Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! Before we start, have you watched the Wayward Sisters backdoor pilot on Supernatural? Share your reactions in the comments!
A new feature in Den of Geek recounts different fans’ perspectives on the Lance Is Bi theory in the Voltron fandom. Fans share their various reasons for characterizing Lance as bisexual, which are then related back to broader issues of LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream media. For example, some fans cite readings of Lance’s competitiveness or admiration for male characters like Keith or Shiro as queer, noting that “[i]t’s not hard to read into those interactions as something more if you’ve literally walked that path yourself.”
The article ultimately argues that many fans subtextually code Lance as bisexual because of the lack of outright representation of LGBTQ+ and especially bisexual characters in mainstream media. As one fan puts it, “When there isn’t enough representation in mainstream media, we use what we have to project.” However, the feature still encompasses a wide range of fans’ reasonings for supporting this reading of Lance as well as disagreement within the fandom about queerbaiting and the extent to which fans take comments from the cast and crew of Voltron to be evidence of Lance’s queerness. One fan sums it up this way:
“One issue with bisexuals is that it feels like our identities have to be determined by other people,” Shardy says. “Our own voices are never enough and it’s exhausting. Lance being confirmed bisexual is because of a joke by his voice actor. The colors of the scenery behind him. Multiple genders being attracted to him instead of the other way around. It’s not his own character that confirms his identity. That bothers me. That infuriates me.”
Are you a Voltron fan with thoughts about the Lance Is Bi theory? Let us know what you think in the comments!
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the Intellectual Property Office has released a series of cartoons to warn schoolchildren against piracy and copyright infringement. A BBC report summarizes the series as “the story of would-be pop star Nancy, a French bulldog, who battles her ideas-stealing, feline nemesis, Kitty Perry, and teaches friends, including Justin Beaver and a rather dim Welsh sheep called Ed Shearling, about the importance of choosing an original band name and registering it as a trademark.” Fun Kids Radio produced the five-minute videos for a target audience of seven- to eleven-year-old children to be presented in primary school classrooms.
Some people are noticing problems with the way the videos discuss transformative works and copyright licensing. TorrentFreak notes the irony of parodying Ed Sheeran in order to caution viewers against copyright infringement, considering that in interviews he has credited his success to illegal file sharing of his music. The article also points out the financial backing of the videos by “copyright-reliant industries” and suggests that their influence explains why the series takes such a restrictive view of copyright, failing to mention educational exemptions or “more liberal copyright licenses” like Creative Commons licenses.
TechDirt elaborates that “it seems odd that a series of videos extolling the virtues of intellectual property rights makes such liberal use of parody to play on well-known entertainment stars.” The same piece criticizes the videos for presenting oversimplified messages, such as the claim that any transformative work that is “insulting” is necessarily illegal:
While UK law is more stringent on free speech when it comes to so-called “insulting” speech, it seems far too simple an explanation to state that any parody that is found insulting would be illegal. Let’s say, for instance, that Ed Sheeran considers this parody depiction of him, complete with an anti-piracy message that comes off as the opposite of his own, is insulting. Is the UK’s IPO really saying that its own video suddenly becomes illegal?
The videos and BBC report dropped online just as the American and Canadian nonprofit The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) announced its upcoming Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2018, which will be celebrated this year February 26 through March 2. The announcement encourages anyone interested to get involved with suggestions like blogging or vidding about fair use, creating and sharing resources, and publicizing the event on social media. Check out the press release, and tell us in the comments how you plan to participate!
On a lighter note, Syfy Wire has published an excellent article about one fan’s childhood discovery of online Digimon fandom and fanfiction. The piece documents author Clare McBride’s earliest experience turning to the Internet for community and content revolving around a show that she alone adored among her local friends:
Luckily, I was a child with shockingly unfettered access to the Internet and a lot of free time. If I was going to slake my thirst for more Digimon content, it made sense to go right to the source—the Internet.
I’d already spent countless hours online in the throes of Pokémania, looking up primitive CGI renderings of Pokémon and aggressively submitting hastily written self-insert fanfiction about a trainer named Lighting or Lightning, depending on if I could be bothered to spell in my feverish need to create, to fansites who could care less. I knew what I was doing. So I plugged “digimon matt” into Yahoo!.
The article goes on to recount McBride’s discovery of a character shrine for one of her favorite Digimon characters and, with it, slash shipping and fanfiction. It’s a lighthearted and nostalgic look back at one fan’s formative experience with online fandom, relatable to anyone who first entered fandom on the Internet as a kid in the late nineties or early 2000s. (Incidentally, it’s also hilarious, and I kind of really want Clare McBride to be my best friend.)
The Digimon memoir ties in nicely with an article in the Trinity University newspaper The Trinitonian that describes one student’s introduction to the My Little Pony fandom. What began as a casual interest led to a prolific and popular fanfiction career and support for troubles with self-esteem and depression, showing yet another perspective on the effect that fannish communities can have on fans’ lives.
Finally, a new report from The Conversation summarizes what factors make romance writers so successful compared to other genre writers in the age of digital publishing. While the analysis is not directly fandom-oriented, its findings imply a predominantly female fandom background for the romance-writing community in the way these writers embrace newcomers and share information.
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