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Identities and Communities in a Mediated World

Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss, C. Harrington

Publication Year: 2007

We are all fans. Whether we log on to Web sites to scrutinize the latest plot turns in Lost, “stalk” our favorite celebrities on Gawker, attend gaming conventions, or simply wait with bated breath for the newest Harry Potter novel—each of us is a fan. Fandom extends beyond television and film to literature, opera, sports, and pop music, and encompasses both high and low culture.

Fandom brings together leading scholars to examine fans, their practices, and their favorite texts. This unparalleled selection of original essays examines instances across the spectrum of modern cultural consumption from Karl Marx to Paris Hilton, Buffy the Vampire Slayer to backyard wrestling, Bach fugues to Bollywood cinema¸ and nineteenth-century concert halls to computer gaming. Contributors examine fans of high cultural texts and genres, the spaces of fandom, fandom around the globe, the impact of new technologies on fandom, and the legal and historical contexts of fan activity. Fandom is key to understanding modern life in our increasingly mediated and globalized world.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix

The editors would like to thank all the contributors; Emily Park at NYU Press; Matt Hills for invaluable help and ideas in the book’s early...

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Introduction: Why Study Fans?

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pp. 1-16

Most people are fans of something. If not, they are bound to know someone who is. As much as we all have a sense of who fans are and what they do, the question arises as to why we need to further study a phenomenon we seem so familiar with. Why do the questions of which television...

Part I Fan Texts From Aesthetic to Legal Judgments

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pp. 17

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1The Death of the Reader? Literary Theory and the Study of Texts in Popular Culture

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pp. 19-32

Concerns over meaning and aesthetic value have continually haunted media and cultural studies. In many ways the field of fan studies epitomizes these concerns. The relative neglect of the question of aesthetic value (see also Hills, this volume) has made the field of media and...

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2 Media Academics as Media Audiences Aesthetic Judgments in Media and Cultural Studies

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pp. 33-47

In this chapter I want to argue that the dismissal of aesthetic considerations from much work in media/cultural studies—a foundational gesture aimed at distinguishing academics from both “naïve” consumers and “imposed” ideologies—does not, in fact, work to install critical rationality...

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3 Yoko in Cyberspace with Beatles Fans Gender and the Re-Creation of Popular Mythology

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pp. 48-59

In 2003, a discussant on the Usenet newsgroup devoted to the Beatles contributed the following: I had a nightmare last night. I woke up screaming. I dreamed that: Paul, with the help of the BBC, produce[d] a movie that claimed to be the “real” story of the Beatles. We all learned how [ . . . ] Paul was...

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4 Copyright Law, Fan Practices, and the Rights of the Author

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pp. 60-72

Fans of popular media who write stories about their favorite characters, draw pictures of them, and edit music videos reworking the original sources occasionally stop to think about whether what they are doing is legal under copyright law. Many fans assume that these creations...

Part II Beyond Pop Culture Fandom from News to High Culture

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pp. 73

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5 The News You Gotta Love It

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pp. 75-87

This chapter began while I was conducting interviews with Simpsons viewers about parody and satire (see Gray 2006). While discussing The Simpons’ news parody, one of my interviewees talked at length about her love for politics and the news. She watched, by her estimate, three to four hours...

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6 The Fans of Cultural Theory

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pp. 88-97

In common usage, the word “theory” refers to a “scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts or phenomena” (OED). But in the humanities, the word “theory” (sometimes capitalized to “Theory”) has a particular usage. For humanities academics (particularly in cultural studies, philosophy, and literary...

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7 Bachies, Bardies, Trekkies, and Sherlockians

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pp. 98-109

Let’s begin with a quiz.1 Which of the appellations in this chapter’s title would fans/buffs/enthusiasts/devotees/aficionados/cognoscenti/connoisseurs of J. S. Bach, William Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, and Star Trek accept, and which not? Adherents of the popular a...

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8 Fans of Chekhov Re-Approaching “High Culture”

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pp. 110-122

The academic literature on fandom is both extensive and central within popular cultural studies. Yet there is little comparable analysis of fans of high-culture entertainment forms like theater. Superficially, this may be due to an old-fashioned cultural studies rejection of high culture...

Part III Spaces of Fandom From Place to Performance

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pp. 123

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9 Place, Elective Belonging,and the Diffused Audience

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pp. 125-138

The changing nature of social and cultural life requires a new understanding of interconnections among types of audience experience, simple, mass, and diffused.1 In turn, this necessitates attention to relationships among narcissism, spectacle, performance, and imagination in the flow of...

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10 On the Set of The Sopranos“Inside” a Fan’s Construction of Nearness

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pp. 139-148

When people use up a great deal of time and energy in interpreting a specific text, their subsequent actions oriented to that text pose interesting problems for social scientific interpretation.While the early history of fandom research was dominated by deconstructing fans’ subordination...

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11A Sort of Homecoming Fan Viewing and Symbolic Pilgrimage

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pp. 149-164

A back alley in Vancouver. A road tunnel in Los Angeles. A gravestone in Guildford. A mock-up of the Rover’s Return pub. Graceland. The study of fan pilgrimages is sufficiently established for us readily to accept the idea that some dedicated followers of cultural texts or icons—in the...

