Category Archives: Fandom

She’s Not Afraid of Leaving

Recently, I had a long conversation with my mother about friendship.  I’m not even sure how we got talking about that but the conversation got me thinking.  As I considered the conversation, I started to think about how my students and how they have met their friends.  Here, the answer is obvious.  They met their friends in classes, through their parents, in clubs and sports.  In fact, they spend a lot of time with their friends, which could make their initial friendships deeper and stronger.  Looking back to my youth, I experienced the exact same thing.

What about as an adult?  I have definitely made friends from work.  In fact, some of my closest friends now are people I have worked with.  Beyond that, I have met people through various political activities and through other people.  Yet, when I think about friendships, I often turn to fandom.  How many people have I met through fandom?  Countless.  You might think that I’m exaggerating but I don’t think I am, especially if I consider online friendships.  While I have not met every Duranie I know in person, I have met a bunch of people through this fan community.  In fact, I would say that the people I have met keeps me here when I might not have otherwise.  It is great fun to go to events and know that you will run into people you know.

This makes me wonder about why friendship within fandom seems so unique.  When I compare my friendships from fandom to other friendships, there is something different there.  For one thing, real life friendships seems to take longer.  There is a lot more surface conversation or small talk with real life friends.  It feels to me that it takes a long time to develop real trust with colleagues, for example.  Yet, I don’t sense that as much from fans.  There does not seem to have as much small talk with fan friendships.  I might even go so far as to say that I think there is more chances for equal trust.  Take my friendship with Rhonda.  I didn’t know much about her when I met her for the first time and we hit it off right away.  In fact, we decided to go to a show together and share a hotel room right after having met in person only once.  How did I know that I could trust her?  I don’t know.  I just did.

Does this immediate connection and trust happen because you share the same passion?  The same love for a band?  Maybe.  It is almost like being members of this exclusive club means that we understand each other deep at the core.  We understand something that doesn’t need to be described but something that defines us in a way.

Then, I wonder what happens when that passion does not remain.  What happens when friends leave the fandom?  Does the friendship remain?  I wonder.  I have friends who have left the fandom.  Am I still friends with them?  Yes, I am, but it doesn’t feel the same.  Why the heck is that?  I don’t have a good answer for this.  Could it be that it feels like a rejection of that something that lies at the core of your being or is it a matter of lack of having something in common?  I don’t know.

What do the rest of you think?  Does fandom breed quicker, closer friendships?  Then, if it does, can those friendships last in the same way if one of the people leave the fandom and the other doesn’t?  If not, why not?  What’s the deal there?

-A

“Terrifying and Fascinating”

I made a promise to myself to take a couple of concentrated hours every weekend to work on my fandom projects.  Last weekend, I went to a coffee shop, made myself comfortable and got to work.  I thought that being away from home helped me to stayed focused.  Unfortunately, this weekend, the weather is not cooperating.  It is April 14th.  Spring should have sprung.  Yet, here I am with a winter weather advisory that features freezing rain, ice, wind, and snow (reports vary from 2-5 inches to 6-9 depending on the temperature).  Great.  So, I’m not leaving my house.  Despite that, I’m keeping to my plan.

I decided to focus on fandom research before blogging for two reasons.  One, it is easy enough to put the blog first which often means the rest gets pushed aside.  Two, and more importantly, I had no idea what to write about.  I hoped that working on related projects might spark a topic.  Indeed, it has!

I had been searching YouTube for just the right video to showcase both Duran Duran and their fans.  Sounds easy, right?  Not really.  I still really haven’t found something perfect but I did run across this video here:

I am sure that most of you will recognize these video clips as they are clips from Sing Blue Silver.  Most notably, they are generally clips in which fans, female fans, are screaming.  While that might be interesting enough, the description of the video read, “Fascinating and terrifying. This is a video I edited of various girls going absolutely NUTS for Duran Duran. This footage was filmed between Nov 1983 and April 1984, during their massive world-wide tour. For context, this was all filmed before The Reflex single was even released in April 1984. The video for that song was filmed near the end of the tour in March 1984 at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens. I was barely a toddler at the time but I have clear-as-day memories of girls in my neighborhood having a similar, almost venomous passion for this band.”

