Tag Archives: female fandoms

Mars Meets Venus

Let’s start as friends

My friends, think back to the beginnings of the band’s career. For me, 1982 puts me at about eleven or twelve – which was during middle school. As I’ve asserted on any number of occasions, I was a nerd. An awkward, frizzy-haired, clarinet player in the band, potential good student sort of nerd. I was not only a nerd, but I was absolutely an underdog in every sort of way.

Much of sixth grade is murky for me. The memories are dim. I I know that maturity-wise, I was way behind my peers. Boys? They were fine for being friends or even playing kickball, baseball or tetherball, but as actual BOYS? Gross. I didn’t even know how to flirt!

Frog seeks Princess

I can remember sitting in social studies in Ms. Beck’s class though, and getting into the first (of many) arguments with another kid. My face flushed, I argued until the final bell. I grabbed my books and ran out of class, embarrassed because he had been one of the “cute, popular boys”.

Eventually, he asked me to “go around” with him, which was middle-school speak for being his girlfriend. I said yes, and then had no idea how to behave. Hold his hand? As if I liked him??? Ew. Sit next to him at lunch? Uh, I have friends for that. Slow dance with you at a school dance?? Not a single chance, buddy. Keep your hands off of me, or my dad will kill you.

I was not prepared for boys.

Our romance lasted for about three days, two of which included Saturday and Sunday, days where I didn’t see him. After that, he went out with another girl in my class also named “Rhonda”. That romance lasted for a lot longer, lucky for her. The entire memory still makes me chuckle and blush over my own naivety. Poor John. We are still friends on Facebook, and every so often he has to remind me about sixth grade. As if I could really ever forget. (I’ve tried!)

Choose life

The other part of sixth grade that I do remember though, was music. First, I was a clarinet player. I sat through my regular classes in order to get to band at the end of the day. My real “academic” success, at least that year, was in band. In particular, I hated 6th grade math and science – in fact I got my first “D” notice in math from Mr. Thompson that year, who openly told my father at parent/teacher conferences that I’d probably never amount to much.

(I TAUGHT TWO OUT OF THE THREE OF MY CHILDREN, MR. THOMPSON – AND ONE OF THEM IS NOW MAJORING IN PHYSICS – A SCIENCE NO LESS – AT A UC. HOW’S THAT FOR NOT AMOUNTING TO MUCH???)

Second, I loved the radio once I figured out what stations I preferred. I would walk into my room and snap on my small, portable AM-FM radio/tape deck combo unit (not quite a boom box just yet), and let the music fill the air. It was during one of those moments that I first heard Duran Duran, in fact.

Soul sister hippy chick

I had very few close friends. While I wasn’t being thrown head first into a trash can every day, I wasn’t one of the popular girls, either. I’d avoid the mean girls like they had the plague, as they’d stand in the middle of the hallway lockers. If they saw me, they’d make fun of anything they could find about me that was “off” that day. (There was generally plenty to choose from. Fashion wasn’t a strong point and my hair was even worse.) So the girls I chose to spend time with were more like me, I guess.

When I marched to school the following morning after hearing Duran Duran on the radio for the first time – I thought I’d rock their little worlds. I had grand visions of my teeny group of friends thinking that I was some sort of secretly cool girl who knew all of the up and coming artists. What I didn’t expect was for my friend Marsha to roll her eyes and announce to all of us that she’d already heard of Duran Duran. I also didn’t expect for her to tell me that I actually already owned one of their songs on one of those K-Tel compilation records my parents bought me for my birthday. That girl knew everything!!!

The cover of my now infamous K-Tel record with Duran Duran on the B-side with Girls on Film!

What did happen though, was that everyone in that group, including me and Marsha, went home and tried to find as much on Duran Duran as they could find. We came back to school armed and ready to discuss the band, sharing pinups, interviews and anything else we’d come across. Eventually, we’d find t-shirts, hats, pins, and anything else that denoted we were fans. Sometimes, other slightly less nerdy girls would notice and comment on how cute the band was (I always enjoyed it when they’d screw up the names of the band members, because then I’d show my expertise by correcting them. Wow, how was I not trash-canned??), or they’d gush over how “cool” the band was. I felt in turn that if the band was cool, I must be semi-ok too. It was the closest I’d ever come to NOT being a nerd.

