The cultural economics of performance space: Negotiating fan, labor, and marketing practice in Glee’s transmedia geography
The Fox television show Glee (2009–present) constitutes a cultural phenomenon of the digital age. Through its multiplatform marketing of musical and theatrical performance, the show has attracted a substantial fan base and created a self-sustaining economy of cultural expression. As a serialized narrative with a focus on the underdog's struggle for fame, it constructs a populist forum for fans to live their dream of becoming a star vicariously and learn how to realize it in real life—how to make it. Glee's marketing approach postulates performance as the essential element in forming an intimate relationship between the show and its core fans, the Gleeks. Performances are distributed across several spaces, including a multitude of video and audio channels, to satisfy Gleeks' desire for maximum content. The show's cast and crew further offer to discuss these performances and grant special insights into their creation. Glee's promotional discourse overtly characterizes fans as equals, positioning its programming as a gift to them. The overarching message of this marketing methodology is that Glee rewards its fans for their investment and loyalty by offering up content and interaction in a variety of performative spaces—a transmedia geography—that transcend television. By using an interdisciplinary framework of political economy, cultural geography, and transmedia communications, Glee may be examined in relation to its diegetic and nondiegetic conceptualization and commodification of performance space. Doing this illuminates how the show negotiates—indeed exploits—the concepts of fan and labor practice in contemporary media industries.
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