Last 31 March 2016, I was invited as a speaker at the “FANGIRL NO MORE? FANBOY NO MORE? A Fan’s Life at Adulthood, an Alternative Classroom Learning Experience” held at the University of the Philippines Diliman.
The event was organized by UP-based organization HallyUP, and I was asked to talk about how engagement with fan-related activities helped people adjust and be effective in their lives outside the fandom, and the reasons why they continue to be a fan. As someone who grew up being active in fandom-related activities and is now also a specialist in this field, I accepted the offer.
On the talk day itself, I met fellow speaker and adviser of HallyUP Dr. Eric Capistrano, a Professor and fanboy of Girls’ Generation. It was an afternoon well-spent talking about fandom life, so I am thankful for HallyUP for making me a part of it.
Now for this entry, I decided to post the transcript of my ~talk~ on that day. I figure that since fans are still receiving negative backlash from non-fans; and personally, I have grown tired of frequently-asked-bordering-on-annoying-questions about fanhood, I might as well post here how being a fan can help in our everyday lives.
I edited some parts a bit to tailor fit the speech into much more of a ~blog~ post. Oh and by the way, the original title of this speech was “Confessions of an Aca-Fan,” but then I found out that fan scholar Henry Jenkins has a blog with the same title, so I had to change it to “That Thing Called Fangirling,” because why not? Okay, moving on!
That Thing Called Fangirling
Good afternoon, everyone. So today I am invited to talk about the fandom, and hopefully I would be able to discuss everything in about twenty minutes, both as a fan and as a specialist of Northeast Asia Studies.
For starters, my name is Lara, a graduating graduate student of Asian Studies from the UP Asian Center. As a Northeast Asia specialist, I have written papers about my fandoms. And as a fan, I am one of the pioneer members of BoA Philippines, in which I am also the Facebook and Twitter handler. Apart from that, I am also an admin and pioneer member of other JPOP fan clubs in the Philippines. I have also been a moderator in several fandom forum sites, one of which was http://www.Japinoy.com, which used to be the premiere site for everything about Japan. Having said that, with my long-term experience in the fandom, and as a Northeast Asia specialist, I am excited to talk about my fan experiences.
So let’s talk about being a fan. I have actually been interviewed so many times as a respondent in various newspaper articles and research papers in the fields of sociology, psychology, and media studies among many others, which shows that research and studies about fandom cut across disciplines, making fans and our unique worlds of fandom as vibrant fields of study. And in these interviews, one of the most frequently asked questions was: What do you gain from the fandom? And I’m guessing you guys have been asked that question, as well, at some point in your life. Personally I’ve grown tired of this question. I grew up being asked this question so many times (thankfully not by my parents); but for other people and other relatives, of course, they are curious because it’s not like we gain money from being fans when in fact it’s the other way around. Other than that, I also hated being on the defensive whenever I am asked that question, implying that being a fan makes you unproductive and doesn’t get you anywhere.
Nevertheless, here are my responses to such questions. First off, being a fan, or “fangirling or fanboying” is actually a combination of different kinds of hobbies, hobbies that would later on develop to be skills, which will be useful in everyday life. In my personal experience, some of these are:
Leaning Foreign Languages – Because of my desire to actually understand the songs and dramas I am watching, I started studying Japanese in high school, and later on, Mandarin in my postgraduate. At first I studied for the sole purpose of the fandom, but eventually now that I’m #adulting, I get calls from time to time for job interviews as a Japanese translator and interpreter. So who would have thought that a simple purpose of studying for the fandom had opened doors for me in terms of job opportunities? In the university, because of my proficiency in Nihongo, I have also been sent in exchange programs in Japan.
Furthermore, being a fan makes it bearable to study a foreign language. Japanese isn’t easy, but because I am a fan and is specializing in Northeast Asia, the drive and motivation are there to help me overcome the difficult process of learning the language.
Aside from opening doors for career opportunities, leaning the language of a foreign country can actually help us understand more of their culture and customs, which can us relate more with other countries, especially with our Asian neighbors.
So if there are any of you here who’s learning any foreign language, my only advice is: Ipagpatuloy niyo lang yan.
