Season of surveys

We have received a request to signal boost another survey. We believe it might be of interest to our readers as it studies attitudes about sex and relationships are impacted by different types of fiction — including fanfiction. You can find it on this link until the end of July. The study is being run by PhD candidate Lee Hair. Fans can be fanfiction readers or not, the survey is open to everyone 18 or older. This study has received IRB approval from Boston University.  A consent form detailing user privacy practices and contact information for the researcher, the faculty supervisor, and the IRB review board is available at the start of the survey.

Queer Representations: Pasts, Presents and Futures Conference

Hi everyone!

This post is little bit of a departure from our regular programming, but we figured why not? One of the very few perks of the COVID-19 pandemic has been how accessible conferences are. From May 11-14, the University of Edinburgh is hosting a virtual conference called “Queer Representations: Pasts, Presents and Futures”! Keynotes speakers are Professors Richard Dyer and Abigail De Kosnik (squee!) and there’s a panel on Thursday, May 14th at 16:00 BST about queer adaptation and fanfiction. Tickets were available for free, and though the window for sales has closed, you can following along on the conference Twitter. So far, the live-tweeting has been great, all the panels have been incredibly interesting and it looks like there’s only more good stuff to come!

Check out the program here.
Follow the conference on Twitter here.

Call for participants in a research survey

Makenna Reaves, an udnergraduate at University of Washington is asking you (in case you are over the age of 18) to participate in a survey. This survey is being conducted for the purpose of gathering data about general opinions and attitudes toward fan creations. The survey will run until May 13, 11:45 PM, GMT-7. You can access the survey at this link. It consists of 15 multiple choice and 3 long answer questions, it takes between 10 and 45 minutes to complete. The participants will be asked questions about their age, gender identity, sexual identity, and ethnicity and their knowledge and general opinion of various fan creations and fan communities.

The survey has been checked and approved by the researcher’s Faculty’s Ethics Commission. This survey on reading engagement includes a consent form and information about participant privacy and data usage.

More information can be found by clicking on the above survey link. You can also reach out to Makenna Reaves at reaves [at]

An example of queerbaiting in the music industry

I only managed to read one paper in these last days, but I am excited to share this one with you for two reasons. Last time, I bemoaned the lack of female idols in my research, this week we are going to talk about Amber Liu. I also didn’t find any instances of queerbaiting with celebrities, but what this paper describes looks to me exactly as the queerbaiting TV shows do.

The paper also starts out by talking about Liu’s appearance, which it describes as tomboyish or androgynous. It is even more noticeable as the singer is part of a girl group where the other members dress like a stereotypical female idol. There are examples from music videos, public performances and even talk shows or social media posts where Liu appears. Analysing these, it is not only Liu’s appearance that’s shown in contrast with the other bandmembers or other idols but the singer’s gestures or behaviour.

Nonetheless, while Amber’s style is different to that of her female counterparts, she is not recognized by her fans as particularly out of the ordinary. We deduce that the reason for this is because she looks not dissimilar to many of the K-Pop’s male stars. (…) If we take this into consideration, then the image Amber portrays is less revolutionary than it first appears; she does rebel against the standard imposed on girls, but only by embracing the standard that in recent years has been imposed on boys.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 220.

Further, the paper sees this pattern continue in the lyrics of their songs (both written by Liu and by others):

In many songs, but unlike many other girl group hits, Amber does not refer directly to an ‘oppa’ (that is an older boy),  – examples would include the song Danger (Pinocchio), which in its indeterminacy could be addressed at both or either a boy or a girl, and the hit Nu Abo. In the latter, (Amber and her group) directly sings to an ‘ennoi’ (that is an older girl), encouraging queer readings of the lyrics.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 222.

We can see now the constant presence on all platforms this ambiguity that doesn’t leave space to be confirmed as one thing or the other. As the authors say about Liu’s reaction to the rumors of dating girls, there is neither denial nor confirmation.

She does not say she disapproves of the rumors because she is straight, but rather she fosters the idea that she might be queer, although she never says it explicitly. She neither confirms nor denies the rumors, but neither does she stigmatize same-sex relationships.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 226.

Therefore, as much as this ambiguity remains, it can never became something explicitly different.

