Book Report 2, Part B

Part VI.
I found this to be the most interesting part of the book. With the in depth look at Martha Stewart, Paris Hilton, and Ellen Degeneres, as well as a few other celebrities (K-Fed, Britney, Jessica Simpson, and Vanilla Ice), this section aimed to describe and define the parameters of the anti-fan. Jenkins offers the idea, in relation to Martha Stewart fandom that one becomes a fan not necessarily by the shows they watch on television, but by translating that viewing into a "cultural activity, by sharing feelings and thoughts about the program content with friends, by joining a community..." (305). This seems to be true based on personal experience. However, this also seems to be an adequate definition for the anti-fan as well. Does not the critic of Martha Stewart also frequently watch her show, in community, in order to criticize and further define their rejection of her? So it is with Paris Hilton and other celebrity groupies as well. Like the Martha Stewart article notes in the close, Stewart's time in jail and "punishment made Stewart a more likable figure" (314). It seems that the masses hover over a good scandal, perhaps in an effort to ignore the stress and normalcy of their own existence. At least, this was part of the argument for Paris Hilton, and her ability to build a Hollywood business on little to no talent. So much so, that her boyfriend wrecks her Bentley while drunk one weekday night after leaving a Hollywood nightclub drunk. And the media is crazed to present this story as much as additional information about Hurricane Katrina victims and ongoing actions of the Iraq War, also two relevant cultural events (328). Consider the following:

Americans take inequalities of birth, wealth, and opportunity in stride; but in a cultural economy where fame is inexorably replacing talent as the coin of the realm, a nagging residual Protestant work ethic still expects fame to be earned...Most Americans have learned to tolerate trust-fund kids as an annoying side effect of capitalism, but when the insanely overprivileged refuse to enjoy their wealth and leisure in private, demanding instead that we must bear public witness to their privileges as 'talent' or 'allure,' they transgress a much more powerful moral boundary, one that has allowed the fabulous and the drably normal to survive in nervous harmony (329-330).

Perhaps this is indirectly my preferred definition of the anti-fan. I reject Paris Hilton and all that she stands for her in lavishness and arrogance. However, like anyone else checking out at the grocery, I glance at the tabloids wondering what she's up to now. Then when I push my cart of baby formula, milk, and eggs to my car (all necessities with little money for fluff) and I am feeling drab about my unstylish outfit, broken flipflops, and flat hair, I cannot help but consider Paris again in all of her glamour and excess. Surely, America's obsession with her, as she is a symbol of all the privileged elite, is not so much about her lifestyle, which I would argue is lonely, empty, and inauthentic, but more about a longing for what we think will make us happy. So then as I load my groceries into the car, more than any prior feelings reminding me of my lack of glamour, instead I am indignant at her insincere idiocy, my temptation to read the stories about her, and Americans as a result spending more money they do not have to emulate her look of perfection in a personal quest for greater significance. What is more, as I pull into my driveway, unstrap my kids from their carseats, and navigate my way into the house, I move into a mood of grief. Thinking about the Katrina victims, the families who are losing their children in the war, and all of the Americans in insurmountable debt, I hurt for Paris Hilton and the creature she feels she must continue to be in order to be loved (albeit not very fully). Surely, God loves Paris as well. So then my anti-fan status migrates into a deep appreciation for all that Paris could be to the world with her privilege and unlimited resources if someone would only take the time to authentically care for her and show her how to do good. In this way, my anti-fandom transforms into empathetic fandom in a give-and-take tango, as I dance my way through such complex thoughts and emotions; yes, even at the grocery.

If I am my own "media outlet," which Jenkins defends (358), and I adopt, then as a participating consumer in American culture, (a.k.a. "prosumers" (360)) the role that I will play in future media events will grow in significance. Jenkins considers the slew of media participatory venues available on the world wide web that enable prosumers to create, design, and implement their own identity and way of participating in the world--Flickr, youtube, del.i.cious and Ebay, just to name a few (357). These virtual communities, many of which I participate in, means that "this kind of fandom is everywhere and all the time, a central part of the everyday lives of consumers operating within a networked society" (361). So that, asserts Jenkins, the new ideal for the American consumer is a fan, someone who shares a product with her community and promotes new ideas in said community (361). In this way, I recognize my contributions to a culture of fandom. I love one of the questions with which the book closes: "Where does grassroots culture end and commercial culture begin" (364)? Since this ambiguity is so immense, I hope to embrace the lines between reform and conformity as I continue to negotiate how to best live out my Christian convictions in a media-hyped, celebrity-obsessed, competition-driven society.

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