Fascinating and terrifying?  What exactly is terrifying about this?  I’m not sure I’m following.  Then, the creator describes the passion for the band as “venomous” passion.  Venomous as in poisonous?  Hm…None of the comments on the video seemed bothered by the description but I have to admit that it doesn’t sit well with me.

Are screaming female fans terrifying?  Is there something scary about that group?  If so, what?  Do they have the capability of biting or stinging as the term venomous assumes?  Now, I admit that I definitely could have been one of those screaming fans in 1984 as my best friend and I at the time did plenty of that so maybe I’m taking it personally.  Yet, is there really something wrong with screaming for a band you like?  What about when you are a kid?  A teenager?  An adult woman?

The fact that the screamers on the clips were mostly (almost all?  All?) women and girls really makes me suspicious about the description.  Is this somehow putting down women and girls or it is really just about putting down the level of excitement?  Based on my research about fans and fandom, I’m well-aware that fans get a bad reputation of being hysterical and crazy but describing a group of fans who are mostly women as “hysterical”, “terrifying” and “venomous” seems like a step beyond that.

What do you all think?

-A

That There’s Something Missing

On this date in 2005, Duran Duran played in New York City in Madison Square Garden.  It was the last date in the band’s spring Astronaut Tour in North America.

I did not attend that concert.  Did any of you?  I remember thinking to myself that Madison Square Garden was a big deal.  Do I believe that because it is a large, well-known venue or because of that story within Duran lore?  I’m sure you all know that one.  I’m referring to this idea that John Taylor has shared many times when he said that the plan of theirs was to play Hammersmith in 1982, Wembley in 1983 and Madison Square Garden in 1984.  The band met those goals.  I could not even think about attending the show in 1984 there.  No way.  If my age didn’t stop me, the distance would have.  But what about the show in 2005?  Was it as big of a deal as those 1984 shows there?

In thinking about that 2005 show, my thoughts immediately turn to the reunion.  I have such strong memories of that time.  To me, as a fan in 1980s, the reunion represented a real hope of a repeat of that time period.  After all, the five original band members were back together!  I knew what they were able to accomplish in the 1980s.  Why couldn’t they do that now, I wondered.  It felt to me as if the band was everywhere in terms of press.  For instance, they appeared in my local paper.  If I had taken a bet about how successful this reunion was going to be, I would have said that it was going to blow the roof off.  All of the fans from the 80s would return and they would bring new fans in.  They would return to the top of the charts and everyone would love them.  Thus, when I saw this particular date on the tour schedule, it felt perfectly normal.  Of course, they would play there.  Don’t all the big artists perform at that venue?  To me, it was a sign that they had returned to form, in all aspects.

Looking back now to that show, am I sad that I didn’t go?  Maybe.  Maybe not. I went to a bunch of shows in 2005.  So I have no room to complain at all.  Still, then, I went to shows that I could drive to and that’s it.  While at that time I had traveled to go to a convention, the thought of traveling to shows was unheard of in my world.  Even weirder than that was the notion of taking time off of work to do so.  I never even allowed my brain to go there at all. Back then, my life centered around work and my students.  It was one thing to think about taking a day to go to a convention but not to a show.  After all, they would come here Chicago.  I would be able to see them.  Then, I was really lucky that they played a lot of shows near me over my spring break.  After attending most of the Midwest shows, I never even considered  this show in New York City.  At the time, I recall feeling a tiny bit jealous of those fans who were going but I didn’t let myself feel more.

Now, though, knowing that there was not many shows there since then, do I regret not going?  Sure, it would be cool to say that I have seen them play there but more than other shows?  Hmm…I don’t think so.  I wonder if I had seen them there, would I have felt like I had done it all.  I saw the band play at this ever important venue, their peak goal in the beginning of their career, so that I could walk away knowing I had been to the top.  Maybe.  It is hard to say.  Looking back, I’m also glad that I just jump in and do everything all at once.  Perhaps, fandom would have burned out then.  No, I think my fandom journey is good the way it is.  I have no regrets.

