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This Week in Fandom, Volume 9

Fan studies is a fast-growing discipline, both with fans pursuing degrees in media and analysis and non-fans studying us from an anthropological perspective. De Montfort University Leicester recently took students to Hollywood to visit the city’s famous monuments to real person fandom: the Hollywood Walk of Fame, decorated with stars in honour of public figures and some notable fictional characters; ‘Grauman’s Chinese Theatre,’ home of myriad film premieres and over 200 famous handprints (and other prints, like the wands used by the three leads in the Harry Potter films); and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the burying place of numerous influential members of the entertainment industry. The student group also attended WonderCon. At each attraction, the group ‘observed and interviewed fans’ in order to better understand fans and fan culture.

The group might consider itself lucky that it didn’t intend to visit Santa Fe Comic Con (SFCC) in the U.S. state of New Mexico instead. The con found itself the focus of a social media scandal after a representative made disparaging remarks about women cosplayers, suggesting that attractive women who choose to cosplay sexualised characters act entitled and undeserving of respect. Fans and potential attendees were understandably displeased with the apparent misogyny and tone-deafness. SFCC’s attempts to diffuse the situation focused on the defense that the con would prefer to promote local talent over out-of-state professionals…an apparently reasonable argument that might have landed better had they avoided calling those out-of-state cosplayers ‘boob models.’ The conversation was deleted, but screenshots have been posted to reddit and even public figures have remarked on the situation.

If that last story left you craving more misogyny, you’re in luck. Film reviewer and feminist ally Ryan Syrek has posted an (admittedly biased) account of his Twitter interactions with screenwriter Max Landis, who publicly accused Rey from Star Wars of being (sigh) a Mary Sue. The details of Max Landis’s alleged behaviour aren’t particularly relevant in the This Week in Fandom world, but the article is worth mentioning for Syrek’s explanation of the phenomenon of the Mary Sue, which had some women readers shouting ‘Yes! That is the thing I am saying!’ at their computer screens:

The reason that so many “Mary Sues” appear in fanfic is that very few actual women appear in the kind of content that inspires fanfic. That is to say, if you are a fan and want to see powerful, intelligent women represented abundantly in science-fiction and other genre work, you’re probably going to have to write it yourself. […] Even in intellectually progressive fiction, even in fantasies that take place either in “galaxies far, far away” or in alternate realities with green tentacled people, the default is “man = hero, woman = boobs.”

Or boob models, I suppose.

The piece ends with a call to action, urging Twitterers to follow real life women heroes (Syrek suggests filmmaker Lexi Alexander) and to speak up when public figures like Max Landis attack women or other non dominant groups. (Of course, Syrek also describes the consequences of speaking up, so please read the article and think carefully before making yourself more vulnerable online.)

In news that probably won’t make you want to rip your hair from your skull, Divergent author Veronica Roth came out as pro-fanfic in an interview posted Saturday by The Guardian. Roth notes that fanfiction can be a great way to practice writing without having to build a new world and remarks that fanwork is ‘collaborative, and creative, and communal.’ ‘Continue to live in the worlds that you love,’ she instructs, showing real understanding of why so many of us write and read fanfiction.

Finally, you may have heard about the Game of Thrones spoilers being posted to YouTube, but have you wondered whether spoilers are an infringement of copyright law? Yale law professor Stephan Carter explores the legality of spoilers and reminds us how Stephanie Meyer reacted when an early draft of one of the Twilight novels was released online:

She didn’t sue anybody. Instead, she wrote on fan sites, urging readers to avoid the unauthorized copy. She even let them download a later draft of the same novel.

She still made her millions; and her fans loved her even more.

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