Julia Lesage; Flash Forward: Pacing and Script
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In relating her experiences in watching Flash Forward, Julia Lesage says: “I am intrigued that the series is training me in proper cult fan behavior, a new trick for me at age 70.” She talks about “obsessive behavior” like freeze framing certain scenes of an episode on her Tivo in order to spot easily missed visual details. I am also intrigued by the show’s ability to inspire cult fandom. Of course, this is no accident or coincidence. Clearly, as many have noted, Flash Forward was conceived, in part, as a spiritual successor to their hit series Lost, which became a television phenomenon partly as a result of its cult appeal. This relates to a larger trend in television narrative, whereby aspects of cult media texts have been appropriated for mainstream television shows. An important motivation for producers in this appropriation is the creation of a loyal and thus reliable fan base rather than general mass appeal, as was the norm for much of broadcast television history. At one time, cult fandom was the enemy of producers who sought narrative hegemony over the cultural meanings of their texts or intellectual property. Now, as a result of new industrial and technological developments, producers increasingly find that the very existence of lucrative media texts depends more and more on stronger audience engagement and, inevitably, participation. Thus, these new television serials need to be at once sophisticated and imaginative, immersing the viewer in a compelling and rich narrative universe which bleeds over into a transmedia frenzy of webisodes and internet fan forums.
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Audience/Fan Authored Text Links
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Sweet Dreams

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQntzqyde-w

Arnold's Pizza Shop

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVA7MDQr1Nc

Cable Guy/Matrix

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbvNzNKrzO8

Batman/Superman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnjOztuDxMQ&feature=related

