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Fandom as Repeatedly Returning to What Matters Most

Being a fan can mean many different things to many different people.

It may mean a person likes to collect memorabilia for a favorite sports team. It may mean a group like to wear costumes and reenact an important event. It may mean individuals compete with one another to test their knowledge in trivia contests.

It may mean talking, acting, making, writing, reading, speaking, wearing, collecting, seeing, hearing, knowing, believing, arguing, communing, buying, selling, traveling, identifying, and so on and so forth.

At the base of all of these activities that people do to demonstrate to others that they are a fan — at the foundation of even this idea of “the fan” as a derivative of “the fanatic” — grounding this idea of being a fan as being about love and passion and sometimes obsession — is a simple act that people do that let’s them know to themselves that they are a fan of something.

This basic foundation of fandom is the idea that a person willingly repeatedly returns to the object of their affection.

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Ghost Whisperer’s Ghost in the Machine

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.

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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.

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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 … Continue reading The Pop Culture Lens Podcast Goes Live!

Sukiyaki Western Django as a Representation of Transcultural Identity

Christopher J. Olson discusses how our globalized pop culture is resulting in new transcultural films where the directors act as DJs, remixing different cultures for completely new experiences.  This paper is the most recent draft of the presentation he will be giving at the PCA Conference in Chicago this upcoming April, 2014. via Sukiyaki Western Django as a Representation of Transcultural Identity. Continue reading Sukiyaki Western Django as a Representation of Transcultural Identity

The Rise of Hentai in America, Part 3

[This is the final part of the women studies paper I wrote on hentai.  You can find Part 1, on the definition of hentai, here, and Part 2, on the comparison of hentai to live action pornography, here.  And, once again, the material covered in this part is strictly NSFW.]

While it may not be as prevalent or have the same tradition in our society that live action pornography does, there is no mistaking that hentai is here and is accessible, highly so if we consider the role of the Internet in its dispersion.  We have seen in this essay that its similarities to live action pornography mean it could have similar impacts on consumers, and these impacts may be further influenced by the simulacrum nature of hentai girls and the fantasies they offer.  Even if these texts are read as humorous, their situatedness in our society, in our public discourse that attempts to both normalize sex and keep it hidden, suggests that even harmless appearing cartoons can reinforce the ideology of male domination if it remains unchallenged.

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Hypersexualism in Gameplay and the Problem of the Action Heroine

The history of consumption of video games and computer games has largely been of one-sided demographics: the notion that men are more likely than women, boys more than girls, to play the games that had been the backbone of the gaming industry.  This notion has also become entrenched in the stereotype of the gamer as young adult or adolescent males.  With the rise of casual gaming through online games, social games, and mobile games, we have seen this gender gap shrink, and even reverse.  However, such a change is if one considers gaming as a whole; when considering video, computer and even MMO gaming to online, social and mobile gaming, the gap still sees more male players than female players.

For years, various studies have been conducted to explore this gendered gap, resulting in various theories.  In 2005, for my master’s thesis, I conducted a study to explore the reason behind this gendered gap by focusing on how women are represented in video games.  The portrayal of women in games has received both empirical and critical scrutiny, finding that this portrayal is consistently in the vein of sexuality and submissiveness.  One particular portrayal, hypersexualism, is embodied in the archetype of Lara Croft from Tomb Raider, whose advertised body size is 5’9″, 132 lbs and 34D-24-35.

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Buffy and Public Discourse on Women’s Health

After Buffy the Vampire Slayer ended it’s television run, Joss Whedon inked a deal with Dark Horse Comics to continue the storyline in comic form.  What started with “Season 8” in 2007 has since become “Season 9”.  The current season finds Buffy in a world without magic, balancing living as a young, working gal in San Francisco with being a slayer of the vampyres. This balancing act, … Continue reading Buffy and Public Discourse on Women’s Health