- Ontological Security, Authorship, and Resurrection:Exploring Twin Peaks’ Social Media Afterlife
In his work on Twin Peaks (ABC, 1990–1991), Henry Jenkins notes how the series was one of the first to attract a dedicated fan audience, many of whom discussed its mysteries online.1 Since the program first aired, this online fandom has not abated and, with the advent of social media networks, has actually proliferated, as the show has enjoyed “a high level of cultural penetration several decades after its release.”2 Furthermore, as the series is now returning, its fandom has witnessed radically different periods over the past two decades. Use of social media to continue and engender fandom long after a series ends is not, of course, limited to Twin Peaks. Similarly, what happens to fandom and fan objects once those objects cease to provide any new opportunities for fan analysis or enjoyment has also been discussed and referred to as a program’s “afterlife” or “post-series fandom.”3 I have described this period as “post-object fandom,” which refers to “fandom of any object which can no longer produce new texts.”4 This allows consideration of “the moment of transition when individuals move from being fans of an ongoing text that can be speculated about to being fans of a text that has ceased production, which can be referred to as a dormant fan object. Although fans can re-watch DVDs or re-runs, and new audiences might find the show through these means, their fandom enters a period of post-object fandom in which fan practices and interactions inevitably change.”5 [End Page 143]
The ending of a beloved fan object, especially a television series that offers ongoing opportunities to “get to know” characters, can be a difficult and traumatic experience for fans, and the cessation of “a favorite program creates an emotional void and forced detachment from the program narrative.”6 This can often lead to potential threats to fans’ self-identity, self-narrative, and their sense of “ontological security”—what sociologist Anthony Giddens describes as “emotional inoculation against existential anxieties—a protection against future threats and dangers which allows the individual to sustain hope and courage in the face of whatever debilitating circumstances she or he might later confront.”7 He notes the importance of a “shared—but unproven and unprovable—framework of reality” and observes that when external events suggest that this “framework of reality” is not universal, our ontological security is undermined.8 Simply put, ontological security “means the psychical attainment of basic trust in self-continuity and environmental continuity.”9 Giddens argues that the “routinization of day-to-day life … is the single most important source of ontological security.”10 The rhythms of television are particularly well suited to this process, given the predictability and repetition of their schedules that “regulate everyday life” and work to “manage crises and insecurities. Ontological security is sustained through the familiar and the predictable. Our common sense attitudes and beliefs express and sustain our practical understandings of the world, without which life would quickly become intolerable.”11
Given the importance of media fandom to everyday life, television fandom can therefore offer a source of ontological security for fans, although this can be disrupted when a series ends. Since “fixed [television] schedules, in which the same program is put on at the same time of the day[,] … mean that audiences can come to find the overall shape of output to be ordered and predictable,” when a favorite program is no longer able to provide new episodes, fans draw on a range of discourses and practices to cope with this disruption.12 One of these strategies is to continue discussion and debate with fellow fans, and, while this often takes place on message boards and fan forums, social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr offer new outlets for fan communication and community.
Each of these sites has particular features that enable different forms of fan communication. Twitter has been accused of being limiting to fan discussion because of its fast-moving nature and the fact that communications via tweet are [End Page 144] limited to 140 characters.13 However...