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October 1992


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Sandra Ballasch <[log in to unmask]>
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Sandra Ballasch <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 5 Oct 1992 10:33:00 CDT
text/plain (109 lines)
I missed the earlier comments that Henry commented on, but going
on his comments here, I can say that in Blake's Seven fandom, both
written zines and conventions, the actor is almost one with the
chacracter for many people.  At times the fandom has split and broken
down because of the perceived offenses of an actor or actress.  This
has usually been in conjunction with the slash wing of the fandom, but
not completely.  This is particularly true in regards to the actor
Paul Darrow and his character Kerr Avon.  Because Mr. Darrow and his
wife (who is an actress and was in the last episode of the series) have
been very accomodating and welcoming to the fans of the series they have
been the people most affected by this strain in the fandom.  There is a
branch of the fandom that seem to be unable to understand that when they
write a story in which Mr. Darrow's character is doing something that is
offensive to him (and I might add -a personal opinion- totally out of
character for the character) and he finds out about it -he- is offended.
I have no problem with people writing this stuff (you can tell from
my attitude that I don't read or collect slash personally) but it is
silly to scream censorship or worse if the people you are portraying
that way refuse to have anything to do with your projects.  This may
happen in other fandoms, but I haven't seen anything like it anywhere
else, and it seems to me to come out of the intense identification
that both fans and actors on this series have with the characters in it.
Sandra Ballasch [log in to unmask]
> I ran out of time before I fully addressed the questions this writer raised an
> so I wanted to add a few additional thoughts. First, I wanted to publically
> endorse the work Andrea is proposing to do as at least an important and
> fruitful question. As I wrote her privately, I think what is at the heart
> of her question is the ambiguious status of performers and characters on
> television. (Jeremy, are you reading this? I would love your thoughts here.) I
>  seems to me that we know characters only television only through their
> embodiment by particular actors (i.e. only William Shatner has played Kirk)
> while we often know the actors only through their impersonation of particular
> characters (i.e. William Shatner will remain Kirk, even when we see him on
> his RESCUE program or think of all of the tv stars who had only one series in
> them.) When fans try to write these characters, it is hard to seperate them
> totally from the actors who played them and so there is often a blurring of
> the boundaries and often a conscious debate about where those boundaries lie.
> Fan artists assert that their works depict the characters, not the actors, as
> do most fan writers. I take them at their word as reflecting their understandi
>  of these characters. But on another level, how can anyone seperate the two
> so readily? Isn't that still a likeness of Patrick Stewart on the cover of
> my book even though Jean Kluge is using it to represent Jean-Luc Picard as
> King Arthur? So, what Andrea is proposing to do is not to over-stress fan
> identification of stars but to ask about what role our knowledge of actors
> plays in our fannish interpretations of those characters (in letterzine
> writing, net chat, con talk, etc.) and what role it plays in the fictional
> reconstruction of those characters in zine fiction.
>    Now, I wanted to more generally address the questions posed by the academy'
> relationship to fandom. I think it is a very complex relationship which I
> try to explore in the book's introduction. But, it reflects an important
> generational shift in the nature of media studies. Let me paint in broad
> strokes here: some of the earliest writing in this country on popular culture
> came from the Frankfort School tradition, alienated intellectuals who came
> from Germany in the wake of the perceived failure of the Bolshevik revolution
>  and the rise of nazism. They had little cultural background on American pop
> culture and wrote about it from a perspective totally outside the experience
> of fans and consumers. The fan/consumer was an Other who could be constructed
> as an object of their worst nightmares about mass conformity, etc. and, as
> many people have suggested now, the audience was seen as a female object of
> a profound male dread. A second generation of writing on popular culture
> reflects the need Academics had to legitimize their research on film by
> treating it as equivalent with traditional high art. Their cultural capital
> was in the art cinema. Their models for writing came from literary studies,etc
> and we had to create a clear seperation of art/non-art in which most works
> of popular cultural have to be dismissed from serious consideration so that
> the few select, cannonical texts and auteurs can be cherished. A third
>  generation came to popular culture primarily with a political agenda and in s
>  far as
> they write about fans (and many of them do), they write about them as an
> oppositional subculture. Often, fans are discussed (a la Fiske) as a theoretic
>  abstraction, "the people," because these writers had little direct contact
> with the fan community. Just as the earlier writers had  seen fans as blind
> consumers, these writers saw fans as nascent activists. This is how I read
> comments about reading politics into fandom. I see myself as representing a
> fourth generation in writing about popular culture and fandom. I have been
> part of fandom for 15 years. My fannish interests are part of which motivated
> me to become an academic working in Media Studies. Popular culture is not
> other, alien to me nor is it erzaz high art. I grew up with the mass media;
> we were raised by and on television and so we write about it in different
> ways. We are struggling to find the terms to discuss it. In writing my book,
> I invited fans to participate in that process, to further break down the
> boundaries between fan and academic and so I welcome feedback to my work,
> positive or negative, from fans. Many of the graduate students I have
> talked to who are interested in writing about fandom share this same
> background. They are academic/fans in the truest sense of the word. So do many
>  of the better young writers on popular culture. I might point to someone like
> Lynn Spigel who is not a fan in the sense we are using it here but who is
> a true enthusiast about many forms of popular culture and it represents a
> central aspect of her cultural experience. I am therefore excited by what
> I see as a potential chance to re-invent the academy, to create a situation
> where academics are not learning about fans or even writing about fans
> but learning from fans and writing as fans. I did not stop becoming a fan when
>  became an academic. I think we as academic can make contributions to the
> fan community in the same way that fan writers contribute to the group's cultu
>  but only if we get rid of some of our intellectual pretentions and
>  institutional privledges.
> Anyway, enough soap box. I welcome responses from others since this question
> is much larger than how we write about fan culture, an interest of limited
> interest to the group as a whole. What I am asking is how we conceptualize
> our own relationship to popular culture? How our personal, private experience
> of popular culture shapes how we write and teach?
> --Henry