Thursday, November 05, 2015

Fan Girl's Guide to the Galaxy

This is a Cybils book, but the opinion expressed in this review is just mine, and not the committee's.

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks Sam Maggs

Here's the guide you've been waiting for on Fandom 101, especially for girls. Everything is covered--how to get started, next steps to take, great books to read and shows to wath, how to make an awesome cosplay costume, tips for writing awesome fanfic, finding your people, and dealing with various levels of trolls. Parts of it are a general rah rah rah celebration of fandom, and parts are very nitty gritty hands-on practical advice (which sites you'll want to be on, but with a throw-away name/email that's not linked to any of your other social media)

It's great and interesting and wonderful with one major fatal flaw that made me want to throw it across the room. It's written right on the back-cover, but I didn't read it, because too much is obscured with library stickers. It's "The Geek Girl's Litany for Feminism."

I m a geek girl and I am a feminist... I don't have to prove my nerd cred to anyone, ever.

There are some great lines in there:

From SuperWhoLock to Shakarian, I accept all fandoms and ships as equally meaningful and important in our geek girl lives...I will support empowering, lady-created media and amazing female characters...

And then we get the kicker that made me roll my eyes so hard they almost fell out of my head:

Buffy, not Bella

Because, all fandoms are meaningful and we support lady-created media, right? Oh... only if they're the right ones. Yeah. That's when I flipped back to where she's introducing fandoms and in the list of major fandoms, the Twihards aren't listed at all. Sure, they might be covered under "YA Book Nerds" but the Nerdfighters get their own shout-out. Potter has its own section. In non-book fandoms, Gleeks get a mention. Squints get a mention. Scoobies are mentioned on the list, despite the fact there's a whole section on Whedonites in general. Leaving off Twihards seems pretty deliberate. And telling.

Outside the Buffy, not Bella thing, Twilight only gets name-checked in the section on how to critique media. There's a general introduction about why we need to critique media and that it's ok if we enjoy not-perfect things but... it's glib and kinda snarky ("I'm not telling you... to stop reading your guilty-pleasure YA romance novels!") And in things to look out for, there's a section on "How Healthy is that relationship, anyway?"

There a lot of media out there (like Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey) that glorifies abusive, controlling, or even violent behavior as a romantic relationship. When we read these books and think, "Wow, that's so sweet that he shows up at her house, uninvited, at night while she's unconscious, to watch her sleep!" we subconsciously accept that behavior as okay.

There could have been a great section on how things that are mostly liked by teen girls are automatically dismissed as lesser and what that says about us as a society and how to deal with that as a fangirl. Or, you know, it could just pile on.

Most importantly, it could have been a great section on how to reconcile how problematic our faves are. I know all about problematic faves. How? Because I am Buffy, not Bella. And even though this book is all over the awesomeness of Buffy (as it should be, Buffy is awesome) it never points out its problems. And Buffy has plenty of problems.

For instance, that whole thing there it's painted as "romantic" for a vampire to show up uninvited to watch his girlfriend sleep? Before Edward did that to Bella, ANGEL WAS DOING THAT TO BUFFY. Speaking as someone who got into Buffy late in the series and didn't go back and watch the beginning until after I read Twilight? Angel has most, if not all, of Edward's icky points. Buffy's other loves all come with major issues in the "healthy relationship" category. Maggs mentions Spuffy elsewhere in the book, and trust me, Spike over Angel any day, but Spike is ISSUES and their relationship is all ISSUES. And I really like Xander, but that guy is really a whole heap of Nice Guy (tm) problems.

When Twilight was still new there were T-Shirts and sayings of"And then Buffy staked Edward. The End" Yeah... Buffy wouldn't have. Edward and the other Cullens would have all been Scoobies. There's a good chance Buffy would have dated Edward. Or at least made out with him, or had a MEANINGFUL slow dance (note to self: see if there's any good fanfic with Rosalie and Cordelia as BFFs. Or Willow and Alice.)

I think the main difference is not the guys, or the relationships, but Buffy and Bella themselves. To save the world, Buffy killed Angel--I don't think that Bella could have killed Edward. BUT, BUT, BUT in one of my many conversations about this (hi, my name is Jennie, and I'm a fangirl) my Twitter friend @FangirlJeanne pointed out something major that has me rethinking that stance:

Buffy was THE SLAYER. She had a job given to her by the POWERS THAT BE. She was the CHOSEN ONE and had to deal with DESTINY. Of course she killed Angel. Bella didn't. Bella was just a normal girl who turned into a normal vampire and she still fought serious battles before and after to protect her friends and family. If Bella was a CHOSEN ONE and had to deal with SLAYER DESTINY, could she have then killed Edward? If Buffy wasn't the SLAYER, could she have still killed Angel? I don't know, but these are the kind of things fangirls think about late at night, both the Buffys and the Bellas.

Maggs went a snarky, easy route that ended up invalidating a lot of her book for me, undermining her main argument. We like all fandoms, but not that one.

And now I'm rage-defending Twilight, which is not a place a like to be. (This review sums up my Twilight feelings pretty well)

Book Provided by... my local library

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4 comments:

renata said...

And now I'm rage-defending Twilight, which is not a place a like to be.

omg ever since Kait & I started our podcast I've spent HOURS rage-defending Twilight (and 50 Shades). It is super disappointing that a book that's supposed to be welcoming to geek girls would do that, though :( Because you're right, there's definitely some shit to say about Twilight but it's so easy to just use it as glib shorthand for "that dumb stuff that dumb girls like that's going to trick them into being in abusive relationships".

also! Aside from the point about Bella not being The Slayer, Bella kind of ends up being a badass by the 4th book and saves the whole stupid family. Most people who complain about her being a damsel in distress never seem to have read Breaking Dawn! HER CHARACTER ARC DEMONSTRATES GROWTHHHHHH ughh i'll die on this stupid mountain that I never even wanted to be on top of in the first plaaaaace

Sharry said...

Haha, I love it when you find yourself inadvertently rage defending something you don't necessarily want to but have to in order to be devil's advocate. I quite enjoyed reading your analysis and comparison of Buffy vs. Bella. Yes, you're totally right that Buffy's relationships with her men were just as messed up in their own ways as Bella's was. I think the difference between why I enjoyed Buffy more is probably because I didn't have to BE IN HER HEAD while she was going through all that Angel drama. Having to dwell on it in Twilight was just too much for me and I wanted Bella to have better things to do (like Buffy, did).

Great review!

-Sharry from xalwaysdreamx.wordpress.com

Alysa Stewart said...

I loved this post. So awesome that your review turned into an exposé!
Loved reading your thoughts on Buffy vs. Bella (And your twitter friend's thoughts). Twilight was my first online fandom, and I've always meant to watch Buffy... but books are really my thing.

renata I'm totally laughing at "I'll die on this stupid mountain that I never even wanted to be on top of in the first plaaaaaace" :D right there with ya.

Great data for Top Georgetown Towing company said...

Adorable, hilarious, and helps make social situations a little less terrifying. there's seriously nothing more I could ask for. if you already belong to the amazing unofficial club of fangirls worldwide, i guarantee you'll enjoy an insider's look at the universe through our eyes!