Friday, March 30, 2007

Examining the History of [my] Obsessions

Earlier today anteka was pondering "what trips the wire inside my brain and makes me seek out a fandom?" And inspired by that, gailann discussed how she, too, only engages in one fandom at a time. She called her post "Obsessions R Us."

So of course that got me thinking about the subject, and my passions*. I love the comment grrli made on anteka's post, that the trigger is "Epic depth." She went on very eloquently and you should go over there to see what she had to say. She really describes the trigger perfectly, as it applies to everything *I* get passionate about, anyway.

*I joke about "my obsession...I mean, passion" but I really think passion is a better word for it. Something crosses over into obsession when it takes over parts of your life, or when awareness of fantasy blurs and reality becomes skewed. That doesn't happen for most of us, even when confronted in person with the beauty that is [insert fandom target here]. Nevertheless, I'll use the words interchangeably here.

Anyway, I've been a serial obsessive for about seven years now. "Hi, my name is Natalie, and I'm a serial obsessive." What causes my passion to fade is almost always lack of fuel. What triggers it, makes it more than just interest, varies in its method but comes down to what grrli said: Epic depth, which in turn triggers a desire for moremoremore.

I never used to be obsessive. Not until I met Megan. I don't know if I just became more like her or if being around her triggered something dormant in me. But suddenly, when The Mummy Returns came out, I became obsessed with Brendan Fraser.

Yep. Brendan Fraser. I watched or rewatched everything he made that I could get my hands on. I marveled at his acting ability, at his range, at his gorgeous eyes. I saw Monkeybones. In the theater. And Looney Tunes. In the theater. I started frequenting a message board where we talked about when we got hit by the Brendan bus and shared any news about him we could find. Then he had a dry spell broken only by The Quiet American and my obsession faded.

The next big one was Lord of the Rings. I saw Fellowship of the Ring and was blown away. I started reading articles about it, then books, and the more I read, the more impressed I was. I found and went multiple times a day. I watched interviews with cast and crew and fell in professional love with Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens. That one went on for a long time. There were three movies, and three DVDs, and extended films. More books and making-of documentaries. I had to see every movie made by every cast member. I bought Sean Astin's audiobook. And I set up my husband and friends for life: obsessives are SO easy to buy gifts for. :) Posters and action figures and puzzles and games and trading cards fill my office.

One obsession led to another. I was really impressed by Orlando Bloom's first feature film performance right out of acting school. He didn't appeal to me as a guy then. First, he was too young. Second, he was icky, with the mohawk and everything. But I loved his performance as Legolas, so I watched his career. As LOTR faded from the front of the public consciousness, Orlando took its place, solidified as an obsession when Pirates of the Caribbean came out.

Now, Pirates came at a very good time. Movies for the previous year had pretty much sucked. This one was clever and fun and over-the-top and smart (I didn't quite get it until the second watching) and full of lines to quote ad nauseum (one day I opened the pantry looking for chips or something and didn't find them. I said plaintively, "but why is the rum gone?" and it took me a couple of minutes to realize I'd said it). A few cheek flickers and some swashbuckling, and I was hooked on Orlando. I still love everything he does (he was impressive in Haven even if the movie itself was lacking). I watch for news of him, and record any talk show he's on. He's way old enough now to be an object of my interest. But my obsession has moved on.

My three biggest current passions/obsessions (besides the New England Patriots--sports are a whole 'nother thing) are:

1. Harry Potter
2. Firefly
3. Supernatural

They kind of intertwine as far as timeline goes.

I started listening to Harry Potter in 2000 when we had a long, late-night trip. Now all of us in my family have listened to the books on tape multiple times. We own the movies (except Chamber) and my kids have plastered their walls with movie images. But I've listened to the books more than anyone else and I'm the only one actively involved in the fandom.

Which requires me to back up. For six years, my interest in HP was only in the books, with a tangential interest in the movies. Then Serenity came out.

I saw the first episode of Firefly on TV, but back then I wasn't that into television, and though I thought the show was okay and worth watching, I had trouble finding it after that and never saw it on TV again. I had great interest in the movie when it approached, and SciFi started showing episodes again. I saw one more but wanted to wait and Netflix the series to watch in order. But I bought the DVD set the day after we saw the movie instead. I watched it straight through, loaned it to a friend, and immediately wanted it back.

That was a first. I've gone through other TV shows on DVD pretty quickly: Alias and Smallville and Entourage and Arrested Development. And by then, I was mildly obsessed with Lost, enough to go to The Fuselage (which I only started reading because JJ Abrams started it) and I watched a few of those episodes twice to try to see the connections I sometimes missed the first time around. But Firefly was the only TV show I wanted to watch over and over and over.

Until now. But that's jumping ahead.

So I saw Serenity in the theater three times before it was gone, and I watched Firefly over and over. When the movie came out on DVD I bought 9 copies for holiday gifts. And I wanted more. I Googled Firefly/Serenity and found The Signal, a podcast dedicated to bringing back Firefly. And there was born my connection to "fandom."

Now, anything can have fans. Some fans can be intense in their appreciation for a show. But it takes something more to be a "fandom." Fanfic and filk and art. Message boards and dissection and shouting from every possible forum to draw more people into it. I'm a peripheral fan in these communities, kind of on the edge, interested in but not really part of, for the most part. But I have to admit, I love them.

