On Gender, Rock Criticism, And My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection

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by Keidra Chaney

I’ve been reading with amusement the blog “My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection” and following with interest the resulting debates around the blog. Quick recap: writer Sarah O’Holla created a Tumblr to review her husband’s collection of 1500 vinyl LP’s. It’s music criticism served with a side of snark – not too dissimilar from the kind of writing we do at TLF, and definitely written from the perspective of a semi-interested musical bystander, which is novel in the world of music writing where these days everyone must be an obsessive expert.

The debate around this blog comes from some critics who find the blog’s tone to be problematic; specifically that it reinforces stereotypes about the place women music fans hold in rock fandom, particularly the idea that women aren’t discerning collectors and critics of rock music.

Here’s what Slate’s Amanda Hess had to say:

“When O’Holla reviews an Anthrax album by writing, “Okay, yes, they’re saying ‘murder’ over and over again, next is ‘hatred.’ AHHH!!!!! I’m so scared!!!,” she’s throwing an elbow straight to the belly of the music bro. But seen another way, her exercise is not very funny at all, because it helps those same music-nerd dudes who have boxed women out of the subculture—keeping them on the periphery in the roles of wives and girlfriends—to share the link as confirmation that women just don’t get it.”

I get this argument. The tone of “My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection” does reinforce the Nick Hornby/Judd Apatow “obsessive fanboy man-child and exasperated wife/girlfriend” trope I don’t take personal offense to it because its so prevalent in pop culture I’ve become desensitized when I see it. But it is annoying, and it does add just enough fuel to the fire to make things harder for women attempting to establish a voice for themselves in the boys club of rock criticism -and fandom. It does place women firmly on the outside looking in, reinforces the same of gendered assumptions about women and criticism – that critical, “meaningful” discussion about music is not in our nature. And of course, it gives chronic mansplainers one more excuse to interrupt us while we’re talking to tell us stuff we already know.

But I also think this blog is important, and needed for music fans of any gender, because it makes music criticism more open and accessible to those new to such conversations, which doesn’t happen nearly enough – particularly online, where musical knowledge is collected and categorized like baseball stats, and music nerd conversation seems to be centered around the idea of de-legitimatizing others’ tastes to prove musical superiority. Pitchfork has pretty much created a cottage industry around rock-bro fandom and the state of online music writing and fandom has adjusted itself to that standard, rather than allowing other voices in. Perhaps fans are connected to My Husband’s Stupid Music Collection precisely because it is speaking to an audience outside of the rock-bro elite and it potentially opens up online music fandom more broadly than it would ever go if left in the hands of said music bros. And goodness knows that is needed.

I want to add, as an aside, that I’ve been lucky to not experience nearly as much of the condescension and harassment that my colleagues have experienced in my rock music writing and fandom. Maybe it is because my racial identity, or more specifically my experience as a black woman tends to inform my perspective more than gender alone, or because I have a unique enough name that often my gender isn’t immediately evident, or – let’s go there for a second – maybe my identity as a black woman defeminizes how I am perceived in the eyes of some. I dunno, and I would need a whole other post to unpack that.

But I know it’s a very real occurrence for many, and I think it has as much to do with how music genres are gendered as well, how pop music is an acceptable genre for women to lend their critical voice to – probably the only genre that women’s voices are considered legitimate, and then it often gets de-ranked from “true” music criticism into “celebrity journalism” There are a lot of bigger issues about the field of cultural criticism, who gets to be called legitimate, what in pop culture gets to be called legitimate, that come to the surface in discussion about the My Husband’s Stupid Record Collection blog.

I Read A Book: Fic: Why Fanfiction Is Taking Over the World

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by Keidra Chaney

The publication of Textual Poachers in 1992 opened the door of acceptance for an academic study of fan communities and transformative works, and there’s been a multitude of articles, books and even conferences that focus on fandom. A lot of these books tend to focus on the social structures of fandom, legal/political economy factors, or critical theory. All of them serve to broaden the dialogue about transformative works and popular culture – both within fan communities and also among pop culture enthusiasts who aren’t fan creators.