Love For Music – Back when I was a kid, my father would take me to piano lessons, which I didn’t really like and appreciate. So I gave up on it. My father gave up on it. My piano teacher gave up on me. But years later when I became a Northeast Asian music fan, I then enrolled in a music school and took guitar lessons; and now I play the guitar (just the basics), which has become another outlet for me. For other people, like some of my friends, love for Japanese rock music made them form a band, and now they’re regulars in gigs, events, and conventions, which widened their social circle. And they found a new passion in life -which is performing- and now they are writing original songs
Gaining Friends – Lahat ata tayo nakakarelate rito? This is one of the greatest things that the fandom has given me. As a fan, I have met so many amazing people from different walks of life whom I may never have met if I had not been in the fandom. And I mean different walks of life, so I’ve met those who are older than me, those who are younger than me, taga-Visayas, taga-Mindanao, taga-Singapore, taga-Indonesia. Having said that, being in the fandom at an early age has made me open about interacting with different kinds of people, and learning more about their culture in the process.
And also, another perk would be the connections. Because of my friends, I got freelance writing gigs, got referred to in events, and interviewed for research purposes. Madali rin sa akin for data gathering. So yes, it broadens your social circle, which can also be useful in work and everyday life.
Also, having been in the fandom for so long, our fandom friends have also become our friends for real. Meaning we’ve transcended being mere spazz friends, into being friends on a deeper and personal level – meeting each other’s’ families, going out of town together, sharing problems and stuff. And they also keep you sane that you have someone to talk to about your fandom.
Techie Skills – Who here is involved in fansubbing? Fansubbing, for example, entails a lot of skills – translation, video editing, time-keeping. For me, I learned how to edit videos because of the fandom and our fan gatherings. Other than that, this also applies to our graphic artists in the fandom who take care of our posters and other publicity materials, which brings me to…
Event-organizing/Events-management – If you’re part of a fan-club, event-organizing isn’t new, of course. For me, this is enriching because usually in our fan events, I do write-ups, I scout for venues, take care of logistics, and I also do PR writing and social media advertising. Aaaand, also learned how to write marketing proposals for sponsorship letters and media coverage – skills that are quite handy in real life.
Freelance Gigs – I also do writing gigs from time to time, wherein I get to cover KPop events. And this was made possible because a friend from the fandom referred me go a concert-focused website, who was looking for a writer interested in KPop. I fit the bill because my undergraduate is Journalism, and yes it’s KPOP, and the rest is history.
Taps our Creative Side for Cultural Production – Previously I mentioned about hobbies and skills you learn and develop by being in the fandom; so as fans, having tapped those passion and skills, we are then capable of producing our own products and texts. Some examples are fanfictions for writers. I’m a fanfiction writer for more than a decade now; it’s been my outlet ever since I was a kid. I have met a lot of amazing writers in my fandoms, and eventually our shared passion in writing and Final Fantasy VIII led us to publish a book, which is a collection of fanfictions from our Where I Belong Fanfic Challenge. This can be ordered online, if anyone’s interested.
Other products produced by my fandoms are: this magazine (BoA PH). For this magazine, there’s a lot of writing and layouting involved, and of course printing. For L’Arc~en~Ciel Philippines, we have stickers, button pins, calling cards, and tickets for events to name a few.
Other examples are Doujinshi/Manga for fan artists. So these products, in general, do not make profits. But for others, they’ve learned the art of sales and marketing, which help them earn a living. Case in point are the online stores created by fans. This is also another good area of research: Fans as Entrepreneurs.
Dancing, Cooking, Singing – These are not my things, but these are some of the skills and hobbies that my friends have picked up as fans.
I am sure that all of you have more to contribute in this aspect, and this is actually just the tip of the iceberg, but having said that, to sum up this part of the discussion, what I am trying to point out here is that fangirling and fanboying is a hobby or is a collection of hobbies that can, again, and tap into our skills; and consequently, these skills can open doors of opportunities for us. So with all these, we can say that, yes, fandom has contributed a lot to my life, and that’s also partially why I’m still in the fandom.
