The topic of today’s post is the winner of a poll on Twitter (@happyfangirl02). The choices were Love What You Love, Forgiveness, and Benefits of Plushies. Benefits of Plushies won with 67 percent of the vote. I’m still planning to write the other two, but today I’m going to be talking about Fangirl Secret to Happiness number two:
Plushies Make Everything Better
If you’ve made it this far without knowing what a plushie is, then you’re probably very confused, so let me clear it up: plushie is just another word for stuffed animal. All teddy bears are plushies, but not all plushies are teddy bears. Plushies can be anything from dinosaurs to giraffes to cats and dogs. Personally, I have mostly teddy bears and cats, but I’ve had my orca whale named Darwin since I was nine years old, and I also have a dolphin, a seal, two otters, three unicorns, a pink hippo, and three pink puppies (the largest of which is big enough to use as a body pillow).
There are a lot of fun things that you can do with plushies:
- First, there’s the obvious—they’re great to cuddle, snuggle, hug, and sleep with. I have four teddy bears who sleep on my bed, and every now and then I’ll hold one while I’m sleeping. They even have their own sleeping bags and pajamas.
- Speaking of pajamas, you can dress them up in cool clothes and even have them cosplay as your favorite character. I have four bears and a kitty who cosplay Supernatural characters, and I have a friend with a bear named Bucky Bearnes who cosplays his Marvel superhero namesake.
- You can talk to them, either out loud or in your head, sort of like a journal. They’re great listeners, and some people even respond as their plushies in a special voice. My bears are so talkative that they have their own podcast, but we’ll get to that.
- Another way plushies can talk is on social media. Twitter and Instagram are full of plushie accounts from all over the world, and my bears and I have made some wonderful friends on Instagram and Twitter. Facebook is a little less plushie-friendly, I’ve found, due to the fact that plushies can only have Pages, and those aren’t quite the same as personal accounts. I vastly prefer the plushies on Twitter and Instagram. My main bear account has 1,600+ followers on Instagram and 500+ on Twitter!
- Once you’ve made friends with other plushies on social media, you can become plushie pen pals and send them plushiemail. Most plushiemail consists of a postcard, greeting card, or letter plus a few small gifts like stickers, candy, tea, and other small items that fit in envelopes. My bears sent out 40 Christmas cards this year and that wasn’t even enough to utilize every address in our contact list!
- You can have meetups with your plushie friends if they live near you. There is a group of bears in England who meet up semi-regularly, and there is a delightful bear (and her humans) who lives about 30 miles from me whom my bears and I have met up with twice so far. I’ll talk more about her and her humans a little later.
Especially My Plushies, the Winchestbears
My primary plushie friend is Dean Winchestbear. He’s named after Dean Winchester (of Supernatural) and has a cosplay outfit identical to Human!Dean’s signature outfit: black t-shirt, olive green jacket, brown leather jacket, jeans, and biker boots. Oh, and he has a Samulet as well. It’s a regular sized necklace that I tied in several knots to make it short enough for a bear. Dean is a 16-inch Happy Hugs Teddy from Build-A-Bear Workshop, which is also where most of his clothes and accessories come from.
When I can’t find the right clothes at BABW, I get on Amazon or eBay and I can usually find something that’ll work. But more about that later.
I adopted Dean on August 2, 2017. My mother was gone at the time; she was either away for the whole weekend or just for most of that day, and I was lonely, so I drove over to the BABW store in the mall where I used to work and picked Dean out. I got him stuffed and picked out the most Winchester-looking clothes in the store, which was a plaid shirt and jeans and biker boots.
I brought him home, took some pictures of him, and the next day I gave him his own Twitter account. For the first few months I mostly posted sarcastic comments and Supernatural reaction gifs, but eventually I made my first plushie friend, Archie from @TheHugHouse, and he introduced me to Plushie Twitter and a whole lot more friends.
Plushie Twitter is the segment of Twitter where plushies have their own accounts and chat with each other. It’s a magical place where positivity and joy abound and—aside from the soap opera antics that go on with the @Emergency_Teds—drama and negativity are the exception rather than the rule. Plushie Twitter tends to overlap with Anipal Twitter, which is where cats and dogs have their own accounts and chat with one another. It’s a lovely little corner of the Internet where everything tends to be rainbows and lollipops rather than the doom and gloom of politics, healthcare, and economics.
