Categorizing Fractured Fandom

Defining Fractured Fandom

According to the discipline of fan studies, at this point in history, being a fan is considered a positive for any individual. Being a fan helps people discover their identities, and to determine what they like and do not like. Being a fan helps people find friends, establish communities, and develop a sense of belonging. Being a fan allows people to express themselves creatively, whether through theories, writing, art works, or costumes. Being a fan represents a means for everyday people to establish themselves as active and powerful creators and participants in a capitalistic system that otherwise sees them as nothing more than passive consumers. In other words, being a fan, especially since the advent of the Internet, is considered a positive aspect of life.

There are times, however, when being a fan presents a problem: a problem for the fan; for others the fan engages with either inside or outside of any fan community; or for entire fan communities that clash with one another, whether from the same fandom, from different fandoms, or outside the context of any fandom. Sometimes, what one fan considers good another might consider bad. These differences hold the potential to cause problems in how individuals treat one another, and can impact people’s behaviors in such a way that what once seemed brilliant and fun becomes unwelcoming or even threatening. When an individual’s sense of self depends too much on identifying as a fan, or when a fan questions the legitimacy of another group of fans, then fandom becomes problematic. Such instances can lead to what I call fractured fandom.

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The Pop Culture Lens Episode 3: Carnival of Souls

Welcome to 2015, the year of Back to the Future II!

And to start off the new year, The Pop Culture Lens podcast presents a new episode that takes us back in time to examine how a film made at the beginning of second wave feminism may still be relevant in this third wave feminism era that sees female celebrities distancing themselves from feminism and anti-feminism again on the rise as Men’s Right Activists increase in voice if not in number.

In this episode, we are joined by Patrick Ripoll, co-host of the podcast Director’s Club, to discuss the 1962 low-budget, cult horror film Carnival of Souls. The film shows the travails of Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) as she both flees from and is drawn to The Man (Herk Harvey) and his spooky carnival in the Utah desert.

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While it may never be known if director Herk Harvey was an early feminist (although we three kinda doubt it), we were all able to see feminist messages of equality, empowerment, and struggling with oppression in this film — so much so that while the film was made at the beginning of second wave feminism, we feel it could actually have something to say about the current (and contested) third wave feminism. More importantly, the representation of the theme “women as threat” in the film still has relevance to our world today (unfortunately), given the continuance of this theme in both our pop culture and public discourse.

Give it a listen, and let us know what you think!

The Hobbit International Research Project

Are you a Tolkien fan? Did you enjoy the Lord of the Rings films? What do you think of The Hobbit films? Join in with thousands of others and share your thoughts in this massive international survey!

From Dr. Martin Barker, one of the lead researchers on the project, who previously oversaw a similar project on the Lord of the Rings films:

“In December 2014, the most ambitious film audience research project yet undertaken launched.  Based on research groups in 46 countries, and operating in over 30 languages, the World Hobbit Project has set itself the challenge of answering a series of difficult research questions.

With minimal research funding (just enough from the UK’s British Academy to create the complex website, multi-language questionnaire and associated database), we are totally dependent on our ability to use online means to reach a wide range of people around the world.  Our survey went online at: from the day of the premiere.

What questions are we hoping to be able to answer, and what discussions do we hope we will be able to contribute to?

Very many – but not a fixed list of hypotheses.  We will be gathering a range of demographic data (age, sex, country, education, occupation, etc).  We will be asking a series of orientation questions (designed to show patterns in responses, kinds of evaluation, modal questions about the kind of story The Hobbit is seen to be, etc.).  We will be probing how people watch (and like to watch) a film of this kind, and what else they do in connection with watching it (reading the book, taking part in online discussions, following particular stars, etc.).

Crucially, the survey is designed on the principle of linked quantitative and qualitative questions, so that when people position themselves on scales we have generated, they are then asked to say in their own words what that positioning means – so that we can analyse and look for responses in their kinds of talk.  (This will of course be immensely challenging in that we will be working across so many languages!)  But we believe that if we can recruit a large and diverse spread of respondents, we can make contributions to many current debates: about globalisation, cultural identities, the role of online participation, changes in the role of film and cinema, and so on.

Please, help us in simple ways:

  • By completing the survey yourself, of course, if you have seen the films.
  • By passing on this information to students, colleagues, family, friends, and asking them to do the same.
  • By mentioning and pointing to the project’s address in blogs, postings, and conversations.
  • By mentioning the project and showing the link on Facebook and the like, so that it is as widely visible as we can possibly make it.”

The Pop Culture Lens Episode 2: Freaks (1932)

The second episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast is up and live!

In the second episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher Olson and CarrieLynn Reinhard are joined by young scholar Clelia Sweeney to discuss the counterculture cult horror classic Freaks (1932). Their guest brings to bear her research on freak shows, reality TV and serial killers as the discussion considers why we humans are so fascinated with abnormality.

Our basic conclusion: while there are great similarities between this film and contemporary reality TV, the biggest difference is in how they treat people who are considered to be abnormal in some way. And the eighty year-old horror movie about a freak show seems to treat them more like humans than modern reality TV! Listen to find out more!

Wrestlers’ Nipples

In the United States, women’s nipples are not allowed to be seen in the media. These natural, life-sustaining features are deemed inappropriate — even to the point where pictures of breastfeeding were banned from Facebook.

But men’s nipples, those rather meaningless holdovers from at one point being a female zygote in the womb? Those are completely fine.

