Research Paper

Fandom is a rather general term. Oxford dictionary defines fandom as being “The fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture,” but I feel as though the term fandom is popular culture is known as a specific fan base around a fictional show or movie, and anyway that is what I’m going to be focusing on in this exploration. Fandoms have existed since ancient times with the beginning of sports and sports teams. Rooting for different teams with communities of people that you wouldn’t know beyond that specific sport is really the beginning of fandom as we know it, but now it has evolved into something much different.

In 2019 Fandom is mostly understood as the online phenomenon and community of fans that form on different social medias and share their love of different fictional medias together, but fandom is also a way in which many people, including myself, have made new realization about their own character and identity. The relationship between fandom and queerness is not a new or uncommon pattern. The Slash fandom is the term to describe the section of fan bases which focuses on LGBT and specifically MLM (Men Loving Men) relationships. Homosexuality has been a part of literature and the oral tradition since the beginning of story telling, but the slash fandom really made its popular appearance with the show Star Trek: The Original Series. It’s hard to know exactly when the slash fandom begun because of the art and literature associated with the relationships were distributed and shared privately with not very many people. The Ring of Soshern written by Jennifer Guttridge in 1968 was one of the first or possibly the first stories written about the sexual relationship between Kirk and Spock. The novel was written with the intention of being just passed around from fan to fan, but it was published without permission in many magazines and was quickly spread far and why. It is extremely hard to find copies of this story due to many fans of the show going out of their way to buy copies to burn them in a form of protest and censorship. After this story was created there were multiple other stories published and then fanzines made to gather and form a kind of archive of Spock and Kirk fan creations. These fanzines were spread nationally so that people from across the country could share and enjoy slash art, but the anonymity of artists and buyers were still very important in 1970s when these fanzines became popular.

This national community of Star Trek slash fandom started as a smaller tight knit community. It was this community of mostly women exploring different sexualities not really ever present in popular media. This small community was made with the intention of not being very much publicized or seen by the public. I feel that the current fandom that has grown widely over the decades since have changed in obvious ways but stayed the same in that it has really remained a community with the understanding that that is supposed to be more private than public even though most fandom interactions are public on social media sites, fandom has this feeling of exclusivity and removement from the outside world. It feels like a safe place for the most part to explore topics that you wouldn’t normally feel the freedom to do in other online communities.

I discuss these fandoms from two major points of views: tumblr and instagram. Tumblr definitely harbored more of private community type of feel to it while instagram feels much more open and like content and conversations could spread throughout the entire social media site. On tumblr fandom content usually stayed within the people following specific tags or popular fandom blogs, but due to the popular explore feature of instagram, any posts of any kind can end up in the feeds of people who may not be a part of different fandoms, causing a major occurrence of negative comments on many fandom posts on instagram. Commenting negatively on others posts are for the most part looked down on. This contributes to a community more focused on uplifting individuals within the fandom and not tolerating bullying or negativity on a larger scale. This means individuals are more likely to explore their own personal likes and interests with the knowledge that their community will be supportive and understanding. With this environment created, male friendships in their respective fandom shows and movies are explored along sexually and romantic ways. A theory behind why slash as opposed to fem-slash has really been more popular in these communities is that there just aren’t a lot of female characters in media and when there are they either are not major characters or they are not written as well as the men. “there are not enough well-written female characters, particularly in the nerdy fandoms that dominate fanfiction – the Avengers, Supernatural, Star Trek – so women spend their energy pairing up the interesting male characters instead. (I think the enthusiasm of the Swan Queen shippers in the Once Upon A Time fandom give credence to the idea that plenty of women are interested in femslash too, if there are interesting female characters who bicker and meet each others eyes meaningfully.)” I explain this to say dispel the idea that all women writing about m/m relationships are fetishizing homosexual relationships, and instead I believe that it’s more the idea that young and old women alike are exploring ideas about romance and sexuality through likeable and relatable characters. I also argue that it is through this environment of freedom found through fandom that many women have made realizations about their own personal sexuality.