However, if we delve more deeply, S.M. Entertainment trade on Amber’s ambiguous sexual and gender identity, and this means she is not free to identify herself as either as straight or gay.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 226.

It must not be forgotten that Amber belongs to the mainstream, in an industry fueled by capitalism, where any supposedly new type or breed of pop woman can only emerge if the industry is convinced that they can be marketed.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 227.

What the authors showed us here is familiar from TV shows where the writers keep up some ambiguity about the relationship between two (usually male lead) characters, but never confirming it, so it can be marketed as a queer or straight relationship. Yet, in this case, we are not talking about fictional characters but the public presentation of a person. Still, it’s no wonder that just as the studio wants to keep the marketability of the show, the music industry does the same about their idol.

The question, then, is whether resistance is actually possible in the culture industry.

LAFORGIA, Paola; HOWARD, Keith 2017. ‘Amber Liu, K-Pop tomboy – Reshaping femininity in mainstream K-Pop.’ Kritika Kultura 29. 228.

Welcoming Guest Posts

Do you have a favourite quote about fandom that you want to talk about? Do you like writing meta? Have you ever disagreed with us?

Write a Guest Post!

If you’re interested, contact us on Twitter, Tumblr, through email or our contact form. We are looking for all kinds of posts, so whether you have a quote, a short post, commentary or something else regarding fandom studies, we want to hear from you. We have a posting schedule and sometimes we are doing themed weeks, so we are not promising to publish every submission. Make sure your submission has a title, is grammatically correct and that you cite your sources.

If you are still unsure, we are here to answer all your questions.

If you are confident and you have an essay waiting to be posted, maybe even consider submitting it as a Symposium piece to Transformative Works and Culture.

We hope to hear from you!

The perception of gender attributes of K-Pop idols

For the last two weeks, we talked about RPF and more than one of you mentioned K-Pop in response. This week, I tried to look at one question in particular: are there similar strategies to queerbaiting in the marketing of K-Pop?

So this week, I looked for papers that answer or at least touch on that question. I’ve found…nothing. At least, nothing that explicitly asks this question. Now, if any of you has recommendations, I will read and summarize them but for now, I looked for another solution. I looked at literature asking related questions and based on the answers, I started to ask my own questions.

I could not answer if fans perceived the relationship between their idols as queer but there is research on whether fans perceive their idol’s gender presentation as non-normative.

Ayuningtyas (2017) and Song; Velding (2020) both find one of the main sources of this perceived gender presentation in the idols’ styling, makeup, stage and music video performances. That was interesting to me because my theory was that for fans, the place of queerness (or at least the investigation to uncover it) was the backstage, the interviews, social media. Places that they would associate less with the idols’ professional performances. In that aspect, I did not find a relationship between perceived masculinity or femininity and perceived queerness. This notion of mine was further discouraged by another paper.

Moreover, the effeminate appearance of ‘flower boys’ does not mean the stars have feminine personalities or identities that match their appearance. It is not necessarily linked to homosexuality, as it would more often be in the case of the West (Oh 2015).

OH, Chuyun. 2015. ‘Queering spectatorship in K-Pop: The androgynous male dancing body and Western female fandom’. The Journal of Fandom Studies 3(1), 59.-78.
HOANG, Ha. 2020. ‘K-Pop Male Androgyny, Mediated Intimacy, And Vietnamese Fandom’ In ‘Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia – Reconfiguring Local Ties and Enacting Global Relationships’ edited by CABAÑES, Jason Vincent A.; UY-TIOCO, Cecilia S. Springer Nature, 192.

So as we can see, for the fans, there is a distinction between not only the gendered appearance and the idols’ personality or offstage behaviour but also between perceived gender and perceived sexuality. But I did not find my initial theory without basis as Hoang (2020) observes:

Photos and clips of androgynous G-Dragon became part of everyday feeds for many fan pages. But this clip stood out among others as it showed G-Dragon as ‘authentic’, catching his genuine reaction to an unexpected situation. Fans often perceived such a reaction as reflective of his real personality, at least more than the persona he often performed in music videos and onstage. Fans would, as such, would express surprise and amusement upon encountering an adorable G-Dragon with a gender-blurring look, as it was strikingly different from the swagger and distance of G-Dragon onstage.