I am also still in the fandom because it has contributed a lot with my identity-formation. I grew up with my fandoms, with my favourite artists, and with my fellow fans. Having said that, my fandoms, collectively, is one of the constant things in my life, so take that away from me, then a huge chunk of who I am will be gone. And basically, as long as my favourite artists are active, most especially L’Arc~en~Ciel and BoA, I will still be active, as well.
Also, I guess it’s easier to stay in the fandom for it has become easier to be updated nowadays with the aid of social media, where it’s also easier to find fellow fans compared to what we went through when we were kids. In the 1990s, fandoms were found in text clans and text chats on TV. And then in the early 2000s, during the dial-up connection Internet days, fandoms were prolific in Yahoo! Mailing lists. Then we had forum sites, which for me are the best avenues for fandom. Then in the 2010’s onwards, we now have social media for easier dissemination and real-time updates during events.
Fans in the Academe
Before my time runs out, let me just defend the fans. Being referred to as a fan has some sort of stigma attached to it. In the academe, there are scholars who also brand fandom as pathology. To the fans’ defense, I actually agree with scholar Lisa Lewis (1992) who opposes the argument that fans are passive consumers, arguing that “we are all fans of something. We respect, admire, desire. We distinguish and form commitment. By endeavouring to understand the fan impulse, we ultimately move towards a greater understanding of ourselves.”
And I also agree with Joli Jenson (1992), who says that ‘”Fans, when insistently characterized as ‘them,’ can be distinguished from ‘people like us’ (students, professors and social critics) as well as from (the more reputable) patrons or aficionados or collectors. But these respectable social types could also be defined as ‘fans,’ in that they display interest, affection and attachment, especially for figures on, or aspects of, their chosen field.” And that “Characterization of fandom as pathology is based in, supports, and justifies, elitist and disrespectful beliefs about our common life.”
I agree with these quotes for fandom is always associated as a response to the celebrity-star system, but actually being a fan is not confined to such fields. You can be a fan of KPOP while at the same time be a fan of the UP Women’s Volleyball team, of Harry Potter, or of the San Antonio Spurs, or of other scholars in the academe, too. You should see how I looked when I met Professor Koichi Iwabuchi for the first time!
Furthermore, according to William Kelly (2004), “Fans emerge out of mass culture audiences in search of intensified meanings and pleasures. They selectively appropriate from among this mass culture, and creatively rework their selections into a stylized matrix of practices and identities. They consume mass culture, but in their voracious and determined consumption, they produce both social communities and cultural artifacts. Fans’ relations to the persons and products they fantasize, to the Culture Industry and to the normal audience, are variously dependent and autonomous, even antagonistic.”
Tips for Student-Fans:
With that, I am down to my last part of the discussion. While yes, despite the good things that fandom can bring to our lives, we should always still maintain a sense of balance in our tasks. Now for my last tip or advice for the student-fans:
First, you should be able to learn how to prioritize things – As students, do not forget that studying should always come first. If you want your parents to support you and your fandom, and to show them the positive sides of being a fan, then you should be able to bring home good grades or strive hard to show them that you can really strike a balance between your fandom and non-fandom commitments.
Second, be frugal – Being a fan entails spending a lot. Goods are expensive, concert tickets are expensive. So you must learn how to budget your money accordingly, and prioritize. If you really want to attend concerts and buy merch, keep a separate piggy bank. Save money constantly. Don’t start saving only when an album release is announced. But always remember, kumain ka muna, bago ka umorder. And if you can only afford a General Admissions ticket, then settle with that. Don’t be a disgrace to the community by breaking into the VIP areas.
Third, practice distancing – Step away from the fandom at times, and do other things that interest you. Explore other things. Because believe me I have friends who took that fandom thing excessively to the point na naumay na sila, and eventually nagsawa. So yes, distancing is also one way of staying in the fandom.
And lastly, Respect – Respect that others may not enjoy listening to the same groups you listen to. Do not engage in fan wars as much as possible, or stop reading comments altogether if you don’t want a bad day.
That is all. Thank you and good afternoon. 🙂
Btw, my good friend in grad school, Nina, also donated her original KPOP goods as a giveaway at the event. Thanks, girl! Nag-enjoy ang mga bagets. Haha. I didn’t bring everything, in case lang na pwedeng ipamigay sa ibang event, jsyk. 🙂