Anne Jamison’s Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over The World is another valuable addition to this broader dialogue. With an academic background in comparative literature and a personal connection to the fanfic community as a beta reader, Jamison’s book approaches fanfiction from the perspective of literary history and critical analysis, referencing contemporary media fandom’s roots in print literature, such as Sherlock Holmes well-known and enduring influence in the fan-writing community.

The book also explores literary practices that pre-date fanfiction as we commonly know it. In an early chapter, Jamison cites examples of fans that feel a sense of ownership of another author’s creation: she recounts the correspondence between a passionate teen fan and Samuel Richardson about the end of his novel Clarissa and mentions William Makepeace Thackeray, who wrote proto-fanfic about Rebecca in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Jamison illustrates that the desire to “play in the sandboxes” of other writers is not just limited to amateur or novice writers but is part of a broader literary culture.

Fic explores the continually evolving relationships between fiction creators, owners, and fans- an interaction between media creators and fans that existed well before the internet and even television. For example, Jamison mentions that Star Trek showrunners were very much aware of the show’s early zine fandom and actually tweaked the show’s focus to Kirk and Spock’s friendship as a response to the tastes of female fans. Jamison connects the parallel histories of literary critique and commentary writing, early print-based science fiction zine fandom, early internet fan-writing communities, and contemporary media fandoms including Harry Potter and Twilight.

All of this is done in a very accessible, personal way. It’s an academic book for sure but Jamison’s writing reflects sincere enthusiasm for the fan-fiction community as well her literary education. She is not comfortable using the term “aca-fan” to describe her work, but if anything is a perfect marriage of scholarly knowledge and fangirl enthusiasm, it’s Jamison’s writing in this book.

However, Jamison does not serve as Fic’s singular voice, and in fact, stresses within the book that the fan-fiction community is best represented through featuring a diversity of voices and perspectives. The book is primarily an anthology, featuring critical essays, interviews, and personal essays from a wide swath of fandoms and genre writing communities (Francesca Coppa, Kristina Busse and Amber Benson to name just three.) The anthology format opens up the conversation on provocative fandom topics (Real Person Fic, Slash, the influence of Big Name Fans and fan-writers gone pro like Cassandra Clare and E.L. James) This diversity sometimes makes the quality and voice of some of the writing inconsistent compared to Jamison’s solid contributions. Even so, Fic is definitely an informative and enjoyable guide to the culture and history of fan-fiction that will appeal to veteran fan-writers and pop-culture folloers who may be too intimidated to jump into this rich subculture.

Summary: Recommended background reading for those new to fan-fiction and a worthy skim for fandom vets

An Open Letter to Fangirls About Anglophilia

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by Vivian Obarski

Dear Geek girls and Geek women –

First off, I’m coming from a place of love. Don’t get me wrong. But we need to talk. Specifically about the Anglophilia I’ve been seeing lately. Whether it’s Doctor Who, Sherlock, Shakespeare or whatever else, it seems like a lot of us geeks of the female persuasion are falling all over themselves when it comes to the boys from across the pond.

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Nevermind the fact that tea came from Asia first (and what’s with never seeing stuff like “I like my men, like I like my tea. Hot and Chinese,” or “Hot and Indian”? Or if you’re gonna do Hot and British, why not some other guys like Idris Elba, Adrian Lester or Dev Patel — why’s the majority skinny white actors? I’m just askin’ yo.), but this stuff is really getting on my nerves as of late.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had to deal with the whole fetish thing as a Chinese-American woman, but I can’t help but feel for our friends from across the pond. It’s like a European version of those movies where the white people go to Asia and discover themselves thanks to a bunch of well-meaning, quirky native folk. Yes. I am being sarcastic.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s a lot of good stuff from England. I like a shepherd’s pie, Jaffa Cakes, Spaced, the comedy of Monty Python, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and tons more, but the impression I get from a lot of people online as of late is that England (because let’s be real, it’s England — specifically London a lot of Anglophiles are talking about) is better than anywhere else in the world.

