hard times, we’ll have each other, and we’ll have fandom. So take your time. Tell your story. It’s important.