Jarrow was the first and only person to rec me something on my [email protected]email alias which is set up so folks can point me in the direction of interesting things that are below my limited radar. Initially Jarrow just wanted to get something on the events calendar to help spread the word about this super cool, fan-run, gal pals convention called TGIF/F (TGIFemslash) that was taking place in April, but once I read about the event I had to know more about how this con came to be and the folks who were putting it together. So Jarrow and Leah, two of the con-organizers agreed to chat with me about history of TGIF/F, what to expect, and why you should really check it out. It’s going to be a really fun event, so read on to learn more! Thank you Leah and Jarrow for taking the time to talk to me about TGIF/F!.
Curious: Before we dig into all of the cool things that you’re doing with the TGIF/F con, I’d love to start at the beginning: How did you first get into fandom?
Leah: My first big fandom that I treated like a fandom instead of just being, like, into something—like I’ve loved Star Wars my whole life, but I wasn’t in the Star Wars fandom—my first real fandom was probably, Cartoon Network had this whole block of anime programming called Toonami. So, Dragon Ball Z, and Cardcaptor Sakura, and Tenchi Muyo. That was my first fandom experience, where I discovered fanfiction.net, and looked for Dragon Ball Z stuff on the internet. I wrote my first terrible, terrible fan fiction in that milieu.
Then, there was Harry Potter, which was huge, huge, huge, huge, big part of my early childhood. Those were my first conventions, except in the Harry Potter fandom, we didn’t call them conventions, they were “academic symposia.”
My first big convention experiences were actually Harry Potter cons; I wrote Harry Potter fic. Then, I was out of the fandom for a good long while. During the second half of high school, and into college, I wasn’t really doing the fandom thing—or at least, I wasn’t writing fic. That changed when I finally watched Buffy and then Angel, and Doctor Who. Those shows sucked me right back in. Doctor Who was what really made me go, “Oh no, fandom is a thing again!” I was really active in the Doctor Who fandom. Then, Glee exploded all over my life. That’s how I ended up here.
Curious: What about you, Jarrow?
Jarrow: I always liked TV, but I did not know that it was possible for a TV show to change your life, until I watched Buffy. In 2002, I was 21, and I got caught up on the show as season 6 was airing, so I only got to live the final year of it in real time. I was absolutely gobsmacked by this show, and what it could do, and what television could mean to me. I was experiencing it mostly in isolation with my best friend. She introduced me to vids. She kind of introduced me to fic, just in the way of realizing it was a thing. I did a little bit of writing on my own, absolutely terrible things, not knowing that there was a bigger world out there.
I started going to cons in 2005. I went to Buffy cons and Firefly cons. Those were my first big fandoms. Then, Battlestar Galactica, starting around 2007, and Vividcon. I was experiencing TV mostly by myself, talking about it on LiveJournal a bit, making vids and things for it, but completely oblivious to greater fandom on the internet. It wasn’t until I started talking to people at Vividcon in 2007, finding out, “Oh, this was a huge thing.” There were huge factions and conversations that were happening that I was not in.
I consider myself as being in fandom, or being fannish since 2002, but I wasn’t in the fandom, at large, until Glee, I think. Around the time, this was 2012-ish, when I started FaberryCon, I was really interacting with fan communities on Tumblr, and on Twitter a bit, and finally getting to experience some of that actually being in the mix that hadn’t happened to me before.
Curious: What about Glee was different compared to all the other fandoms you were a part of?
Jarrow: I think for me, it really was just that I had an access point, that I was on Tumblr, and I could see that there were other people and other conversations out there that were happening. I had been completely oblivious to all of that before. Maybe it was just being at the right place at the right time.
Leah: The other thing to keep in mind with Glee, is that the canon itself is so broken and incomplete. Up until that point, with the fandoms and I had been in, I was really big on canon compliance. I really didn’t get the point of canon divergence. I was like, “Why would you want to talk about these people separate them from the world in which they live? The world in which they live is what makes them who they are.” Then I saw Glee, and I was like, “Oh, that’s why. Save them right now, immediately!”
Jarrow: Someone help them, please!
Leah: It was really easy to fall into that hole with Glee because there was so much that needed filling. So much of what fandom does well is recontextualization and reinterpretation. Because Glee demanded so much of it, it was really a perfect fit. I’ve seen a lot people talking about how, “Unless you were in it, you don’t understand Glee fandom, and you don’t get to talk about it.” It really was this monolith in a way that I haven’t seen before or since.
Curious: Yeah. That’s so interesting. I was really into Buffy and Battlestar Galactica, but I never thought about fandom until Sherlock. I came to the end of Season 2, and was like, “Ah! This can’t be where it ends, I need more! I need different!” I discovered what fandom was, by looking for more than canon. The catalyst for me, as well was wanting to change things in a way.
Jarrow: I’ve always been big on the concept of found family. Buffy is very much built on found family, as is Angel. Firefly is also more of the found family. I remember being in college and my chest aching, being so heartbroken over the fact that Willow and Xander and Buffy were not actual living people that I was friends with, because it felt like they were my friends. I didn’t have very many friends at the time. I wanted very desperately to belong with them, because I felt like I did or felt like I would. I think it’s similar with Glee. I wanted to be in the choir room with those kids. I wanted to be singing with them, and have them be my friends.
I think it also connects to my love of cons, because then, I could be in a room with people who also felt like they were friends with these people. We could become friends with each other. That feeling of belonging, and being a part of something, that had always driven me toward particular shows or particular fandoms.