Really?

REALLY?

That’s the thing of fetishizing that is gross to me (and it doesn’t matter the object of the fetish). It’s not an accurate or true picture of a place — and it’s not even necessarily an outdated view of a place, but more of what that place can fulfill in a person that they feel is lacking (see my last review of Seeking Asian Female) in their own lives. Maybe American men are lacking in manners and are kinda crass at times, but you know what? That’s everywhere. England is no better. I mean, the country gave us the viral story of a man getting his head stuck in a trash bin. Maybe we’re not as refined, but again, we’re talking about a country that also gave us Ali G In Da House. Not exactly the most dry and refined of comedies (disclaimer — I love Ali G in Da House — it’s just over the top stupid and I’ve found myself singing Montell Jordan and other New Jack Swing songs days later).

I’ve seen way too many essays on why BBC television is better than American television, which somehow ignores the fact that there’s a lot of brilliant American television like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. Let’s not forget that Coupling was basically a spin on Friends, people. Moffat didn’t write the sexy friends comedy first. Nothing is original. We all riff and borrow ideas from each other. Moffatt is not the alpha and omega of writing (dear lord I hope not). I have yet to hear a British rapper outside of M.I.A. who can throw down with our rap artists here.

I just get this sense that with people with severe cases of anglophilia, it’s similar to people who love Mad Men and wish that they could live in the cool mod elegance of the 1960’s. What they’re looking for is an idealized notion of a simpler, or (on the surface) more civilized, posh or refined place that just doesn’t exist. It’s all illusions based on idealized notions. But maybe I get cranky about this because I’m unapologetically American. I was born and raised and continue to live in Wisconsin, and much like how Leslie Knope feels about Pawnee, I love Wisconsin, even though there is much room for improvement (I’m looking at you Governor Walker).

I also get cranky too because I’ve heard and seen enough about the bullshit that happens overseas to strip illusions away. There is no place that will be perfect. No city or country that will live up to one’s idealized notions. And until those fetishized notions are burned down, I don’t think you can love something fully. You’re just chasing dreams and never feeling satisfied.

Love,

Vivian

I Read A Book: Laina Dawes’ What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal

Tamar-Kali and her band in Chicago

Tamar-Kali and her band in Chicago

-By Raizel Liebler

If you are a fan, you should read Laina DawesWhat are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal. Seriously. Yes, if you happen to sit in the middle of the venn diagram of North American, African-descent, female, and fan (or creator) of metal, then this book will likely speak more closely of your own personal experience.

But it is important for fans, consumers, and producers of media more generally to hear about these experiences — about lines of inclusion and exclusion. This book is part of the continued serious discussion about fandom — and I would place it alongside Henry Jenkins’s Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture and Deena Weinstein’s Heavy Metal: The Music and the Culture. These were some of the first books that took fandom seriously and showed that fans weren’t mindless Deceptacons, following the lead of big Consumerism (Megatron), but participants in the creation and continuation of culture. Henry Jenkins inspired many, including us to create The Learned Fangirl, and I fully expect What Are You Doing Here? to do the same for future audiences.

Dawes weaves together the disparate threads of perceptions of women of African descent (especially in North America), the history of Black women artists that “rock”, the experiences of fans first finding and engaging with metal, and about the difficulties of staying a metalhead for Black women. This isn’t an academic book — instead it is a work of cultural journalism — but it is smart throughout.