HOANG, Ha. 2020. ‘K-Pop Male Androgyny, Mediated Intimacy, And Vietnamese Fandom’ In ‘Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia – Reconfiguring Local Ties and Enacting Global Relationships’ edited by CABAÑES, Jason Vincent A.; UY-TIOCO, Cecilia S. Springer Nature, 198.

As you can see, all of these papers talked about male idols, their perceived masculinity or transgressive androgyny or femininity. (There were other papers about similar topics regarding female idols.) It was interesting, that one paper (Song, Velding 2020) specifically asked if the American perspective perceived the idols’ gender presentation differently, the other papers had similar findings with different demographics. What I was missing from these studies was the comparison between the perception of K-Pop idols’ gender presentation and other popstars’ gender presentation as the majority of the mentioned indicators (makeup, attire, dance moves etc.) apply similarly to all celebrities in the music industry.

So to answer the question whether queerbaiting strategies are applied in the marketing of K-Pop? I don’t know but I have more questions. Would asking the same questions about perceived gender with a control group of a different music group give us different answers? What about girl bands? What about the perceived gender performance of onstage appearances?

AYUNINGTYAS, Paramita. 2017. ‘Indonesian Fan Girls’ Perception Towards Soft Masculinity as Represented By K-Pop Male Idols’. Lingua Cultura, 11(1). 53-57.

HOANG, Ha. 2020. ‘K-Pop Male Androgyny, Mediated Intimacy, And Vietnamese Fandom’ In ‘Mobile Media and Social Intimacies in Asia – Reconfiguring Local Ties and Enacting Global Relationships’ edited by CABAÑES, Jason Vincent A.; UY-TIOCO, Cecilia S. Springer Nature, 187- 203.

SONG, Kirsten Younghee; VELDING, Victoria. 2020. ‘Transnational Masculinity in the Eyes of Local Beholders? Young Americans’ Perception of K-Pop Masculinities’ Journal of Man Studies. 28(1). 3-21. doi/pdf/10.1177/1060826519838869

What do you think?

RPF, once more

Over the last week, we received many responses to the question how RPF can operate without a canon text, the majority of them among the lines of much the same way non-RPF fandoms do: by constantly negotiating fanon interpretations. It looks like then that the question of what constitutes as canon is problematised for any kind of fanon.

(I’m also very glad that my throw out about canon already being problematised when we leave the media fandoms definitions was caught in this post.)

Henry Jenkins’ concept of Convergence Culture provides a useful way of thinking about how RPF communities work together to create their own meanings from transmedia texts, or intertexts, such as The Lord of the Ring and its paratexts distributed across many delivery platforms.


We can see fans refer to a continuously changing meta-text, both in and outside of RPF. (Something that we might call fanon.)

The „ideal” version of Star Trek, the meta-text against which a film or episode is evaluated, was constructed by the fan community through its progressively more detailed analysis of the previously aired episodes.

Jenkins, Henry (1992). Textual poacher, Routledge, 101.

I’ve found interesting the mention of fandoms with several adaptations here. It was surprising to me, but Martin also talks about this interconnectedness.

In the bonus material, (Gray) points out, the actors as presented as similar to their roles in the film (…). The behind-the-scenes narrative existed parallel to the fictional narrative of the trilogy, and, as Gray argues, it mirrored the narrative of the trilogy, both enriching and being enriched by it. (…) Certain parallels are used to pin these versions together at crucial points, as I will discuss later in this chapter. Many points in the behind-the-scenes documentaries are used to pin the film version to the books. The books, the films and the paratexts link together in various ways to form a complex intertext, an interrelated group of texts that enrich and layer each other in meaning.

GRAY, JONATHAN (2006). Bonus Material: The DVD Layering of The Lord of the Rings=Ernest, Mathjis (ed.) The Lord of the Rings: Popular Culture in Global Context, Wallflower, 238.-253.

Thank you for all the responses so far! To continue the conversation, I’d like to ask your experiences: have you ever seen something that felt like queerbaiting but with real persons? If you can think of an example, what did you think of it?

Why is RPF different?

