Review: Fangasm

Fangasm: Supernatural Fan Girls

Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis 

While I enjoyed Fangasm from page one, I have to admit I was confused at first. What I Fangirlsthought would be an academic account of fan culture, particularly surrounding the TV show Supernatural, turned out to be something altogether different.

Two professors—Katherine Larsen and Lynn S. Zubernis—geek out over the hunky stars of their favorite television show, attending conventions, joining an online community and penning racy fan-fic, all the while discussing the book they were going to write.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t that book.

The original output of their research was the 2012 academic study, Fandom at the Crossroads: Celebration, Shame and Fan/Producer Relationships. Fangasm, on the other hand, is the reporter’s notebook of their exploration.

Once I realized this, I settled in and thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Along the way, the authors feed each other’s “squee”; stalk hunky TV stars; and struggle with strained family relationships, their careers and even their friends. It’s a riotous, road-trip affair, and it’s refreshing to see the lighter side of the uptight academic.

But there’s a serious side to the book as well. In exploring fan-fiction, the duo encounters a diverse body politic. A bulk of the viewer-produced literature is sexual in nature—and due to the make-believe subject matter, and the lack of publisher gatekeeping, fan-fic writers often delve into places even pornographers fear to tread. (Hint: the show’s leading men, though not actually related, play brothers on Supernatural—take that ball and run with it.)

Also on the serious tip are the self-esteem issues that arise. Unfortunately, the shaming of fangirls is not limited to the mainstream community. While the conventions can be a refuge for those who otherwise feel displaced from society, there is an internal enforcement of etiquette that can be just as stratified and exclusionary as the mainstream. It’s a dark and curious sociological paradox.

Ultimately, I would have preferred to geek out with the academic text, but hey, there is no wrong way to get your nerd on. While I don’t approach the level of fanboy status held by Larsen and Zubernis, I know my way around a convention, and I’ve spent thousands of dollars on rare books, albums and KISS memorabilia. I can relate to this duo, and I find it refreshing to learn about a pair of obsessed academics letting their geek flag fly.

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