In 2016 a survey compiling data about different demographics and sexual practices of adults in fandom was made and distributed through the internet through blogs dedicated to fandom and fanfiction with a notable focus on BBC Sherlock and the tumblr fandom. Over 2000 people completed this survey in 21 days. 24% of the participants identified as heterosexual while 34.8% identified as bisexual. A huge difference between the general population and the participants of the survey. I feel that the reason behind this gap is that this inclosed community allowing people to explore and share new findings about themselves in way that isn’t really seen on any other platforms. Themes of family and change are common in a lot geek fandoms that grew on tumblr so it isn’t a huge surprise to see this openness and self reflection in the people that were in these online gatherings. “It is significant that these themes find their way into fandom, as fans often rely on their show for solace, comfort, and reassurance. While Zubernis and Larsen illustrate persuasively that fandom itself is a community that “builds confidence and self-esteem, offers a support system and creates a space where people can explore and grow more comfortable with their identity,” so too can the television texts themselves offer comfort and companionship to some who may be outside traditional community.” (Paul Booth 116)

Sources:

  1. “History of Slash Fandom.” Fanlore, fanlore.org/wiki/History_of_Slash_Fandom.
  2. Booth, Paul. Crossing Fandoms: SuperWhoLock and the Contemporary Fan Audience. Palgrave Macmillen, 2016.
  3. Susana-Polo. “In Defense of So-Called ‘Bad’ Fanfiction.” The Mary Sue, The Mary Sue, 8 Aug. 2014, http://www.themarysue.com/in-defense-of-so-called-bad-fanfiction/.
  4. “Fandom and Sexuality Survey.” Three Patch Podcast, 1 July 2018, three-patch.com/sexsurvey/.

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Creative Project

The thing that I decided to do for my creative project is a multiple editor project or MEP. MEPs can be photo edits or video edits, but because I do video edits I decided to a video project with other video editors. I used the program Sony Vegas Pro to create an outline video showing which parts people could choose from and then posted that video to instagram. I left it open for people to choose any character from any show or movie, but people chose Marvel characters of course because that is the following I have on instagram. The three editors chosen used Video Star, an editing app to create their parts. I set the deadline for the parts for 4/19 and two of them turned it in late, which I hadn’t expected, but it’s part of the risk.

After choosing the other three people I created a group chat to explain other rules and stuff. The three people I chose I was already pretty good friends with, but they didn’t know each other, we all ended up having a fun time in the groupchat and they all became friends with each other too, which was nice to see. We sent memes back and forth and discussed Marvel theories and it was a good time.

I feel that this project fits in with the topic of Fandom because collaborative art projects like these are a big part of fandom. Fans coming together to create and meet other people like them is the whole point of having a community. This video project shows how fans who have never met can interact and create content for online communities. This project also shows how people can now interact with media in a whole new way that they couldn’t have done in the past. This new way of interacting with media means that fans can potential edit and change media to fit their interests and needs in a brand new medium.

Research Paper Rough Draft

Fandom is a general term used to describe the community around a particular piece media whether that be television, movies, artists, etc. Fandoms have evolved in major and unexpected ways over the course of time. From small fan clubs across the nation to fandoms online that connect people from entirely different sides of the planet, there have been enormous changes brought to fandom due to growing and changing technologies. In this paper I’m going to be discussing the changes of fandom through a specific sect of fandom culture: Slash Fandom, or Gay fandom. I’m focusing in on this sect because it’s the main part of fandom that I actually care about so… yeah.

The first slash fandom was the one created by the Star Trek: The Original Series because of the two main characters Spock and Kirk. Fans of the show saw romantic chemistry between them and dubbed their relationship, or ship in fandom terms, Spirk. This fandom existed through mostly different Star Trek fan created magazines and projects. Before the time of the internet every comic, fanfiction, or art created for the pairing was precious and important because it was hard to actually find physical copies of fan created magazines about the pairing. The difficulty in finding pairing art of Spirk was obviously increased because of the homophobia and the stigma around homosexuality.