-A

Fan Fiction Wonderings

A few weeks ago, I watched the season finale of the X-Files.  As I have mentioned before, I adore the show but I’m not sure about the last episode.  Apparently, I am not alone in being perplexed by the ending as I have seen a number of comments about it on social media.  After the episode, I did what many others did, I sought out fan fiction.  Could fans of the show provide a different, more understandable, more enjoyable ending?  I wondered.  Needless to say, the number of stories that popped up were many.  As I began to read some, I pondered the role of fan fiction in fandom and then specifically in our fandom.

It seems to me that fanfic for TV shows, movies and books serves an important function.  It adds to the story, in some way.  Maybe these stories extend the story beyond what was shown either after it ends or through a potential missing scene.  Of course, some readers prefer the alternate universe in which the characters are placed in a different context.  I can understand all of that and have read my fair share, especially when I was a big Roswell fan.

What about the work of fanfic in a fandom like ours?  We are not fans of made up characters.  No, the subjects of our fandom are real people.  Does that make a difference?  Looking at the purpose of fanfic in those other genres, could they be applied here?  Could authors extend the Duran story by adding to an unknown future or filling in a period or episode that is unknown to us?  I’m sure that writers could.  Could they place the subjects into different contexts?  Again, that seems logical.

What interests me is that while I have enjoyed these fan created stories when thinking about TV shows like Roswell and X-Files, I never grabbed onto fanfic within my Duran fandom.  Why is that?  I wonder if it has to do with the fact that the focus on the fandom is real people.  Yet, I can read historical fiction and enjoy it.  Those works of fiction are often about real people and events.  I’m not sure.    Maybe it feels different because I have seen the band members in person and for me, that makes it feel different for me.  Perhaps, it is because I have spent so many years researching fandom and thinking about this fandom in an academic sense that I have lost any ability to enjoy this aspect.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I’m not criticizing fanfic readers or writers within our fan community.  No, I’m trying to understand myself because it feels like a weird hang up that I have.  So, those of you who read or write Duran related fanfic, why does it work for you?  What makes you like it?  I would love to hear some good reasons to push me to try it again.

-A

Can’t Tell the Real from Reflection

I wonder how many Duran Duran lyrics we have used in blog posts.  We have written a LOT of blog posts so it would be many.  More than many.  Why this lyric?  Why this title?  Simple.  I have started a period of reflection.  I don’t think I would be overstepping to say that Rhonda, too, is reflecting.  This is pretty normal after a big project finishes.

Just to catch people up.  Last weekend, I was at the National Popular Culture Conference, presenting our research on female fandom.  Since then, we have received quite a lot of feedback through Facebook, Twitter, this blog and even our email.  In fact, we have received so much feedback that I haven’t even responded to everyone.  I had hoped to spend time this week doing just that, but it has been an extremely busy one both with work but also plans and appointments.  Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty tired.  Despite being so busy, I have begun to think about next steps and where to go from here.  Rhonda and I have begun some initial conversations as well.  I know that I cannot possible take all weekend to reflect  due to other responsibilities, but I do plan to take at least a couple of concentrated hours for this purpose.

So what exactly will I be thinking about?  First, I want to think about where Rhonda and I should go as far as our book/research projects.  Funny enough, we suffer, in some ways, from having too many possible angles to pursue.  Of course, I will take into consideration all of the responses we got back on the presentation.  Overall, we received lots of positive feedback, including from experts at the conference.  Beyond that, I will think about what we are most interested in and passionate about as well as what might be most important to share in today’s climate and society.

Second, we need to think about how this blog will fit into the picture.  In some ways, the blog has served its initial purpose.  Thus, what is its purpose now?  What should it be?  How do we best fit this with our other projects?  Which one is being prioritized?  I know that there are dedicated readers (which we are extremely grateful for) and I know that new readers find us all the time. For that reason, among others, we plan to continue the blog in some way, shape or form.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, how does all of this fit into our fandom?  This is an area that we have struggled to figure out for years.  Yes, we are fans.  We love Duran.  There is no denying of that. Yet, we are more than that.  We chose to also study fandom as academics, as researchers because we wanted to understand ourselves and other fans.  Some people love us when we are fans and hate us when we are academics and vice versa.  Yet, we recognize that we are both and want to continue being both.  The question then is how to both well at the same time.

One thing I know, for sure, my recent presentation has had one very significant affect.  It kick started my brain.  Time is now needed to process it all.

