#13 – “At the Picture Show” wrap-up / “Beyond the Box” beginning

Fuller’s decision to end her book with an account of the generation that grew up surrounded by movies both proved remarkably appropriate and provided a great way to link her ideas to the present day.  After all, a frequent focus of the media discourse about my generation is the fact that we’ve grown up with constant access to new information technologies, and that we consume all media differently because of this.  In the intro and first chapter of Beyond the Box, Sharon Ross certainly touches on this, noting that television is consumed differently now that many have widespread access to internet forums and fan sites and the like, and that this change in consumption likewise affects the actual production of these products.

The number of ways in which this chapter mirrors the story being told presently is remarkable.  I especially liked what she described as a “loss of local intimacy, flavor, and control…but gain of glamor, luxury, and higher production standards” that comes with the maturation of an industry/technology.  Also, it never occurred to me that movies “dying out” as just another “amusement fad” could have been a possibility, but it’s fascinating to think that a slightly less compelling version of moving picture technology might have just vanished, if it had never quite caught on in the public consciousness the way movies did.  Finally, this idea that even a generation of “born moviegoers” still had to be “educated” in how to view and understand movies was very compelling to me, because I’m very interested in the cause of teaching media literacy today.  Reading about how children and adolescents interact with and “learn to watch” movies was very interesting, and it also showed how their experiences defined the next generation of “fandom”…a word which has changed much since then, and the word which is the primary concern of Ross in her book.

In Chapter 1, Ross focuses on two shows generally considered as having a “cult” fanbase: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena: Warrior Princess.  But one thing that occurred to me is how, in some ways, the internet allows any show, no matter how mainstream, to have some core following that consumes these shows in a cultlike way.  Obviously, some shows simply don’t encourage this sort of fandom (I don’t know, Two and a Half Men always jumps to mind here), but the internet allows members of even the smallest and most dispersed cult to find each other and share their ideas.  I think this is linked (the cause and effect I am unsure of) to the trend in cable broadcasting that Ross mentions: more and more channels cater to specific demographics — think Lifetime, Sci-Fi, BET, N (which I hadn’t heard of before this), etc.  In an age where the cost of “broadcasting” or “publishing” (this applies to TV as well as blogs/fan sites) keeps going down, the capacity for splintering fandoms and niche marketing increases exponentially.