With the arrival of the internet, most would think was an exciting opportunity to connect fans of same sex couples across the nation but With the increased use of the World Wide Web, by 1995 some slash fans felt exposed and worried that even the mention of slash or slash fan fiction on websites was dangerous – both to the individual fans who created the websites or who were mentioned on the website as well as for slash fandom in general. They worried about persecution and outing and felt that fandom was jumping recklessly into the use of a technology without regard to it consequences.

Annotated Bibliography

  1. Booth, Paul. Crossing Fandoms: SuperWhoLock and the Contemporary Fan Audience. Palgrave Macmillen, 2016.
    • This book is a discussion of the online fan crossover phenomenon that is the SuperWhoLock fandom. The book uses analysis of fan texts and interviews to come to conclusions and discuss the intricacies and patterns of online fandoms and to try to understand the ways in which fandom has and will continue to evolve. Paul Booth uses his skills as an Associate Professor of Media and Cinema Studies to divide and deconstruct these complicated topics.
  2. Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. Routledge, 2013.
    • Jenkins discusses in this book the way in which despite numerous negative stereotypes and assumptions about fan culture, fans of popular TV shows have used materials from different parts of media to create their own inner culture. The book delves into this part of fandom and also discusses the newer participatory culture of television and movies. It also discusses the ways in which fandom uses media to transform works into new things and then how media mimics fan culture as well.
  3. “History of Slash Fandom.” Fanlore, fanlore.org/wiki/History_of_Slash_Fandom.
    • This a combination and summary of the history of the Slash fandom or fandom which centers on shipping male characters together. It shows sources that highlight the evolution from fanzines to the internet and the different shows and reactions from creators and casts of those shows and films.
  4. Bastién, Angelica Jade. “For Women of Color, the Price of Fandom Can Be Too High.” The New Republic, 5 Oct. 2016, newrepublic.com/article/137489/women-color-price-fandom-can-high.
    • This article outlines recent tv shows and movies and when adding women or people of color to those shows how fandoms have had intense approval and backlash to those pieces of media. Bastién describes different responses to these changes and how creators have responded to fan criticism and approval.
  5. “Why We Need to End Toxic Shipping As A Fandom Community.” ComicsVerse, 25 June 2018, comicsverse.com/end-toxic-shipping/.
    • This article outlines the toxic and often off putting parts of fandom shipping such as queerbaiting done by creators to bait LGBT audiences into watching shows, harassment of creators by fan bases when ships don’t come to fruition, shipping wars between fandoms which can lead to cyberbullying, etc. They also talk about it’s the responsibility of fandoms to root out and address instances of toxic shipping instead of letting them persist.

Personal Essay

Fandom has been an important part of my life since I was born, with my mother and father being complete dorks and shoving Star Wars down my throat before I could even speak, it wasn’t much of a choice. My first ever crush was on Luke Skywalker and my journey down the rabbit hole that we call fandom had begun.

As a child I was obsessed with the internet. If I was at home there was a 90% chance that I was sitting on the computer. First it was pbskids.org, then it was cartoonnetwork.com, and then it was smallworlds.com, a MMO site where you could create your own 3D avatar and explore the digitally made world full of all sorts of different games and people. It’s now shut down until further notice, a fact which surprised me a lot last year. I made my parents pay so much money to get VIP clothes and objects, all digital markers of wealth in a virtual world. That was the beginning of my foray into online fandom spaces. There was different forums and communities on the website dedicated to shows and movies that I participated in, but what really constituted the beginning of my online fandom presence was Deviantart.com.