So, okay, let’s take advantage of that with an arena where the male nip is always slipped: professional wrestling aka sports entertainment.

And so I present to you the satirical yet serious Wrestlers’ Nipples.

Chris’s Cult Catalogue: No Way Out (1973)

CarrieLynn D. Reinhard:

Christopher Olson examines a forgotten movie that should be a classic. If you like gangster movies, revenge flicks, and handsome French men, then this is the movie for you!

Originally posted on Seems Obvious to Me:

In Cult Catalogue, I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. More than anything, these posts simply represent my attempt to put forth my thoughts on lesser known cult films and so-called “bad” movies. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the…

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Deliver Us From Evil: The Danger of Possessing Men

As we have repeatedly seen during this project we are calling Tensions in Exorcism Cinema, there appears to be a narrative made popular by the success of The Exorcist (1973). There is a reason we like to say that the 1973 movie is the one that started it all, even though there had been films before The Exorcist that depicted demonic possession and exorcism rituals. The success of the 1973 horror classic led to many other film producers, around the world and across time, to attempt to capitalize on its success by essentially redoing the film’s central narrative and conflict. A common narrative and conflict emerged across the movies that were released after The Exorcist. In our analysis of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II, we call this commonality the “traditional exorcism narrative.”

In this traditional exorcism narrative, a demonic or evil force possesses a girl or young woman, leading her to behave “badly,” as defined by society and culture. This afflicted person must then be saved, and thereby the danger to the rest of use removed, by some member of a religious order, usually a male priest, reverend, pastor or rabbi. This male religious figure can be read as representing a patriarchal order that seeks to maintain a status quo in which women are not a threat. By removing the possession and returning women to a state of innocence, the threat the woman represents is undone and traditional order is restored.


We have seen this pattern repeated over and over again, across time and cultures. Few films reject or subvert this narrative. As we have discussed, The Last Exorcism Part II does subvert this narrative. Additionally, while exceedingly rare, there are stories that focus on the possessed being male. Most of these films come to us by being associated with The Exorcist, and thus could be read as attempting to keep the franchise fresh. For example, The Exorcist III could be read at William Peter Blatty’s attempt to reignite the passion generated from the first movie. Furthermore, while Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist featured a possessed African boy, the movie was scrapped by the studio as the official prequel to The Exorcist, leading to Exorcist: The Beginning returning to the possessed woman as threat narrative. Additionally, the “true story” behind The Exorcist, Possessed, which featured a possessed young boy, only aired on Showtime. These three films, then show examples of trying to capitalize on The Exorcist by presenting twists on this traditional exorcism narrative, but none were financially or culturally successful.

Beyond this franchise, there have been occasions of men being possessed during the course of an exorcism cinema film, such as in The Devil Inside or The Rite. However, these possessions were secondary to the main female possessions that were at the center of the film or were the inciting incidents of each film’s narrative. Only in The Rite does the possession really feature the conflict between a possessed person and a man of faith how is struggling with his faith, this conflict being so central to the traditional exorcism narrative. In a sense, the presence of a possessed man in exorcism cinema is more novelty than commonality.

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From Reaffirming to Challenging Traditions: A critical comparison of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II

Christopher Olson and I presented our first analysis for the exorcism cinema project at this year’s Midwest Popular Culture Association conference. We subsequently wrote the presentation as a paper that would go in a book we are developing. We just submitted the book proposal last night, and now this morning you can read this analysis here: From Reaffirming to Challenging Traditions: A critical comparison of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II.

The Pop Culture Lens Podcast Goes Live!

Christopher Olson (of the blog Seems Obvious to Me) and I present a new podcast, The Pop Culture Lens, where we discuss the media of the past through the lens of today to understand how relevant it is to our modern lives. You can follow the podcast on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, or get the latest episode directly from Podbean. Please send us any feedback and even ideas for future episodes — and if you would like to be on an episode to talk about some media from the past, then let us know!

Pop Culture Lens Logo

In the first episode, we discuss the 1969 movie, Easy Rider, and the continuing political and cultural relevance of the movie as well as the undeniable impact the movie had on the Hollywood film industry.


What do you think? Do you agree that Easy Rider is still relevant, or is it dated?

Avatars, Audiences and Interactive Television

This presentation was given at the 100th National Communication Association Conference in Chicago on November 21, 2014. This presentation reflects the work I have done with Pooky Amsterdam to understand the nature and potential of virtual world television as reported in the Journal of Virtual World Research. This presentation was awarded one of the Top Paper Awards for the Communication of the Future Division.

The current state of affairs brings what is “television” into question. Amongst the various layers of activity and discourse that surround it, “television” can, and perhaps should, be deconstructed into at least two primary components: the content it relays, “television-as-content,” versus the technical interface it is, “television-as-technology”. There may soon come a time when the idea of watching television does not involve the use of a television set. Instead, television content will be increasingly divorced from the medium for which it was developed: over-the-air broadcasting of audiovisual content. At that time, television-as-content will become another aspect of the Internet.

These challenges to what is “television” are also challenges to the traditional models of production, distribution, exhibition and consumption that have for so long defined it. These challenges are also implicated in the move toward higher interactivity. The traditional models are predicated on transmission and passivity, whereas the interactive models require dialogue and activity. Concepts and technologies like video on demand, time-shifting, and social television are all part of these challenges. This paper explores yet another, virtual world television or VWTV. With VWTV, we are seeing another possible location for the evolution of television.

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