So okay, I started listening to The Signal. And I was all caught up and wanted more podcasts. I realized The Leaky Cauldron had to have one, and found Pottercast only a few weeks after it launched. (I tried Mugglecast [of MuggleNet], too, and I love the boys of Mugglecast, but the format and content of Pottercast grabbed me more.) Pottercast is up to 86 podcasts now, and I've listened to every single one. I love hearing the speculation and debate about what's coming in the final book, and what certain things mean. I am fascinated by discourse by really smart people about the stuff I love. I also enjoy yelling at them in my car. But I don't ever write to them, or participate in the message boards. I'm an observer in that fandom only, except for the stuff I post here on this blog.

Then came Supernatural. I Netflixed the DVDs when I caught up on Smallville. It was a show my husband was interested in last year, and one I would have watched, except we didn't get the WB. There was no local affiliate, and the Philly affiliate offered by Comcast was not also offered by DirecTV. But a few minutes into the pilot I was hooked (luckily, we did have a local UPN affiliate, which is now a CW affiliate). I have used my copies of the DVDs to hook other people, and every week we squee together over the show and make constant references to it and to Sam and Dean. I set up Google alerts for the show so I can read news stories about it, and for the actors so I can watch other things they do going forward (FYI, Cry Wolf is a better movie than Devour, but Jensen is better in Devour--and there's more of him--than Jared in Cry Wolf). Because of these Google alerts, I wound up reading ignipes's "10 things I love" about each episode and friended her on LJ because what she says about the show is so great. Because of my friends who also love the show, I have a series of YouTube videos in my favorites and I found my way to anteka's blog to read her Plastic!Winchester Theater and ended up friending her, too, because I thought what she says about the show is also great. I've friended a couple of other people who showed incredible insight and wit along the way. So I am more of a participant in this fandom than any other--though I don't read or write fanfic about the show, or decorate my blog with Sam and Dean (though Dean does tell me when my cell phone is ringing), and I don't participate in any message boards or communities.

Man, this is long and rambly. If you've made it this far, I apologize. :)

My point is, different things have brought me into fandoms. It usually starts as a driving need for more--the sorrow over the end of Firefly, the long distance between Harry Potter books, the more difficult though much shorter gaps between Supernatural episodes--and grows because of some emotional reaction to what I find out there in the fandom.

What I chose to obsess over, always, is something that has that "epic depth" described by grrli waayyyyy back at the beginning of this stupidly long blog post. Always, there is a world distinct from ours, ripe with relationships and emotion, big stakes, personal and physical journeys, and great wit as well as great drama. They enrich my life, make me dig dipper into the human psyche than day-to-day living does, and I hope that when these fade, there will always be something new to replace them.

I'm interested in hearing how other people feel about this stuff. If, like I was, you've been inspired to explore your own level of obsession in depth, please leave a link in the comments so I can go read it. :) Thanks!


Anonymous said...

Hey Natalie, your one of us! So I'm wondering WHICH of the Fraser sites you discussed Brendan on. Was it BFFC or BECC or the SHRINE? Been to all of them! Still a very much devoted watcher of Fraser's work and I've followed right along with you, through LOTR, to Viggo, to Orlando, Boyd and "Pippin" (now on LOST another obsession) and Harry, (I've already ordered my copy of the last Harry). Thanks for even the mention of Brendan, we all "feel" so alone! LOL.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I've been to them all, but the one I posted at and spent the most time at was BFFC.

I Netflixed the last movie he did, a friend told me about that one and I hadn't been aware of it. And I saw the IMdB listing that showed how freakin' many movies he's got coming up! I think my passion is renewed... :)

Trish Milburn said...

Are we related? :) Seriously, you know I love Supernatural and Smallville, and I love Harry and the gang and the LOTR movies. I want to see Pathfinder because Karl Urban (Eomer in the last two LOTR movies) is in the lead.

For a while I was really into Takeshi Kaneshiro, who was in House of Flying Daggers. I still like him, and Chinese films in general, but I'm past the obsessive stage.

I've found YouTube is great for feeding obsessions. I've been learning more about Lacuna Coil's songs today on YouTube, watching videos, because I want to go see them and Within Temptation (whose videos I've also watched on YouTube) in concert.

Trish Milburn said...

Oh, and how could I forget David Boreanaz -- ever since I first saw him stroll on screen as Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Ah, yes, I'm familiar with your Boreanz thing. :) You can usually tell, on a blog, when something someone's talking about surpasses "interest" and hits "obsession." :)

I didn't know Karl had a new movie coming. My husband was very suspicious of my driving need to see The Chronicles of Riddick. LOL

YouTube is the obsessive's crack. Luckily for me, there are enough bad vids on there that I don't want to waste time on them, and it keeps me from spending too much time over there.

MJFredrick said...

You know I share the Supernatural obsession, and now have added Gilmore Girls to it. (I only started watching because Jared was in it.) I had a LotR thing, too, but not as big as yours, and a Buffy thing, though not as big as Trish's.

I want to see Pathfinder because of Eomer, too.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I have avoided the GG pull because he was much younger and I don't want to see him that way. :)

I think you're better off with obsession lite. :)