Laura Hollis, Signing Off

When you’ve expected and come to accept the end of what has been a spectacular two years of entertainment, and then all of a sudden a bomb of epic proportions is thrown down at your feet, there really is not anything else to do except cry a lot, be happy and proud, and realize that the thing you have loved is giving back to you.

Open August 19, 2014 on a nerdy college freshman naively waltzing into her first year classes at an extremely normal university. All she dreams of is acing her courses and making a fantastic journalism project and maybe, just possibly, hanging out with her cute TA.

Open sometime October, 2014 on a dorm rom in Ohio. A girl sits at her desk, just coming across a gif that will throw her into one hell of a ride. Two girls sit in a rather fantastically decorated dorm room, compared to the one in which she currently resides. One of them tied to a chair with rope. The other with sock puppets on her hands. One frantic search later for the source of the images and she alights on the name of Carmilla. At first disappointed by the lack of a puppet show, the girl continues viewing entirely forgetting her original reasoning for happening upon the show.

Open October 6th, 2016. The nerdy college freshman, either one really, have been through incredible journeys of self-acceptance, self-introspection, and self-awareness. One being thrown into life threatening situations while the other working on making decisions that could very well pave the way for the rest of her life.

If not already clear, I am the girl in question, sitting in my roommate’s kitchen in Atlanta, after having evacuated Hurricane Matthew, trying to figure out what I am going to go back to. And there I sit, miles and miles away from New York Comic Con, when I come across the news that in 2017, Carmilla is being made into a feature-length film; a brief relief in the whirlwind I had been living for the past couple days. Without a doubt, there were tears, many of them. Of joy and relief. And maybe you do have the right to wonder why? Why is this twenty-year-old girl sitting in the middle of kitchen, surrounded by people, crying over a web-series? The easiest explanation starts from the beginning.

I need to paint a picture of the two different people who have experienced the last couple of years. Starting with 2014 me. I was not a mess. I had my life together. I had a very good understanding of who I was and who I wanted to be. I was confident. I had set myself up for success. Bada-bing. Bada-boom. Me in a nutshell.

I would like to say that the queer representation drew me into Carmilla. That sounds like a very logical reason to watch a show. But no, sock puppets caught my interest. Then came the queer representation. And then, I stayed for everything else that came after.

My little, newly identified bisexual self could not contain her excitement over finding this gem in the rough. I came to the show about two months into the release of the first season and it was something I had never seen before. The vlogstyle setup was charming of course and the pop-culture references were A+ and such a unique aspect of the show. But the biggest facet, was how queer this show was without having to say anything about it. From the start it was clear that the two main characters were lesbians, there was a non-binary character, and an assortment of the other supporting characters identified somewhere on the queer spectrum. Clear while never mentioned. Brilliant. The show continued to move on without talk of sexuality because that was not what was important about the story. Finally, there was something without the predictable angst of coming out or the intolerance of family and friends towards people on the queer spectrum. Their gender or the gender they loved had no affect on their character, their values, or how they dealt with the situations that were thrown at them. Queerness was the norm and it was refreshing. Despite the supernatural and the vampires and the life-threatening university, I could actually see reflected what it meant to be, in a sense, me.

Open December 2014 on me, at home for university break, not out to my parents, trying to contain my excitement for this new thing I had. The release of the Christmas special did not help. And after the announcement of season two that month, I spent the next many months in wait for any news of the second season. And to be honest, I mostly did this by myself; no one I knew watched the show, which was such a pity for them.

For those months, I missed it. I lived in the transmedia and the fandom, consuming everything I could. I missed the characters I fell in love with. I missed Kirsch and his puppy self. I missed Danny’s overpowering loyalty. I missed Perry and her unwavering rationality in the face of fear. I missed Lafontaine and their ultimate bravery. I missed Carmilla and her snarkiness and adoration for her tiny little roommate. I missed Laura, the one, in which, I found parts of myself. I missed how much of a nerd she was. I missed her unwillingness to realize mistakes and her naivety toward what the real world was like. I missed all of her faults because they were helping me realize my own. I missed the adventure and the love story that was fresh and new.

I finally was able to show a friend this show and ruined his life for the better. But as it happened, when the second season was released we did not get to experience it together. It was summer vacation and we were hours apart from each other. Yet, we talked and theorized and yes, of course fangirled and fanboyed. The journey had changed; the events of the prior semester had changed how these characters saw the world. And Laura, as was I, was experiencing a revelation of her own. Slowly but surely, she was starting to understand that the world was not painted in black and white and slowly but surely I was realizing that where I was in my life, was not where I was supposed to be. I watched a relationship that was built quickly, fall apart because of lack of acceptance of each other, not for lack of love. It was heartbreaking but I appreciated how mirroring of real life that was. Usually shows show relationships trekking on no matter what but in Carmilla, they took a step back to look at themselves and their relationship. That’s the second time I realized how spectacular this show was.

