Twitter controversies and fan-cademics

“Fans take a much more active and personal role in the viewing experience now. They don’t just watch a show and forget about it until it’s time to watch the next episode. They dissect it and re-shape it into elaborate fan fiction, creative videos, and intricate art work. They want to be heard and even treated as participants in the creative process.”
Angela Harvey, staff writer, Teen Wolf

I gave my paper on Doctor Who and Disability at the Eaton Science Fiction Research Association conference a couple of weeks back. I’m not sure how effective my recollections will be, given that I was rather jetlagged when I gave the paper, and am again somewhat jetlagged as I attempt to write this. But I’m sure my brain will land in Sydney sometime soon.

From what I can recall, the paper went quite well. It was a mixed panel ie a panel on controversies in three different Sci-fi texts, of which Doctor Who was one. There were a number of Doctor Who aficionados in the room, however, if the discussion afterwards was anything to go by (it went 40 minutes into the scheduled lunchbreak!), ranging from interested fans to people who clearly knew every episode inside and out and even one guy who’d written an entire book on the show. And there was an attendee who’s working on representations of disability in Star Trek, so we kind of greeted each other like long-lost sisters because each of us “got” what is sometimes hard to explain to others.

The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive, but I was questioned on my methodology–specifically, I was asked why the hateful tweets of trolls mattered or were worthy of examination. My initial slightly glib response was, “Well, because they matter to Stephen Moffat” (who had deleted his Twitter account in response to hate messages). But another delegate argued that it is a really interesting space in which to work, looking at online fan responses and the social media zeitgeist. In fact, it’s been the topic of a couple of books, including one to which I contributed, Fanpires: Audience Consumption of the Modern Vampire.

I agree with the second delegate whole heartedly, as it happens. In an age of increasing direct interaction between show runners and fans, there is enormous opportunity for the audience to help shape the text. Equally, it is a fraught process where disgruntled keyboard warriors can lay into showrunners who have not privileged a favoured “ship” or who have strayed away from canonical points of reference. I cited as a further example of the Twitter-disappearance-phenomenon that of Teen Wolf show runner, Jeff Davis.

(Yes, I’m working on a piece on Teen Wolf. Attempting to Twitter-stalk Jeff “The Gift” Davis therefore counts as research, just at the moment).

All of this led me to believe that the insights from Teen Wolf staff writer Angela Harvey were rather apropos.

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One response to “Twitter controversies and fan-cademics

  • roslynw

    Very interesting, and this notion of authorship and authenticity seems to be ever evolving, and brings to mind your previous post about The Vampire Diaries with its complicated history of ‘authorship’ – http://shapeshiftersinpopularculture.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/taking-long-titles-to-the-next-level-the-vampire-diaries-the-hunters-book-2-moonsong-inspired-by-l-j-smith/

    I tend to think that giving too much oxygen to internet trolls is not usually a good idea – starve them of attention and they will go away – but it is also an important area to study precisely because it demonstrates just how invested fans can be in their favourite books/TV/movies.

    And it is such a different landscape for authorship today with instant self-publication of opinions online via social media, compared to the ‘old days’ when pen and paper or typewriters were the writer’s (and fan’s) only tools, and if you wanted your voice to be heard by your favourite author/ TV writer, good luck.

    Having been a passionate fan of some TV shows in the past, I totally understand how annoying it is when producers ruin shows by not doing what you want. :) But I have a lot of sympathy for authors and producers who are besieged by the madding internet crowd and consequently decide to ignore all opinions about their work, good or bad, in favour of not only sticking to their own creative ideas but also in favour of mental health!

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