If Beatlemania quickly became synonymous with The Beatles as a star text, then so too did the powerful and self-determined performance of female desire. The Beatles fangirl did not so much experience a loss of control than she declared a rejection of control through her emotional performance as a fan.
The modern Beatles fangirl continues to recognize and pay tribute to this feminist legacy; the budding convergence culture which nourished her predecessors’ multiplicity of obsessive experience has become the norm for her.
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On 9 June 2011, news of nuclear contamination in earthquake-stricken Japan took a backseat to the AKB48 General Election in the mass media. The third election of its kind for the all-girl idol group formed in 2005, it was a massive promotion and marketing blitz. In addition to fan-club members, anyone who had purchased their 21st single, “Everyday, Kachu ̄sha,” could vote. In a week, it sold 1,334,000 copies, a new record for a single sold in Japan.1 The results of the General Election were announced during a live ceremony at the Budo ̄kan, where some of the most famous musical acts in the world have performed. The ceremony was also streamed live to 86 theaters (97 screens) in Japan, everywhere from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, and in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea (Barks Global Media 2011a). Fans were desperate for a seat—be it at the actual venue or the theaters—but tickets sold out almost instantly. This was more than just fanaticism. It was a media event and a public spectacle. The girls of AKB48 were pronounced “national idols” (kokumin-teki aidoru)—the performers “we” “Japanese” “all” know and love. The election was given prominent coverage by both print and television media, with as many as 150 outlets reporting on the event (Morita 2011). People were constantly updated on which of the members, nearly 200 by this point, would come out on top. They were kept up to speed on developments by online sites, cell phone news feeds, commercial and news spots on trains, and, of course, friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates, and everyone else who was talking about it. On the day of the General Election, the streets of Tokyo were buzzing with the names of AKB48 members. It was hard not to be involved in some way, if not intimately so.
Galbraith and Karlin, Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture, p1 ift.tt/1U4STAQ
Via @tea-and-liminality: “For anyone interested, there’s a new themed section on transcultural fandom up at the online journal Participations, with the following essays:
Chin, Bertha & Lori Hitchcock Morimoto:
Devereux, Eoin & Melissa Hidalgo:
‘“You’re gonna need someone on your side”: Morrissey’s Latino/a and Chicano/a fans’
‘Music fanzine collecting as capital accumulation’
van de Goor, Sophie Charlotte:
‘“You must be new here”: Reinforcing the good fan’
New issue posted today, and several essays/interviews/reviews that may be of interest to people here:
Redefining gender swap fan fiction: A Sherlock case study – Ann McClellan
Bull in a china shop: Alternate Reality games and transgressive fan play in social media franchises – Burcu Bakiolgu (phdfan, this might interest you?)
Twinship, incest, and twincest in the Harry Potter universe – Vera Cuntz-Leng
Queer encounters between Iron Man and Chinese boy’s love fandom – John Wei
Fan fiction metadata creation and utilization within fan fiction archives: Three primary models – Shannon Fay Johnson (destinationtoast, this might be of interest?)
Fan fiction and midrash: Making meaning – Rachel Barenblat
Wordplay, mindplay: Fan fiction and postclassical narratology – Veerle Van Steenhuyse
Fandom and the fourth wall – Jenna Kathryn Ballinger
Exploring fandom, social media, and producer/fan interactions: An interview with Sleepy Hollow’s Orlando Jones – Lucy Bennett and Bertha Chin
And much more! Check it out – this is FREE. OPEN ACCESS. Read! Enjoy! :)
I think the choice of words in that article—”uncomfortable”—reveals unwittingly the feeling present through the silent parts of geek culture that may not explode in paroxysms of racist, sexist, and homophobic rage whenever anyone dares to intrude on their supremacist fantasies… but that quietly through their silence, through their discomfort, through their resistance to the 21st Century social order, give strength to the howling, spoiled princelings of the digital age.
To someone that draws their identity from outmoded conceptions of gender and sexuality, Monae’s genderqueer persona and her unstated, ambiguous sexual desire…is probably “uncomfortable.” To people unused to thinking about Sally Ride, Monae’s use of Ride as a touchstone is probably a little “uncomfortable.” She’s working with a repertoire that’s maybe not familiar to geeks, and if there’s one things geeks hate, it’s not being smarter than everyone else in the god damn room, so, again, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to posit discomfort and the bias it represents as a possible reason for Monae’s lack of attention in geek circles.
Janelle Monae: Sci Fi Queen Yet Uncrowned by Sam Keeper
One way that AVPM creates an intimate relationship between fan and text is by transforming the multibillion dollar Harry Potter transmedia franchise—the ultimate form of mass culture–back into folk culture. Whereas folk art is an expression of the community who is also its audience, mass art is disseminated to its audience already made, articulating its values for them. However, as so many fan studies scholars have noted, fan fiction allows fans to convert mass culture back into folk culture. I would add that by explicitly relying on the syntax and semantics of the musical, AVPM is even more adept at creating the sense that mass art is folk art. Jane Feuer argues that: “In basing its value system on community, the producing and consuming functions served by the passage of musical entertainment from folk to popular to mass status are rejoined through the genre’s rhetoric” (3).
