Things I’ve Learned From Fangirling


I’ve been a fangirl for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid it was The Black Stallion books, Star Trek, Star Wars, Spider-man, country music and Barbie, (weirdly most of these things are still in play!). In my 20s and 30s it was and continues to be The Office, Twilight, Marvel Comics (Daredevil in particular), YA urban fantasy books (various series), Arrow, and the Big Bang Theory. At the moment, I’m fangirling pretty hard for Shadowhunters (Malec!) and The Mortal Instruments book series its based on from author Cassandra Clare.

I’ve recently given some thought on what fangirling has meant in my life and what it has taught me. Some may view fandom as irrational behavior based in fantasy (and in some ways it is), but for many like myself I can see how some of the ridiculous things fangirls do actually carries over into reality.

Fangirls are made of some pretty tough stuff. I’ve survived some of the most heartbreaking and heart-pounding situations ever through my favorite books and movies. For example:

  • The Office: It took three seasons for Jim and Pam to get together. Every episode they didn’t find their way to one another was another little stab in the heart.
  • In Arrow: I survived Oliver “dying” in a midseason cliffhanger and the Olicity break-up (I’m still in denial on this one, though).
  • Twilight: I survived Edward breaking up with Bella in New Moon.
  • The Mortal Instruments: I survived Malec on page 511. It was so horrific we can’t even talk about it.

That means we can survive just about anything real life can throw at us. For instance, there’s nothing my students can throw at me that I can’t handle. Any time they challenge me I smirk while thinking, “Oh, please. I survived Picard getting kidnapped and turned into a Borg.”

Fangirls are incredibly empathetic. Part of the reason we get so emotionally involved and obsessed is because of our high capacity to internalize what others are feeling.

  • I cried at Jim and Pam’s wedding. And at Edward and Bella’s. (I’m sure I will at Malec’s as well. Please Cassandra Clare. Oh, please let us have this!)
  • I also cried during the last installment of Malec’s ongoing story in Tales from Shadowhunter Academy because I was overwhelmed with their happiness – they deserve it!
  • In The Mortal Instruments, I was so angry that Jace and Clary were brother and sister, that I threw the book and needed a moment to calm down.
  • In Harry Potter, I bawled so hard when Harry realized he had to die I needed an hour to get it together before I could jump back in.

Empathy, IMHO, is one of the most important traits anyone can have. It gives us the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, no matter how different they are from us. Fangirls are extraordinary practitioners of empathy!

Fangirls always have something to look forward to. This is especially true if you’re a fangirl with multiple fandoms. Let’s face it – day to day life can get monotonous. Even boring! Fangirls don’t get bored because we’re always waiting for:

  • book, movie, merchandise, tv season release dates
  • the next new episode
  • Fan events, conventions, Comicon!
  • Concert dates
  • social media updates
  • collector’s editions
  • …and about a million other things depending on the fandom

Fangirling makes you tech savvy. This is very true if you’re fangirling via social media. Over the years, a lot of my computer skills have come from fangirling.

  • The Office: I learned basic coding while posting and moderating on a message board.
  • Twilight: I learned photo cropping, editing, isolating videos, and how to create mp4 files.
  • Arrow, Shadowhunters, and Daredevil: I learned how to make gifs, screen capture videos, and “Twitter-speak.”

There’s so much more, so I may have to do another volume of my sociological analysis of being a fangirl. It’s not just for fifteen-year-olds or so-called nerds stuck in a fantasy world. It’s for anyone who loves something with everything they have and it truly does translate to real life.

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c.b.w. 2017


The Yellow Emperor’s Tomb


Much like King Arthur,  The Yellow Emperor of China straddles the line between reality and myth. There are those who view him as a historical figure who helped pull China out the chaotic Warring States period and others who see him as nothing more than a deity crafted from old world mythology. The truth is ultimately lost to time, but the filial piety of a nation has brought people and their offerings to his tomb since 442 BC.

