The Price of Being a Fangirl

I read a book last weekend called Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (it came out on Tuesday) about a girl named Cath who is just starting college and secretly a “famous” fan fiction writer. The series she writes is based on a friendship in a Harry Potter-like series, and she has thousands of people who comment on her pieces every day. Her end point is coming in a few months when the true author of the series is releasing the final book in the collection. Cath wants to have her final piece published before that. As she starts in a new school with new people and a twin sister who wants nothing to do with her, Cath buries herself in this world and this goal and it really takes her out of real life.

The book made me think a lot about fandom and escapism and how we deal with all of these things.

We may not be writing fanfiction, but as a Disney fan and a Disney Parks fan, and someone who is not five years old, I have been dealing with my fandom for a long time. In high school, I wore all the t-shirts but didn’t talk about it too much because I did get made fun of and it got old to explain the same thing all the time. (“You don’t understand!”) Post-graduation and starting a grown up job, it wasn’t easy to explain that I was going on a Disney vacation every time I took some vacation days. (“Are you going to wear those Mickey ears?”) And even when I started this blog. I guess everyone blogs these days but there is a certain level of unbelivability radiating from the other side when you tell people you belong to a community that loves Disney and writes about Disney and tweets about it all the time. (It sounds like a cult, I guess.)

At some point, you just have to own up and say “Hi I’m [your name here] and I am a Disney fan. Deal with it.” Sometimes people will be interested just because they are, others won’t give a shit, and then there are the times when the magic happens and you uncover a brand new adoring fan like yourself.

Unlike Cath in the book, being a part of this community and writing this blog hasn’t limited to me sitting in a room and writing on my computer. I’ve met some amazing people in real life, who have become honest to goodness true friends. People I make plans with for dinner and drinks, text on a daily basis, and, most importantly (I think), found others things in common with. That’s the real key. Disney has become just an avenue to people of similar temprements, morals, lifestyles, and other hobbies.

For all the good it has done, though, there are the downfalls. Fandom makes me a bad housekeeper (apartment keeper?), it sometimes makes me ignore my husband, my brain has been trained to think I need to post 4x a week when sometimes I’m just tired and burnt out and don’t want to. I am no one NEAR the internet celebrity Cath was in her book, so I can only imagine the amount of pressure she put on herself to deliver. Most of the time, I’m mostly concerned with not feeling like a “failure” to myself (or my dad, who is, like I always say, my number 1 reader).

In the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of conversations with people who I have met through Disney blogging and some very interesting tid-bits have come to the surface:

  • The possibility of forgoing anything Disney in your life for an entire year. First, can you imagine the money you would save? Second, can any one of us really do this?
  • The Disney bubble and when it turns into a bad thing. I don’t believe it can be your life. I believe we all need other things, and when you do make it that important, your self-importance can rocket to unrealistic heights. In the grand scheme of things, being king or queen of this bubble means what exactly? So perspective is important.
  • Maybe this goes back to number 1 but choosing “Plan B” and not traveling to a Disney park. There could be guilt because of the nostalgic pull or the comfort of routine but how many other things could you be sacrificing if you are doing the same thing all the time?

I guess all of this sounds like of negative and sad, doesn’t it? It really shouldn’t. Like anything, fandom has its limits. Maybe this is just a personal choice of mine. Does loving Disney or anything related to this company mean that I believe too much in fantasy? I’m not sure if that’s the case for me. I like the feeling of history. I like the storytelling. I like feeling like age does not matter and life can be about trying awesome food and spinning on tea cups (maybe not in that order) and saying hi to Mickey Mouse because, well, he is Mickey Mouse.

Could I have most of those elements in other places? Sure. But I’m not sure if I would have blogged about them for 2-plus years already. Or felt curious enough to know more. Though, if I went to a place every single summer with my parents for 10 days at a time? Maybe I would feel invested enough, maybe I would want to make sure I never lost that feeling of having a second home. In the end, it’s that feeling, those memories, and the desire to make new ones that make me a fangirl.

10 thoughts on “The Price of Being a Fangirl

  1. Totally get this. Sometimes I think, “I should try traveling to Europe instead one time!” And then I look at the airfare and say to myself, “By the time I bought this plane ticket I’d have the budget for a WDW vacation…” I guess that’s why I have Epcot. 😉

  2. I love this post and couldn’t agree with you more on every level.

    I couldn’t imagine going cold turkey no Disney for a year. Simply unfathomable.

    I do often feel the nagging guilt that as an adult, I should probably be trying to see more of the world instead of the World. I go to Disney and spend my vacation days and money on Disney year after year while never having seen France or Italy or the Caribbean. BUT IT’S DISNEY.

    Technically, I really shouldn’t be renewing my AP when it expires in February, but I probably will anyway. IT’S DISNEY.

    And yes, my boyfriend is constantly making fun of me that I own so many Disney clothing articles, accessories, my home office is entirely Disney themed, and half the books I read are about Disney. But I don’t care that he doesn’t get it. It’s not going to stop my enjoyment and my escapism. It’s healthier than a crack habit, right? Though probably just as expensive…

    Anyway, glad to see I’m not alone. Thanks for that.