Where are you

What I don’t think I really paid much attention to until later was that while it was cool for me to like them, it was the opposite for boys. Admittedly, I didn’t care one bit about that back then. Boys? Who needs them?!? They had a plethora of other, more “rock” sounding music to choose from anyway. I never thought twice about it.

So, when my friend David O. from The D Side Podcast (check it out at the link!) discussed his theory in episode 4 that being underdogs kind of brought us to Duran Duran, it got me thinking. On one hand, indeed – I was a geek. It wasn’t just that I was a geek, but for the most part, I was invisible. It wasn’t until I made the local papers because I was the youngest person asked to join the California Junior Philharmonic that other students noticed I was even alive. The only thing aside from being in the paper that even sort of made me cool, was my love for Duran. Being a Duranie made me an instant part of a group. So while I was definitely still an outcast or an underdog – Duran Duran made me a little bit less of one.

On the other hand, I knew plenty of girls who liked Duran Duran that were not geeky at all. They might not have been in the upper echelon of popularity at my school, but they sat firmly on that second rung down the ladder. They were still cool to begin with. Duran Duran just made them all the more edgy.

Shake me up wild girl

The cool girls had more fashion sense in their pinky than I did in my entire body. They wore black eyeliner. I struggled with convincing my mother that it was OK for me to wear tinted lip balm. Their hair mimicked the styles I would see on male or female new wave artists in Tiger Beat or Smash Hits. Mine was this strange concoction of frizz and waves that could only be tamed by cutting the sides short and layering them to hell and back….a style I kept until the second year of high school.

In my head, being a Duran Duran fan made everyone seem cooler. But did it really?

Clearly, the trajectory for boys was different, although I’m the first to admit that in 1980-something, I didn’t even begin to notice. I didn’t care. A boy might have been cool until they mentioned Duran Duran in any sort of sentence that could have been construed as complimentary. Any self-respecting male wouldn’t have been caught dead listening to “Rio, much less “New Moon on Monday” or “Save a Prayer”. Once discovered, the G-word was thrown around liberally, whether the word fit or not. Looking back, I’m ashamed to think about how the boys who really were gay and struggling with their identity must have felt.

Seeking something

I don’t think the idea of gay or straight quite registered with me back then, at least beyond the near-constant name calling I’d hear in the halls. However, I did recognize the differences of black clothing, eyeliner, and sleek hair from the heavy metal, mullet-mania that was taking shape elsewhere around us. In seventh grade, I began to take more notice of the males around me. To me, the boys who liked new wave, and then the even smaller group that would admit to being closet Duranies really were cool – something I still believe to this day. I never saw those guys as underdogs in sixth or seventh grade, because I admired them. They were brave in a way I could never quite live up to myself.

Even so, I knew that the only boys who would even quietly admit under their breath to liking Duran Duran’s music were usually different from the other boys I knew. They were nicer to me, first of all. They didn’t try to snap my bra, or tease me about my hair, or even my body shape. Their interest in me started and ended with music. I was totally on board. Music was one thing I knew I could manage.

The funny thing, at least to me, was that I didn’t fit into THAT crowd either. I didn’t wear black. There was no way I was going to be cutting my hair in some “weird, asymmetrical style” (my dad was such a stickler). Fashion? “You don’t go to school for a fashion show, Rhonda Lynn. You go to learn, and you’ll wear the clothes in your closet.” I looked like Holly Hobby trying to fit in with The Cure. Even so, I liked Duran Duran. I had made it at least partway through the door marked, “You’re not half-bad”.

Someone is perfect for you

My friend David also believes that Duran Duran are underdogs. When I think about it, I agree. Whether due to their own looks, the androgynous fashion, hair and makeup choices of the 1980’s, their fans, or their music, they’ve never been completely accepted. They’re the band that everyone outside of Duranland thinks went away, but has actually been quietly working their asses off. We love them for that, too.

I tend to believe women have a harder time seeing that we might also be drawn to Duran Duran as a result of our geekiness. After all, I’ve met many women in the years I’ve been a fan that exude anything BUT geekiness. They’re far more “in-touch” than I’ve ever been, and I highly doubt they’d agree with David’s assessment that they’ve somehow bonded with the rest of us nerds as a side benefit of being a Duran Duran fan. Being a Duranie included me into a group I might never have found otherwise, and I don’t think I’m alone.