Dragon tiles adorn an entry gate, symbolizing the Yellow Emperor. During the Warring States Period the color yellow was associated with Earth, dragons, and the center. (Photo by: c.b.w.)

Up in the hills of Shaanxi Province, near the city of Yan’an, The Yellow Emperor’s tomb stands as a testament to his legend as the founder of Chinese culture and the single ancestor of all Han Chinese. The mausoleum complex is an awe inspiring tribute to China’s equivalent of a founding father. Upon arrival to the complex,  visitors are greeted with a huge white building that serves as an entryway into a large outdoor temple filled with gardens and memorials to the emperor. The grounds are shaded by huge cypress trees, one of which is purported to be more than 5,000 years old and planted by the Yellow Emperor himself.  I stood in awe of this tree as it towered overhead with rutted bark and twisted branches.

As per mythology, this cypress tree is believed to have been planted by The Yellow Emperor. Wires and metal rods help keep it standing and guide its growth. (Photo by: c.b.w.)

One of places where people are invited to leave offerings is at a site that claims to have footprint castings of the Yellow Emperor.  I’ve been to a lot of tombs and mausoleums in my travels, but I’ve never encountered a relic quite like this one.  The prints are enormous and clearly meant to be symbolic The Yellow Emperor’s status in Chinese culture, rather than be taken as authentic.  Worship isn’t of the relic itself, but the idea of the Yellow Emperor’s footprints and what he means to the Chinese people.

The Yellow Emperor's "Footprints." Offerings of money (both coin and cash) are a common sight at Chinese temples and tombs. (Photo by: c.b.w.)

One of the core components of Chinese culture is filial piety, which is a Confucian virtue of respect for one’s parents and ancestors.  Very often Chinese families have an alter in their homes that honors all previous family members and sometimes political leaders or historical heroes.  The Yellow Emperor puts this virtue on a grand display as people continue to pay respects to an individual that is considered the ultimate ancestor.

At the base of the actual tomb is an area which houses several memorials, stone steles commemorating the emperor’s accomplishments, and temples with offering tables.  Besides coins and cash, the most popular offering is a bundle of lit incense.  The believer bows at least three times, kneels, and then places the incense in a large vat of ash. I watched one man in particular take special care to make sure the incense remained standing so it would burn through completely.

In an act of filial piety, a man offers incense to honor The Yellow Emperor. (Photo by: c.b.w.)

The tradition of filial piety continues to pass from one generation to the next as a boy lights a candle on the alter to pay homage to The Yellow Emperor.  As I observed this boy carry on such an old practice, I realized just how central the idea of ancestry is to the Chinese.  It is an emotional experience that creates amazing strength of character and a sense of honor.

A young boy carries on the tradition of filial piety by lighting candles on the offering table at the Yellow Emperor's Mausoleum. (Photo by: c.b.w.)

The mausoleum is mostly a memorial, whereas the tomb of the Yellow Emperor is believed to be the actual burial site.  To get to the tomb, I had to climb 277 stairs that lead to another beautiful garden of flowers and cypress trees.  It’ll take another 77 steps to get to the top of Qiao Mountain, where the prayer mound is situated.

Wear good walking shoes! There are a total of 354 stairs to climb in order to reach the Yellow Emperor's Tomb! (Photo by: c.b.w.)

The tomb is marked by a beautiful arbor painted and carved with traditional Chinese motifs. A large stone stele is essentially the gravestone of The Yellow Emperor’s burial site.  There is yet another place to leave offerings.  Two bowls with “eternal flames” flank the offering site, allowing everyone a chance to light incense and candles for the emperor.

Several individuals pay their respects at the tomb of The Yellow Emperor. (Photo by: c.b.w.)

It was an honor to visit such a sacred place.  The eternal devotion and emotional connection to The Yellow Emperor on the part of the Chinese people is incredibly powerful.  The concept of one individual tying so many people together is a beautiful idea.  We aren’t as different as we think, considering we all have a need to honor those who came before us, even if in our own unique ways.

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c.b. 2012