Dawes writes movingly about her fandom and the fandom of other Black women:

Talking to people for the first time about my favorite music, I catch myself preparing for the inevitable. I mentally rehearse my replies before the questions about my musical preference arise. I find the process stressful–and I wonder if I am being paranoid for thinking I will have to defend myself. … Black metalheads, especially black women, can expect to be publicly regarding their behavior, through negative comments, or in some cases, physical harassment. (83, 82)

Despite barriers, the black women that Dawes interviews still forge a connection to the music that speaks to them … and their experiences. She writes about fans who are accepted (except when they are not) and the difficulties of Black female metal musicians, finding the right “niche” in the present music industry.

I especially appreciate the discussions of sexism and racism in metal, including the different ways that Black female metalheads deal with these elements — ranging from limiting their music fandoms to dismissing anything that stands in the way of their love of the music. Dawes spends a large section of one chapter describing the aftermath of one particular example of racism — a statement by Pantera’s Phil Anselmo at a concert in the mid-90s. She describes the impact this had on metal fans, and those that use this statement as a rallying cry. But she also describes how Anselmo decries his past behavior, including but not limited to that statement, but (It is strange however that she doesn’t discuss the sexism that creeped into Pantera’s music at the same time; both negative moves have been later rejected by Anselmo.)

This book also comes at an important time for metal. Despite the stereotype by many that metal is now only the brutal subgenres that are from Scandinavia, much of U.S. metal is being created by bands that include women of people of color — ranging from Metallica & Slayer through Living Colour and Sepultura — and now TV on the Radio, etc.

Too often the only white guy asked “What are you doing here?” is Doctor Who — and he’s fictional (and not human). Privilege allows only a limited group of people to have any musical taste accepted by all — and hopefully this book will be an important step in showing that metal is music for all.

Summary: Metal isn’t music for white dudes  — it is music for all, and Dawes’ book helps to prove it.

For more, TLF has an interview with Dawes here and here is her NPR interview.

(Disclaimer: The other co-founder of TLF, Keidra Chaney, is one of the interviewees cited in the book, including mentions of her important essay in Bitch Magazine — Sister, Outsider, Headbanger.)

TLF has bad taste: The “our remix album drops in 2012″ edition

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Around December every year, music critics put out their lists of best albums of the year. Considering much of what we liked this year were singles, live recordings, and the new Baroness, we are presenting to you, the readership of TLF, our favorite music that is probably not quality, but we still love – and not ironically.

Below are the first four songs in our TLF has bad taste series proving both that we don’t know how to do a year in review — and own our bad taste.

You’ve Got the Touch – Stan Bush (1986) & Dirk Diggler (1997)

This song has the unique distinction of being used in crucial scenes in two very different films: Transformers: The Animated Movie in 1986 and Boogie Nights in 1997. This song is corny to be sure, the kind of squealy guitar-driven anthem that 80’s films are now derided for, but the original version is delivered with such passion and sincerity it’s hard not to love it. It makes me feel better about myself at least, it pumps me up when I’m at the gym, going shopping, drinking a beer, doing a PowerPoint presentation. The Boogie Nights version sung by Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg (badly), was used cleverly by Paul Thomas Anderson in more of a “guy hitting rock bottom” context, making it no less awesome, but for a different, darker reason. – KDC

Down Boys – Warrant (1989)

Once again I come out of the hair metal closet. Music snobs love to hate on the hair metal bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s, because of the cheese factor, even though bands like Warrant, Skid Row and the like spanked the grunge set, when it comes to performance and overall star quality. Warrant especially gets a bad rep because of Cherry Pie, which honestly, is an awful song, not just because of its sexist video. Even though I pledge allegiance to the (mostly) heavier side of metal, I cannot deny the awesomeness of Down Boys. I will seek it out on Rdio, I will blast it with no shame. The song is tough but melodic, catchy and dripping with ‘tude. The hook is undeniable, the chorus made for a boozy sing-along. Jani Lane went to his grave trying to run from the spectre of Cherry Pie, but I’ll always remember Warrant for this song, one of the best that hair metal had to offer. – KDC

