"Emotions-Only" versus "Special People": Genre in fan discourse
This essay looks at genre as a complex set of discursive threads running unevenly through production, TV text, and fan reception. Through a case study of the reception of fan favorite Roswell, this essay interrogates the role of genre in spectatorship. In its mixing of teen and science fiction elements, Roswell trod upon contested generic spaces, eliciting strong reaction from its viewers. Connections between genre and gender came to the fore, as producer commentary linked science fiction with male audiences and teen romance with female audiences. Fans responded with analyses that greatly complicated and at times overtly rejected industrial suppositions regarding the gendered work of genre. Through these fan conversations, we can witness the complexity of genre as discursive thread moving through not only TV texts but also multivariant fan responses. I intend this essay to work at two levels. My analysis of fan responses to Roswell models the possibilities of a close study of genre discourse. At the same time, my case study probes the nature of genre in fan engagement, as genre discourses intersect with other fan concerns such as character identification, perceptions of textual quality, and questions of gender representation. While we cannot necessarily look to fan accounts for proof of how viewers engage with genre, they do tell us how fans frame their engagement with genre, how they incorporate genre into their performance of fannishness, and how they perform and thus enact genre itself as a shared cultural process.
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