I also buy into David’s theory that, had the band made it in the same way as some others (like U2) – with the same sort of critical success, they might have hung it up already, out of boredom. Maybe fans would have done the same. Instead, there’s been a sort of “fuck you, we’re still here” attitude that has settled in. I admire that in-your-face tenacity. Not only do they tell us not to count them out, they show us.

Here’s looking at you

I like the idea that when it comes down to it – we’re all the same and have bonded together over this band, whether we’re male or female. I appreciate that when I chat with David or anyone else about Duran Duran – they don’t automatically assume that my experience and knowledge is different or less worthy because I’m female (or vice-versa). Perhaps our perspectives are different, but the end result is the same. We’re all fans, gathered together for the love of Duran Duran.

-R

Until All This Fear Is Washed Away

Today is the last day of work before Spring Break.  Usually this means sleeping in, catching up on my to-do list, and enjoying time away from teenagers.  I’m never conflicted about break.  I always love it and am thankful for it…until this year.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are lots of things about break that I’m needing and looking forward to.  I cannot wait to sleep in.  I love the fact that I will have time to just think and to write some in order to process some life lessons that I got the last couple of weeks.  But this spring break does not really feel like a time to relax.  Why is this?  I’m sure you all know that I’ll be traveling to the Pop Culture Conference in Indianapolis to present our research on female dominated fandoms.  Originally, the plan was for Rhonda and I to do this conference together.  Now, though, it is just me, which frankly scares the hell out of me.

What the heck am I so scared of, you may wonder.  I’m not totally worried about the presentation itself, like you may think.  Yes, of course, I’m nervous about speaking in front of strangers, academics, and other scholarly types.  It is silly, really.  I talk every day.  I present all the time.  This audience, though, will be very different than the usual teenagers that I normally deal with.  This group will be paying attention to me.  They will listen and be focused.  My students don’t know enough (in most cases) to judge.  I cannot say the same about the people who will be in the audience at the conference.  That said, I know that our theory about competition in fandoms is a good one.  I’m confident in our research and our conclusions.  But I won’t lie.  I’m still going to be nervous as heck.  Still, this isn’t what causes me fear as I suspect my professionalism will kick in, like it does at job interviews.

No, my fear comes from a different place.  It is all about the social aspects of the conference.  I don’t do well putting myself “out there” socially.  I tend to be the person who sits back, watches and attempts to observe before I attempt interaction.  This, too often, comes across as me being distant and cold, which I’m always sorry about.  I don’t want the conference goers to see me like this.  I know about this personality quirk of myself and have generally dealt with it by avoiding going to social scenes alone.  Usually, when I go with someone else, I seem more human, more approachable as I’ll talk to the person(s) I’m with.  Let me give you a story.  In 2004, when the Duran Fans Convention came up, I desperately wanted to go.  I wanted to meet other Duranies and express my excitement about the band’s reunion with other people who “got it”.  Well, I didn’t have enough guts to go on my own.  Instead, I dragged a friend with me.  I never regretted that decision as I obviously had a great time and met lots of great Duranies there.  Would I have had that great of a time without my friend being there?  I don’t know.

This conference isn’t like a Duran convention or concert.  I highly doubt that anyone there will be a Duranie.  Likewise, I’m sure that there will not be an all night party in room 7609 in the hotel either.  When I found out that Rhonda would not be able to go, I did what I always do.  I turned to my mom to express my newly created anxiety and she is such an amazing person that she offered to go with me.  Then, my dad got sick and it became clear to me that she is needed here.  No, I have to face this challenge alone.

Now, I could just avoid going.  After all, my writing partner won’t be with me and I worry that I won’t do our work justice.  It will also cost me money and time, both of which are extremely valuable, especially during the school year  Yet, I know that I cannot and should not do that.  I must go.  It is important for our work that I go.  I’m hopeful that I will rise to the challenge and that not only will I present our work well but that I also am able to grow from challenging myself.  This could be really good for me.  It could be really great for us and all of the research and writing we have done.  More significantly to this blog, it could also be good for the study of fandom.  After all, I believe strongly that we captured the uniqueness of female fandom, something that needs to be shared and understood by academics as well as fans.