I am an actor and a film and theatre student and this was also the season in which I started taking in, along with the story, the acting. I saw the amazing subtlety that Natasha Negovanlis (Carmilla) brought to the scene. I fell in love with the skills of the brilliant Annie Briggs (Perry). I was in awe of the emotional capacity of Elise Bauman (Laura). I looked upon the crew and cast in wonder as they built “the little web-series that could” in four days.

It was clear at the end of season two that Laura’s entire view of her world had been crushed and she was trying to understand the greyness of the universe. I was trying to find my own place in the world. I had just gone through almost a year of suddenly being concerned with my outer image, trying to please everyone, and I had lost who I knew I was at my core. I was battling to regain that and also struggling through a decision to get out of school for a while and re-evaluate what I needed. So while Carmilla went on hiatus, so did I.

I shrugged off the bisexuality identity in preference for queer. I moved hundreds of miles away from home. I met knew people. I started doing new things. I was trying to reinvigorate my life to get back to who I was and whom I wanted to be and I succeeded. That happened just around the time that Carmilla was returning for season three.

Open October 13th, 2016, on me, sitting on the floor of a makeshift bedroom in Florida where I’ve been living during hurricane cleanup, tearing up as soon as I see episode 25 uploaded. That was pretty much my state through the entirety of the last length of this journey.

I saw these characters go through the absolute horror of having to decide whether to save a friend or kill an evil. I saw mistrust breathe its first breaths and grow until they were no longer a team. I saw them fall apart because of that. I saw Laura finally realize that even the most powerful love had its limits and no matter what happened, they had to be willing to let go and not let the grief consume and twist them. And then, I saw them come together as a whole, and finally finish what they started. I think Elise Bauman summed up the entirety of season three and also the reality of life in a short sentence, “Beneath damage and beneath hurt, there is always love.”

I feel a real calmness about the end to be perfectly honest because I felt this solidification happening while I watched. I feel stronger in my own skin, having come full circle to what is important to me. I’ve grown as a person and I’ve been able to watch myself grow through the characters in this show. And I finally felt completely sure with myself. That was a momentous thing to feel. I feel ready to finish my own journey, meet my obstacles head on, and fight without giving up. Refreshed in my own sense of self.

From the characters I have learned the lengths of acceptance and love. I’ve learned that being entirely yourself is okay and respected and ultimately the only way to live. I’ve seen people go to extreme lengths because their friends mean the whole world to them. I’ve learned that people change and grow and an opinion or personality trait that a person once had, has the ability to change as they experience life, and those changes are normal and good. My view of love has been fortified as I saw how toxic blind love could be and how trying to change someone is the worst possible way to be in any sort of relationship. I saw two people struggle with balancing love and a healthy relationship to the point of breaking. I saw these same people, realize their mistakes, grow, and come back to each other when they were both ready. Overall, I’ve seen the power of friendship.

Watching these actors grow and develop has given me an amazing learning experience. I feel as if I used the show as a master class in some ways because the things I have learned not only from watching but seeing these actors talk about their craft in such a passionate way has led me to strengthen my love and desire for it I could not be more thankful for that.

In all seriousness, this show was an important phenomenon. I am so extraordinarily proud of the people who worked on this show, cast and crew alike. I am so happy for their success and for the important content that they created because they could see what the world needed. The show is a pioneer in so many ways but especially for queer representation. In a world where it’s lacking, Carmilla showed how normal it could be because of how normal it is.

So saying goodbye to something that was as close to my heart as anything in my life was hard. To say goodbye to these characters who I call friends. And saying goodbye to Laura, who has taught every girl that they can be there own hero, is the hardest part. I felt such a connection to her and knowing I will not see her anymore, pushing me to be the best I can, showing me there is always a way to find good, teaching me the importance of dedication, leaves an empty feeling in my chest.

But I saw the end coming, I saw that it was a good decision, and I accepted it. The memories I’ve made surrounding this show in the last couple of years will never leave me, being as it was so ingrained in my own personal journey. I’m not sure if I would be where I am today if I had not found Carmilla. This webseries touched so many people and made them realize that it was okay to be who they are. Every time you feel alone and as if no one cares about your story, remember this. Remember the remarkable community that grew around this show. Remember the phenomenal team behind this project. Remember how they found a way to tell your story because it matters and someone was proud to tell it. This show was made for us. The little webseries that could, did it.

These past two years have been an absolute gift and one that I will never be able to return. Even with these couple thousand words, I still do not feel like I have been able to fully express my gratitude. But I wanted to say thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for impacting my life in such a way to make it better. I am in awe. I needed this show so much as I know many others did. I am so proud.

Goodnight, Carmilla.

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