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As promised in class, here’s a place to muse on your own fan engagements. And I’ll start…

Obviously, my area of study allows me to immerse in pop culture that I love, and I see much of my teaching as an act of fan engagement – sharing the entire run of The Wire with a community of students, for instance! Being a scholar of popular culture is a perfect profession for a fan, as you can justify consumption as “research.” And while I’m not a fan scholar per se, some of my writing has focused on my fan interests.

Most centrally, I’d point to my writing on Lost. I’ve been an active fan of the show, and that fandom has led to a number of academic publications. If anyone is interested, you can read an article I wrote on the show’s “spoiler fans” (who try to discover what will happen before it’s revealed on the show); an essay about critical evaluation and Lost; and a draft of an article about Lostpedia (which you need the password namaste to access). Not to pile on homework, but just in case anyone is interested in the topics or how I create academic paratexts.

So what are your fan interests and how do they impact your life?

8 Responses to “Open thread on fandom”

  1. James Schonzeit says:

    I’ll post more on my fan interests later, but here is the NYT article on opening baseball cards for all the world to see.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/05/sports/baseball/05cards.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=baseball%20cards&st=cse

    Reply

  2. Melissa Marshall says:

    Onto imminent embarrassment:

    When I was an adolescent (10-12 years-old) I was really into the television show “Sailor Moon.” Every weekday at 4 p.m. I made sure I was home from the swimming pool to watch the feminine empowerment (blithely unaware of the term “sexual objectification”). I was so into the show, in fact, that I even delved into the world of fanfiction, writing involved romantic scenarios of the characters based outside of the show’s more sci-fi realm. Surprisingly, I had a bit a following for a 12-year-old (of course they did not know my age). Luckily for me, I used a penname so future employers cannot find my horrible, horrible writing. Next to me, Nora Roberts is a Hemmingway. That said, I do find value in fanfiction. When I entered into high school the writing as well as watching stopped, as my intellectual energy was put into more demanding coursework and my time taken-up with a burgeoning social life. I see the value of fanfiction, especially for preteens, as an outlet for creative energy. It can be hard for an adolescent to create original characters, so by offering them preconceived characters and scenarios to build-off from, you give them a valuable introduction to writing—no matter how cheesy the initial attempts are.

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  3. Ian Trombulak says:

    Man, you think that’s bad, how about this…

    In late middle school/early high school, I got really, really into the video game SSX 3. SSX is a series of snowboarding video games, the first of which was released to critical acclaim on the PS2. The second game, SSX Tricky, is probably the most widely known game in the series.

    But the third game…oh man, the third game got me. A series highlight has always been the colorful cast of characters, ranging from a cute Hello Kitty loving Japanese girl to a tattooed, pierced, spiky haired psychopath — named Psymon. But in the third game, they made the snowboarding mountain be a fully fleshed out environment, with connecting trails to every main trail, rather than the select-a-trail menu system that was its precedent. The combination of stellar graphics, colorful characters, seemless gameplay, and open world environment prompted me to play the game religiously for hours after school.

    Eventually, I joined a forum online dedicated to the game. I found it by searching for faster paths down the mountain — I stumbled upon the “Master Run” section of the forum, where the world record runs were posted by members of that community. This was the definitive SSX fanbase.

    I myself got pretty into the community…I even wrote a fanfiction story that was essentially a murder mystery “starring” the members of the game. Others, though, wrote entire series’ with each chapter detailing a new adventure in the characters lives. Fan art was another massive subcommunity, wherein members would use graphics from the game on photoshop to make character-themed avatars, or in some cases just stand alone drawings. Some people even drew SSX comics strips.

    And, of course, there was the speculation about the new games. What ultimately drove me from the site was the disappointment of the fourth game, which almost everyone agreed was far inferior to the first three installments. The community suffered a dramatic hit, as long standing members stopped returning due to a lack of interest. However, I still drop in from time to time, and somewhere on the order of 50-100 members still post there regularly — despite the lack of a good game releasing the series in over half a decade. The magic of the series has worn off, but the community remains.

    That’s what has always fascinated me about online forums, and maybe that story was a gratuitously long way of arriving at that point. But the fact that real, meaningful relationships can be formed on the internet with complete strangers is a fascinating idea, especially considering the amount of attention “dangerous strangers on the internet” have received in the media. Danger is of course a concern, but mainly with chatting and messaging, where anonymity is encouraged and the stakes are much higher (meeting someone with the intention of making friends). But when you grow to know a larger group of people through a shared interest, you grow much more comfortable with them, and the community becomes fairly self-sustaining and “real”. It’s a topic that I think deserves some deeper thought.

