Interview with a Fangirl: Annalise
I am continuing with my series of interviews with Fangirls that I have met through social media!
Today, it is my pleasure to interview fellow fangirl, Annalise Ophelian, who is an award-winning documentary filmmaker (MAJOR!, Diagnosing Difference), queer psychotherapist, and Chihuahua fetishist.
I first became aware of Annalise through the interview she gave on Episode 44 of the Fangirls Going Rogue podcast and I was able to briefly meet her in person last month at Star Wars Celebration Orlando.
Welcome Annalise to The Adventures of The Everyday Fangirl and thank you for taking the time to answer these questions about being a Fangirl.
When do you realize you were a Fangirl?
I probably only started using this term a few years ago, like around 2015 when I attended my first Star Wars Celebration. But my Star Wars fandom started when I was 4, in 1977 after seeing A New Hope in the theater. The following summer, it played at the theater near my house in Fort Collins, CO at the 10 cent matinee, and I went every single week. I was Princess Leia for Halloween, had action figures, read along to the children’s books with cassettes with my younger brother. In the early 1990s, when there were only the EU books and comics and not much else for Star Wars fans, I became a huge Star Trek: TNG fan, that franchise started me going to conventions, which I’ve continued attending throughout my adult life, and also collecting trading cards and such. So geek fandom has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.
How has social media helped or hindered you?
I’m so grateful for social media, especially as a woman who loves geeky things, I did not find community until the advent of social media. And I can’t image how Looking for Leia would even be possible without social media, because women’s fandom is so vibrant on-line, particularly in the arenas of podcasting, instagram, and blogging. I’m able to connect to a much broader group of women across geographic locations, and I think it’s also served to help broadcast women’s fandom in a much more accessible way. Women don’t need a publishing contract or a corporate sponsor to create and disseminate art and commentary about their fandom, it proletarianizes media and digital access.
When did you first see Star Wars or other favorite fandom, such as Star Trek, Lord of The Rings, etc. and did you love it right away or did this grow on you over time?
Summer of 1977, right after I turned 4, was the first time I saw Star Wars, and the following summer I saw it 10 times in the theater. Star Wars was definitely love at first viewing, I’ve talked with my mother about it and she’s said “Yeah, we offered you other summer activities, but all you wanted to do was see Star Wars.” And space fantasy is my favorite genre, I never got into Tolkien or D&D. I did love ST:TNG, but I was more in love with the social allegory than the sci fi aspect, although having said that I did have technical manuals for the Enterprise D, so that’s something.
What have you learned from the Star Wars fan community or other fan communities that has had a positive impact on your life?
I feel like Star Wars fans are some of the kindest fans I’ve ever met. I’ve been to three Celebrations, and at every one there’s this joy in attending and knowing that every human around you will happily engage in a conversation about Star Wars. The sort of posturing or “geek cred” thing I associate with Reddit or other forms of (predominantly male) fandom doesn’t come across to me so much in Star Wars fan community, and working on Looking for Leia I’ve been really moved by how women’s fandom shows up in their lives. Female Star Wars fans are hard core! I’m talking levels of geekdom preserved for sitcoms, we’re a deeply passionate, committed group. I’m queer-identified and I came out in 1987, so I’ve been an active member of LGBT community for quite sometime, and I’ve always relied on that community for mirroring and support and safety. But when I attended my first Star Wars Celebration, I felt more at home and among my people than I ever had before. I felt like I could show up fully, like I was understood and understood others, there was this comradery and this language, both spoken and unspoken, and it was just blissful. I remember coming home from Anaheim and having this sort of culture shock, it was jarring not to be sitting on a floor talking with people about Star Wars for seven hours a day. I also think Star Wars fans are unique in the way we can love a thing and also have multiple critiques of it and these things don’t cancel each other out. There’s a nice duality there, it’s very both/and: I love this thing; and I hate this thing; This is my favorite part; and this is the part I want to be done better.
I also love how so much of the Star Wars universe is fan created. Characters who are unnamed on film and have no lines get back stories and complex relationships in fandom, and this fandom informs canon and vice versa. So the creativity and love of story that Star Wars fans have is deeply inspiring to me, especially because I’m not a fiction writer or a narrative filmmaker, as a documentarian my work is about observation and consolidation more than creating something entirely new. So that sort of creativity is inspiring.
What else do you Fangirl about?
I’m a huge Disney fan, lifelong Disney fan, I live in Northern California but generally have an annual pass and make it to Anaheim several times a year. Next year for my 45th birthday, I’d like to go to Disneyland in Shanghai and Tokyo, and then I’ll have been to every Disney park in the world, and my mother and I have taken two Star Wars Day at Sea Disney cruises and are booked for our third next spring. I was really happy when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, I felt like these folks know how to take care of my childhood, and they’ve certainly proven that to be true. And I love that my two major fandoms now live in the same place, and I can wear head to toe Star Wars gear and be perfectly dressed for the parks! I joke with my partner that I’m basically a teenage boy, I only want to see Marvel and Star Wars movies, basically anything with super heroes or explosions in space, and I love sci fi and fantasy TV shows, and I never pass a comic store without going in. Because of “Looking for Leia” I’d say my Star Wars fandom, which is usually pretty central, is definitely occupying all of my bandwidth right now!
Anything else you want to say to others about being a Fangirl?
I think it’s funny how we gender things. Like droids, why do droids have gender? We assign qualities to gendered fandom that I think are arbitrary. Princesses are for everyone, and warriors are for everyone, and these can be two different categories or one category. Having said that, I love seeing how women show up in fandom, because one thing that is true of geeks is that we are often drawn to these stories of outsiders struggling to find their way in the world because they mirror our own struggles, our own sense of alienation and dreams of belonging and comradeship and heroism. Right now, my favorite thing in the world is how women have taken Claudia Gray’s concept of “Huttslayer” Leia from “Bloodline” and completely redefined the cosplay and character associated with “Slave Leia,” totally upending the male gaze and reclaiming the agency and self-determination of that character. To use a phrase I heard repeatedly when asking women about female characters in Star Wars, that’s badass.
What cool Fangirl related project or projects are you working on that you would like to share?
I am currently working on “Looking for Leia,” a documentary about Star Wars fangirls. Those that want to learn more or Fangirls interested in Getting Involved can visit www.annaliseophelian.com or www.lookingforleia.com!
Thanks again Annalise for answering these questions and letting us to get to know you and your fandom better.