Gossip Girl's Second Life; The Genius of Gossip Girl
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I think the idea of cultural permeation is very interesting. Gossip Girl, being the first show to have found success primarily online, very clearly demonstrates the modern puzzle that the television industry is confronted with, namely the puzzle of acquiring funding from advertisers in a world where content can be accessed digitally. Cultural permeation rather than traditional Nielsen ratings (which, in any case, do not really reflect actual viewer practices) may be the way of the future in determining the popularity of a television show. The fact that product placement is seen as inferior to broadcast advertising was a surprise to me. Actually, cultural permeation is a much better way of measuring the success of a show because at best numbers of individual viewers can be more accurately quantified (through the number of downloads on iTunes, for example) and at worst it gives an indication of the loyalty and passion of a niche fan community. Strangely, this would create a new balance of power, where producers know more about consumer practices (an invasion of privacy) and the consumers have more democratic control in influencing what stories and narrative are constructed in the culture. However, as Louisa Stein points out, the experiences and practices of Gossip Girl fans are “dynamic” and are part of a “lived media culture;” they cannot and should not be reduced to consumerism. Here, aesthetics and emotional investment in stories are often overlooked in favor of socio-political and economic readings of narrative formation and the distribution of culture and history. One idea that struck me was the idea that, according to Jessica Pressler and Chris Rovzar, Gossip Girl “resurrected the potential for scripted dramas… to present a world more acucurately than a ‘reality’ program can.” This evokes the age-old idea that art, particularly fictional drama, as a representation of the world, can capture some truth about life. This is probably why, for audiences, fictional scripted drama could never be replaced by “reality” television.
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Coppa, Women, Star Trek, and the Early Development of Fannish Vidding
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I never actually knew that Captain Kirk’s second in command was basically a female version of Spock, rational and unemotional. The history and tradition of slash fiction and slash vids concerning Kirk and Spock seems to have more of a foundation in this way. The female science fiction fan is often left out of the discourse of Star Trek fandom. The fact that many of these fans had interests and aptitudes in mathematics and science, fields traditionally considered masculine, is very telling. In making Kirk and Spock slash fiction, these women express their identification with Spock, highlighting his potentially “feminine” qualities. In a way, I do not think that these women were merely reacting against the marginalization of female identity and female interests in the show; they were also affirming their own femininity through Spock, and rejecting society’s narrow and closed-minded construction of how to go about being a woman.
I think it is also important to note that the history of vidding did not start with youtube, as there has been a long tradition of remixing footage from a source text since the 1970s with the Kandy Fong Star Trek vid. It’s important to acknowledge this history since the relatively more recent “remix culture” owes a lot to vidding as a cultural practice in terms of setting precedents for future work. In this way, it could be argued that contemporary remix culture has been greatly influenced by feminist vidding, since both speak back to the powers that be regarding the meanings of cultural texts and narratives.
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DJ Spooky, In Through the Out Door: Sampling and the Creative Act
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I have to say that DJ Spooky’s piece on remix culture presented a very obscure and abstract style to say the least. However, I do think there were some good points to take away. He discusses the idea of “common forms, shared through cultural affinities and affirmed by people who spoke the code.” This is what remix culture is. Most vids and video remixes have their full potential impact only when viewers are in the “know” with regard to the pieces and fragments pulled from television shows, movies, music, and figures in the news media. Someone who watches a Star Trek remix video without any prior knowledge of Star Trek would obviously come away with a different reading or interpretation, no less valid but significantly different.
If remixing is a story we tell ourselves, one made of the world as you experience it, it reminds me of a collage made up of cut-outs from magazines and newspapers. We reshape the narrative given to us by the newspaper or the magazine to more fully reflect and represent our own reception and interpretation. And, in so doing, we create a new narrative, and alternative which could signal a threat to the establishment.
I really like the metaphor Spooky uses when he cites Schelling and Goethe: “Architecture is nothing but frozen music.” He then flips it on its head when he compares sound to thawed architecture. It made me think of how all the arts are related to each other, they’re all connected because they all express something. Here, we see the fluidity of the arts, the potential for their structure to blend into each other’s, as in the case of remix videos and sampling in music.
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Ross, Chapter 2
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Ross talks about the case of American Idol in the chapter “Power to the People, or Power to the Industry?” American Idol, being a reality television show, presents a different set of problems, questions, and concerns with regard to producers and consumers. In terms of participation, it is somewhat unique in that, unlike many other reality shows, there exists a voting component where viewers have a hand in deciding the fate of contestants. This is very different from fictional texts, where there is inherent tension in viewers interfering with a preconceived narrative text, for example, in the case of fan fiction for Xena or Supernatural. The proliferation or the bleeding over of the text into multiple media, including the internet and music, actually serves to benefit the industry in addition to providing viewer participation with a fluid reality show text. Clearly, in terms of the power to make decisions about and shape the text, the producers have more of this than the consumers. Taking a Marxist perspective, this format still serves to validate class inequality and sustain the status quo. However, this could serve as a model to learn from in terms of applying certain aspects to other reality shows, maybe even fictional series. Certainly, there have been opportunities in the past where viewers have been given the chance to decide the inclusion or introduction of a character into a fictional narrative, for example, in the case of Heroes. I think another key difference is the mass appeal of American Idol and its status as a mainstream show as opposed to one that is cult.
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Fan Fiction: Supernatural and Xena