-A

 

Presentation Video: Uniqueness of Competition in Female Dominated Fandoms

I am tired.  The last few days were pretty mentally and emotionally exhausting  that also included a very long drive home.  While I need time to process everything regarding the conference, I do know a few things already.  First, I feel confident that I gave the presentation well and that I was thoroughly prepared.  Second, I did receive some useful and not-as-useful feedback, though all coming from good intentions.  That said, I am left wondering if it was worth it in terms of the time, stress and money.  I hoped to feel super accomplished and motivated and that did not happen.  I know that I did learn from the experience, though.

On that note, I know a lot of people wanted to see the presentation.  I recorded me practicing it from my hotel room.  That means that this does not adequately show what it was like to see the real presentation but I do share the ideas and as much of the visuals as could fit on the screen.

-A

 

Step Out Into the Future

This is it.  Today is the day.  I’m sure by now you are all sick to death of me talking about my presentation or presenting at this Popular Culture Conference.  I have a few things that I want to comment on before I head downstairs to the room in which I will present.

First of all, I want to thank all of you.  So many of you have helped me/us with this project that I definitely need to acknowledge that and offer my gratitude.  This past week, when I needed images of whatever, all I needed to do was hop on social media.  I would ask for this, that or the next thing and you all posted exactly what I needed.  If I wasn’t feeling supported, this would have done it.  So, I thank each and every one of you that shared a photo or two or ten of your collections or your live crowd shots.  I ended up with more than I need.  That said, having choices was so nice.

Second, beyond the sharing of photos, I also want to thank people for all of the supportive comments.  You all have such confidence in us/me that I’m overwhelmed.  I am not sure what I did to deserve this but I appreciate it beyond words.  I can only hope that I will live up to these expectations today.  Truly, I want to be able to report back that I did well and that none of you were wrong to have such faith in me.

Now, I know a lot of you are dying to see my presentation.  I did my best to record me practicing yesterday.  While it won’t be the same as watching me give it in person and you can only see part of the visual presentation, I’m hoping to be able to upload it tomorrow when I’m home and share it then.  I do want to warn you all, though.  Rhonda and I don’t beat around the bush and we do not always paint our fandom is the best of light.  That said, we explain what we believe is the cause of our biggest flaw as a fan community.  Our goal, though, was to provide some hope to make our fan community the best place in the world to be.  After all, this week has shown me how awesome, amazing, supportive and loving this community can be and makes me proud to be a Duranie along side all of you.

It has been an interesting experience to be at this conference.  I haven’t had a ton of conversations with others, which I’m a little sad about, but I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone.  If that wasn’t enough, I have definitely learned a lot from many of the presenters I had the pleasure to watch.  I’m thrilled to be able to share our theory with others who will have knowledge and expertise in the field.  I look forward to see what questions and comments people have for us.  Likewise, I’m hoping that the presentation itself will be a moment of growth for me.  As Rhonda and I exchanged tweets yesterday, one thing became clear.  This theory of ours is one that we believe we could expand into something.  The future awaits and I’m ready to step out to meet it.

-A

A Little OCD Much?

I arrived in Indianapolis around 5 yesterday afternoon for the National Popular Culture Association Conference after a long, wet drive.  After having spent days getting the presentation ready and practicing, now was the time to just get going.  I cannot say that I’m feeling exactly 100% about the presentation as I have varied the time it takes to give when practicing between 18-24 minutes but I’m here anyway.

After having checked into the hotel and getting organized, I went down to the 3rd floor where the conference registration was taking place.  There I was handed a program and a name tag along with a special ribbon showing my first time status.  One guy told me that the ribbon was so they all could laugh at me, which made me laugh.  Then I commented that this would feel familiar as my students laugh at me all the time.  From there, I waited for the evening entertainment, Paula Poundstone.  While I obviously knew of her, I don’t know that I watched a lot of her stuff before.  Now, though, I would.  She was hilarious and definitely made me feel more comfortable about being here.

She started her routine by asking about this little conference, wondering how people got here, what they talked about, etc.  She called on some random guy who claimed he was a “trailing spouse” and that his wife was presenting.  What was she presenting about?  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, of course!  From there, Paula wanted to know how long the husband knew about her “interest” in Buffy.  He stated that he found out pretty early in their relationship as her house was covered in Buffy memorabilia.  Paula then wondered if this sort of thing was something the “trailing spouse” found attractive.  As you can imagine, the rest of the crowd was hysterically laughing.

