We have created a new blog for my department — Communication Arts and Sciences — at Dominican University as a way to encourage students, faculty, and alumni/ae to share their thoughts, experiences, passions about communication. So here is one of my stories, from the time when I worked in Hollywood.
Originally posted on Communication Arts and Sciences:
I graduated from college in May 2000 with a degree in psychology and a degree in communication arts from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. To earn my communication arts degree, I had to write a 30 minute screenplay (that luckily got picked to be produced by a class famed horror director and UW-Madison alum Stuart Gordon taught) and I had to produce two short films. My communication arts degree led me to understand the importance of communication in shaping our lives and our world, and I wanted to use the degree to tell stories. My psychology degree helped me understand people and how they worked, which I felt was going to help me to tell these stories. I wanted to write movie scripts, direct movies, edit movies and be one of the shining stars in the cinema firmament.
I think a lot of people who major in media and…
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In the sixth episode of our ongoing podcast, The Pop Culture Lens, Christopher Olson and I discuss my favorite television series of all time, The X-Files. I was a huge, huge, huge fan of this series; I can still recall sitting there when the show premiered, on that magical Friday night back in 1993, with my father, and thinking that we had just seen something special.
I wrote a spec script for the series, about a ghost that stole teeth as a form of revenge (or something like that). I drew art based on the show for my high school art classes. I went online and discovered for the first time what spoilers are. I read up on the supernatural, cryptozoology, paranormal investigating — I event tried to develop my own psychic powers and started reading tarot cards. I thought Mulder and Scully were my ideal couple; I carried a picture of them around in my wallet. For awhile in college, I considered joining the FBI. I collected clips from all the newspapers and magazines I could. I even wrote to Glen Morgan, executive producer of the series. To this day, no other television show, no other media product, no other fandom has meant as much to me as The X-Files.
What you see in this slideshow are just some of the artifacts I have kept for basically twenty years.
So, because it has been my birthday month, our two episodes for February have been focused on what I love. The first discussed Planet of the Apes and all of the myriad of ways the franchise has been able to comment upon our world and remain relevant through such commentary. With The X-Files, we talk somewhat about the nature of fandom and how it relates to identity and to this need for satiating nostalgia. But moreso what we discuss are the recent talks to revive the series, and whether or not a revival would work in our contemporary world.
Our conclusion is that it would, because of the increases in government mistrust and the endorsement of conspiracy theories that were so important to the original series’ concept. From birthers to truthers, from anti-vaxxers to climate change deniers, an adaptation that takes into account these current social, cultural and political factors — while throwing in a healthy dose of the supernatural and transmedia storytelling — could be a huge hit.
It’s an idea in its early stages, one I need to ruminate over and let gestate and grow.
It’s an idea that relates to my fractured fandom thoughts, but it goes beyond that, into a view on fandom that gets back to its roots in order to find similarities in a lot of the things — both good and bad — that we humans do every day.
As I go, I am going to be sharing my musings, in-the-moment on Twitter and in more of an advanced form here on my blog.
I share because I want feedback: does it make sense? is it important? am I being clear? am I being too ambitious?
I need feedback as I read and think and muse to know if I am on the right path, and if it is a path worth walking.
So I share my journey with you.
The part of the journey I share on Twitter will be collected in this Storify: On the Nature of “Being a Fan”
That’s all for now. Stay tuned!
In the fifth episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher Olson and I discuss one of my all time favorite pop culture texts: Planet of the Apes. I fell in love with this movie, this franchise — as dorky as it got in the 1970s — because of how many layers of meaning I saw being handled in this — on the surface — simple story about a man lost in time and confronted with a society of highly intelligent apes. In this episode of the podcast, we discuss everything I saw in the film, and more, demonstrating how the film works as an allegory, a polysemous text, and a classic.
We begin our discussion with a consideration of how science fiction films, at their best, can represent so many of the social and cultural struggles of our civilization. With our focus on the first movie, we discuss how it handles issues of feminism, racism, war, animal rights, and religion. In exploring these issues in the first film, we naturally discuss how these themes reoccur throughout the franchise, including in today’s most recent films, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).
Overall, we conclude that each film’s structure as an allegory allows for the films to comment on the issues of their time, and to remain relevant for contemporary audiences still struggling with those same issues. And while we only scrapped the surface of our analysis of these films, hopefully we indicate a lot of potential directions for further criticism and scholarship that considers these films as more than just movies about apes winning out over humans.