Fantasy (Remix) — Mariah Carey (1995)

We listened to Mariah through her early “no; absolutely not — my mom is an opera singer; my dad is Latino; yes, I’m mixed” era, but had stopped being fans by the time she got too close to ice cream. However, Mariah had her best worst song in her from Glitter. Put together Puffy, ODB from WuTang rapping a simile comparing babies and pacifiers to his relationship with Miss M, the world’s longest sample of the Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love, and you have music history. This song is so wrong, it’s right. We haven’t yet seen this remix at karaoke, but when we do, there will be ownage. This is also the only song on our list that “real” critics have tried to justify their love of and also led to one of our all-time favorite New York Times corrections. -RL

Volume Up –4Minute (2012)

I like k-pop unashamedly. However, no matter how bubblegum-tastic kpop can be, sometimes it just goes too far. This song puts together almost everything I generally hate about music — saxophone (I normally turn off any song with sax), 4/4 time, in a major key, screeching Dio-like female singing, pointless rising crescendo, an abrupt ending … but somehow it just works as a complete ridiculous whole and I just can’t help but like it. Perhaps this is a long-delayed reaction to how I don’t super-hate the worst song ever created on purpose. -RL

TLF Says You Should Be Watching: Answer Me 1997

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The Learned Fangirl is steeped in the experience of being a fangirl. Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly enough pop culture examples that are from the perspective of fangirls. Fortunately, there is Answer Me 1997 (2012), a Korean drama, half-set in 1997, the starting point for K-pop’s unending hallyu wave of manufactured groups. This is a show for present or former fangirls of music — from Beatlemaniacs through the Metallica/Megadeth fan battles to those with Bieber fever.

What is so delightful about this show — from the first episode to the last — is that it shows fandom as a powerful, distracting, encompassing, and motivating force in the lives of fans, especially female fans. The show starts when the characters are teenagers, so it shows all of the aspect of high drama that only is possible with the heady mix of hormones, groupthink, and innocent obsessiveness of teenage girls. I laughed knowingly during the first episode when the main character Shi Won almost loses her mind dancing along to H.O.T. in the aisles, nearly passing out from pure fandom excitement.

Throughout the show, fandom is respected in a way rarely seen (and even rarer to see sustained through the entire run of a show). Friendships are tested, but never broken, due to being part of different fandoms. The show is based around the real-life Sechskies/H.O.T. fanwars, but also delves into real world issues, such as inclusiveness, especially of gay (& closeted) fans to traditionally female fandoms.

The fandom of the characters is so serious that one of the main characters as an adult is still known as Mrs. Tony — her teenage nickname based on her love of Tony (from H.O.T). And as an adult, a minor character despite her high profile job, still manages to be the head of a fan club. There is also a strong flavor for the idea that being an obsessive fan is passed down from mother to daughter — even if the object of the fandom varies, much in a similar way to the honored tradition of sports fandom being passed from father to son.

To show the recursive aspects of the show, most of the actors on the show have also been the objects of this type of fandom, considering many of them have been idol singers themselves. The writers clearly know how much they are poking at fandom by having the equivalent of a former real-life Backstreet Boy (here: member of Sechskies) portray the boyfriend of an obsessive fan of the Backstreet Boys.

This is a show that believes in fandom so much that a character wins a college scholarship based on her real-person slash-fanfic about her favorite group.

Dramabeans has great recaps of all of the episodes, but to watch the show, try Dramafever (my recommendation), Hulu, or VIKI. Be sure to watch Episode 0 if you want background on H.O.T. or other aspects of mid-90s Korean pop.

Learned Fangirls discuss fandom misogyny

Is sexism in increasing in online fan communities?

by Vivian Obarski and Keidra Chaney

This conversation was on the heels of an in-person conversation that Viv and I had earlier this year, there’s much less profanity, but the ideas are the same. – KDC

VO: Is it just me or is this year the year of harassing geek women? There’s been tons of news about people questioning Felicia Day’s geek cred, the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian for the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games web series and the whole line of “what’s a real geek”? What’s even funnier is seeing this happen roughly at the same time as what was going on in the metal scene.

