Monday, January 15, 2018

Fairy Tale Fandom Book Report: Geekerella.

So, let’s start off a new year of Fairy Tale Fandom with something that’s a bit of a mirror image of this blog.  We're a fandom take on fairy tales.  So, how about a fairy tale take on fandom?

Geekerella is a Young Adult novel written by Ashley Poston and published by Quirk Books (the same people who publish stuff like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, naturally) is a “Cinderella” story infused with the trappings of fandom.
The story follows two perspectives.  The first is our Cinderella, a young woman named Elle Wittimer.  Elle is a girl who’s put upon by her cruel step-mother and two wicked step-sisters.  She’s also still recovering from the death of her father and an attempted romance that ended in a particularly ugly fashion.  Her escape and salvation from this is immersing herself in the low-budget, cult favorite sci-fi show her father (who was a bit of an uber-geek himself) introduced her to: Starfield.

The other perspective is that of would-be Prince Charming, young actor Darien Freeman.  All of 18 years old, Darien made his name as a heartthrob on a CW-esque teen drama but has now landed what would have been his dream role as Prince Carmindor in the long-awaited Starfield movie.  Darien’s got his own problems though.  Namely, his controlling father/agent, a back-stabbing by a one time friend, his own insecurities about taking up an iconic role and his own loss of freedom and privacy that comes with being a celebrity.

Now, here’s where the real romantic comedy stuff kicks in.  It turns out, they don’t like each other even before they’ve met each other.  Elle has written off Darien as a shallow heartthrob and has expressed this on her Starfield fan blog in no uncertain terms.  This blog post has of course been picked up by online news sources and proceeded to go viral.  Darien has seen the post and has in turn written off Elle as an angry, reactionary, unflinching fan who will not give his performance a chance.  And yet, through a case of mistaken identity, the two begin texting each other when each of them desperately needs a confidante.
Yes, this is pretty much what everyone expects.  There are only so many different ways you can do a retelling of Charles Perrault’s “Cinderella”, especially a modernist take.  Here, it’s really the grace notes that really make the difference and they’re not even necessarily aspects of the Cinderella story.   Most of them are issues within the modern world of media fandom.

They touch on the idea of representation.  One of the big issues with the casting of Carmindor in the Starfield reboot is that he was played in the original TV series by a noteworthy Indian actor.  Fans of the show were apparently wishing desperately for the role to not end up whitewashed.  It’s also why the role is a big deal to Darien Freeman.  Darien is half-Indian and Carmindor is the first hero he ever saw on TV that looked like him.

They touch on the negative aspects of fandom.  Like fans who take advantage of others or try to be gatekeepers and keep people out of the community.  I’m not going to say much more because that’s a big part of one of the characters’ arcs.

But probably the thing that I noticed most and which kind of overlaps both the Cinderella thing and the fandom thing is how Elle acts.  Elle isn’t your typical pleasant Cinderella type.  She’s closed off and quick to judge.  She routinely pushes people away and feels like she can only count on herself.  Her immersion in Starfield is to a large degree a means of escape from her regular life.  Now, I’m not a psychologist by any means, but a lot of this is what I’d expect someone who experienced the kind of loss and abuse Cinderella did might react to it.  While they don’t get too deep into it, Elle’s just a little bit broken by her experiences.  But that’s okay because she can do better when she gets out of her own way, and it doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve better.

Most of the typical Cinderella stuff is there in some form.  The Fairy Godmother is Elle’s coworker who’s an aspiring fashion designer.  The coach is the food truck The Magic Pumpkin that she works in.  The ball is a science fiction convention with her entrance and her dance with the prince split between two events: a cosplay contest and a cosplay dance.  There’s a bit of a twist with one of the step-sisters this time.  It’s one that’s been done before in other Cinderella projects but this time there’s a twist to the twist if you know what I’m saying.

I’m not going to say this is any sort of groundbreaking take on “Cinderella” because it’s not.  However, it is a lot of fun and moves at a nice brisk pace.  I’m not going to say it’s for everyone.  If you’re one of the types who gets annoyed when books or TV shows reference pop culture just for the sake of it, well there’s some of that in here.  I do think this would make for a nice vacation book or a palate cleanser after reading something a bit heavier if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.
Until next time, live long and prosper, may the Force be with you and never stop chasing that Happily Ever After. : )

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