Friday, February 10, 2006

Understanding Fanboys: The Love That Needs To Keep Its Fucking Trap Shut (Week of Lovin', Day 3)

Couple weeks ago, I noted how, overall, fangirls creep me out more than fanboys. That's still true, but I've noted recently that the creepiest single behavior is by far the provenance of fanboys.

As Saturn Girl said in the latest issue of "Legion of Super-Heroes," "Welcome to the Dark Side of Fandom."

We all love our favorite characters. I'm not going to bother arguing it; it's true. It's why we're all here. We enjoy talking about these characters, sharing our favorite moments, debating who would beat whom, poring over the minutiae, coming up with pet theories. We're nerds; it's what we do. And for most of us, it's enough.

For some, though, it's not. Some pass affinity by like a comet skirting the edges of the solar system, and instead plot a course straight for obsession. We've talked about some of these before, how they care just too damn much, but for them we have mostly pity. It's only the barest percent, those for whom the obsession goes even further, that receive our revulsion.

I am speaking of those fans who don't just love their favorite characters, but love them. Fetishize them. Sexually desire them.

These people exist. And they scare the living shit out of me.

Now, I will admit to having had the occasional silly crush on a fictional character. I recognize in them the same qualities that attract me to real women: Oracle is brainy and badass, Wasp is sassy and glamorous, Black Widow wears skintight vinyl. But that doesn't make me want them; it makes me want women with those same qualities. It makes me look for them in women I meet, and appreciate them in women I already know.

I don't fantasize about humping "women" who are no more than ink on paper. I don't collect and commission nude artwork of them. But some guys do. And I do not for the life of me get that. It's a double objectification of women, to be so deeply attracted to a "person" who only exists as an abstraction, and to simultaneously reject real women. What kind of person would do that?

I'm not a psychiatrist, so I can't answer that question, and I'm not sure I want to. But I know unhealthy when I see it, and that kind of thing is unhealthy. And it leads to some damn embarrassing behavior.

One of the most fetishized female characters in comics history is Supergirl, Kara Zor-El. A *lot* of guys fell in love with Kara back in 1959, and a disturbingly high number of them never fell out. For many years, the infatuation was only an undercurrent to the character, an occasionally inappropriate costume design sent in by a reader. It wasn't until after she died in Crisis on Infinite Earths 7 that the real nuts started crawling out of the woodwork. Like Jean Grey's death a few years earlier, the fan outrage was loud and plentiful, but unlike with Jean, there was a disturbing subtext to the complaints. Readers lamented the loss of "their" Kara, asked how the writers could do this to "them." As if they had known her. As if they had loved her. As if their real life loss was somehow more devastating than Superman's fictional one. This bizarre bereavement went on through the years; I'm convinced the reason the Matrix Supergirl John Byrne introduced ultimately failed was because so many readers refused to accept anyone else with the name. For that matter, the initial erasure of Kara from history was likely at the heart of so many people's grudges (still ongoing in some cases) against the new Superman history. It's a trend that's spread throughout fandom; gather ten comics fans together, and I'll guarantee you'll find at least three who are still mad about Kara's death, and one of them will have a very disturbing look in his eyes as he tells you all about it.

And now, in the age of the Internet, the trend has become a full-blown psychosis. Against my better judgment, I ran a Google search for "nude Supergirl." 257,000 hits. One of the first was nothing less than vile, a piece of "erotica" where Supergirl has sex with a rapist she stops in the middle of the act, strips under her secret identity of Linda Lee, and has sex with Superman. I feel like less of a human being just for having skimmed it.

I try not to judge fanboys, because there but for the grace of God and a good prescription drug plan go I, but good grief. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Name a female character, and there's someone out there who has these kinds of urges about her. And sometimes, acts on them.

I'm at a loss for words, really. This is a behavior I don't want to understand, any more than I want to understand serial killers or neo-Nazis. All I can say is to watch out for this behavior, in others and especially in yourself. Because man, there's just some stuff even fanboys have no excuse for.


Jeff Brady said...


Writer Geoff Johns created and based a character (Star Spangled Kid/Star Girl) on his younger sister, who died in TWA Flight 800, as a way to keep her alive. Enter one sick fanboy, who grew such an obsession. He'd solicit pinups from professional artists to feature this character in full-blown BDSM scenes.

When Geoff put her through a different story, said fanboy lost his shit, claiming to know the character better than its creator. Then we found the link to his art collection and realized the precipice we stood upon. He stared back at us from the void as we watched him fall.

He's one scary bastard, and I'm almost glad we haven't heard from him since.

Dan Coyle said...

Jeff: I don't know what's more amazing- that the guy had all those pictures drawn or that he posted them publicly. I know people like that, but what I can never figure out is why they think their weird superhero kink is anyone else's business.

Elayne said...

I tend to be creeped out by ANYone who treats fictional characters as more important than real people (or believes they actually have lives of their own)...