KDC: Definitely not just you, I think it’s happening in a number of fan communities, that “Girls don’t like metal” post from Metal Sucks comes to mind, even though it was last year. And there have definitely been similar sentiments pop up in other blogs. It’s like open season on chicks who dare to enjoy any kind of pop culture that isn’t Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey. And it’s weird to me because I swear this level of anger towards women in fan communities seems relatively recent, or at least more pronounced as of late.

Is sexism in increasing in online fan communities?

Cross-gender Justice League at San Diego Comic-Con 2011Image; Roger Chang, Flickr


VO: I think that some of this that the conversation is coming to the forefront. The Internet is offering the ability for women to speak up and tell their stories and I suspect that (geek-wise) they’re upset because they’ve always been seen as the outsiders that welcome everyone, and it turns out it’s not quite the case. Plenty of my friends have stories of being talked down to or having people play their characters at conventions or where gaming professionals talk to their boyfriends or husbands even though they asked the question.

The anger to me is reactionary to them finally being called out on their shit. And it’s not every guy, but it’s also food for thought on the culture as a whole.

KDC: I definitely agree with you, it’s not like like girl geeks are anything new. they’re not even new to fandom, or online fan communities (i am thinking of old school Star Trek fandom, or the Beauty and the Beast TV show or X-Files fandom in the 90’s) But I do think social media has brought different subsections and fandom niches together in a way that never happened as much before and allowed (forced?) them to co-exist. There’s not a cross-pollination of fandom in-jokes, tropes and culture and maybe for some fanboys, I think there’s a feeling that their special club has been invaded.

Fandom diversity because “mainstream” with social media because it encourages a higher level of transparency, rather than the total anonymity of the old school Internet (BBS, Usenet, etc.) I’m sure back in the day, people thought I was a guy, with the screenname “Pastor of Muppets,” and the fact that I never made a point to call attention to my gender (or for that matter, my race) I’ve had a couple of different experiences with this because as a metalhead, I feel like I’ve not really been talked down to or condescended to much, but then, I’m not super active in online metal fandom, where I think there’s more of that kind of behavior. Personally, I feel like male-dominated online fan culture tends to be more combative by nature, which I think plays a big role.

VO: I think it’s also seeing a different perspective that may not mesh with what they want — for example the vitriol aimed at DC’s reboot and their portrayal of Starfire (which is really, really awful and I can’t see letting my daughter read that, even though she loves Tiny Titans and Teen Titans). It’s like they fail to realize that there’s other audiences out there and it’s more diverse than what they think.

What I don’t get is that by ridiculing others, they’re alienating a potential audience that was ALWAYS there, but never noticed. To say that we’re not “real geeks” or that our voices don’t matter is incredibly insulting. I mean, being ignored is one thing, but outright dismissed? That’s fucking war in my book. But this also reminds me of the rock scene and how people start slagging off on an indie band when they start playing MTV or getting larger audience notice. They’re not selling out – there’s just a wider audience than what you initially thought.

KDC: I do feel like issues of wanting to maintain the status quo come into play: people want what they want and in many cases, especially with fandom, radical change on any level is usually not welcomed with open arms, but this is different to me, this has way more to do with (here we go…) privilege and entitlement, the belief that these communities were only meant for men and can only speak to men and that women are interlopers. I think about the whole music blogger trend of classifying melodic or (non-brootal) metal as “girlfriend metal” as if a.) only women like melody b.) only melodic bands are “safe” or “appropriate” for women. Which of course is some grade- A bullshit. I really do think it has to do with the idea that women are not only participating in these fan communities, but also carving out spaces where the approval and participation of male fans as so – called “experts” is not needed or even considered as a factor of our own enjoyment.

