So, yeah. I confess. I am a fangirl. Okay, so I’m not actually a girl. Anyone old enough to have a 21-year-old daughter long ago lost the right to “girlhood;” but fanwoman lacks a certain grace. So, fangirl it is.
I hereby plead guilty to having had a decades-long series of fictional character crushes since early childhood. My sad history of serial crushes has been undeterred by marrying the (very indulgent) love of my life (and still being married to him 26 years later), having had two (talented and brilliant) children and three careers.
But at least I’m consistent. My television, film, and (dare I say) literary crushes have all been loners. Emotionally distant, always brilliant but (at least in my fangirl-ish mind) harboring wounded souls. They are world-weary outsiders looking in (sometimes yearningly, sometimes not) — and all in need of some combination of love and redemption.
I made my entry into fangirl-dom when I was a mere child of nine years old. By then, already beguiled by the Beatles, their long hair and exotic British accents, my pre-pubescent eye caught a glimpse of the blonde mop-topped sidekick to Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo on NBC’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Illya Kuryakin, the mysterious, masterfully intelligent, brooding and accented Russian spy.
The suave, and ever self-assured Napoleon Solo, ladies man and establishment type, did nothing for me. Even at that young age, I knew that overly self-assured, conventionally handsome heroes were definitely NOT my type. Illya, with his collection of American jazz albums, turtleneck sweaters, intense eyes and slightly rebellious take on things — complete with his own moral code — became my personal archetype for the ideal (fictional) man. My Illya-love (including his rather English accent) would frame my fangirlishness for the next 40 years. Of course when the show first aired, there were no such conveniences as AVIs, DVDs, or even VCRs (nope, not even BETA). No opportunity to watch and re-watch every stare, every subtle bit of body language. My parents’ worst punishment would be to deny me my hour of U.N.C.L.E.
A couple years later, Star Trek premiered (also on NBC). James T. Kirk (William Shatner) was the Napoleon Solo of the USS Enterprise. Sophisticated and arrogant, he was the designated Trek heartthrob . Yeah well, not to me. While all of the female guest stars (human and alien alike) fell for the over-the-top Kirk, I was crushing on the distant and outwardly cold science officer Mr. Spock.