After I’d had Dean for a few weeks, I adopted his brother Sammy, who is a Traditional 17-inch Cocoa Teddy Bear from BABW, and a couple months after that I adopted Castiel Bear of the Lord, who is a 15-inch Little Chestnut Cub, also from BABW. Just recently I adopted the fourth member of Team Free Will 2.0, Jack the Bearphilim, who is a 15-inch Little Buttercream Cub from BABW.
Since Supernatural characters mostly wear everyday clothing like flannel shirts, jeans, and jackets, it’s not too hard to find them clothing that matches up with their namesakes’ clothes from the show. The hardest thing to find was a teddy bear trenchcoat for Castiel Bear, and I ended up having to make one myself out of a pair of tan coveralls I got from eBay. I removed the leg seams and Velcro fasteners, tidied up the lapels, and hemmed the whole thing about an inch and a half. It turned out pretty well, actually.
In addition to dressing the bears like their character namesakes, I also sometimes dress them to match their actors. Since Jensen Ackles was a professional model before Supernatural, his embarrassing modeling photos are all over the Internet. So occasionally I dress Dean Bear in something like this—
–and recreate the photos. It’s a lot of work to set up backgrounds and, for this photo, alter the shirt to be short enough, but the end result is totally worth it! One time I even set up a ‘plushie strip club’ for an online challenge, complete with video (turn your volume up for best effect):
Last summer, I had grown bored with simply photographing the bears and decided I wanted to start a podcast with them. Dean Winchestbear is the host of Plushienatural, a podcast that “celebrates the soft and cuddly side of Supernatural fandom.” Sammy Bear usually joins in for a segment or two, and Castiel Bear first appears in Episode 1.07 & 1.08, “Hook Man/Bugs”. Since he’s not in the early episodes of the show, I feel like I shouldn’t use him on the podcast. But maybe I’ll change my mind about that in the future. Oh, I guess I should tell you that I’m the cohost (as myself), and I do commentary about each episode while Dean does the plot recap. We’ll talk more about this later.
The other fun thing I did last summer was travel to Pittsburgh for the Creation Supernatural Con (aka PittCon). I took Dean Bear and Castiel Bear with me, and we did some really fun stuff! Dean got to go onstage twice, once with Briana and Kim during their panel and once with me and Castiel Bear in the costume contest. Castiel Bear got cuddles and love from Ruth Connell during the Ladies of SPN panel, which hopefully made up for our Jensen/Misha photo op where Jensen strangled him.*
We had a few other photo ops as well. We also livetweeted several panels, including Misha’s solo panel and the Jared/Jensen main panel. Overall, we had a great time and can’t wait to do it again this November in DC!
Plushies are super fun to have around Christmas time. BABW makes a ton of cool Christmas outfits, and I photographed the whole Winchestbear family in them and made Christmas cards on Shutterfly. I ordered 40 cards and that actually turned out to be a few cards short of the number of addresses I had for plushie friends. Oops! So there were a couple of plushies that didn’t request cards whom we were forced to skip. I’ll definitely order more cards next year!
I saved the best for last. The most fun thing to do with plushies is to take them to meet other plushies—and their humans, of course! We have had two tweetups (Twitter + meetup) with our friend The Teddy from Teddy’s Bwog and her humans K and M. Just this past weekend, we got together at their apartment and baked peanut butter pumpkin dog treats for an anipal’s birthday. (I can’t say who it is because it’s a surprise!) Our first tweetup took place at an old-fashioned ice cream shop with a fairy garden next to it. You can read about it in The Teddy’s blog post. We have another tweetup in Hershey in the planning stages.
Real Talk About Human-Plushie Relations
Once you give your plushie an internet presence, certain challenges pop up that can somewhat complicate the simple joys of owning a plushie.
One of my biggest ongoing challenges is creating Dean’s social media voice. Since he’s based on Dean Winchester, who is a badass monster hunter, at first I tried to make his Twitter into a Supernatural roleplay account. Roleplay, or RP, accounts speak in the voice of the character, as if the character him- or herself is writing the message. It’s a little like first-person-POV fanfiction, because the roleplayer is supplying the thoughts, words, and actions of the character as if they are that character. Dean Bear’s early tweets were mostly sarcastic comments and Dean Winchester reaction gifs. But once I started following other plushies, I started playing Dean Bear as a plushie first and a Supernatural character second. Plushies, as a general rule, are full of positivity and love, and are unconditionally supportive of good humans. Plushies solve most problems with cuddles, hugs, and empathy.
