Exploring the body

TWC Editor

[0.1] Abstract—This unthemed issue centers on the preoccupation with the embodied fan. Essays discuss such topics as the concerns of the aging and the pregnant fan, the relationship of virginity and popular media texts among teen girl fans, and representations of disability in shows and fandoms.

[0.2] Keywords—Acafan; Displacement; Subject position

TWC Editor. 2010. Exploring the body. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 5. http://dx.doi.org/10.3983/twc.2010.0244.

1. Introduction

[1.1] Unthemed journal issues, like our fifth issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, invite diverse ranges of topics and approaches. Current cultural preoccupations and academic concerns are mirrored in submissions, and by extension in our selections. But if we are to attempt to find a theme for this issue, it would most clearly be the preoccupation with the embodied fan. Fandom itself has a conflicted relationship with the body, as does academia. Large sections of various fandoms are quite focused on bodies, whether it be the athletic body, the visual poster and billboard representations of music and film stars, the physical embodiment of the live performances, or the real and imagined bodies of film and television actors and the characters they represent.

[1.2] In all these cases, however, the bodies of the fans themselves are oddly absent. In fact, in popular culture, fans tend to be allowed only a few subject positions: screaming, fainting teenie fangirl; parental basement-dwelling unwashed fanboy; overweight, lonely cat person. Moreover, especially in online fan cultures, pseudonyms are common; even the icons that users use to represent themselves tend to depict popular fan objects rather than personal images. Celebrity bodies and their character counterparts, often objectified and sexualized, are cut and photomanipulated for icons, picspam, wallpapers, and fan art; they are clipped and vidded; and, most of all, they are described in detail, pleasured and hurt in turn. And yet the fan body is often absent, displaced by the imaginary bodies of the desirable and identifiable characters. At the same time, academic discourses on the body have brought physicality back into the academy, notably in gender and queer studies, both of which are central to many fan studies projects. These disciplines have begun focusing on the identities and bodies of the writers and researchers themselves. Disability studies has brought multiplicities of embodiments into focus.

[1.3] The importance and influence of these discourses, both academic and fan, can be seen in this general issue, which ranges from ethnographic concerns of the aging and the pregnant fan (two embodied experiences often overlooked and thus of central importance to feminist scholarship) to inquiries into the relationship of virginity and popular media texts among teen girl fans to discussions of disability within shows and fandoms.

2. Contents

[2.1] The Praxis essays most obviously looking at fan bodies and their effects on fannish modes of engagement are C. Lee Harrington and Denise D. Bielby's "Autobiographical Reasoning in Long-Term Fandom" and Mary Ingram-Waters's "When Normal and Deviant Identities Collide: Methodological Considerations of the Pregnant Acafan." Harrington and Bielby follow up on their earlier case studies on soap opera fans to look at the changes in constructions of self-narrative. They particularly focus on age-related aspects of fannish identities and practices and argue that there may be important differences in the ways younger and older fans construct and experience their fannish identities. Ingram-Waters's essay looks at another embodied female identity, namely that of the pregnant fan. Looking at her own experiences of doing face-to-face research on mpreg stories while being pregnant herself, she not only draws connections between the content of the stories and our personal experiences, but also addresses the complicated positionality of the acafan in regards to ethnographic research.

[2.2] The other three Praxis essays showcase the breadth of fan studies in both subject matter and research approaches. Francesca Musiani's "'May the journey continue': Earth 2 Fan Fiction, or Filling in Gaps to Revive a Canceled Series" draws connections between production characteristics (in this case, early cancellation) and the types of fan fiction the community creates (in particular, attempts to create closure). Drawing comparisons to other shows and fandoms, Musiani opens up an important question about the relationships between source texts and the creative fan responses they spawn. Mikhail Koulikov's "Fighting the Fan Sub War: Conflicts Between Media Rights Holders and Unauthorized Creator/Distributor Networks" and John Walliss's "Fan Filmmaking and Copyright in a Global World: Warhammer 40,000 Fan Films and the Case of Damnatus" address the conflicts between media copyright holders and fans whose creative and interpretive fan works are considered infringing of the source texts. Koulikov looks at the way fan-subtitled texts (especially for Japanese anime) are created and distributed and how these amateur fan productions can come into competition with commercial distributions. He uses network and Net war theory to model these fan/media owner clashes and understand their wider implications for online fan cultures. Meanwhile, Wallis focuses in particular on the legal repercussions of one particular transformative work. He focuses on the tabletop battle game Warhammer 40,000's fan film, Damnatus: The Enemy Within (2005) and examines the reasons why the film cannot be released. He thus looks at a sort of fan creation that has not been the subject of much academic research and addresses the similarities and differences between this specific legal struggle and those experienced by other transformative works.