From there, Paula found out some other topics that people were presenting about.  At this point, it became clear to her that people at this conference were kind of obsessed about some tiny aspect of popular culture.  As I was laughing, I found myself nodding.  This is true.  It is one thing to have a little conversation or two about fandom.  It is another thing to read countless books about it, write a couple of manuscripts about it, and present about it to a bunch of other geeky academics.  In realizing this, I have to recognize that Rhonda and I have been rather obsessive about understanding fandom and our fandom specifically.  At that moment, I found myself smiling, knowing that I’m around people who are just like me in that they, too, are obsessed about something. They are so obsessed about whatever that they have studied and are excited to present about their learning.  That’s really pretty cool.

I look forward to going to some presentations today.  I’m hopeful that they will help me feel more confident about what I’m presenting.  On top of that, I hope to learn something from my fellow obsessive academic geeks.

-A

You Speak to the Crowd

When Rhonda and I started this blog, we promised ourselves that we would never shy away from topics that might create some sort of stir.  Today’s blog is one of those.  Consider this a warning to you (and to me!).

Yesterday, DDHQ posted a few pictures of John Taylor at the March for Our Lives Los Angeles, a march advocating gun control.  I’m certain that DDHQ knew that posting these pictures would get people excited.  Some people might love it and others…not so much.  Normally, I just look at the posts and move on as I rarely read the comments for a variety of reasons.  Yet, something possessed me to look at them yesterday.  On Twitter, the reaction to the photos and John’s participation in the march was generally positive.  Facebook, on the other hand, was a very different story.

Within an hour or so of being posted on Facebook, comments numbered in the hundreds.  Some loved that John demonstrated and others expressed negative reactions ranging from concern to disappointment to anger.  Instead of responding on the thread, I am opting to respond to some of what I saw here.  This way I can address the negative reactions as a whole rather than individual comments.

A number of fans responding to the photos commented on the fact that John Taylor is British and should not have a say.  Indeed, he is British, but, he is also an American citizen now after going through the process of naturalization.  He lives in the United States, pays taxes and votes.  In my opinion, this gives him every right to speak about what takes places in the U.S.

Others did not appreciate him speaking out because he is a celebrity.  Some expressed concern that by doing so, he was in danger of losing fans.  Let me dissect both of those ideas.  First, I don’t really get the idea that famous people should not express their opinions.  Why does having a certain career mean that they should stop having political opinions?  Is it just celebrities who should stop being political?  What other careers should not express political beliefs?  Should I be silent on politics outside of my classroom simply because I’m a teacher?  Should a lawyer because they might challenge or defend laws?  Should judges?  Now, obviously, in the last examples, there are times when politics should be put away.  For instance, I do not push my students to believe like I do.  I push them to be able to defend their opinions with facts and evidence only.  Likewise, judges need to be impartial when hearing cases.  Other than that, teachers, judges, etc. can have political beliefs outside of those specific cases.  John’s job is to write and perform music.  If we compare John’s job to a teacher, for instance, then some might argue he should keep politics out of his job, and thus his music.  What he did yesterday is not about the music.  It is something he did outside of his job.  He didn’t tell people that they had to agree with him, politically, to buy his music.

The other concern that I saw a lot of people express is that John’s political activity might alienate fans.  This idea makes me sad.  Is that really where we are?  Do we really have to agree completely to be a fan?  Do we apply this for our families and friends?  I don’t know about the rest of you but I definitely know people who disagree with me on various issues.  This doesn’t make me like them less.  Perhaps, the key with me is that I separate what someone thinks about this or that issue from that person’s behavior and treatment of others.  I also believe strongly that I’m not going to love everything done by Duran but that this does not diminish my love for the band either.  Goodness, my love ones do or think things that I don’t like and that doesn’t make me love them any less.  Let me give you an example from Duran’s history to explain what I mean.  Was I thrilled that they worked with Timbaland in order to reach a broader audience and get more commercial success?  I was not.  Does this mean that I shouldn’t be a fan anymore?  No.  It means I don’t like this one thing they did and disagreed with their approach.