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  4. Toren Hardee says:

    Despite the various things of which I would consider myself a fan, I would have to say that my one enduring interest-bordering-on-obsession is pop music. I see a few interesting things about my relationship with music. Maybe they’re actually not very interesting, but I’ll mention them anyway.

    (Also, as a side note, my taste extends beyond “pop” into jazz, classical, experimental…say, Delta blues, and other genres that aren’t exactly “pop”, but rock and hip-hop music are at the center of my taste.)

    1) I realize it’s a bit silly to state myself as a fan of “pop music”. At this point, that’s like “hey, I’m a fan of…..books.” I would also consider myself a relatively committed Wilco fan, but I simply do not devote anywhere near the level of time and thought to Wilco-fandom as to my music collection.

    2) Speaking of “Collection”. I guess I would say I see my interest in music as falling somewhere between fandom and the habits of a collector. Much of my effort is directed into keeping my music organized (making sure titles and artist creditings are correct, etc.) and expanding my collection in an almost compulsory way. I have this ridiculous vision of a complete collection of all the music that exists that could ever matter to me. Obviously this is a complete illusion; I can barely keep up with 2009 releases, let alone have time to extend my reach backwards into the deep catalogs of artists I’m really interested in expanding my experience with, like Neil Young and Tom Waits, to name a couple.

    3) A couple of things make this mode of collecting different from traditional collecting, I think. First of all, there exists no real physical manifestation of my 60 GB collection other than the little 1/2-pound external hard drive sitting next to me on my desk right now (the very fact that I referred to its volume in terms of gigabytes should make this quite clear). I all but stopped by CD’s a few years ago; now I buy just a few CD’s every year, probably no more than 10. So the only physical record I have of my collection are the CD’s on my shelf, which represent a pretty outdated and limited version of my tastes.

    Secondly, my collecting requires very little economic investment, which only further enables my compulsory habits in expanding my collection. I obtain the bulk of my music by downloading torrents, taking music from friends, or ripping CD’s at the radio station, so the only significant amount of money I really spend on music is on a few pieces of merchandise and concert tickets.

    Anyway, I consider myself lucky to be engaged in a fan practice that is fairly culturally legitimate. Though I sometimes try to engage people in some discussion of music that they are not actually that interested in having, and I probably come off as a bit desperate, it’s never too grave an offense; more socially “acceptable” than injecting obscure Trek references into conversation…..which I would never do, because I cannot abide Star Trek.

    I suppose that’s just about all I have to say about that for the time being. Hope it wasn’t too boring. Take from it what you will. I just have one more question: what is that weird little smiley face in the bottom-left hand corner of this website? It’s tiny and creepy.

    Reply

  5. Noah Feder says:

    I too have been bitten by the music collecting bug, but in a very 21st century way. In late high school, when BitTorrent finally got off the ground with lots of people sharing LOTS of media, I set out to get more music. Most any music. And in large quantities. Discographies were my specialty. I, at one point, had in my digital collection almost 10GB of Frank Zappa… and probably listened to less than ten songs. This compulsion for electronic media has lessened, and I no longer feel a need to download the entire works of any artist/TV show/film director I enjoy, but I still have several hard drives full of media that I rarely or never look at.

    My high school band fan group of choice was Weezer. Around 8th-10th grade I was a devoted member of their very active official fan board and would download new demos as they came out, discussing their merits with other fans and occasionally the band members themselves. Sadly, the declining quality of the band’s output killed that interest.

    As I mentioned before, I also am quite a Star Wars fan. My collection of EU books numbers somewhere above fifty, although now they sit collecting dust at home and have for the last 3 or 4 or 5 years. I played the collectible card game, memorized tech stats from official guides to weapons and spacecraft, subscribed to the official magazine, and even started a very small fan club for my friends and I to enjoy. I have very clear memories of first seeing Star Wars on TV at age 4 or 5 (the trench scene at the end of ANH) and instantly was enamored. I soon had the original trilogy on DVD, then got to see the Special Editions in theaters, and continued reading the novels even after my disappointment with the prequels. Episode I was too childish for even my 12 year old self, but the extended universe held quite the sway for years to come.

    I have dabbled in some pretty heady paratextual relationships with such various cultural objects as the Matrix series, Lord of the Rings, various video games, the Yankees, Pirates, and Grizzlies sports franchises, and computer technology in general.

    And Melissa, I watched Sailor Moon (though probably for different reasons) alongside my beloved Dragonball Z every weekday after school as well. I even had a DBZ fan page which I ardently refuse to link to.

