OTW Fannews: The visibility of gender

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  • The rise in fandom visibility seems to be leading to an increasing media backlash about fans expressing themselves but women fare differently in these discussions. A particularly visible example was a BBC documentary on One Direction fandom which, despite hype focusing on fandom extremism failed to do well in the ratings. Writing about the coverage in The Conversation, academic Andy Ruddock stated “Far from being a story about poor deluded adolescents, the One Direction incident confirms that girls are major players in global media industries.” Focusing on both their insight and their dismissal, he explains “Audiences use boy bands to create their own entertainment. The English group are just raw materials that teenagers fashion into cultures of emotion, identity and friendship. This is probably why Directioners are upset over the documentary: the world is poking fun at their work.”
  • There has also been much discussion about fans rejecting casting choices across multiple franchises. But the tone of those discussions varies depending on who the fans might be. For example, an academic who was interviewed about fan influences doesn’t discuss why there was a backlash against Ben Affleck other than to say “People who are into Batman don’t want the movies to be bad…They have a lot of emotional investment. They don’t want the character or story to be mistreated.” He also concluded that to be recognized for one’s fannishness by being brought aboard to market a franchise is “what every fan fantasizes about becoming.”
  • Yet the arguments over Doctor Who casting involved claims that those who were upset about the choice weren’t “true fans”. “Undoubtedly, someone will argue that we are not the type of ‘fangirl’ they meant when discussing the ‘inferior’ fans that they’re happy to be rid of. We don’t, for instance, maintain a Tumblr of David Tennant or Matt Smith photos. But that shouldn’t matter. Everyone’s expression of enthusiasm about the thing they love should be accepted in geek culture. The Tumblr of photos is just as valid a way to express love of fandom as recitation of fandom trivia. After all, there are bound to be male fans out there who would be equally as drawn to the casting of a particularly pretty companion. And yet, their status as a ‘fan’ would not be similarly diminished or questioned. Enthusiasm is what makes a ‘real’ fan (if there is such a thing), not the particular way in which that enthusiasm is expressed.”
  • Rejection of particular characters in shows has gained less attention, but at least one actor felt that the character’s gender was critical. “I finally realized that most people’s hatred of Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives. Because Skyler didn’t conform to a comfortable ideal of the archetypical female, she had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender. I can’t say that I have enjoyed being the center of the storm of Skyler hate. But in the end, I’m glad that this discussion has happened, that it has taken place in public and that it has illuminated some of the dark and murky corners that we often ignore or pretend aren’t still there in our everyday lives.”

How do you see female fandoms addressed in the media? Write about it in Fanlore! Contributions are welcome from all fans.

We want your suggestions! If you know of an essay, video, article, podcast, or link you think we should know about, comment on the most recent OTW Fannews post. Links are welcome in all languages! Submitting a link doesn’t guarantee that it will be included in a roundup post, and inclusion of a link doesn’t mean that it is endorsed by the OTW.

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