When writing about RPF, there is one crucial question that makes it different from other parts of fandom (generally accepted as media fandoms).

How does it work without a clearly-defined central
canon text to play with?

MARTIN, Anna (2014). Writing the star. Stardom, fandom and real person fanfiction,

Now for those who expected the difference to be between fiction and reality, I invite you to message me and continue an everending discussion on whether that difference exist as something we can interact with. But when it comes to the way fans approach the source material, reality doesn’t figure into it. Whether there is a living, breathing body connected to our favourite ships, is also of no concern as even Henry Jenkins already talked about how fans read these bodies on the screen. What does is whether there is a central, agreed upon canon text or the fandom lacks it.

So the question is: how, indeed? What is your experience, how do transformative works operate without canon texts?

A comparison of trends in the same fandom, but on different platforms

Separate fandoms and even separate platforms will have their own trends when it comes to the type of content they create. The above quote compares fanfiction from the same fandom but on different platforms.

A survey of the ‘Sherlock/John’ tag on the MTSlash archive revealed that a majority of the written works were rated ‘G’ or ‘PG’ as opposed to the predominance of ‘M’ and ‘R’ rated works on global archives such as an AO3.

Nivanka Fernando: Media imperialism, fan resistance and state censorship: BBC Sherlock Slash fandom in China

This observation shows again that when talking about trends in different fandoms, it’s worth to take a look at the different platforms they appear at and if they appear differently there.

Do you have similar observations about different kinds of platforms you are familiar with?

Fanfiction’s doppelgänger (from the market universe)

Porn parodies occupy an interesting space in the United States regarding copyright. While fandom is overtly familiar with the careful way fanfilms are made, porn parodies face a different treatment.

However, Brain’s films – including a Star Wars parody that generated not a word of complaint from Lucasfilm (Stuart 2013) – demonstrate that ’celebrating the story the way it is’ and skirting intellectual property laws by selling the work for profit is possible under the protective umbrella of parody.

Dru Jeffries (2016): This looks like  a blowjob for Superman: servicing fanboys with superhero porn parodies, Porn Studies, DOI: 10.1080/23268743.2016.1196118 p3
Stuart, Tessa (2013): ’When Fanfic Becomes Porn.’ Buzzfeed, June 7.

The line here that this law draws between parody and a non-parody work is even more interesting when comparing two movies that both contain explicit sex scenes.

Ultimately, the only salient differences between Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation and Braun’s parodies lie in their self-categorization – adaptation vs. parody – and the status of sex in the original narrative: since Fifty Shades already has explicit sex in the original novel, hardcore representations thereof in the pornographic version do not represent a parodic addition.

Dru Jeffries (2016): This looks like  a blowjob for Superman: servicing fanboys with superhero porn parodies, Porn Studies, DOI: 10.1080/23268743.2016.1196118 p7

While pornographic fanfilms are not known yet, fanworks representing explicit sex are common. Prose, visual art, and of course so-called podfics (audonarratives). The latter feels especially relevant to the comparison. As Olivia Riley Johnston points out,

the body does not disappear in digital fan works but instead remains salient, especially in podfic. In podfic, the voice pointedly reminds listeners of the bodies and identities behind the creation of fan works posted online.

Riley, Olivia Johnston. 2020. “Podfic: Queer Structures of Sound.” Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 34.

There is a clear difference, though, in the production of these movies and fanworks as podfics operate within the framework of gift economy, while parody creators such as Braun have a different relationship with copyright,they still have to produce for the market economy. These different economic circumstances shape the entire process of creation of these artworks as there isn’t an employer-employee relationship between any of these creators. Their relationship might be more adequately described as gift giver and gift recipient because the fanfictions are gifts from the author to the community, including the podficcer, and the podfic recording is a gift from the podficcer to the community, including the author.

Reciprocation of these gifts may take a number of forms, both tangible (other art objects, feedback for the creator) and intangible (attention, recognition, status).

Turk, Tisha. 2014. “Fan Work: Labor, Worth, and Participation in Fandom’s Gift Economy.” In “Fandom and/as Labor,” edited by Mel Stanfill and Megan Condis, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 15.

What do you think these copyright laws say about how a certain country sees parody, adaptation and fanfiction?