So what to do? Is there anything we, as fangirls, can do, except continue to speak out and be ourselves?

VO: What I’ve seen from my friends, and what I tend to do is just keep on keeping on. Don’t leave because of some asshats (and really, most of the geek dudes I meet at Gen Con are good players and good guys overall) are being jerks. You call them out on that shit and make them rethink their positions. Also, for me, having a good group of friends who are willing to speak up also helps. My view is that they need to be reminded that we won’t go away. We are here to stay and we will continue doing what we like to do, even if you’re weirded out, feel the need to categorize it or talk down to us. We’re here whether you want us around or not.

We’d like to hear your thoughts. Is sexism in fandom on the rise? Or are we just hearing about it more via social media? Leave your comments!

Why We Can’t Nave Nice Things: The Return of Jem

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Well, it’s happened. Integrity Toys has partnered with Hasbro to capitalize on the nostalgia of late-20 to mid-30 somethings and create Jem and the Holograms collector dolls. It worked for Barbie. Now for $125, you can have a Hollywood Jem right out of season two. Only now she kind of looks like a cross between Debbie Harry and RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Morgan McMichaels.


It was kind of inevitable. Collector dolls are big business; just ask any hardcore Barbie fans or even some of comic geeks (just don’t call them dolls!) And of course, after the explosive popularity of the Transformers live-action movie and the not-as-explosive popularity of the G.I. live-action movie and the successful reboot of the My Little Pony toy line, Jem was the logical next step. Not to mention, Jem fandom has stood the test of time: there’s a JemCon (yes, there’s a JemCon) and the TV show box set sold pretty well. So I get why Integrity Toys would release a collector doll, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. And in the case of Jem and the Holograms, I am vehemently against it.

Jem and the Holograms
has remained one of the few, relatively untouched remnants of 80’s pop culture, precisely because it is SO DAMN 80’s. The neon colors, the keytars, the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” hair, the keytars, the questionable sartorial choices (Pizazz and her one knee-high sock), the keytars, the 2 minute highly repetitive songs advertising the latest doll (“Glitter and Gold”) AND THE KEYTARS. I am a firm believer that the only reason we haven’t seen a live action version of Jem yet is because no screenwriter has figured out how to approach it. Is it a nostalgia piece set in the 80’s? Will Jem and the Holograms/The Misfits somehow be transported to the present day and go through culture shock? Will it be a snarky statement on the music industry in the post-Napster age? Clearly I’ve been thinking about this, but either way, I’m glad nothing serious has ever come from it.

My Jem fandom has unwavered because it’s been able to exist firmly in my memories (and YouTube), and I fear Jem’s move into collector doll territory is the last step before a full-on reboot. New dolls that look like Bratz or something. A live action movie with Katy Perry that is “darker” than the TV series (whatever that means) and with updated crappy Katy Perry music, because, of course.

So I know, if I don’t like the doll I don’t have to buy the doll, and I won’t. (I bet you they are totally gonna make the Shana doll, if they make one, look like a purple haired Beyonce) But these days, what seems to pass as popular culture these days is just lazy retreads from the 80’s. Transformers was ruined for me, so was G.I. Joe, now Jem is about to get destroyed and I WILL NOT STAND FOR IT. I WANT MY MEMORIES. At this point the only 80’s toy/cartoon nostalgia I’ll have left is She-Ra. And that’s not really worth remembering.

Unexpected Allies: Decibel Magazine’s Feminist Take on the DC Reboot

In the December 2011 issue of Decibel magazine (“America’s only extreme music magazine”), I read the interesting, but expected Dave-Mustaine-this-time-he-is-totes-over-his-feuds-he-means-it-even-if-he-is-called-SuperDave-and-Junior-isn’t-called-Junior story; lots of short articles with bands filled with fourth-degree clones of Zakk Wylde; and the usual review of extreme albums that I won’t be listening to.