Neat paper situating A Very Potter Musical within the history of folk culture and musical theatre. She covers the connection between music and affect, community, amateurism, and compares, rather gorgeously, diegetic audiences in movie musicals to the audience in AVPM’s youtube vids:
For example, film musicals often offer up images of the diegetic audience to compensate for the “lost liveness” of the stage, serving as a serving as a stand in for the film audience’s subjectivity (27). Many Hollywood musicals include a diegetic audience that cues the non-diegetic audience in about how to feel about a performance—if they clap and cheer, the performance was successful. If they sit silently in their seats, the performance was a bust. A similar effect is created when watching the streaming video of the live stage performance of AVPM.
This last is particularly fun to apply to Glee, and not just Glee’s fuckton (actual academic jargon) of in-narrative audiences, from the prep school girls in “Animal” to the NYADA students in “Bring Him Home”, but the peripherals such as the concert movie and that “Gleek of the Week” thing they do following every show. Creator-controlled audience reactions vs. the folk-culture, read-write, real-time chaos of Twitter and Tumblr.
Plus, if you’re into both Glee and Starkid, it’s pretty fun to watch the clips she’s pulled of moptop!Criss and Joe Walker in tap shoes.
I’ve been known to have dreams about fictional characters, but it’s not every day that I find myself viewing the most mainstream social event of the United States calendar and thinking, “Wait, I’ve seen this vid!” I’m talking, of course, about Madonna’s Super Bowl XLVI Halftime Show, in which her opening performance of “Vogue” was a clear take-off on the classic vid of the same title by Luminosity.
You can view a TV rip of Madonna’s entire performance (which also featured LMFAO, Cee Lo Green, Nicki Minaj, and M.I.A.) on YouTube, and Luminosity’s vid on blip.tv, which is a queer feminist critique of the movie 300, which was itself based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. Honestly, for most of the halftime show I was mostly just staring open-mouthed at the screen; Madonna is nothing else if not a consummate performer, and she hit this one out of the park.
Watching the halftime show and Luminosity’s vid back to back, however, produces some interesting–and uncomfortable–conjunctions. Namely, both fandom and the larger pop culture which it critiques and draws upon have some similar problems.
In her notes to reposting the vid on blip.tv, Francesca Coppa notes that Luminosity “conflates the battlefield and the dance floor, subjecting the men to a female and queer gaze and setting Madonna up as this world’s reigning pagan goddess.” Very true, and at least one blogger, Obsidian Wings, picked up on the camp aspects of Madonna’s reappropriation of the “Vogue” vid’s aesthetic almost immediately: contrary to the lyrics, it does matter whether you’re a boy or a girl, as the vid makes clear. What I’m interested in, however, are the ways in which song, vid, and halftime show all make similar maneuvers, particularly around those issues of gender and of race.
The original “Vogue” song of course refers to a style of dance invented in Harlem and appropriated by Madonna for the song and its music video. The story of most pop music in the 20th century is of course the story of white musicians appropriating black performers’ styles and innovations and repackaging them for a “mainstream” (read: white) audience, and the tried-and-true strategy only continues in the 21st century, from Justin Bieber to–especially in the third song of the Super Bowl set, “Gimme All Your Luvin’”–Madonna herself, whose performance prominently deployed the more au courant star power of performers of color, including Nicki Minaj and M.I.A., in service to the blonde Queen’s latest reinvention. M.I.A. in particular earned censure–not least from Madonna herself–for giving the middle finger to the national television cameras during her verse.
Similarly, as much as it skewers the hypermasculine gender presentation of the movie 300, Luminosity’s vid doesn’t (can’t?) do much to problematize the exceedingly questionable racialization of the Persian Wars that Frank Miller’s graphic novel exults in–the good guys are the manly Spartans, and the bad guys(?) are the effeminate Persians. (To say nothing of Miller’s extraordinarily biased presentation of history, as David Brin notes in this post.) They may all get down on the dance floor, but unlike what the song says, it does make a difference if you’re black or white.
My point here is not so much that all of this is anything new (it’s not), but rather that viewing the vid and the halftime show together provides a textbook example of the ways in which fandom (and any pop culture critique based in pop culture itself), and vidding in particular, is limited by its working, in some senses, with found objects. Fandom is unquestionably a fascinating space of critique, remixing, and reinvention, but ultimately pure remixing, no matter how creative, makes it very difficult to introduce radically new elements, or to go beyond what you’re given to work with.
Of course, introducing radical new elements, as uncomfortable and difficult as it is and has been for fandom, may not be what strikes a pop cultural chord in the larger sphere at all. Madonna has shown herself constantly willing to reinvent herself over the course of her career, and the idea of infinitely revising a concept around a central core is of course intimately familiar to fans in general and to writers of fanfic especially. Furthermore, it’s no coincidence that this performance in particular was Madonna’s latest reintroduction to global pop cultural relevance, after the lackluster performance of her previous album, her divorce from Guy Ritchie, and above all the meteoric rise of Lady Gaga to the pop music firmament had somewhat dented the Queen’s crown. But her new album MDNA hits stores in the States March 26, and concert dates for her upcoming world tour are already selling out. Long live the Queen.