On that note, as I prepare for this conference, I ask that you all send me strength.  If I cannot have Rhonda with me, then, at least, I could have people holding me up when I really need it.  I hope.

-A

Inside my dark pit of despair and self-loathing

Today’s post comes from the file marked, “Things you’re not going to get to do after all”.

I don’t know if anyone remembers, but Amanda and I were invited to the Pop Culture Conference in Indianapolis to give a presentation on a paper we’ve been working on about the uniqueness of competition within female fandoms. We had to submit an abstract of the paper to the convention committee and in turn we were invited to come present our work. It was, and is, a huge honor to be invited. Academics from all over the world will be in attendance, many of whom are authors of the books we’ve been reading on the subject of fandom. Quite frankly, Amanda and I were geeking out just by talking about the opportunities we’d have to meet people, listen to talks about various subjects, and get our creative juices flowing.

We have been working on the paper off and on since we got word of being accepted, with the intention that I would fly to Madison over the weekend of March 24, we’d work to polish the paper and presentation together, and then drive to Indianapolis in time for the conference. It was going to be a real Thelma and Louise week for us, and we were both very excited.

For Amanda and I, this small victory comes from nearly a decade in total filled with research, observing, writing, and blogging. A lot of people, including my own family, thought we were nuts for doing all of this. I’d been told more than once that this is just an excuse to have fun and waste money. Not that I agree, but the words were put out there regardless, not to mention the countless insinuations.

I felt like having this invitation to present validated the time I’d spent on the blog, the writing, the traveling and yeah, even seeing Duran Duran.  The guilt of doing something that the rest of the family didn’t think I should be doing really tore at me, and continues to this day.  I never felt like I could justify my time or reasoning, and yeah for me, that mattered. I would constantly tell myself that we’d written not one, not two, but nearly three manuscripts (and we’re still working on that third one), and we were not going to give up. Hearing that our abstract for a paper had been accepted was so huge, I couldn’t put it into words. Still can’t. I needed that vindication.

There is this cliché that reads, “Life happens when you are making other plans”.  The words hit so close to home that I’m going to have them on my headstone someday.  Through a series of events we’ll just call “life”, I’ve learned that most of the time, I feel like I’ve got to put the wants and needs of other people first. This is one of those times.

As many know, my husband was laid off from his job in late November. He’s still interviewing and looking for work. The trip to Indianapolis is coming up rapidly. This trip does not equate to a paying job, or even an opportunity to make money. It is a chance to share new perspectives through this paper with academics and perhaps receive feedback. Sure, there’s the potential for learning, and networking, but I cannot deny that for the most part it would be mainly self-satisfaction that I’d be gaining by going.  While perhaps a worthy reason, it is not enough to justify the trip.

Yes, I’m disappointed. Aside from this morning while writing, I’m trying not to even think about it.  My success with that is pretty wobbly on good days, and on bad ones—and there have been quite a few of those lately— I just feel sorry for myself, which is nauseating. There’s definitely a part of me that feels like I’m the one always having to push aside my own wants and needs, which feels a lot like wallowing in my own self-pity, because it IS. In other equally weak and shameless moments, I envision myself sloshing around and slowly drowning in a dank pit of self-loathing, as I blame other influential, extended family members on my decision to remain at home. The peer pressure to be known as a good, caring, and selfless wife within my extended family is real. I want to please the right people by making a good decision. Basically, I’m a people-pleaser who is hopelessly addicted to affirmation from others. Rock on!

The final decision to stay at home from the conference was my own. Enough of that self-serving junk. I’m pushing the unhelpful thoughts aside, letting them go, and moving on.

So, Amanda is going to go and deliver the presentation on her own. As the abstract of our paper states, it is authored by the two of us, and I am continuing to work on it with her. But, it will be Amanda at the convention and I am sure she will do a fantastic job. I have high hopes that something good will come out of this for her, even if I am not able to take an active part there at the convention itself.  I hate that I’m not going, more than I want to admit.

In the meantime, I know many of you are wondering about OUR convention. I am not going to lie, I’ve been side-tracked lately. Surprise!! Emotionally, I haven’t been able to commit myself to more than what’s already on my plate. That said, Amanda and I are going to talk about it, figure some things out, and move forward.  Watch this space, and I appreciate your patience.

-R