I never mean to get obsessive about fictional universes.
To a certain extent, I sort of hate when I do. I hate it when I become a woman possessed, telling everyone around me “hey, did you know this fact about Batman?” or quoting Buffy the Vampire Slayer at every chance I get, even if it just barely relates to what’s going on. I hate the feeling that I get when I realize that I’m boring the other person, or that they don’t find this as interesting as I do. I always feel slightly ashamed whenever I bring up Disney or Harry Potter and someone laughs and says, “I knew you were going to say that”. Am I really that predictable? That boring and single-minded?
But I can’t help it. It just happens, over and over again.
It always starts the same way: as a casual interest, much the same way that anyone watches a TV show or movie or reads a book. I’ve had hundreds of casual interests in my life. Maybe someone recommends that I check this thing out, or maybe I see images of it online and think it looks interesting. Either way, I don’t dive in head-first. I dip my toe in, get a feel for the thing. And at first, I like it okay, but it isn’t my life or anything like that. It’s just a movie, a TV show, a book that I enjoy. Nothing special.
Then, something happens that changes all of that.
In the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it became attached to a memory. I started watching it when I was very young because my mother was obsessed with it herself, and so each episode reminded me of camping out in her bedroom when I was a little girl and watching it on the tiny TV she had in there, laughing along at the jokes that I understand and asking about the jokes I didn’t (“it’s a grown-up joke”, my mom would always say).
In the case of Batman, it was the characters that I became attached to. I fell in love with Harley Quinn, with the Riddler, with Two-Face, with Batman even, and suddenly they became friends that I needed to check in on every once in a while, just to make sure that they were okay. And when they weren’t okay (because they never are), it made me want nothing more than to wrap a blanket around their shoulders and comfort them (even though I know they’re fictional and I can’t).
In the case of Disney, it was a message that rang true. Because Disney films assert the belief that dreams can come true, that if you fight hard enough, anything can happen. And I’ve heard people say that this is a very reductive message that doesn’t hold true in some people’s experiences, but I don’t see the harm in believing in it. Because believing in it motivates me. It gives me a reason to keep fighting, to keep trying. Whenever I feel like giving up, I can just pop in a Disney movie (pretty much any Disney movie), and it will remind me that my dreams are only possible if I keep going.
Any combination of these things can make me obsessed with a fictional universe. One good character, one good scene, one good message, or one good memory is all it takes to make me need to look into the entire history of this universe – who made it? Why did they decide to create it the way they did? What inspired them? What did they go through in their own lives? What was the context of this story? And the next thing I know, I can’t shut up about it. It consumes me – not to the extent that it gets in the way of my daily life or anything like that, but to the extent that I think about it often, that I pick it apart, that I need to know more.
And as much as I hate it sometimes, I have had moments (particularly when my depression is bad) when these obsessions just go away, and I don’t care as much. And that terrifies me more than the possibility that I might bore someone with my stupid, useless facts. Because my obsessions are a part of me – they help to make me feel alive and they give me something to get excited about. They aren’t the only part of me, of course, but to lose them would still leave me with a great, gaping hole inside. I enjoy being obsessed. I enjoy reading these facts about them and I enjoy the feeling I get when I indulge in them. I even enjoy raving on about them whenever I find someone who will let me. Truly, I wouldn’t give them up for anything.