Get Your Geek On: 'Fanboy Confessional' Outs Fandom in All its Forms
by Aaron Broverman, posted Jul 12th 2011 3:01PM
As a comic book collector for 16 years and an attendee of nearly every comic convention in my city, I thought I had the fandom thing nailed down. Then I watched 'Fanboy Confessional' and realized I still had a lot to learn.
Narrated by Aaron Ashmore ('Smallville's Jimmy Olsen), the six-part Canadian documentary series goes deep into the subterrane of geekdom to expose the lesser-known subsets of fandom. Turns out just being a comic book geek isn't enough anymore. Now, the real hardcore fans aren't satisfied unless you're a cosplayer, LARPer, zombie walker, furry, steampunk or real-life superhero. Confused? That's why we asked reformed fanboy and show creator Michael McNamara to walk us through each group he investigated in the series.
The Cosplay Edition
Though originally associated with Japanese anime and manga, cosplay can be broadly applied to any subgenre of fandom, from video games to comics to science-fiction. It's simply the act of dressing up as your favorite character. Since you can't buy accurate costumes off the shelf, many girls and some boys will slave over their convention outfit for weeks. "You've got these teenage girls who really don't know how to sew yet, who're figuring out how to take a two-dimensional costume from a screengrab and turning it into an actual thing that they can wear," says McNamara. The crowning moment is being judged for your efforts during a convention's masquerade ball.
The Steampunk Edition
Steampunk is the fandom I know the least about, and McNamara used to be in the same boat. "It's interesting because it crosses all genres: there are steampunk anime costumes and steampunk furry costumes," he says. Basically, it boils down to modern technology, fashion and pop culture, remade Victorian style. Think H.G. Wells and Jules Verne if they were working today. "One of our characters said, 'It's like the intersection between technology and romance,' and that's a pretty great street to live on," says McNamara, who followed a group to the Steampunk World's Fair in New Jersey and profiled Vancouver group V-Steam for the episode.
The Furry Edition
Furry fandom is definitely the most misunderstood. This community has members that wear fur suits of fictionalized anthropromorphic animals; it's always been overshadowed by the oft-publicized sexual fetish of "Yiffing," where people get off on sex while wearing their furry costumes. (Remember the CSI: Las Vegas episode 'Fur and Loathing'?) As a result it was the hardest for McNamara to access. "We spent a lot of time getting to know the furry community and gaining their trust because we knew there was more to it than that," he says.
He found that it was mostly people who fell in love with Disney and the Looney Tunes as kids and never let go. "We wanted to show that this isn't something to be feared. Like any marginalized group, what usually happens is they'll find someone within their own group to marginalize. Sadly, in the case of fandom, it tends to be the furries."
The LARPer Edition
LARPer is actually an acronym for Live-Action Role-Player. If you're a person who'd like to act out Dungeons & Dragons in the physical world, then McNamara says this one's for you. "We followed a LARP called Underworld, and they get together during a long weekend to camp out on a horse farm, and as soon as they get there, they're in character." The characters are invented by each player and they're weaved into an over-arching medieval plot developed by the plot team. More people have joined this fandom since its appearance in the movie 'Role Models' and McNamara predicts it will only grow in popularity.
The Monster Chiller Horror Edition
A big monster model builder as a child, McNamara most identified with horror fans. Here, he profiles Thea Munster, whose Zombie Walk went from her and seven of her friends dressing up like zombies and parading through Toronto, to thousands of people holding Zombie Walks in cities around the world. "I never thought [this worldwide popularity] would happen," she says. "I think it's a celebration of death that is missing. To appreciate life we need to appreciate death."
The Real Life Superhero Edition
Long before 'Kick-Ass' reached theaters, these men and women were patrolling the streets of their fair cities under various secret identities trying to make the world a better place. This episode follows Vancouver's "undead" desperado Thanatos as he distributes water, blankets and food to the homeless of the downtown eastside. Some superheroes court controversy by fighting actual crime, and the community is sharply divided on whether they should. Regardless, McNamara says RLSHs are all about releasing their inner eight-year-old: "There is that eight-year-old boy inside all of us who thinks it would be great to just yell, 'Shazam!' and be able to take on bullies and wrongdoers."
If 'Fanboy Confessional' confirms anything, it's the evolution of fandom itself. Whether it's the cosplayers learning how to sew, Ms. Munster learning special effects make-up or steampunks learning how to use a forge, it is a growing, burgeoning subculture. "Fandom used to be all about collecting and hoarding things," says McNamara. "Now, it seems to be about collecting experiences and practical knowledge."
'FanBoy Confessional' premieres in Canada on Wednesday, July 13 at 10PM ET/PT on SPACE.