Rise of the Fangirl
A couple of weeks ago, Outpost Skaro got into a bit of trouble from certain members of the Twitteratti by having a pop at what we described as “Fangirls”. We laughed a little about the fact that certain folks on You Tube were going a bit hysterical at the appointment of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor. We thought it was funny that these girls, primarily part of the Doctor Who community because they like David Tennant’s bum in a suit, were horrified that the Doctor dare to be, well, the age he usually is, give or take.
Some people have said we were sexist, one person called us a c***, amongst other things, and even female writers, as well as a few right on men, gave us a stern ticking off. Some became a bit stereotypical and hysterical. Which was ironic.
But I thought it was maybe a good idea to write an article about the empowering of the word “Fangirl”, because, to us old wrinkly, hardcore pipe and slippers brigade from Old School Who, fangirl was, we thought, an accepted derogatory term. Oh how we were wrong.
Now, we apologised for that, almost at once, when it was pointed out that many decent fans who were girls considered themselves “fangirls” – a name which it seems has perhaps evolved along with its sexless cousin “the geek” to be a badge of honour, rather than an insult. But still, it seems, some people were very keen to see the initial tweet, but not so keen to follow up the explanation! This included writers, who, to us, were jumping on a right on bandwagon rather than making a specific point.
It’s a curious word, Fangirl, and it’s an unusual one to throw the sexist card at, whatever its definition, because, by its very nature, it’s exclusive, selective, agist and sexist. It demands that, by its own existence, the party wearing the moniker is of a certain age, of a certain sex, of a certain demeanour. It excludes immediately old school male fans, the ones who claim, perhaps with some justification, to have stuck with Doctor Who through thick and thin.
We weren’t of course talking about Fangirls, not in this new, post modern, existential definition of the word, because these girls (women? Ladies?) breath a new life, a freshness and are, let’s be honest, who Russell T Davies targeted the series at when it returned. He knew the boys would come, but he needed the girls. And they came in droves, and then some.
Whether they came because they liked David’s bum in a suit, or Matt’s geek chique doesn’t really matter, they’ve come, they’ve seen the majesty of this programme we have loved for so long and they’ve embraced it with their fezzes and bow ties. Good for them. Who are we to criticise that? We’ve been banging on for decades about how good this programme of ours is, so why the heck would be complain when people actual begin to take notice?
What we were talking about, and mistakenly called Fangirls, were some of the over the top reactions from, well, intense young ladies, on the appointment of Peter. For us, we just shrugged or went “Yay!” and never thought it was a bad thing, but some just didn’t get it. We were criticising the type of “young female fan” who says things like “I’ve never seen anything before David Tennant but…” and then go on to give us a very detailed opinion on the series. That’s like jumping straight to the pudding but criticising the soup. It’s an uninformed opinion. We had one girl very sternly criticise us for using the shortened “Dr Who” on Twitter (we used it because we were running out of characters) only to tweet next these immortal words when we mentioned “Bill” Hartnell: “There hasn’t been a Dr called Bill”… which beggars belief! We had another ask us, in all seriousness “Who’s Sean Pertwee? Is he anything to Fourth Doc John?” and, worse than ever, we had a girl on our forum who said, with cold and steely certainty, that she would have preferred David Tennant had announced he had a terminal illness and “would be dead by Christmas, because I can’t stand the thought of him being out there and not the Doctor”.
Now, I suppose we are all guilty of some excesses whilst supporting the series, but these are extremes, but nonetheless we saw these and the screaming and wailing on You Tube at Peter (who was greeted with such delights as “a fucking old perv” “a creepy paedo” and “who the fuck is that!?”), so we thought we’d poke a bit of fun at that extreme.
To say we’re picking on minorities or policing fandom is nonsense. It was, if anything, a misunderstanding of an evolved word, for which we apologised, but folks, as I said earlier, have conveniently ignored the explanation for a quick shaking of the placards. Even this week we were targeted unfairly for poking fun of ourselves by another couple of writers who really should know better. But we weren’t the only ones. SFX was splashed with the sexist eggs when one of their critics was misquoted by a female author simply bristling for a fight, so we’re in good company.
So, for the record, we don’t get a say or want a say in who watches or loves Doctor Who, nor would we want to, or, to be fair, care. We do have a right to comment on fandoms excesses though, especially if they’re aimed at us, but it’s probably good to remember Peter Capaldi’s message to the fans when he was first announced as the Doctor…
“Doctor Who belongs to us all…” he said. And who are we to argue with the Doctor?