But unexpectedly, especially for a magazine dedicated to metal and other extreme music, there is an actual for-real feminist take on the DC reboot that says that treating women as soulless objects is not entertainment. For an audience that reads a magazine featuring bands with album covers that will give children nightmares.

Unfortunately not online, Joe Gross’ one-page column dissects the reason why the reboot doesn’t make economic sense, by turning away girls and women (and men and boys) that aren’t interested in a “cruel, violent vibe and crueler sexual politics”, asking the question “Who the fuck is this crap for?”

He says that between the reboot “and a noticeable decline in women creators at DC, it would be tough for the company to have constructed a bigger “Fuck you, we don’t want your money” to potential female readers”. And that is a potentially huge loss for an industry that could use new readers — or at least not lose older newly disgusted fans. Perhaps it is just those that I know, but a large percentage of the comics fans I know *are* people of difference (such as women/girls, people of color, gay/queer, some other other, or a combination) — not the stereotype of Comic Book Guy.

One of the benefits of having this article written for this particular audience is demonstrated by the pull-quote on the page:

I’ve seen hardcore, [gnzo p!@#] that treated women with more dignity that DC is treating those two gals [, Catwoman and Starfire]

THAT knowledge is not likely to be found by writers from traditional feminist sources, even third-wave ones.

Gross also references “the terrific essay” by Laura Hudson on Comics Alliance, The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their “Liberated Sexuality”.

Thank you, Decibel. And to Shortpacked (who created the economics of comics comic above). And to all of the disappointed seven-year old American comics fans, may I suggest mahou shoujo (and manhwa)? It isn’t without issues, but that’s where I’m sending the comics-loving kids in my life.

Nine Inch Nails fan video project rebrands as pan-fandom collective

Interesting news for both fans of NIN and followers of fan culture, fan-works and ownership. The grassroots fan organized video production collective This One is On Us made some waves for their organization and dedication to documenting Nine Inch Nails last tour with high-quality video and audio recording. As mentioned in a TLF post from last year, this was done with the  approval of Trent Reznor, who loosened venue taping policies so that fans could participate. And as we presented at MIT, Nine Inch Nails has been highly supportive of fan remix/reuse.

With NIN on an indefinite hiatus, the TOIOU  fan community has announced a “rebranding” of the collective, now with  a broader, pan-fandom focus. The organization will no longer be NIN specific, based on the collective’s early draft of a mission statement, that states:

We aim to restore live music as a shared, passionate entity, and work with those who embrace new media and the realities of the Internet to build on their relationship with fans through collaboration and to create unique documents of their live events. Providing organizational, technical and financial support, we encourage fan communities to plan and execute first-rate film and audio recordings, and turn the resulting content into professional quality releases.

In addition, the organizers intend to formally establish TOIOU as a non-profit organization.

Interesting news, and worth watching. TOIOU was able to exist and succeed based in part because of the unusually collaborative and open relationship between Reznor and his fans. If TOIOU is to take this model and attempt to replicate it in other music fandoms, particularly for mainstream, big-ticket musical artists with particularly devoted live fanbases,  but a more restrictive approach to fan relations. I expect challenges for the group in future.

Metallica and their historically tight rein on fan-produced live recordings comes to mind because the band has been charging members for high-quality recordings of live performances for years now (yet they have also previously made money from fan recordings). Will TOIOU become a sort of fan advocacy organization? One that assists  fan-producers with the infrastructure support to pull of what the NIN fandom did? The current draft of the mission statement seems to imply this, but it is, admittedly, a work in progress.

YouTube has become a sort of live music library where fans (including myself) may share and upload videos of their favorite musician’s latest performances. For live music junkies there’s opportunity in this.  For record labels and big-ticket live music  promoters, there is a perceived threat. TOIOU has a lot of work cut our for it, but I am excited to see where it goes next.

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