The Sketchy Feminist

Staring down the male gaze, or: Looking at looking at women in popular culture

Tag: Fangirls

Supernatural vs. Women, Part 2 of Whatever Continued: Fangirls, Part III of III

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This post is about Charlie Bradbury.

It makes sense to talk about Charlie Bradbury. She is the only “fangirl” aside from Becky to have a recurring, speaking role, so talking about her will nicely round out my bloggy Fangirls-in-Supernatural triptych.

I hate Charlie Bradbury.

Weird, right? She’s a strong, competent, collected, geeky, lesbian genius hacker. Exactly the kind of character Supernatural has been missing since–well, since it started, really.

And . . . that’s kind of the problem.

Charlie is just too much. Whenever she’s in a scene, I feel like she was created using some kind of girl-power checklist. It’s like the character was invented when the producers all sat down in a room together and went, “Huh. Looks like we killed off all our strong women characters. That doesn’t look so good. Let’s bring in one so exceptional that she will replace all of them.” And thus the most exceptional of Exceptional Women was born.

Part of my problem with Charlie is Felicia Day. I’ve seen Buffy (many, many times) and Dr. Horrible (many, many times) and I’m kind of sick of Felicia Day playing “quirky brave shy girl with a heart of gold and a spine of steel”–which is, granted, rather the odd niche. (And how tedious I find it is obviously in large part my fault, for rewatching these things so many times.) But because I’ve seen Felicia Day give pretty much the same performance for other characters, it makes it harder for me to ‘believe’ in Charlie. If I’d seen her play Charlie first, I might like Charlie a good bit better.

Or I might not. There are other problems with Charlie.

Charlie Bradbury/Carrie Heinlein appears in three Supernatural episodes, one in Season 7 and two in Season 8.

Appears in:

  • “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo,” Season 7, Episode 20. Directed by John MacCarthy; Written by Robbie Thompson.
  • “LARP and the Real Girl,” Season 8, Episode 11. Directed by Jeannot Scwarz; Written by Robbie Thompson.
  • “Pac-Man Fever,” Season 8, Episode 20. Directed by Robert Singer; Written by Robbie Thompson.

Huh. Looks like Robbie Thompson* is the common denominator. Robbie Thompson, I blame you for this.

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Supernatural vs. Women, Part 2 of Whatever Continued: Fangirls, Part II of III

This post is about Becky. (And it includes SPOILERS for just about everything, so y’know, fair warning.)

Becky Rosen, played by Emily Perkins, appears in two episodes in Supernatural Season 5 and one episode in Season 7. She is also referenced, without making a guest appearance, in two more Season 5 episodes.

Appears in:

  • “Sympathy for the Devil,” Season 5, Episode 1. Directed by Robert Singer; Written by Eric Kripke.
  • “The Real Ghostbusters,” Season 5, Episode 9. Directed by Jim Conway; Written by Eric Kripke and Nancy Weiner.
  • “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!,” Season 7, Episode 8. Directed by Tim Andrew; Written by Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin.

Is referenced in:

  • “Abandon All Hope . . .,” Season 5, Episode 10. Directed by Philip Sgriccia; Written by Ben Edlund.*
  • “Swan Song,” Season 5, Episode 22. Directed by Steve Boyum; Written by Eric Kripke and Eric Gewitz.

Becky, known by her high school class as “Yucky Becky,” is the ultimate Supernatural fangirl. She writes slash fiction. She goes to conventions. She sends gifts to the series’s creator. Her heart’s desire is to marry Sam and hunt evil things with him. Becky is obsessive. And devoted. Sam and Dean regard her with fear and disdain. And pity. Lots of pity, really.

Single-minded in the pursuit of her fangirl goals, Becky does some morally reprehensible things. Becky is not a good person.

It’s also hard to call her a bad person. Becky is . . . The Fangirl. A species unto herself, who indulges in her baser instincts at the expense of others because that’s what The Fangirl does. Can she help herself? Of course not! Her fandom is a breed of madness.

Becky’s presentation is . . . problematic, at best. Controversial, even, within the show’s actual fan communities.

And I love her.

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Supernatural vs. Women, Part 2 of Whatever: Fangirls, Part I of III

I mentioned in an earlier post that I self-identify as a “fan” of Supernatural, and even to some extent as a “fangirl” of the show.

“Fangirl” is a loaded term from the get-go. Basically, it means, “a fan who happens to be female,” but why do we need (or do we need) a term for that, when “fan,” by itself, is gender neutral? And why is the term that we have for that an infantilizing term, which characterizes female fans of any age as “girls”?

More than just being infantilizing, “fangirl” is also used as a derogartory term in many cases. The Urban Dictionary definition of fangirl, in fact, starts with, “A rabid breed of human female who is obesessed with either a fictional character or an actor.” And while Urban Dictionary is not exactly known for its tactful turns of phrase, this definition does reflect an opinion on “fangirls” that is surprisingly (or unsurprisingly) prevalent: that “fangirls” are a thing apart, a group so obsessive and lacking in self-respect that it verges on being a sub-species, and a sub-par sub-species at that.

Of course, one could make the argument that “fangirl” is simply the counterpart of the classic, and also derogatory, term “fanboy,” but I’m not sure the situation is quite so cut-and-dried as that. Both imply obsessive devotion to stories, fictional worlds and/or fictional characters, but I think, especially in the wake of the phenomenon that is Twilight fandom, the “fangirl” now plays a more prominent role than the “fanboy” does in the American popular consciousness. (Or popular culture/popular consciousness. Let’s split the diff and call it pop consciousness.) And that role is a troubled one.

Now, Supernatural has been in a long narcissistic metasexual affair with itself ever since Sam told Dean what slash fiction was in “The Monster at the End of This Book,” so this is obviously a television series very invested in fandom–both its own fandom and the self-reflexive ‘fandom’ that exists diegetically within the show. This means that the not-so-elusive “fangirl” is sighted quite frequently in Supernatural–so frequently, in fact, that the thought of doing a single post on all of the internal-to-the-show Supernatural fangirls frankly made my head spin.

As a result, my discussion of fangirls in Supernatural will be doled out in three parts. Part I will discuss the off-brand Twilight fans in the stand-alone episode “Live Free or Twi-hard,” Part II will look at the trials and tribulations of Supernatural’s own ur-fangirl, “Yucky” Becky, and Part III will unpack why I can’t bring myself to like Charlie Bradbury/Carrie Heinlein, in spite of all the reasons I’m supposed to.

And Part I commences in 5 . . . 3 . . . Now.

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