Before I get into my actual post, I want to point out that our mother organization, The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is engaged in one of its twice-yearly donation and fund drives right now. If you enjoy fannish things and want to support a group that advocates legally and culturally for fans (self-defined), you might consider donating.
Donation information is here.
The group asked Aja Romano to post about why she supports it, and her terrific post is here.
We do good stuff around here. I’m glad and proud to be part of it.
On to my thoughts this week:
Pop culture, the pundits tell us, produces “icons.” I haven’t tracked the etymology of this usage, but it’s definitely become a cliche. I think it’s obvious that it’s no accident that “icon” started out as a religious word. Fans can indeed venerate their celebrities to the point of worship, as the barely ironic title of “American Idol” reminds us every week.
Scholars have mused for decades on the ways that fan adulation resembles religion. Lewis’ 1992 volume “The Adoring Audience” (which has some must-read, seminal articles for anyone interested in fan studies) includes a fascinating chapter on Elvis Presley, and how some people treat him pretty much like an intercessory saint.
The Beatles, Patsy Cline, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and even the NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt have received veneration and adoration in similar ways. Around here in Oklahoma, it’s absolutely ordinary to see large number 3’s, sprouting angel’s wings, in the rear windows of pickup trucks. “God needed a driver,” fans of Earnhardt wistfully reminisce, and they really aren’t exactly kidding. Sharyn McCrumb wrote a mystery a few years ago called “St. Dale,” about this exact phenomenon.
Some posts I read this winter online made me realize that the fictional character of Severus Snape from the Harry Potter books is on his way to being added to this list. Although everyone I’ve considered so far was (or is, in the case of two of the Beatles) a real person, the posts to which I refer reminded me forcibly of the chapter in Lewis’ book about Elvis.
I can’t offer links to the posts, or even cite them, and honestly wouldn’t feel right even if I could, because I ran across the phenomenon of women treating Snape like an intercessory saint, and even a daemon lover, on a community set up specifically to mock ridiculous behavior by fans. In this case, the mockers might not have realized what a well-known behavior this type of veneration really is.
Many scholars have concluded that people need saints, in some form, and as the culture continues through time, we will continue to create our saints, even from non-religious sources.
So sing along with Mojo Nixon, why don’t we — “Elvis is everywhere/Elvis is everything/Elvis is everybody/Elvis is still the King.”
You can look it up.