Sci-fi/fantasy culture often likes to try to pull the cowl over our eyes and pretend it’s exclusively a fanboys club. There’s no doubt it’s a deeply misogynistic one, where women are dismissed as second-class posers. Witness, for instance, the tiresome debate online over what constitutes a real “geek girl,” as if only guys are authentic fans.
But there are large numbers of female fans populating message boards and conventions, and their passion and devotion to the genre are just as nerdy and genuine as that of fanboys, as shown in Lynne Carter’s debut documentary, FANomenon: A Journey Into The World of Fangirls, which airs on Global Television on Saturday.
The documentary follows 47-year-old Susan Beckner, from rural Virginia, who sets out to meet Joe Flanigan, the actor who plays Beckner’s sci-fi obsession, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, on Stargate: Atlantis. Along the way, Carter offers a primer on the elements of sci-fi culture, from live-action role-playing to costume play, and talks to academics, actors, producers and, of course, other female fans to explore their growing influence on pop culture.
Although it never convincingly makes the case that middle-aged women have become “the secret backbone of fandom,” it does offer a much-deserved look at an underexplored part of that culture.