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Felschow clearly sees the relationship between consumers and producers as a battlefield. I find it interesting that she talks about the construction of fandom, what it means to be a fan as well as the creation of the so called cult fan. This harkens back to the early years of cinema, the fan magazines, and the social construction of the fan, especially the female fan. The notion of cult fans being deviant or obsessive is a common and widespread idea in our society. This may be a lasting vestige of the idea of film and media fandom from those early years; the idea may yet be older when female consumption of literature in the nineteenth century is taken into account.
It seems that the notion of fandom and emotional investment in fictional narratives seems to have a long history of association with femininity and social constructions of female identity. For me, as a male living in the modern-day U.S., I have usually registered media fandom and fan culture as a mostly masculine practice, thinking about texts like Star Wars and Star Trek, and media such as comic books and video games. It seems that female fandom has been ignored and/or marginalized in the writing of media fandom history and representation. So far, I feel that we have focused on this aspect of media fandom, which makes sense form the perspective of the reconstruction and reinterpretation of written histories, rediscovering histories which have not been told or have been left out.
For Rowett, fan fiction cannot simply be reduced to Marxist intentions where political power and material conditions are at the center of all human activity. I like that she acknowledges the cultural critics who argue against both the cultural elites who look down their noses at mass culture and the Marxists who see the masses as brainwashed dupes. However she poignantly points out that, in championing popular culture, cultural critics have not broken free from discourses where they must justify fan practices politically or economically. I think her concept of creative consumption offers a notable perspective on fan fiction, where emotional and aesthetic dimensions are taken into account.
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Ross, Intro and Chapter 1
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I agree that the internet has profoundly changed the way audiences and viewers consume and engage with media texts, particularly television texts. I like the analogy of the internet as a watercooler, where people can gather and share ideas and thoughts about any given television show. In this case, the watercooler is greatly expanded, since the internet breaks down barriers of space and distance that used to get in the way of forming communities.
One thing that does seem to be constant throughout different periods of cultural history seems to be between the consumers and producers of narratives. In the case of media, the internet makes the ongoing relationship (or struggle, depending on how one looks at it) different in that it adds a new dimension to an already complicated phenomenon. But, on an essential level, things still seem to play out in similar ways. As consumers use the internet as a means of forming fan communities and using their numbers as leverage for having some say in the formulations of cultural narratives, producers will find ways to reinforce power structures that are to their advantage and to assert ownership and authority over texts, perhaps through copyright laws or through working with fans to establish means of participation deemed acceptable. American Idol is a very interesting example of a television show where viewers can actually exercise a degree of agency and have a say in the narrative of a cultural text. Ross cites this voter participation as an invitational strategy; in this case, it’s interesting that there is more awareness of fan communities on the part of producers.
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Breaking the Sound Barrier
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In Breaking the Sound Barrier, Mark Juddery talks about the coming of sound to cinema as “democratizing” the stars “by making them identifiable members of contemporary society and not dream figures existing in the audiences' collective unconscious.” In this way, new development in scientific and technological knowledge enabled transformative social change in the media and the transmission of cultural narratives and messages. In a way, sound offered more direct access to the stars than did fan magazines. Instead of reading abstractly about distant figures who were supposed to be admirable and awe-inspiring stars, moviegoers could hear their voices and watch them play out fictional scenarios without the interference of intertitles. This surely would have created a much more immersive experience in the movies, which brought the viewer closer to the stars in ways that fan magazines could not. Thus, at least potentially, the narratives which were constructed by these producer-made fan texts could by bypassed in favor of more direct engagement with the main filmic texts; power relations could be altered or negotiated as a result of technology.
At the same time, part of the impetus or drive toward the development of sound technology and the remaking of cinema as an audio-visual experience was definitely profit; there was money to be made from this novelty, especially in light of competition from radio, which was solely audio-based. As far as the making of films, one aspect I find particularly interesting is the development of screenwriting as an art form. Juddery notes that screenwriters took “advantage of the cinematic medium far more than the Broadway playwrights who thrived on the limitations of the stage.” The introduction of sound, from a creative standpoint, opened up a whole new world of possibilities for film as a distinct medium from theatre, able to hold its own in the realm of art.
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Fuller, Chapters 7 and 8; Breaking the Sound Barrier
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It’s interesting to see how the construction of fandom basically works to legitimate a cultural and economic practice for the material benefit of a few powerful interests. In the case of Motion picture Story Magazine, we see that the cultural practice of moviegoing was not yet fully accepted or totally mainstream by any means. In urban areas especially, going to the movies was a practice associated with the poor, working class immigrant population, an “other” in terms of socioeconomic class and ethnicity. Here, a practice is judged, not by its own inherently value, but by who practices it; social status and position can legitimate or condemn a socio-cultural activity. The construction of the middle class female moviegoer was necessary in order for a few special interests to reap economic benefits and profit from film; thus we have the establishment of an industry.
In terms of money and material benefit, the incentive and reward for vying for the control of audiences and viewers of film is clear. This control perpetuates itself in the form of the cultural messages transmitted through, for example, fan magazines. Through the medium of film itself as well as the fan magazines, film producers like Blackton knew that they controlled the transmission of cultural messages which could help to sustain their interests and set parameters and limits to the power relations of producers and consumers. From this Marxist perspective, we can see a dialogue where certain actors dominate the conversation to a much greater degree than others. In this way, the fan magazines serve to accommodate consumers’ desire for participation while maintaining the status quo.
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