Tag Archives: pseudoacademia

on the commodification of fanworks

DISCLAIMER: I started writing this post eight months ago and have had it on the back burner since then. I’ve not been inclined to go back through except to finish off the ending just now, so please be advised that it might be disjointed or referencing events that happened…well…several months ago.

Basically, I said SCREW THIS JUST POST THE DAMN BEAST.

After all, it’s still relevant, particularly as it seems the ‘fanfic as practice’ and ‘fanfic as pretendy funtime’ meme has recently come up once more (see some good chat and fic recs here thanks to Gabby!).

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I’ve been around media fandom now for almost fifteen years, comparatively not all that long in the grand scheme of things, but long enough to note that there are things that come and go in cycles1.

Every so often, and it’s becoming more and more frequent, and more and more mainstream…the media picks up that there’s this ~thing~, right, where people, adult people, get really into TV shows and movies and books and dress up like people from them and write little stories and tee hee erotic stuff and pretend things. It’s all a bit oddball and subculturey, but, in the words of a sage, ‘mostly harmless’; so there are a few cheap jokes and patronising comments, then everyone mostly forgets about it when the news cycle continues.

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  1. Fleetwood Mac geeks: pretend I said that in a Lindsey Buckingham voice. 

ISO Representation. Must Love SF.

In meeting and greeting at WisCon this past weekend, I was asked if I would participate in Hack Gender, perhaps regarding my dissertation…which, if for some reason you didn’t know, is a self-reflexive documentary exploring women and the identity of being a science fiction fan. Fortunately, in a preliminary review of the eleven (!) interviews I managed to get, I found a common thread or two, which I think will form my argument later on in the documentary. Therefore, if you don’t want to be spoiled for the doc itself, or you don’t want to have my initial mindset influence your later interview, stop reading now.

Also, a disclaimer: these thoughts are not fully fleshed out, and I haven’t had a load of time to chase them round to conclusions yet. I may overgeneralize, I may run into problematic areas, and I may mess up, but I hope to have at least uncovered a little theory by the end of it. Comments and thought and calling me out, all welcome.

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A moment about films…

Every year I make it my business not to comment about the Oscars, for the most part (partially because I might get ranty and I do still vaguely hold the hope of someday being nominated…yes, laugh it up as a pipe dream). If you want to read some good commentary and predictions quite similar to my ideals, go check out my friend Anita’s thoughts.
But this year I will say a few brief things, because I feel the need to clarify a few positions and unpopular opinions:

– I thought the acting performances in Precious were fantastic. It’s not a Best Picture film, but the acting was phenomenal. I didn’t find it unbelievable…probably because I read the book nearly a decade ago.

– Michael Giacchino deserves an Oscar for Up, but in my mind he’d get it as well for Star Trek, which was utterly amazing in its fit to the film and its play off the original Trek themes and film sound. You get big and you risk going John Williams/Jerry Goldsmith, which is fine but not astounding. Giacchino managed to take a cliche and turn it into something that still inspired wonder and emotion. Between that and Up, he’s the one to watch. Someone give this man more work.

– Team Bigelow. Not just because Hurt Locker is by all accounts lovely and my distaste for Avatar (on about ten different levels) is well-documented, not just because it is high friggin time a woman had a chance and pwned, but because I’ve been a Kathryn Bigelow fan since I watched Near Dark on VHS in 2002. Even when her films aren’t great (…K-19), they are always well-constructed and gorgeous.

– Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate James Cameron’s work as a whole. Terminator 2 is one of my top 20, I liked Aliens and I enjoy True Lies. I just firmly believe something snapped in the man’s head when Titanic worked for him; I have a big problem with the auteur theory of cinema, I don’t believe it has a place in the current film industry. Avatar is classically, ridiculously OTT auteurism, and the fact that it cost more than a small nation’s yearly GDP to make is seriously worrisome for its implications about future Hollywood product. Of course, part of my distaste for Cameron could come from the fact that I was first taught film studies by the foremost academic critic of his work…

To sum up: I’d rather not have my heart ripped out. Best Picture is more than OOH THE PRETTY, it does have to have content. Kathryn Bigelow deserves all the acclaim she’s been getting and more. I’m going to go listen to the End Credits from Star Trek about five more times in a row. Good night.

(By the way, I did manage to get a haircut. It took one day notice. I am Paige’s melodramatic firstworldproblem sigh.)

Tracing my hand to make a turkey: Thanksgiving

I do a lot of explaining. Voluntarily, mostly because I get the notion that Americans Do Things and don’t explain them most of the time, or when they do it’s patronising, and that’s crap. So when I’m asked, or when something comes up, I explain, trying to do it without ‘splaining, except for when people talk trash about American football. (Hint: Don’t.)

Lately, I’ve been asked to explain Thanksgiving.

This has happened more than once, actually–five or six times–and it’s always a little difficult to do. People here know of Thanksgiving because it’s so embedded in American culture that there are tons and tons of throwaway references, but there aren’t really that many films about Thanksgiving. (Probably because the theme of dysfunctional family has already been done for Christmas, and who would watch a film about ‘eating a lot, talking with the fam, and falling asleep in front of the football game’?) Americans don’t need Thanksgiving explained, it’s universal, so mentions on American telly are simply in this sort of tacit context.

Truth is, Thanksgiving is actually really hard to explain without sounding either corny or dull, neither of which really conveys the cultural significance of the holiday. While I’m planning on doing a Thanksgiving guide as a class project, I figured I might as well get some thoughts down in text format, for the folks at home, not only to enlighten non-American readers, but to sort of deconstruct Thanksgiving as modern event for USA people too. You might learn something.

Please note: What Thanksgiving can mean in terms of colonialism and racism could be a whole book, and I don’t feel I can speak adequately on the subject. But at the same time, I don’t want to skip over it entirely; here is a historical overview by Karl Jacoby, and a point by point breakdown of the dominant narrative by Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Beverly Slapin on Oyate; additional guides to deconstructing the narrative for children can be found here at Resist Racism. Thanksgiving in its current form is primarily the result of 19th century advocacy by Sarah Josepha Hale…for better or worse.

What I do feel I can talk about is how, in a very general sense, Thanksgiving is celebrated in the US. Please note that this does not address everyone’s experience of Thanksgiving: it merely provides some tangible background information for the dominant paradigm as seen in the media. Wikipedia’s version of things really doesn’t provide a good breakdown, in my mind. So here’s a timeline, with the salient overall points at the end.

More behind the cut.

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