So, my second book report, one of the required readings for the class, follows. Since this text is so detailed, rather than discuss each individual essay, I intend to address each of the five segments in the collective work. (Hope that's okay.)
This conglomeration of essays discuss what it means to be a fan today. As the introduction states clearly, where as in the past decade or two, fandom was labeled as the 'Other' in our society as a result of their oddities and disempowerment (1, 3), today, fans are the target groups of marketers and business entrepreneurs, such is the beauty of capitalism. What was once labeled weird and "introverted" (4) is in the contemporary society cool and "extroverted" (4), assuming you can make money off of it. The book uses the illustration of Trekkies and their subculture as the eccentric fans, with Potterheads (followers of Harry Potter) as current fans who are hip and mainstream. In addition to our economy paving the way for this change, so too, the authors describe our media presentations, the ways that they have shifted, and subsequently how they have shaped our response to fan cultures, and how we see ourselves participating in them now, rather than rejecting or stereotyping them. It is after all now, cool, right? What is more, celebrities give all of us permission to associate with the socially proper object of our obsessions. Boy am I glad that I obsess over Grey's Anatomy and Sex in the City reruns instead of other more juvenile options like Miley Cyrus or nerdier shows like my brother wants to marry, Northern Exposure. (I guess I have a thing for watching dysfunctional relationships unfold.) The idea that blackberries, ipods, laptops, tv's, cell phones, and even the internet sites we browse (8) all empower us to better identify with our subculture obsession du jour, barely earmarks the significance of this cultural shift from fans-are-geeks mode to a fans-are-everyone-including-me mentality.
This first section is weighty with its sociological jargon and defensive projections about the study of fandom as it relates to larger fields of study in the (American) academy. However, I appreciate the comments that deal more specifically with how media and cultural studies may benefit from more honesty, especially by academicians (who pride themselves on being neutral in their value judgments) admitting that we are all inevitably affected by aesthetic judgments (44). If this were the case, Hills labels this less "reflexive" approach to aesthetic judgments as "hermeneutic constructions of self-identity, and a recognition of how these may be both ideological and opposed to specific ideologies" (45). In a similar vein, the subsequent article about cyber Beatles fans states in its conclusion that "ideology plays no role in the negotiation of meaning surrounding a neutrosemic cultural object" (58). Scodari goes on to assert that in her study of Yoko Ono's influence on the break-up of the Beatles, it would be beneficial to follow-up her fandom studies with an analysis of the trajectories the fans followed as they jumped from one fan culture to another in search of their "ideological" and "subjective" icons (59). It seems then, that in this way, as we are all fans seeking an aesthetically pleasing ideal in which to place our loyalty, we do well to remember that whatever whoever it is that we situate are affections in, the likelihood that it is our full ideal, worthy of our allegiance, is a false platitude.
The initial article in this second portion of the book intrigued me quite a bit. The idea that people watch ongoing news television and internet channels for different reasons, other than to acquire information about their world has always peaked my curiosity. In his work, Gray offers three reasons why people watch the news: 1) emotional appeal (77), 2) larger community (81), and 3) to be skeptical of the emotional appeal. In regards to political shows and heavily biases news channels, like Fox News, people can present a candid portrayal of complex events with a desire to promote an emotive uprising among the recipients of the message. Then those recipients are able to turn to their virtual online communities of chatrooms, blogs, and op-ed pieces in order to conglomerate further about their likes and dislikes of the particular news program. Likewise, the skeptics of this emotional appeal to our news presentations are forces to realize that "absolutely rationality would leave no room for caring, for personal or communal drive, nor for belief, engagement, or enjoyment, all of which are basic requirements for an active electorate" (86). In this way, this article inspired me to watch an evening news program (Katie Couric), which I usually find to be boring, in an effort to compare it with more relevant and entertaining and satirical news shows like The Daily Show. Both of them are emotional and have a community of followers, and therefore, both offer the average American ways to better participate in their culture through voting elections, philanthropic responses to tragedy, etc.
Part three investigates the success stories of different fancultures by discussing how these lucrative and well-known icons have created adequate space for their devotees to gather and follow. Couldry's essay takes the reader onto the set of the popular HBO series, The Sopranos. Many of the scenes in which the show was filmed were on the streets of New York City and sparked an increase in tourism to those sites (141). The author himself confesses to preparing special meals from The Sopranos Cookbook when hosting a small group of like-minded fans to dinner before the airing of the next episode. The author questions, "How would my 'internal' account of my visit fit, if at all, with any 'external' sociological interpretation (let alone deconstruction) I might imagine myself making of the same experience" (141)? He goes on at this point to discuss the venues that media creates on a larger scale. We feel "near" to a character, even though we are geographically distant or, especially if the character is fictional (142). It can then be disconcerting to realize that we are not in close association with the given character and disillusion us from the entire fandom experience. I feel like I experience this frequently when I am reading various blogs. Often I can complete a sentence of a blogger that I follow religiously, and pride myself on my ability to be so well-informed and orthodox in my interpretation of his statements. However, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I probably just as frequently misunderstand his points and theology by the mere fact that he lives o the other side of the country in a completely different context, not to mention that he is writing from a different gender perspective and is a different generational bracket. So, in this way, yes, I am a fan of this blog, but what is more, I do not fully know the author like I want to claim.
The global perspectives offered in the essays in this part of the book were enlightening and helped me to better understand why various film followings are so consumed with their subjects. Ideas like Indian-film, violence and East Asian film, Korean film, and issues like global fandom in general point to our fascination with broad ranging ideas. The ideas of nationalism (229), consumerism, and emotion that was part of the all the essays, reminded me that despite our geographic distance, the entire global community shares a fascination with "popular phenomenon" whether they are contemporary or archaic, optimistic or negative, communal or in isolation (230). We are fall fans, joined together by common interest.
Speaking to the marginalization of females in sports fandom, to the rise of technology in music fan communities, the fifth chapter to this book highlights the sweeping changes in the history of fandom. I was drawn to the article about female sports the most since, I too, am a woman seeking a vocational experience in a male-dominated field, i.e. church leadership. Gosling, the author begins by saying that sport, for men and women, plays a defining role in its ability to help shape our identity in so far as it encourages us to articulate where we originate and where we hope to go (251). This is why it is so problematic that "many sports and sport venues are the site of overt sexism and aggressive masculine behavior" (253). Is this not also mirrored in the church?
Women's marginal position within sport fan cultures means that their legitimacy as sport fans is often questions, even though there is some evidence to suggest that women may be more dedicated and loyal to the sports they follow. This questioning of authenticity and loyalty could simply be seen as an expression of men's fears over women invading their traditionally masculine space; however, it plays an important role in marginalizing female fans (260).
This quote underlines for me that ongoing gender issues in our culture. Sometimes I feel like since the feminist movement has more or less come and gone (via Gloria Steinam, Naomi Wolffe, and other great authors), unsuspecting people think that women now have equal opportunities and rights. I would argue contrary to this. The glass ceiling effect in the business place, the sports arena (as seen here), and in the political climate of our country still exists, not to mention the religious one as well. And while I feel called to the pastorate, I do not feel led to vocally berate churches and denominational organizations for their continued sexism and the ways in which they perpetuate sexism throughout America. On the other hand, I do feel called to rise up against this. I am not sure at this point what the means or how that practically plays out. In other words, I am not a fan of male domination. On the other hand, I am a fan of speaking truth, living functionally, and going against the flow of the staus quo when the timing is right.