[2.3] The Symposium section again picks up the theme of the body of the fan/the embodied fan in various of its submissions. Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, and Melissa A. Click look at the way teen Twilight fans have appropriated the abstinence messages in the Twilight franchise for their own purposes in "The Romanticization of Abstinence: Twilight Fans' Responses to Sexual Restraint in the Twilight Series." Their essay is an interesting case study of the way adults, and in particular academics, may overlook certain modes of engagement in their own readings.

[2.4] Sasha_feather and David Kociemba both look at disability within source texts and fandom responses in their Symposium contributions. In "From the Edges to the Center: Disability, Battlestar Galactica, and Fan Fiction," Sasha_feather looks at how she succeeded in engaging disability concerns in both source text and fan responses in the case of Battlestar Galactica. Although her approach is critical, Sasha_feather's observations are ultimately more encouraging than Kociemba's critique of Glee—both the show and its critical responses. His impassioned "'This isn't something I can fake': Reactions to Glee's Representations of Disability" looks closely at the way the show presents minority characters, only to fail in actually engaging their specific concerns.

[2.5] Judith May Fathallah's essay comments on and responds to various pieces in TWC's last issue on Supernatural and the character of fangirl Becky in particular. Against the more critical readings of this female fan, Fathallah suggests a Bahktinian reading of Becky in order to recuperate the character for female and feminist appropriations in "Becky Is My Hero: The Power of Laughter and Disruption in Supernatural Fandom." Jeff Watson's "Squared: Web 2.0 and Fannish Production" echoes the concerns of Wallis and Koulikov again as he looks at the broader implications of Web 2.0 for the relationships between media right holders and fan producers, and the difficulties in negotiating areas of competing interests.

[2.6] The issue also features two interviews. Francesca Coppa interviews political remixer Elisa Kreisinger and discusses with her the legal, political, and cultural effects of remix video within and without particular fan cultures. TWC Editor interviews three fan writers, tie-in novelists, and professional writers, Jo Graham, Melissa Scott, and Martha Wells, in which they draw connections and explore the differences between these forms of writing.

[2.7] The review section features three reviews: Adi Kuntsman's review of Tom Boellstroff's Coming of Age in "Second Life": An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human; Lindsay Bernhagen's review of Rebecca Feasey's Masculinity and Popular Television; and Alex Leavitt's review of the Web site Inside Scanlation (http://insidescanlation.com/).

3. Acknowledgments

[3.1] The following people worked on TWC No. 5 in an editorial capacity: Kristina Busse and Karen Hellekson (editors); Alexis Lothian and Suzanne Scott (Symposium); and Mafalda Stasi and Tisha Turk (Review).

[3.2] The following people worked on TWC No. 5 in a production capacity: Karen Hellekson and Rrain Prior (production editors); Beth Friedman, Shoshanna Green, Mara Greengrass (copyeditors); Allison Morris, Rrain Prior, and Gretchen Treu (layout); and Liza Q. Wirtz (proofreader).

[3.3] TWC thanks the journal project's Organization for Transformative Works board liaison, Rebecca Tushnet. OTW provides financial support and server space to TWC but is not involved in any way in the content of the journal, which is editorially independent.

[3.4] TWC thanks all its board members, whose names appear on TWC's masthead, as well as the additional peer reviewers who provided service for TWC No. 5: Robertson Allen, Rebecca Carlson, Cathy Cupitt, Ina Hark, Mary Ingram-Waters, David Kociemba, Amanda Odom, and Brian Ruh.

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Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), ISSN 1941-2258, is an online-only Gold Open Access publication of the nonprofit Organization for Transformative Works. TWC is a member of DOAJ. Contact the Editor with questions.