So once I started playing Dean Bear as a plushie first, he became a lot more popular. I still make sarcastic comments—there’s a bot on Twitter that tweets scrambled lines from old Supernatural scripts, and I’ll often make jokes based on those bot tweets, but often I’ll take a bot tweet and throw love or positivity at it. I also connect with actual SPN roleplay accounts, and often give them love and support. Dean offers a lot of virtual hugs (usually in gif form) and often says encouraging things to or about me (“the human”). Instead of tweeting from my own account, @sinnerforhire, I often tweet comments and responses on Dean’s account, which has twice the followers, as something that “the human” said or thought. That’s probably lazy of me, but at least I know people are reading it.
Then there’s the difficulty of trying to keep up with multiple social media accounts, especially if your plushie has a lot of followers. Dean Bear has over 1,650 followers on Instagram and almost 550 on Twitter, so that’s a lot of friends to keep up with! Then there’s the plushiemail, which can get pricy very quickly when you’re shipping gifts overseas. Sadly, I’ve really gotten behind on posting pics to Instagram of all the plushiemail that Dean’s received since Christmas. We also haven’t been keeping up with our closest plushie friends’ posts on Instagram, either. I’ve been spending so much time trying to maintain 3 Twitter accounts, including the new one for this blog, as well as running two podcasts, a brand-new blog, working 3 days a week, and exercising, that Instagram has just fallen by the wayside. Instagram requires a photo to make a post, and photos take time and energy to set up and I just don’t have it these days. I keep telling myself I’m going to catch up and then I look at how much catching up there is to do and I just put it off again. It’s a problem that can only be solved by breaking it down to the smallest components, but even those feel impossibly huge. So, if you’re one of Dean’s Instagram plushie pals reading this: we haven’t forgotten you, we promise! We’re just hopelessly behind at the moment. We’re sorry. We still love you lots and lots.
Overall, though, having a plushie brings more joy than it brings challenges. Plushies are ideal companions, even though bringing the big ones out in public as an adult can feel a little strange. I’ve never had anyone actually say anything mean or challenging to me when I’ve taken Dean out in public, but I assume the older adults are thinking mean or disparaging things and just not saying them. I’ve taken both Dean Bear and Jack Bear to work and everybody loved them. Nobody said anything to the effect that I shouldn’t still be playing with plushies at age 35. I’ve taken Dean Bear to Hershey’s Chocolate World (although we haven’t done the ride—yet!), to Friendly’s for an ice cream sundae, to an ice cream shop called The Jigger Shop to meet The Teddy, to the Hershey Gardens to see orchids and butterflies, to the local library to hang out in the Solarium, to the National Aviary to take pictures with penguins, on a train to Pittsburgh, to the movies (a couple of times now), to walking trails and parks, and to my museum to help do my job, which actually got him into the Hershey Community Archives!
Other humans take their plushies on adventures as well. The Teddy’s mommy and daddy have taken her to ZenKaiCon, an anime con in Lancaster, PA, where her daddy said that “she [made] it easy to connect with others.” They have also taken her to the Gettysburg historical site. Another plushie friend of ours, Archie Steiff (@TheHugHouse), got to go with his human to a museum exhibit about the history of toys. Archie also has many virtual adventures through the #FurryTails plushie community on Twitter.
Plushies Really Do Make Everything Better!
But don’t just take it from me. Here’s what Archie’s Girl had to say about her plushies:
[The] cuddling definitely helps comfort me and improve my mood. Plus taking my plushie somewhere or taking pictures distracts me from whatever I am dealing with at the moment. My mental and physical health has been pretty terrible lately and if it wasn’t for my plushies and the anipal community on Twitter I don’t know where I would be.
Emmy Moo’s (@POTUS_EmmyMoo) mommy also feels that her plushie makes her happy:
Emmy is squishy and cute. She’s not as posable as some other plushies but I can still get funny pics of her with a hilarious caption. She’s a little wicked. Emmy helps to improve my mood and I love all of her friends.
And The Teddy’s daddy definitely agrees:
Her positivity is just infectious. It’s hard to not be happy with her around.
So, if you want
- cuddles and hugs whenever you need them,
- lots of new friends from all over the world,
- a social media timeline full of love and positivity, and
- a companion to take on adventures,
then consider getting your very own plushie! And then start some social media accounts for them. Honestly, what do you have to lose?
* Jensen’s got some apologizing to do during DCCon in November!