Last fall the call went out from the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (aka C2E2) for proposed panels for the 2016 convention. I had just been part of a very successful discussion at an academic conference that considered the problems, tensions, fractures that fans have been facing, online and offline, for years. But that was a panel of academics — albeit fan-scholar academics — talking … Continue reading The Dark Side of Fandom
As discussed in the previous post Gendering Robots 2006 Research Proposal, I have been thinking about doing research on how people make sense of the gendered nature of robots, AI, and other artificial agents — apparently for longer than I remembered! Here is the method section I wrote over a decade ago for how to do research on this topic. Interacting with an androgynous computer … Continue reading Gendering Robots 2005 Proposed Research Methods
Recently, the question of how we attribute gender to asexual entities like robots and AI has been something I have been pondering more and more. How we understand engage with entities like Alexa from Amazon, Siri from Apple, and Cortana from Microsoft is fascinating, as well as how we think about robots like BB-8 or Wall-E. My partner, Christopher, got me interested in this topic … Continue reading Gendering Robots 2005 Research Proposal
In the fourteenth episode of The Pop Culture Lens podcast, Christopher and I are joined by Aaron Kashtan of Miami University in Ohio (https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com) to discuss the gendered and transmedia nature of the long-surviving and recently rejuvenated franchise, My Little Pony. Our discussion focuses on the distinctions between the earlier manifestations of this franchise and the most recent one, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, … Continue reading My Little Pony on The Pop Culture Lens
The most recent issue of Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies contains an article I wrote based on the study I conducted for my dissertation. I wrote this article with the help of one of our fine undergraduate students at Dominican University, Kevin Miller, who is now pursuing his graduate school career. The article’s title is: Men watching Sex and the City, My Little … Continue reading Men Watching Sex and the City, My Little Pony, and Oklahoma
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.
At the Midwest Popular Culture Association‘s 2014 conference, Chris and I presented the first analysis from our exorcism cinema project. The presentation is titled: Feminist tensions in exorcism cinema: Case study analysis and comparison of The Last Exorcism and The Last Exorcism Part II. What follows are the notes for the presentation, which constitute an early draft of a paper for this analysis.
This project is concerned with a subset of horror cinema that deals with a specific type of monster, that of the possessed person. According to Noel Carroll from The Philosophy of Horror (1990), monsters provide the foundation for horror movies by being contradictions. In horror stories, monsters are seen “as abnormal, as disturbances of the natural order” (p. 16). Thus monsters are impure, unclear and threatening because they are frequently presented as “categorically interstitial, categorically contradictory, incomplete, or formless” (p. 32). Monsters embody opposing binaries by simultaneously embodying features, themes, and metaphors that represent either good or bad – vampires and zombies are dead yet animated creatures, aliens are physical unknowns, werewolves are humans made animal, giant insects are the miniscule made large, and possessed people are humans yet demonic.
These stories model fear and disgust as the natural reaction to this unnaturalness, and thus position audiences to react with “horror” to abnormal manifestations just like the characters do. Horror movies are horrifying because they contain monsters that “are not only physically threatening; they are cognitively threatening. They are threats to common knowledge.” (p. 34) Therefore, viewers become scared emotionally because they fear the illogic of what they see embodied in the monster.