Let’s Talk Fandom & Politics

With the state of the world being what it currently is, what better time to talk fandom and politics? The newest special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures does just that:

The essays in this issue contribute not only to fan studies but also to our understanding of the current political-communication climate. The affective nature of fandom is often treated as being at odds with the rational discourse of the political sphere, and the relationship between fandom and politics is often dismissed or ignored. The articles in this special issue build on fan studies’ strong foundation to rebut that claim. They offer extensive evidence that fandom and politics are compatible—indeed, perhaps even natural fits. The essays suggest the wide variety of ways fandom and politics come together, be it across election campaigns, via activist resistance, around voter registration, and by charity work.

Hinck, Ashley, and Amber Davisson. 2020. “Fandom and Politics” [editorial]. In “Fandom and Politics,” edited by Ashley Hinck and Amber Davisson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 32. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2020.1973.

Examining consent in dubcon/non-con fanfiction

In order to create a transformative work based on canon work, a fan would need to recognize several elements of said canon. One of these elements might not be an inherent part of the transformativeness but it has become a recognizable part of our fannish culture: consent. Fandom is full of non-con or dubcon, of course: not only we have Hydra Trash Party and stormtrooper gangrape, but we have tropes for our beloved OTPs that touch on noncon, such as sex pollen, aliens made them do it or fuck or die. Fandom is also a place where it is the norm to explicitly state any case of non-con/dubcon.

Fuck or die has two prominent examples: Pon Farr and mating, usually in the Omegaverse setting. Milena Popova talks about, in their excellent paper about Omegaverse and consent, why the genre is implicitly conscious of consent issue.

By positing a world with a radically different configuration of genders and sexualities to ours, readers and writers playing in this shared universe can examine gender roles as either driven by the strange biology of the Omegaverse or socially constructed, or a mixture of both. The distance created by the unfamiliar setting enables questions to be asked about the power structures and inequalities around gender, and how they map onto intimate relationships.

Popova, Milena 2018. ‘Dogfuck rapeworld’: Omegaverse fanfiction as a critical tool in analyzing the impact of social power structures on intimate relationships and sexual consent, Porn studies

Framing Fanfiction

Fan fiction tends to foreground the communal: it depends on the interaction between readers and writers, and it often creates its own infrastructures, all of which throw into relief fan fiction’s social features. I’d even go so far as to say that studying fan fiction allows us to observe all of writings’ social and contextual aspects in an exemplary environment.

Busse, Kristina. 2017. Framing Fan Fiction: Literary and Social Practices in Fan Fiction Communities. Iowa City: University Of Iowa Press.

Literacy skills in fandom

Shannon Sauro talks about how effective fandom can be for learning foreign languages and gaining efficiency in a given language. They talk about RPG blogs here:

In such fan-based RPGs, individual players are responsible for the creation and maintenance of a specific character’s blog, including posting biographical information about the character (not the player), assuming the voice, viewpoints and linguistic style of the character in blog entries, and locating or creating icons that reflect the personality and appearance of the character.

Sauro, Shannon 2014.’ Lessons from the fandom. Technology-mediated tasks for language learning’. Technology-mediated TBLT. Researchnig Technology and Tasks. 247.

On Female Fandom & Gift Culture…

In female fandom’s gift culture, gifts correlate to aspects of the self, such as time or talent. This sort of exchange turns one role of woman and gift on its head: the woman is still the gift, but now she can give herself. This permits women agency that they lack under traditional patriarchal models. They construct a new, gendered space that relies on the circulation of gifts for its cohesion with no currency and little meaning outside the economy, and that deliberately repudiates a monetary model (because it is gendered male). The goal of community-building transactions in online media fandom is the creation of a stable space set apart via implementation of rhetorical strategies that exclude outsiders, from what fans call “real life,” to permit performance of gendered, alternative, queered identity.

Hellekson, Karen. 2009. ‘A Fannish Field of Value: Online Fan Gift Culture’. Cinema Journal 48 (4): 113–18.

Fandom and Fidesz

There is a paper about the very illiberal state I’m from, in the new Transformative Works and Culture issue. Instead of commenting on it, I offer a less than clever alliteration with the name of the governing party (Alliance of Young Democrats).

Might there be some additional reserves left that democratic politics in Hungary could mobilize by drawing on the potential inherent in mass culture? Put differently, could certain mass culture contents lead to a revitalization of democratic political activism, could they inspire and motivate large numbers of individuals to exert themselves in the interest of the public good—even in Hungary, where the structural and institutional dominance of the authoritarian government is unprecedented within the EU?

Dessewffy, Tibor, and Mikes Mezei. 2020. “Fans and Politics in an Illiberal State.” In “Fandom and Politics,” edited by Ashley Hinck and Amber Davisson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 32. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1757.

On fansubbing and censorship in Chinese fandom

The practice of piracy has already become an integral part of China’s grassroots popular culture; not only is it taken for granted but it is also usually appreciated. Therefore criticism toward fansubbers and scanlators in China is minimal, if it exists at all. However, copyright infringement remains a convenient reason for the government to control and censor online content, and crackdowns on fansub and scanlation communities are common occurrences. This is why most communities adamantly maintain a low profile in order to survive.

Wu, Xianwei. 2019. “Hierarchy within Female ACG Fandom in China.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 30. https://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1456.

Fan fiction as media analysis

Soon, we’ll have an entire issue revolving around fan fiction and pedagogy. Let’s look at some already existing scholarship on the topic.

The practice of fanfic writing itself is an analysis of the media that the fanfic is based on and allows young people to explore themes that are often unaddressed in popular media (including the media that fans love) and to rework media in a way that is more relevant to his or her experiences.

Swaggerty, Elizabeth & Bahoric, Kelly. 2015. Fanfiction: Exploring in- and out-of-school literacy practices. Colorado Reading Journal. 26. 25-31.
Black, R.W. 2009. Online fanfiction and critical media literacy. Jounral of COmputing in Teacher Education 26(2), 75-80.

On fans reporting other fans to censors in China

However, the worst instance of censorship [of Chinese fanworks] is that of the ongoing third wave. This censorship campaign relies on a large-scale, omnipresent reporting system. Many reports come from informants inside the community, especially antifans of a certain genre of writing, or even antifans of certain slash pairings. Using the power of governmental censorship to persecute people of a different fannish position has been a common practice since 2014, but it has reached new heights in the past year or so.

Zheng, Xiqing. 2019. “Survival and Migration Patterns of Chinese Online Media Fandoms.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 30. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2019.1805.

On fans and Twitter:

[…] [T]he entire spectrum of fandom uses Twitter as an online space to bridge the problematic speciations of resistant versus complicit, as well as the increasingly inapplicable, even meaningless ‘fan/creator’ separation. Such spaces foster ample material all along that spectrum to study the interplay of public relations: the relationship, that is, the slash ship, of fandom and network, as well as the more contentious ship between fans locked in polarized disagreement about the warrants of their communities.”

Lowe, J. S. A. 2017. ‘We’ll Always Have Purgatory: Fan Spaces in Social Media’. The Journal of Fandom Studies 5 (2): 175–92. https://doi.org/10.1386/jfs.5.2.175_1.