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October 1992


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 2 Oct 1992 16:07:09 EDT
Your message of Fri, 02 Oct 92 13:52:05 -0500. <[log in to unmask]>
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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I responded to Richard's comments before reading Lezlie's letter so I wanted
to respond more fully to the question she raises here. I am not unsympathetic
to her position and it is far from unique within the fan community. Still,
it is not the only position within that community. My advice to Richard
about getting permission from the specific fans qouted is essential, not
a social nicity. I was not always successful in doing so in writing the book
but I did always try and would tell any academic teaching my book or researching
 fandom to do so also. I do know of at least two academics writing about
fandom who are not following this practice and it shows in what they are
writing. Now, having addressed the academic side of my readership here,
writing as an academic, let me shift gears and speak as a fan to this fannish
concern: It isn't as if the academy has chosen to ignore fandom prior to
my book. I can point to dozens of academic essays which speak authoritatively
about what it means to be a fan written by people that as far as I can tell
have never met one. I was assigned the Lawrence and Jewett essay which I
critique in the book in a basic intro. level TV studies course at the University
 of Iowa, where it was virtually cannonical. The writters describe the fans
as religious zealots, one step away from the suicidal cult that surrounded the
LIFE OF YOUNG WERTHER in Germany and the Manson Family in the United States.
They also assert that the fans are inarticulate and in capable of explaining
what they get out of the series, so naturally, the heroic academic comes
to the rescue to ladel this year's theoretical model over the text and ends
up finding the essence of STAR TREK in "Who Mourns for Adonis?" My position is
a fan is that academics are going to be making generalizations about the
television audience and ST fans are a particularly visible part of that
 audience. Given this, I want to make sure they get it right. I want to make
 sure that
fans have a say in the construction of the images that are circulated about
them. I want to do what I can to see that my book is taught in an ethical
fashion. Because, I do know people who have been directly hurt personally,
professionally, by the "Get a Life" stereotypes which are given crediance
by such academics. If we can get the academy to acknowledge the creativity
and productivity of the fan community rather than its perversity, morbidity,
etc., then, it will not only help the fan community but add an essential
voice to the larger debates about mass culture. My position is that fans
have a lot to teach acadmics about how to write and think about television
and I want to see the book used as part of that dialog.  Does that mean that
 evevery fan will agree with everything I say in the book? No, of course not. Or
that every fan will be pleased that I wrote the book? No, that clearly isn't the
 case. But, even though I think we should listen to the community, I chose
to listen to the large number of voices in the community who are excited about
the book, who are actively promoting it, who have written to tell me how
pleased they are that I wrote it, etc.
  Finally, Lezlie, to do Richard justice-- He knows me, he has read parts of
the book when they were published as essays, he has heard me speak at
conferences. He simply hasn't read the whole book in its current form. It
would be like assigning a Rosenthal and Wortham zine as a text for discussion
with a group of Blake's 7 fans. You may not know what's in it but you know
its worth reading and talking about.
p.s. I am pleased you are "enjoying the book immensely." I am looking forward
to hearing your thoughts about it.