Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Price of Professionalism...

Recently I have found myself in a lot of conversations about various television shows and the level to which people will go to get up close and personal with their favorite stars-- from Paley panels for Dexter to Castle, to camping out on the street at things like Comic Con or Nerd HQ, to paying hundreds of dollars for a generic autograph or thousands for a meet and greet experience-- and every time I feel myself shaking my head and saying, "There is just nothing I care that much about." What happened to me, you guys!?

I don't know if I should think that's a sad statement or one of growth. Years ago I was one of those fans who would line up early to get good seats at PaleyFest or bid on online auctions for everything from props, wardrobe, and memorabilia to autographed copies of scripts. I used my annual "family vacation" to come out to Los Angeles and attend Days of our Lives fan weekends; I stopped into book stores, toy stores, various Macy's when people I liked were having signings. I never wrote fan fiction, but I learned how to format my original scripts by studying those from already existing shows. I was the pop culture girl-- at school, at camp, and for years. Sometimes it was said affectionately, sometimes with a sense of bewilderment, and sometimes with a slightly demeaning shake of the head. But still, it was my thing. Any and all parts of my career were basically born out of a love of the entertainment industry in general. 

I'm reading "Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls" right now, and though I'm not that deep into the book just yet, already the authors have struck a nerve by pointing out that many people reach for fandom-- or for fiction in general-- when their regular, real lives leave something to be desired-- when they're looking for an escape or a place to belong. I think that certainly applied to me when I was younger, and in addition to finding my escape through a fandom, I am proud to say I also managed to tweak my real world life to be a place I didn't want, let alone need, to escape from at all. I surrounded myself with people I genuinely like and who are like-minded enough to share many of my interests but not complete clones to still make me feel somewhat unique. I also just got older and my habits changed. What I once used obsessively I now step back from, acknowledge the obsession, and work to be better rounded. Sometimes at the expense of losing some of what I once lost myself in.

Admittedly, the line of work I've been in for the past few years both feeds on fandom (who else is reading our consumer-facing articles!?) and simultaneously sneers at it if it presents itself in the form of someone who should otherwise be a professional. Behaviors are picked apart-- both on Twitter and in person-- whether it's about posing for photos with interview subjects or using "I" in a review or a dozen of other offenses that often just showcase genuine excitement which is therefore considered bias. The thing is, I only wanted to get into this business because I was a fan-- yet being in this business has forced me to gradually hide the fan within me-- hide it so deep lately I'm having a hard time finding it at all.

The very first event I ever covered as a blogger was the 2008 Creation convention for Supernatural here in L.A. I was a new fan of the show's but a long-time fan of Jensen Ackles', and I attended with the specific direction to mingle with other fans and write from that angle. It was easy enough to strike up a conversation with a stranger at a place where we all had a common interest, and though it had been years since I had done formal, similar interviews for my USC thesis documentary about fan culture, I found I eased right in because we were just sharing our favorite show moments.

But as time went on, and I got deeper into blogging professionally, the focus shifted and the line got drawn. I'm not proud of it, most of all because while it was becoming my job, I was losing my outlet. 

I did it to myself. Once I started working I wanted so desperately to be accepted as a peer, to be looked at as a professional instead of just some kid. But the thing is, I think I miss the fan within me more than I'd miss the access or the money if I was no longer getting paid to write about television. The truth is, the fan within me was what spurred me to write in the first place, and I stop thinking that if I didn't have to worry about traffic or embargoes or politics or even deadlines, if I could just truly write based on what moved me to write (the good and the bad), my writing would be richer, more unique, worthier of being read. Or even if it wasn't, I can't shake the feeling that I'd still be prouder of it. There is a purity that comes from the passion of being a fan-- it's something akin to the purity of youth, when you don't have to dance like no one's watching because you don't care if they are-- when you're self-assure because no one has told you not to be yet-- when you just live and feel and share, and it's okay; it's brave; it's accepted. At the very least, it's inspired.

I'm making some changes this year, and the when-why-how I write may have to be the biggest one.

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