This essay was originally posted as part of my work for the Virtual Worlds Research Group at Roskilde University. This essay reflects my interest in how pop culture represents new media technologies, such as virtual worlds, as part of the process whereby a society / culture comes to determine what will be the acceptable and thus normal use of such technologies. My reflection on this phenomenon in 2011 suggests the tensions that can occur during such a normalization process; in this case, the seeming fear of virtual worlds that exists in the world. This interest led to the creation of my course “New Media in Pop Culture” launched in January 2014, which I will write about further in this blog.
Ghost Whisperer’s Ghost in the Machine: An example of pop cultural representation of virtual worlds
Since the fall of 2005, on Friday nights in the United States on CBS you can find the series Ghost Whisperer (NOTE: the series ended in 2010). The series is about a woman, Melinda (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who can communicate with, and thus help, ghosts. In the third episode of the fourth season, “Ghost in the Machine” (originally aired October 17, 2008), the ghost emerges from a virtual world to draw her into a case about one of the oft-discussed threats of going digital: online predation.
In this episode, virtual worlds are both defined through conversation amongst characters and visual representation for those unfamiliar with these new-ish cyberterrains. However, the use of the virtual world, created for the show, is less to explore what these cyberterrains are and more to use them for a traditional morality tale on the dangers of talking to strangers.
Comic book fans will undoubtedly recognize the name David S. Goyer. For better or worse, he has become synonymous with Warner Brothers’ cinematic adaptations of their DC Comics titles. Although he gained notoriety as the writer for a Marvel cinematic adaptation, Blade (1998), his most successful writing gigs have been with Christopher Nolan on the latest Batman and Superman films. He is also the writer for the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice film, which Warner Brothers hopes will be the launching point for their own cinematic universe (a DCCU) in the style of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). He has also created the TV adaptation of Constantine for NBC, although that series may not be long for this world.
Love him or not, Goyer is a big power player in the realm of superhero adaptations, and that makes him a big power player in Hollywood as long as such adaptations continue to generate loads of revenue.
Now, Goyer directed the immensely flawed Blade: Trinity (2004), and does not have many directing credits to his name. He does, however, have one credit that means he has become part of our exorcism cinema project. Goyer wrote and directed the 2009 feature film The Unborn, featuring Gary Oldman as Rabbi Sendak, who is enlisted by distraught young woman Casey Beldon (Odette Annable) to exorcise the demon she believes wants to use her body to enter the world.
Today I launch an online survey to gather people’s anonymous and confidential stories of their experiences dealing with other fans.
This survey is part of my ongoing research into the phenomenon I call fractured fandom. Primarily, with this story, I want to hear people’s real problems of dealing with fans, whether they were fans of the same thing, fans of different things, or just fans in general. I want people to think of this survey as a place to share their concerns and problems openly, honestly, and without fear of reprisal.
I want to hear from people who are sports fans, anime fans, wrestling fans, Star Trek fans, Sherlock fans, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fans, food fans, music fans, video game fans — any type, make or model of fan, I would love to hear from you.
The survey asks you to recall a specific experience of having a problem, conflict, tension, argument, harassment, fight or simply unpleasant experience with another fan, with other fans, or with an entire fan community or fandom. I ask you a series of questions about this situation to understand what happened and what you experienced.
Anything you tell me will be de-identified so that nothing you say can be traced back to you. I want you to feel safe in telling me what happened, why you think it happened, and how you responded to it all.
You may say as much as you like in this survey, so how long it takes to complete it will ultimately be up to you. You should plan to spend, on average, 15-25 minutes answering the questions.
Please feel free to spread the link to the survey via social media, to other fans you know, so that more stories of these issues can be told.
At any point, if you have any questions, please contact me here or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the link for the survey: https://dom.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_6gtYqiT4nG8fjPn
And thank you so much for your help.
Our fourth episode for the Pop Culture Lens podcast is up, in which we are joined by friend of the podcast Megan Stemm-Wade to discuss the importance of the American TV sitcom Bewitched (1964-1972).
In this episode, we cover many aspects of how the series was referencing the beginnings of second wave feminism while also subtly subverting the still prevalent notions of femininity in American society and culture. Moreso, in viewing the series now, it seems thoroughly modern, and even more progressive than currently on-the-air sitcoms for how it empowers Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery), Endora (Agnes Moorehead), and Tabitha (Erin Murphy).
We also discuss the sitcom’s relation to the 1980s concept of the “superwoman,” as well as how the 1990s rise of “grrl power” and the “magic girl” both reflect the groundwork of Bewitched while also, like the sitcom, critiquing the notion of the superwoman who is so empowered that she can do all things perfectly.
There was a lot going on in this seemingly frivolous sitcom about an advertising man marrying a witch and trying to have a normal suburban life — and that is the true magic of the series.