Deviantart is a website that allows artists of all types to upload content from paintings, to animations, to fanfictions, and more. I used this site to gather and collect fanart of all my favorite pairings from shows, mostly Avatar: The Last Airbender. I poured hours and hours into just saving different art. I was obsessed with the “ship wars” of the fandom. A Ship War is basically a fight to determine which ship, short for relationship, was the best of the show, with the winner of this war usually being whose ship turned out to be canon in the show. These ship wars often gave a lot of buzz to a show and the creators of Avatar even encouraged them to happen. They created an entire animated short dedicated to who was going to end up being the true love interest of the most commonly shipped character, Katara, which sparked unrest and excitement for the fandom. While most of the time ship wars were fun and actually influenced more creativity among fan artists, sometimes things would get nasty with people actually becoming rude or mean to other opposing fans. It’s odd to think about so much emotions getting thrown around due to a fictional show.

These shipping wars continued with the sequel to The Last Airbender called Legend of Korra. This show also had a lot of ship wars, which only seemed to get nastier as the audience of the previous show had grown older as time passed. It was during my obsession with this show that I discovered tumblr in 2012. Tumblr was my main online fandom until summer of 2018 and I finally started using instagram. With over 88,000 posts made on my account, it’s safe to say I was on tumblr a lot. I started using tumblr and focusing on Legend of Korra, but I quickly found the Sherlock fandom. The Sherlock fandom started my obsession with gay shipping and broadened my understanding of queer communities. This is the fandom that made me realize that I myself, wasn’t straight.

The Sherlock fandom and tumblr community both had an emphasis on social justice focusing on queer, gender, and racial equality. My time on tumblr is what influenced me to become passionate and active in social justice issues. I also began to create content for the fandom while on tumblr with my first delve into video editing when I began to create music video-esque projects for an animated youtube series called Eddsworld. This is significant to me because I currently still make edited videos for my fandoms and I currently plan on using this skill to break into the film industry so it’s interesting to see how my online fandom community has really influenced me so much.

One aspect of of fandom that I’ve neglected to mention throughout this essay so far is the friendships that you make while in online fandom communities. It’s a community for sure, but the close friends that you make are so important. While I’m not friends with any from tumblr anymore, during middle school, my online friendships were so important to me, especially during a time when my real life friendships were lacking in a major way. They were my support group and I don’t know what I would have done without them. That’s one way that fandom hasn’t actually changed that much for me.

Today, my main source for online fandom community is instagram. I and other fans online create art and I am mostly involved in the video editing community but also interact with visual artists as well. I mostly create content for the movie Venom, and other shows and movies featuring the actor Tom Hardy. I also create marvel videos, too, but the fun thing about instagram is that I feel like I could change my interests at any moment and still have a strong fanbase for my edits. I created my account last year in June with editing videos about Star Wars: The Clone Wars, an animated children’s show that aired on Cartoon Network, and quickly found fellow fans, but thing about instagram is that a lot of people are just here to see cool creative art which allows me to spread my interests in lots of different directions. I’ve also made a lot of really close, good friends through the instagram fandom community. I even involved my younger sibling to join the fandom, inspiring her to join the hopefully first of many online fandom communities.

Fandom is important to me because it really inspires me to think hard and more in depth about the tv shows and movies that I consume and also has inspired me to create my own works having to do with those shows and movies, and eventually work on my own original works inspired by those important pieces of media. Everyone in fandom is working to make eachother explore media and be as creative as possible.

News Response #2

The Oscars were last night and TheSkimm gave a rundown of the events focusing on the emphasis on diversity and equality. TheSkimm points to the past years debacles of the Oscars including the viral hashtags which drew attention to lack of diversity and sexual assault occurring within the industry: #MeToo and #OscarsSoWhite. The hashtags were used on social media to spread awareness during award season. This use of digital media to enact social activism has been a popular trend for a long time. The recording and sharing of police brutality through different sites and the livestreaming of protests has become a common occurrence.

The Skimm focused on this and then moved onto more common topics for the Oscars such as winners, best dressed, and other occurrences during the oscars and the ends again with discussing the issues. It’s important for news sources to emphasize the social context in which popular media happens and the Skimm makes sure to focus in on that very issue.