I'm looking for one more person to join my panel for SCMS 2012 on
media paratexts and gendered marketing (see abstract draft below).
If anyone is interested, please shoot me an email.
Colleen A. Laird
Department of Language, Literature, and Culture
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Japanese Cinema and Gender Studies
Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures
University of Oregon
Media paratexts: magazine cover shoots, television promos, interviews,
Rotten Tomato aggregates, Roger Ebert tweets, theatrical trailers,
leaked photos, gossip mags, Happy Meal toys, soundtrack music videos,
official websites, DVD box sets, SNL parodies.
Media paratexts, as conceptualized by Jonathan Gray, are the materials
that surround a media text (e.g. a film or TV show), but they are more
than marketing campaigns and bonus features; “they create texts, they
manage them, and they fill them with many of the meanings that we
associate with them” (Gray 2010, 06). Paratexts bind the target text
by way of repetitive explanation or contextualization (howsoever
homologous or seemingly polysemous), enveloping target spectators
within an info-sphere of predetermined, “correct” meanings and
interpretations. Through the process of creating packaged meaning in
media packaging, paratexts “tell us how producers or distributors
would prefer for us to interpret a text, which audience demographics
they feel they are addressing, and how they want us to make sense of
their character and plots” (72). Although many paratexts are created
and repurposed by spectators themselves—fans and detractors
alike—those produced within and approved by the industry do the most
work to align texts with safe images and interpretations designed for
successful mass marketing. Safe, of course, refers to meanings shaped
by and molded to dominant social norms, ideologies, and power
structures; constructs that do not challenge patterns of normative
social dominance and are as such those most profitable for the
Analysis of paratexts, as Gray suggests, allows us insight to the
mechanics of industry created sociocultural demographics—the
manufacture and maintenance of group taste derived from the illusion
of tailored market niches. This panel is concerned with the
particular intersection of marketing paratexts and gender. First and
foremost, our panel acknowledges the tremendous economic power female
audiences possess. Their economic potential is of great interest to
media industries and we see evidence of increased efforts to target
female audiences and their economic capital. From media remixes of
“Girl Power” and the postfeminist sexuality of popstars (Beyoncé, Lady
Gaga, Katy Perry) and chick flicks (Sex and the City, Bridesmaids) to
the Twilight franchise and the rise of tween primetime programming
(the CW lineup, American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance) female
audiences are rapidly outnumbering and outpurchasing their male
counterparts thanks to the proliferation of media specifically
targeting their presumed needs and desires.
We ask: How do paratexts conceptualize and shape female audiences?
What do paratexts reveal about contemporary constructs of gender?
How do paratexts imagine or create gendered tastes and desires? What
role do female audiences have in the maintenance or rejection of these
constructs? What are female audiences buying into (or not) and how?
Gray, Jonathan. 2010. Show Sold Seperately: Promos, Spoilers, and
Other Media Paratexts. New York and London: New York University Press.
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