Some reading this might say that this is easy for me to say.  After all, I was out marching yesterday, too.  I agree with John on this political issue.  While I’m sure that it does make it easier to me, I can think of other bands that I like, musically, that I’m not in alignment with, politically or otherwise.  Again, I can separate the two.

Beyond all of that, I believe strongly that everyone should be able to speak about what they think.  Therefore, I was totally fine with those fans who came on to say how they love John and the band but disagree with him.  What I was not okay with were some of the comments insulting John or bringing up things like his past drug use. Those kind of comments are never necessary.  There was nothing that John did yesterday that deserved mean or insulting comments.  All he did was express his opinion as an American and a human being.  That’s it.

-A

Until All This Fear Is Washed Away

Today is the last day of work before Spring Break.  Usually this means sleeping in, catching up on my to-do list, and enjoying time away from teenagers.  I’m never conflicted about break.  I always love it and am thankful for it…until this year.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are lots of things about break that I’m needing and looking forward to.  I cannot wait to sleep in.  I love the fact that I will have time to just think and to write some in order to process some life lessons that I got the last couple of weeks.  But this spring break does not really feel like a time to relax.  Why is this?  I’m sure you all know that I’ll be traveling to the Pop Culture Conference in Indianapolis to present our research on female dominated fandoms.  Originally, the plan was for Rhonda and I to do this conference together.  Now, though, it is just me, which frankly scares the hell out of me.

What the heck am I so scared of, you may wonder.  I’m not totally worried about the presentation itself, like you may think.  Yes, of course, I’m nervous about speaking in front of strangers, academics, and other scholarly types.  It is silly, really.  I talk every day.  I present all the time.  This audience, though, will be very different than the usual teenagers that I normally deal with.  This group will be paying attention to me.  They will listen and be focused.  My students don’t know enough (in most cases) to judge.  I cannot say the same about the people who will be in the audience at the conference.  That said, I know that our theory about competition in fandoms is a good one.  I’m confident in our research and our conclusions.  But I won’t lie.  I’m still going to be nervous as heck.  Still, this isn’t what causes me fear as I suspect my professionalism will kick in, like it does at job interviews.

No, my fear comes from a different place.  It is all about the social aspects of the conference.  I don’t do well putting myself “out there” socially.  I tend to be the person who sits back, watches and attempts to observe before I attempt interaction.  This, too often, comes across as me being distant and cold, which I’m always sorry about.  I don’t want the conference goers to see me like this.  I know about this personality quirk of myself and have generally dealt with it by avoiding going to social scenes alone.  Usually, when I go with someone else, I seem more human, more approachable as I’ll talk to the person(s) I’m with.  Let me give you a story.  In 2004, when the Duran Fans Convention came up, I desperately wanted to go.  I wanted to meet other Duranies and express my excitement about the band’s reunion with other people who “got it”.  Well, I didn’t have enough guts to go on my own.  Instead, I dragged a friend with me.  I never regretted that decision as I obviously had a great time and met lots of great Duranies there.  Would I have had that great of a time without my friend being there?  I don’t know.

This conference isn’t like a Duran convention or concert.  I highly doubt that anyone there will be a Duranie.  Likewise, I’m sure that there will not be an all night party in room 7609 in the hotel either.  When I found out that Rhonda would not be able to go, I did what I always do.  I turned to my mom to express my newly created anxiety and she is such an amazing person that she offered to go with me.  Then, my dad got sick and it became clear to me that she is needed here.  No, I have to face this challenge alone.

Now, I could just avoid going.  After all, my writing partner won’t be with me and I worry that I won’t do our work justice.  It will also cost me money and time, both of which are extremely valuable, especially during the school year  Yet, I know that I cannot and should not do that.  I must go.  It is important for our work that I go.  I’m hopeful that I will rise to the challenge and that not only will I present our work well but that I also am able to grow from challenging myself.  This could be really good for me.  It could be really great for us and all of the research and writing we have done.  More significantly to this blog, it could also be good for the study of fandom.  After all, I believe strongly that we captured the uniqueness of female fandom, something that needs to be shared and understood by academics as well as fans.

On that note, as I prepare for this conference, I ask that you all send me strength.  If I cannot have Rhonda with me, then, at least, I could have people holding me up when I really need it.  I hope.

-A