It has been awhile since I took a long look at something in the media and how it represents fans and fandom. Over the years, I have analyzed books, TV shows, and movies. This past weekend, like many in America, I tuned into the SNL 40th Anniversary Show. It reminded me that there have been a number of skits on Saturday Night Live over the years that focuses on fans. What are some of those skits and how are fans represented?
When I think of the fandom most often covered on SNL, I think of Star Trek. That fandom has been discussed a number of times. There are two skits that really stick out to me. This first one involves William Shatner (actor who played Captain Kirk) who attends a Star Trek convention.
As you can tell, the fans at the convention are dressed like characters from the show and ask questions as if Shatner is actually Kirk. They are unable to keep actor and character separate. How does Shatner respond to this and more? He tells them to “Get a Life” and that it is weird to dress in character. In fact, they are so weird that they would never be able to have romantic relationships. While, obviously, the skit is supposed to be funny. Taking that into consideration, what makes it funny? Simple. It is based on stereotypes of fans and science fiction/Star Trek fans, most specifically. While we all might laugh at the skit, does a skit like this reinforce those stereotypes? I am not sure. Probably. What I do think is interesting is that this skit came out at a time in which geekdom wasn’t popular. It wasn’t popular at all. Now, it is much cooler to be into something in that genre. Would be fans be represented in the same way now?
Speaking of more modern times, there was another Star Trek skit that sticks out in my mind. This skit features Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine (actors who most recently played Spock and Kirk in the newly rebooted Star Trek). In this case, they addressed concerns that the fans had about how the Star Trek franchise was changing.
Clearly, the idea behind this skit is that fans take things too seriously and are unwilling to change. They refuse to accept a new direction. Hmm…I am sure that there aren’t Duranies who are stuck in thinking that the only good Duran albums were the first three, right? Again, this skit is supposed to be funny because it focuses on the stereotypes of fans, including that they take the object of their fandom too seriously. In fact, they are so serious that they cross the line into scary. Is there truth to this? Perhaps. Does this reinforce stereotypes? Again, probably.
Of course, other fandoms have been featured on Saturday Night Live over the years, including musical fandoms. Not too long ago, SNL took on the hysteria following the band, One Direction. In this skit, an adult tries to prove that he is the band’s number one fan over the pre-teen girls.
How does this clip do in terms of representing fandom? Obviously, his behavior is supposed to look silly since he is an adult. Thus, he should not be doing the things that the preteen fans do like know trivia, compete over who is going to marry which band member, plan to name children after them, push through the crowd to get an autograph and more. Since this particular clip hits close to home for most of us reading this blog, I have to admit that I laughed and laughed at this one, too. Again, the jokes are funny when they are based on stereotypes. Clearly, there are a ton of stereotypes about young, female fans. Are some of them true? Sure. Does it then reinforce the idea that fandom is only for young girls who do silly things? It does that, too, I think.
It is difficult to analyze comedy in terms of how it does with fandom because it is MEANT to be funny. It isn’t supposed to be taken seriously in the same way that documentaries are. That said, it can reinforce stereotypes, even stereotypes involving fandom. Now, on that note, I understand that there was a skit on SNL about Spring Break in the UK in which Duran Duran shows up. I believe Chris Farley was playing Simon. Clearly, if my understanding is correct, the stereotypes in that skit weren’t about fans but about the band, or at least Simon. I tried desperately to find it online but couldn’t. If anyone has it, please share!
What do the rest of you think? Are these portrayals of fans accurate? Are they exaggerations based on commonly held beliefs? Do they reinforce negative assumptions?