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12 From Smart Fan to Backyard Wrestler Performance, Context, and Aesthetic Violence

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pp. 165-176

The 1990s saw the proliferation of backyard wrestling federations, inspired by the showmanship of professional, televised wrestling, but operated locally and autonomously by young, mostly male wrestling fans performing on family property. Backyard wrestlers build their...

Part IV Fan Audiences Worldwide From the Global to the Local

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pp. 177

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13 Global Fandom/Global Fan Studies

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pp. 179-197

When we were asked to submit a chapter on global fandom, we said “sure.1 We put the idea aside for several months, came back to it, and began to wonder what we had gotten ourselves into. What, we asked ourselves, does the term “global fandom” even mean? Does it mean studying...

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14 Between Rowdies and Rasikas Rethinking Fan Activity in Indian Film Culture

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pp. 198-209

Let us begin by examining two recent moments of fan activity surrounding Indian cinema. On October 8, 2005, A. R. Rahman, the renowned film music director, performed in Bangalore as part of a worldwide tour. The entire concert was managed by fans who volunteered their services for...

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15 Beyond Kung-Fu and Violence Locating East Asian Cinema Fandom

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pp. 210-219

In 2005, for the first time in history, the Venice Film Festival both opened and closed with Chinese-language films, Tsui Hark’s martial arts epic, Seven Swords, and Peter Ho-Sun Chan’s musical, Perhaps Love, respectively. Meanwhile, a number of major American and European cities...

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16 Han Suk-kyu and the Gendered Cultural Economy of Stardom and Fandom

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pp. 220-232

Examining the chronological development of star performance within a body of films, together with concomitant extradiegetic incarnations, provides critical access to the meaning-making work of fandom and star construction within particular cultural moments. Composite constellations of...

Part V Shifting Contexts, Changing Fan Cultures From Concert Halls to Console Games

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pp. 233

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17 Loving Music Listeners, Entertainments, and the Origins ofMusic Fandom in Nineteenth-Century America

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pp. 235-249

After having attended the opera four nights in a row in 1884, 24-year-old Lucy Lowell chastised herself by writing in her diary, “I suppose it can’t be good for a person to go to things that excite her so that she can’t fix her mind on anything for days afterwards” (Lowell 1884: April 19).1 Lowell...

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18 Girls Allowed? The Marginalization of Female Sport Fans

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pp. 250-260

Sport is historically a male cultural practice. It is (and it seems always has been) predominantly played and watched by men. However, in recent years there has been a significant increase in the number of female participants in, and fans of, sport. With women’s sport participation on the...

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19 Customer Relationship Management Automating Fandom in Music Communities

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pp. 261-270

Fan cultures receive much attention in contemporary media studies, and for good reason. As social and cultural phenomena, they offer researchers a chance to observe seemingly pure play—authentic and often charming self-disclosures and shared identities among enthusiastic participants...

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20 Playing the GamePerformance in Digital Game Audiences

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pp. 271-282

Research into audiences and their engagement with cultural texts has often followed a trajectory established by Morley (1980), Hobson (1982), Radway (1984), Ang (1985), and Hermes (1995), namely, an emphasis on the consumption of routine—if not mundane—texts in everyday, often...

Part VI Fans and Anti-Fans From Love to Hate

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pp. 283

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21 Fan-tagonism Factions, Institutions, and Constitutive Hegemonies of Fandom

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pp. 285-300

Disharmony has long held a contradictory place in studies of fandom and cult television.1 While early works like Bacon-Smith’s Enterprising Women (1992) stressed unity within fan communities, Jenkins’s Textual Poachers acknowledged rifts among fans, producers, and even other fans, stressing...

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22 Untidy Fan Response to the Soiling of Martha Stewart’s Spotless Image

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pp. 301-315

In 2002, I set out to study Martha Stewart fans in hopes of understanding Stewart’s popularity in the United States at a time when women seemed to have more choices outside the home than ever before. My public calls for focus group participants drew fans I could not easily recognize as such. For...

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23 The Anti-Fan within the Fan Awe and Envy in Sport Fandom

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pp. 316-327

Anti-fans are people with clear dislikes.1 They are people who, for a variety of reasons, hate or intensely dislike and have strong negative views or feelings about a certain text, genre, or personality (Gray 2003). This chapter looks at a particular category of anti-fans: those whose status as such is...

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24 A Vacancy at the Paris Hilton

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pp. 328-343

Those who dismissed the ludic nihilism of Jean Baudrillard’s later works— his final resignation in the face of hyperreality’s triumph, his refusal to advocate on behalf of any illusory remnant of subjectivity, his concretization of evil in the encroaching logic of the object—should refer to a string...

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25 The Other Side of Fandom Anti-Fans, Non-Fans, and the Hurts of History

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pp. 344-356

If a typical fan is someone who is immersed in a popular culture product, such as a television show, a movie, or even a book, and who might criticize the product from the perspective of one who wants only to make the product better, what about the viewer or reader who seems to offer nothing...

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26 AfterwordThe Future of Fandom

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pp. 357-364

By now, reading mass media coverage as symptomatic of the cultural status of fandom has become a central genre in fan studies. Witness the introduction to this collection, which explores some of the contradictions in the ways the mainstream media covers fans—patronizing Harry...


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pp. 365-392

About the Contributors

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pp. 393-398


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pp. 399-406

E-ISBN-13: 9780814743713
E-ISBN-10: 0814743714
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814731819
Print-ISBN-10: 0814731813

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2007