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September 1992


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 30 Sep 1992 10:10:38 EDT
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Lezlie wrote a long and thoughtful response to our debates about fandom and
I want to respond in kind. This may come in two parts since I have to go
teach before much longer. First, she notes having heard from two of the video
makers cited in the book. This poses some questions about my methodology I
wanted to clarify. As I explain in the books introduction, my goal from the
outset was to get feedback from every fan who was qouted or cited in the book.
I sent out nearly two hundred letters with copies of one or more chapters to
fans and received a massive amount of feedback, most of it positive. If someone
ask not to be referenced, I removed them from the text and added an alternative
example. In some cases, I was not able to contact people directly because I
could not locate an address or because the address I had was invalid or in the
case of PROS. circuit stories, because the story circulated without a named
author or under a pseudonym. The book benefited tremendously from this process
and I believe I came closer to the community's sense of itself this way than
in any other academic account of fandom. In the case of the videomakers, i
encountered more difficulty. As it happens, I both contacted LB and spoke to
her by telephone; she also spoke to another videomaker, MVD, who was a friend
of mine. I had her approval to discuss her work before I went to print with the
understanding that I did not use her full name. Based on that conversation, I
decided not to use the full name of any videomaker to avoid unnecessary legal
hassles for the people involved.
   A second question posed and an important one is my relationship to fandom.
It is true that my wife is a fan. It is also true that I have been a fan, an
active congoer and zine-reader, for 15 years. When I write about fandom, it
is from an insider's perspective which is acknowledged and discuss in the first
section of the book. I don't think I could have written this book any other way.
 More to the point, I would not have written this book any other way. I know
the history of representations Lezlie discusses. I know first hand how those
images hurt people. I have confronted those stereotypes head-on in the
first chapter of the book and tried to avoid them in my writing. If I have
failed to do so, it is an honest failure. I have not taken the more distanced
perspective of "The Ethnographer," always in caps, Camille Bacon-Smith. My
biggest concern about academics writing about fandom is indeed that they do
a quick once-over much as journalist did, find what they are looking for to
match their theories, and then rush to print with it,getting it wrong once
again. I do not recommend that anyone write about fandom without putting in
the time to know it well and preferably from the inside.
   Lezlie's comments emphasize the social rather than the political dimensions
of fandomw hich is a point which I make repeatedly in the book. I do think
that there are tremendous political implications here, which have as much to
do with a challenge to conceptions of intellectual property as they have to
a conscious feminist critique. Some fans are feminists, anarchists, etc.a
and do write from explicitly political motives. Others see themselves as
apolitical, but that does not mean that what they write lacks political
significance in a broader sense. I do hope that Lezlie looks at how I
deal with the politics of fandom in the book and lets me know what she thinks.
I never suggest zine writing was started as a political protest. I do not think
slash is written primarily as a feminist vehicle. But, this is not to say
that there is not a political dimension to any attempt to claim a popular
ownership over commercially produced texts or that there are not assumptions
about masculinity and femininity embedded within all forms of errotica. I
read slash partially because it makes me hot but also because it offers
images of masculinity I crave and can not find elsewhere. I don't think that
response is much different from that enjoyed by other fans. It is simplyu
that academic media studies gives me a theoretical vocabulary to discuss that
response. Most of what I say to account for fandom are theories which are
already in circulation in fandom, though framed in different terms. The
fans who have read the book and have written to me claim an ownership of this
account which they do not claim for other academic treatments and it is in
part because I took the radical step of taking their ideas seriously.
   In closing let me say -- Lezlie has every right to "be defensive" about
fandom. I think the issue of one's cultural preferences are as central to
their identity in many cases as the issue of their sexual preferences. Fandom
is a way of life for fans and when I write about the media, whether explicitly
about fandom or not, I write as a fan as well as an academic.