Having a ‘Fangasm’: Writer and cosplayer Molly McIsaac joins SyFy showWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The look on her face in the photo is priceless.
The selfie that geek writer/cosplayer/speaker Molly McIsaac posted on her blog this past Aug. 12 speaks volumes about her excitement for her latest project. Her visage is literally beaming with joy, eyes cast to her left, as though she’s just shared the best news in the world with all her friends. The paper she clutches has scrawled on it in enthusiastic handwriting, “I’m going to be on TV!!”
McIsaac is one of the seven cast members of the new SyFy series “Fangasm,” which premiered Sept. 24. Anyone who knows McIsaac’s work online, where she has carved out a niche for herself as an infectiously entertaining representative of geek culture, already knew that she was a perfect choice to join a group of fanboys and fangirls in a series where they all live together and share their pop culture passions. What few folks knew until she announced the news, though, was that being on a television show had been one of McIsaac’s ambitions since childhood.
“The entire thing was such a long process — from auditioning to filming and now finally being able to announce it — that I feel like it’s an integrated part of my personality at this point. However, it’s still totally weird to step back and become self-aware enough to realize I have fulfilled my lifelong dream at age 24,” McIsaac said in an interview with Toledo Free Press Star.
“I worked my butt off to get here, but it’s amazing to see all of that hard work come to fruition. I just feel really lucky, and half the time I’m on the brink of tears because I struggled so long and hard to get here. There were days when it all felt so pointless, yet here I am.”
Geek of all trades
In a way, the path that led McIsaac to televisions nationwide has a feeling of inevitability now, given her other lifelong pursuits.
Being a fan of things in geek culture has been part of McIsaac’s life nearly as long as she can remember.
“I think my father instilled a love of sci-fi and movies into me from an early age — we watched ‘X-Files’ together every Sunday throughout my childhood, and he showed me ‘Aliens’ and ‘The Thing’ at a very young age — much to my mother’s chagrin,” McIsaac said.
Her passions for all things geek were amplified by her isolated surroundings, she added. “As a home-schooled girl in the wilds of Alaska, geeky pursuits quickly became the main focus of my childhood. Characters in novels were my best friends, and I read with a voracious appetite.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one geeky thing I was into. Sci-fi, fantasy, anime, comic books — they all had really special places in my heart. I like to describe myself as a ‘geek of all trades,’ and I think this rang true even at a young age.”
Of course, until recently it’s rarely been socially acceptable to admit to having such enthusiastic passions. Most every geek has tales of being ostracized for the things they love and how fervently they love them. McIsaac is no different — which, she said, makes her so happy to see society embracing geek culture in recent years.
“I was bullied mercilessly for being a geek in high school, so it makes me really happy to see it become socially acceptable, finally, and even ‘cool,’” she said.
“I don’t understand the mentality that a lot of the [geek] community has about it being some sort of exclusive club — we fought so long to be accepted and embraced for our passions and interests, and now that we have it we’re rebelling against it? It’s entirely silly. I hope that no young person with interests in the geekier pursuits of life will ever have to be bullied like I was just because of what they’re into!”
McIsaac had already established a reputation and fanbase online when the opportunity to audition for “Fangasm” came around. “I kind of always ‘knew’ that if/when a geek reality TV show popped up I would be perfect for it. I even had a Google alert set up with the keywords ‘geek reality show.’
“So when a casting call popped up — two years ago — with a very vague description of ‘Are you a geek? From the producers of “Jersey Shore” …’ I jumped on it immediately. My intuition must have been right, because I was called back less than 24 hours after I submitted my essay questions, and two years later here I am!”
Still, Molly admits to having some misgivings about the project at first. Pop culture depictions of geek culture have not been entirely positive, even as public acceptance of fandom has grown. AMC’s own geeky reality series “Comic Book Men” hasn’t exactly painted the community in the most positive light, either.
“Reality TV is absolutely a craps shoot, and I was a little nervous going into filming that ‘Fangasm’ would end up exploiting geeks,” she said. “However, the filming process was so incredibly positive and wonderful. There was no manufactured drama, and the cast and crew were some of the most pleasant people I’ve ever been around.
“I genuinely feel that SyFy is using ‘Fangasm’ as a platform to depict the complexities and intensity of the fan subculture — not to make fun of it or exploit it.”
Even for someone who has dreamt of being on television most of her life, the process of actually filming a show is far different than anything one can expect. McIsaac said the production, which took place in Los Angeles earlier this year, was “overwhelming. Mostly in a good way.”
“I lived in a house with my six fellow cast members, and we were filmed 24/7 for six weeks. It doesn’t matter how much you mentally prepare for that — it’s a singularly unique and surreal experience. Waking up and running straight to the mic-ing station before I was allowed to talk to my roommates, not having the freedom of everyday life to just run to the grocery store,” she said.
“But I really enjoyed it. The producers and crew were great people who made all of us feel at ease, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I only hold fond memories from my time filming the show.”
McIsaac said she became tremendously close with her fellow castmates, as well.
“I butted heads with a couple of the roommates — you’ll have to watch to see who — but I came away feeling like I had gained a new, lifetime geek family,” she said. “The girls and I were especially close — they were my support system throughout the whole thing and we jokingly referred to ourselves as the ‘Triforce.’ Most of the time we were one big, silly family, though at times I did feel a bit like the ‘black sheep’ merely because I’m very opinionated and not shy to voice my beliefs.”
Equality in fandom
One of McIsaac’s most passionate beliefs lies in the issue of sexism within the geek community. From the accusations toward “fake geek girls” to the exploitation of female cosplayers in convention settings, it can be a complicated and emotional time for women in fandom.
“The entire situation is very sad. Women who are outspoken, sexualize themselves or complain about male treatment are immediately attacked by the geek community at large. There’s a lot of problems revolving around the ‘cosplay is not consent’ argument, and a few bad social tropes have made the less informed masses believe that geek girls are ‘only faking it for attention’ — which is of course completely ridiculous,” she said.
“I’m really hoping that my involvement in ‘Fangasm’ will make the geek community re-think their stance on geeky women. Not that it’s important, but the other two girls and I pretty much outgeeked the boy roommates — and we weren’t doing that for attention or because we wanted a date — we are just that passionate.
“I think we just need to keep being loud about things. I’m hoping that all of the crap that has come up lately is just the final cries of a wounded animal — it has to get worse before it gets better. I, for one, will continue fighting for the rest of my life.”
Spreading geek awareness
McIsaac said she hopes “Fangasm” will help people come to a better understanding about the culture of fandom — both non-geeks who don’t understand, and geeks who still feel the need to be territorial and stand-offish about their passions.
“So far I’ve seen a lot of people in the geek community very mad about ‘Fangasm’ because they think it is going to exploit their special unique snowflake club,” McIsaac said. “I am here to publicly state that this is not the case — we are all fellow geeks, and I hope the geek community accepts us with open arms and realizes that myself and my six other roommates are doing this to spread geek awareness to the masses.
“I want to prove that we’re not all the ‘comic book guy,’ and dispel pop culture stereotypes that have been perpetuated by shows like ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ We’re functioning members of society who just happen to love nerdy pursuits!”