  3. Beautifully put, Estelle. Sometimes I don’t feel like people get RBR either. Everyone has their thing, though. I don’t really get why some people care to spend hours and hours memorizing pointless football stats. What good does it do them? But despite the differences in our interests, it’s what makes us interesting people. Well-rounded. And we just have to accept that what we’re into is a part of who we are.

  4. You know I feel you, grrrrl. It extends not only to Disney trips but even just living in New York — should I keep going back to my favorite bar/sandwich place/bookstore/etc. or should I seek out new ones, because there are just so many options and what if I’m missing out?! The whole FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) thing is very real for me, and I always feel guilty when I’m putting aside monies for Disney trips instead of my dream trips to Nashville and various to-be-determined European destinations. But it’s also good to have a routine and to do what makes you happy. Some people more than others are creatures of habit. I guess for me, life is about finding a balance between extremes, because I’m naturally very extreme-oriented.

    As far as the “Disney bubble” goes, my thoughts on it are … ugh. We’re all so lucky to be able to blog about this place we love and its many facets, and we’re superlucky to make real-life friends based on this mutual love who extend to other non-Disney parts of our lives. But when you’re constantly expected to “live up” to your fandom by incessantly blogging, tweeting, talking about and visiting Disney and proving you know more than others, it turns something magical into something tedious and very negative. Disney people seem very predisposed to be insanely judgmental, and it really depresses me when their judgmental negativity spills over onto other fans’ genuine opinions. (And I’m obviously talking about something beyond a spirited Twitter conversation about World Showcase pavilions). For people who so often have to defend their love to strangers, co-workers and significant others, they should be more accepting of others’ Disney likes, dislikes and quirks — and happy that there is such a diverse group of people who have such spirited opinions on what we all consider to really be the Happiest (or Most Magical) Place On Earth.

  5. Great, great post! Anytime I wonder if I spend too much time enjoying Disney, I look at most other non-fans spending every evening of their lives watching forgettable television they won’t even remember next week, and folks who go to Vegas every six months, and I wouldn’t trade places for all the coffee in Starbucks.

    Disney is a fascinating company with an amazing history and a legacy of great art, invention and storytelling. Love it or hate it, it’s the world’s single biggest influence on pop culture.

    Disney fandom should never be the be-all end-all of anyone’s life, but it’s sure a blast–and a great jumping-off point for learning more about every conceivable subject from classic literature to engineering and world history.

    Can you imagine a world without any Disney? Something would have filled in part of the void, but not all of it…I don’t think I’d be booking a vacation at Hello Kitty World.

  6. Wow Estelle – you really hit the nail on the head.
    I feel like this pretty much most of the time. Most people I know besides my mother just do not get it. I think it almost angers some of them as to why I would keep returning to WDW instead of going on other vacations.
    It is so funny that you mentioned getting made fun of by those people who don’t understand. I used to get made fun of all the time in high school and college. So many people view it as only for kids that they think something must be wrong with you to love it so much.
    My problem these days is that I am actually married to someone who pretty much hates Disney. Maybe not HATES but strongly dislikes, has no desire or intention to go to DLR or WDW, doesn’t like the movies, just is a big old pain in the ass to be honest! Well…jk…I still love him, but man oh man, is this really happening to me???? It certainly puts a damper on my travel plans. And when I am able to go, I feel bad that I would go with my other family members and not him. But then his dream in life is to visit every major league baseball stadium, so like the other people said in the comments, everyone has their own loves and interests. I don’t pretend to understand the baseball thing.
    I’m sad to say that I feed my addiction mostly by connecting with others on the internet and through blogging. I don’t have many real friends who share my love and as we know I don’t have a husband who does. I regret that I also am limited as to meeting internet friends who love Disney because my husband also finds that to be “really weird” and I guess I wouldn’t want him to think that so I just don’t.
    It’s nice that you have met the friends you have and can share your love of Disney through this blog. I just started mine and already I feel the pressure to put posts up all the time, but sometimes I just don’t have much to say. I still love the challenge of keeping it going though.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Outstanding post, Estelle. As a marketing professional and supposed “adult” I get very strange reactions from people when they find out that I write a blog about Disney dining and that I travel there multiple times a year. I often find myself making excuses, like “I’m only writing it to get hands-on experience with blogging and social media tools”, which at least makes them more comfortable. Of course if I said I wrote a blog about technology or sports or film or the local restaurant scene, no one would bat an eye. I guess it’s the perception that Disney is for kids only that causes this. But really, is it more escapist to think about park attractions and vacation destinations than it is to obsess about film or sports? I don’t think so. It’s the same force at work, only with a different subject.

    Having a family (and in particular a husband who is NOT Disney obsessed) forces me out of my Disney bubble and makes me go to different places for vacation, which is a good thing and creates some balance. And as for the negativity that can arise from the fandom, well, I guess I have accepted that there are so many people who know more than I do about Disney and are so much more passionate, that I just don’t let it get to me anymore. And frankly I would love to post more often and manage my blog like I do my work, but I know that would cut into my “real life” time and no matter what, my family is my priority. So if it is a toss up between spending time with them and writing a new post, they are going to come first.

    Mostly, I’m thankful for the friends I’ve met in this community, and the insight I’ve gained that makes the place I love to visit even more fascinating. And if I’ve helped someone else enjoy their vacation a little more, then that makes me happy, too.

    With age has come some perspective. Your life is yours – live it in a way that makes you happy.

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