Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
Friday, 04/Nov/2022:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Maria Schreiber
Location: EQ-208

60 seats flexible

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Joss is (No Longer?) Boss: Fans’ Negotiations around the “Cancelling” of Joss Whedon

Hadas Gur-Ze'ev, Neta Kligler-Vilenchik

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

The case of Joss Whedon, who has been subject to calls for “cancelling” in light of allegations around misconduct and abuse, is at the heart of a major cultural debate. The term ‘cancel culture’ that entered the public sphere alongside the #MeToo movement has quickly earned a contested status. The Whedon fan community has been a key site within this broader controversy, as withdrawal of support for the prominent creator began gradually in 2017 and intensified in 2021, after several allegations of harassment and abuse have been made public. This study will examine how fans perceive these allegations, how they see the status of creators and their contents in light of them, and how they navigate the ambivalences inherent in “cancelling” a previously-valued creator. This case is particularly enlightening given the fact that Whedon was celebrated for advancing feminist agendas in popular culture. In order to understand how Whedon fans perceive, evaluate and employ “cancelling,” this study will employ qualitative analysis of 20 in-depth interviews with Whedon fans and former fans, sampled from the fan community on Twitter. Through an in-depth examination of how fans understand Whedon and his works in light of the recent allegations, this study will shed light on “cancelling” as a political-ideological tool and the ways in which popular culture serves as a key arena in today’s “culture wars.”

#FreeBritney: Strategies of Counternarratives and Self-regulation Within Fan Activism

Akhil Raghav Vaidya, Jessa Lingel

Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, United States of America

The conservatorship of Britney Spears represented both a legal arrangement that placed severe restrictions on her autonomy, and also the center of a growing activist movement demanding a restoration of her rights. Commonly known as #FreeBritney, this primarily online group has worked since 2009 to raise awareness of and bring an end to Spears’ conservatorship. This paper situates the #FreeBritney movement at the intersection of fandom and digital activism, highlighting the activist potential of fan communities. Using a thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) of 16 interviews with self-identified #FreeBritney members, we describe key themes pertaining to the intersection of fandom and digital activism. A primary objective of #FreeBritney members involved piecing together an alternative narrative of Britney Spears’ career and conservatorship. In keeping with theorists who argue that hashtags constitute a digital counterpublic (Wimmer, 2016), interview participants recalled organizing “trending parties” to help increase the visibility and validity of resistant readings of Britney Spears’ conservatorship. Echoing de Kosnik’s (2012) theory of the “social innovations of fandom, interviews also demonstrated how the #FreeBritney movement collectively formed internal rules and codes, described as a “self-regulating body” of members. To the extent it reflects and diverges from fandom and digital activism, the #FreeBritney movement poses compelling questions about key tensions in both fields. With this analysis of #FreeBritney, we seek to interrogate fandom as a site of activist potential within the framework of a successful online movement, building on established theory and locating new sites of analysis.

To generate data at all costs for traffic celebrities: The remaking of Chinese new poor through data-driven fan culture

Jiaxi Hou

The University of Tokyo, Japan

Among Chinese fans of ‘traffic celebrities’ (liuliang mingxing, 流量明星), to generate excessive data either on digital platforms or in various sales charts so as to inflate certain entertainer’s popularity has become a normalized ritual to demonstrate one’s fan identity. The so-called fandom economy effectively mobilizes fans from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to consume and participate, thus, generates tremendous revenues. However, when some fans could easily satisfy their consumerist desire for being economically powerful and socially successful, many more—who are seduced by the communitas of fan activism and agency as consumers —are unable or not yet fully prepared to afford this lifestyle. Depending on an eighteen-month ethnography, this study unpacks how these fans are seduced, to some extent included, but still exploited in the transitional Chinese consumer society as new poor (Bauman 2005), where digital platforms become new structuring nexus and transform existing power dynamics.

Reb/Vodka Is My OTP: School shooter and mass murderer fanfiction as narratives of resistance

Bethan Victoria Jones

Independent Researcher, United Kingdom

Early work in fan studies deliberately focused on the positive aspects of fandom. This approach was designed to combat the stereotyping and pathologizing of fans perpetrated by mass media (Jenson, 1992; Zubernis and Larsen, 2012) and has broadly been successful. Yet popular culture is a site of political meaning and ideological conflict and recent shifts point toa pressing need to understand the dominant narratives being espoused. Work in fan studies is now being carried out on white supremacy, conspiracy theories and serial killer fandom (Stanfill, 2020; Reinhard et al., 2021; Wiest, 2016), but communities rising around people like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev remain unexplored.

This paper returns to some of the early discourses surrounding fandom and applies them to contemporary expressions of ‘dark’ fandom, in particular school shooters and mass killers. Using surveys and undertaking a content analysis of fanfiction posted to Archive of Our Own, as well as media reports focusing on these fans, I demonstrate that some forms of fandom and fan behaviour are still dismissed and Othered. Typically stigmatised through its gendered associations, fanfiction dedicated to mass killers is subject to multiple discourses of othering, but also offers multiple forms of resistance to these dominant narratives. Rather than fanfiction as a practice through which fans express emotional connections with popular media texts, I argue that fans write fanfiction about school shooters and mass killers as a way to recontextualize and understand their motives and actions in ways that other media do not.

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