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Abuse and Fandom
Above all reason and logic, I’ve always wanted people to be happy. This is especially true for fictional characters.
Growing up in an abusive household, you learn to shove down your emotions and desires, to put on a face that is hard and strong, while you yourself are trembling on the inside. Your spirit begs to be let free, begs to be somewhere where your father’s footsteps and voice don’t send your body into rigamortis with a side of trembling dog.
Fear haunts you. Sleepless nights where you wonder if this is the day someone actually asks you ask about your bruises.
Can you lie well enough?
Will they care enough to not believe you?
To look past the trembling lip and the shaking fine that falls from your lying lips?
Growing up gay in a christian, republican home in the South is one thing that sticks with you. As if it is tar upon your skin, the shame that remains attached to your spirit peels off ever so slowly; and if it does come off it takes pieces of you, reluctant to let you go.
The fear of discovery, of rejection, of hatred.
And it’s funny isn’t it, that despite your father rejecting everything you already were that you feared so deeply coming out to him? As if his rejection would break you more than the feeling of his wedding ring on his fist busting open your lip, the helplessness you feel as you fall on the carpet of your family home thick in your throat. An illness you can’t quite get over.
So Happiness. I’ve always wanted it for my fictional characters, and I didn’t know why I became so emotionally distraught when their happy ending didn’t come, why I wept so tumultuously at their misfortune. Joining fandoms exasperated these feelings, as I found that millions of people were also invested and deeply saddened when the characters they loved did not achieve peace and love. Yet still I struggled with the why’s of my emotional attachment, the deepness of happiness and despair I feel about something not real.
When I was a child, I would immerse myself so deeply into my book that I was unable to hear what was going on around me. When I watched television, my mother often remarked that I was deaf to the world around me. Indeed, it seemed that I had mentally climbed into the pages, the screen. And I see now that I retreated to worlds that were far more friendly than my own, that did not care that I was loud, that my heart was big and bleeding, where my tears were not answered by a slap and a raised voice. Where I watched people express their feelings and marveled that they were listened to, respected.
I was 23 when I realized what a panic attack was. I was 10 when I had my first panic attack, or perhaps I was 9, memories are so elusive when you are young. I had done something wrong according to my stepfather and was sent to my room, where I was to remain until he decided to release me. Hours passed, and oh how I wept. I wept and I was all too aware of how intensely alone I felt, how alone I always felt. How alone I would always feel. The walls began to spin, and my breath began to become strangled within my convulsing throat, my chest heaving. Blackness rose around me, familiar in its calmness and protection. When I awoke I was still alone, still afraid. No one had come to check on me, though it had been at least 1 or 2 more hours. This taught me that I would indeed always be alone, and that I had to learn to carry my pain on my own.
No one was coming.
Reading was an escape from a world that did not want me, that did not accept me in all my odd freakish mannerisms. My friends were all fictional, providing me the love and support that I desperately sought in the real world. As I grew I became more attached to my fictional worlds, and now at 25 I am what is known as a shipper, or a fangirl. These are terms that are specific to those on the internet who find themselves heavily invested in various fictional universes. We write about them, we rejoice in their successes, mourn their losses. We look to their world to express our own, to express ourselves.
We turn to them because we are still searching for happiness and acceptance in our own lives, and if we cannot find it then at least someone else can.
So why invest in fictional characters? They are my friends; they are my confidants. They are people who never let me down. I seek happiness for them because if they are happy, surely the little girl who stood so proud and broken, tears burning in her eyes in the face of her abuser, has a chance for happiness as well. I protect them in ways that I could not protect that little girl, hold them in my arms as she longed for someone to hold her, and support them as she still, at the age of 25, longs for others to support her.
When we love characters it is because we see a piece of ourselves in them. Their pain, their joy, is wrapped up in our own joy and sorrow. I am not ashamed to profess my love for fictional characters, as I often see the little girl with falling tears, trying desperately to love herself. Her small hands over her ears, blocking out the harsh words those around her are piling on her exhausted spirit. I love for her, and I love myself because of it.