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  6. Ian Trombulak says:

    Toren, have you heard of or used Mojo? It took my minor interest in collecting music to an unhealthy extreme. The ease at which you can take other people’s music in your network (if they have Mojo as well) is insane. My iTunes library literally doubled in a week.

    Reply

    Ian Trombulak Reply:

    Ah, Noah has replied in the time it took me to read Toren’s post. As a result, I missed his excellent point: I now have more music than I could ever hope to listen to and appreciate in any meaningful way, especially since I’m not one of those people who can listen to music and concentrate on work very well. And yet, I continue downloading it. Why? Honestly, I don’t know.

    Reply

  7. Dustin Schwartz says:

    I’ve been into wrestling since I was around 4 years old. I collected a lot of the plastic toys and my father brought me to a couple of events but I don’t think I was a fan yet—I think I was mostly into the toys and having the “whole set.” It wasn’t until I was intrigued by the rest of my friends when I was about 9 years old. My friends kept talking about matches and played trivia. At times, they even tried to test me just to mess with me since they knew I had no knowledge. So I decided to watch every now and then during summer of’97 and I also started getting into the “bone-crunching” wrestling figures, which made a sound when you bent their limbs. I think my whole obsession with getting the whole set of the figures, got me into wrestling. I had to follow the storylines, the gimmicks, the moves, etc. in order to recreate the actions.

    So, by the beginning of fall of ’97 I had claimed the Monday night 9-11 PM time slot to both the WWF RAW and WCW Nitro. I made sure my homework was done before 9. I’d be watching USA Network, tuned in to Walker Texas Ranger at around 8:50 PM awaiting the beginning of RAW. I’d also be flipping back between RAW and Nitro, since both were competing. The next day at school, I would discuss with my best friends what went on the night before. Since I chose not to order PPVs Sunday nights, I would wait the next day to find out from my friends at school what had happened and cheer and rant about, prepping me for RAW or Nitro the next night. It was a ritual. It was routine.

    Not only would we overdose on buy the wrestling figures, but we would get the T-shirts, chains, etc. I had Degeneration-X, Stone Cold Steve Austin, nWo, and the Rock t-shirts (I really wish I had kept them ad I’m actually in the mood to order them as we speak.) We would chant to each other catch phrases by our favorite wrestlers. I had two PPV parties, once in ‘99 (the Royal Rumble) and another in ’04 (Wrestlemania 20) and watch it as a group, even perform wrestling moves on each other. They were times where my friend would come over and we just did such ridiculous stunts off my bed and my sister’s bed when the two of us shared a room. My sister used to have this huge crayon where my best friend and I literally took my old Ultimate Warrior stuffed animal, stacked up on top of it, and jumped from one bed to another close-lining it. It was awesome. But I can’t forget the video games, on Playstation and Nintendo 64, especially WWF No Mercy (that I still play today) that made recreating the experiences more colorful, by myself and with friends. I also went to a couple of events, SummerSlam ’98 and RAW in 2000.

    I would have to say that watching wrestling during what fans call the “Attitude Era” really impact my maturity from ’97-‘00. The content was gritty, the programs were rated TV-14, which flirted a lot with TV-MA material when the cursing and partial nudity became prevalent. It was interesting, intense, and in some respects realistic, which is why I still find wrestling potentially entertaining for everyone. At my young age, I knew wrestling was fake, but I also knew wrestling had behind-the-scenes politics that determined why storylines happened, why character suddenly were no longer seen, and why talent ended up “jumping ship” going from WWF to WCW and vice versa. I always questioned why certain things happened, and when I started going online during the time of 2002 and read wrestling news sites that were basically wrestling writers and journalists reporting what was happening behind the scenes.

    I still follow wrestling websites but rarely watch the product. Wrestling has waned in the past five years, because of the losses of major starts like the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, and as a result of the poor writing and acting and a TV-PG rating, which has caused the ratings to decline. But by around 2006, I have found a new home in YouTube videos that show matches, promos, etc. from when wrestling was great. And it’s amazing how many people, including myself, post responses to the videos, complaining how those days were the best and that it just isn’t the same anymore.

    However, it is interesting that as a result of seeing what has failed, I have been realizing what has worked in the past and understand how the product should be improved to meet those standards. And thanks to my increasing knowledge and passion for film, I have been able to overanalyze the issues, whether it is regards use of the camera, acting, or writing. But it seems to make sense. And for some strange reason, I feel the necessity to apply to work there to save sport.

    I don’t know. Maybe my fan expertise can get the job done…

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