The Learned Fangirl http://thelearnedfangirl.com The Learned Fangirl - a website about pop culture and the internet Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:18:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.9 There Is A Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult Lit, and It Does Matter http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/there-is-a-difference-between-middle-grade-and-young-adult-lit-and-it-does-matter/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/there-is-a-difference-between-middle-grade-and-young-adult-lit-and-it-does-matter/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 16:17:43 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10131 By Sarah Hannah Gómez

If you are a Book Person, you’ve heard of young adult literature, more commonly referred to as YA. As the Hunger Games movies were hitting screens, everybody on the internet became obsessed with YA. Each and every ladies’ lifestyle site, newsmagazine and entertainment blog was publishing some version of a listicle about favorite YA heroines or best YA books to read when you’ve finished Harry Potter.

Young adult literature is for teenagers, and it honors their experience going through the torture that is adolescence. Special imprints at publishers and specific editors are dedicated to finding stories that will resonate with teenagers. Promotional budgets are earmarked for cool swag designed to make books, authors, and fandoms as big a deal as 1D. YA, a category (not genre) of literature that has been around for 30, 50, or 70 years depending on where you start counting, is an amazing gift to give the demographic that feels (rightfully, thanks to a combination of actual neurological symptoms and sociological beliefs) betrayed, confused, alone, on display, and ignored. It’s also a place where women run much of the show, girls are heroes, and young people save the world while the adults around them are largely impotent, sadistic, or just incompetent. Whether it’s science fiction, realistic fiction, or fantasy, YA books are acquired by YA editors, rather than adult fiction editors, because they celebrate and bask in the immediacy of being a teenager, of experiencing things for the first time. YA characters are gritty.

The problem with the YA bandwagon articles wasn’t that they wanted to celebrate how cool YA is. The problem with those listicles was that most of them, regardless of what superlative they were going for, were rounding up a bunch of books that share the label “I read this before I was old enough to vote,” not YA. Harriet the Spy? Smart, feisty, subtly queer, awesome kid. YA? No. Harriet is 11 years old, and the book is for kids. Madeline? Adorable. Also a book with a large trim size, very few words, and a great deal of pictures, making it….a picturebook!

The YA community, made up mostly of writers, agents, editors, critics, scholars, and librarians, was not feeling this. Find any one of those articles, and you will find fights in the comments between people who didn’t know what YA was until The Hunger Games and one of us. They say it’s an amorphous term, we tell them it’s not; they say it’s evolving, we remind them that we’ve been watching it for years, and they’ve been watching it for weeks. And everybody outside of the community just stares blankly when they hear the term “middle grade.”

What’s middle grade? You know it as “children’s books” or “children’s novels,” and it’s for those  between 8 and 12 years old. Middle grade is what the canon is made of: The Wind in the Willows, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Penderwicks…those are middle grade. There is a long, robust tradition of novels in this category, especially after the industrial revolution and even more so after the labor movement, as ever more children started going to school instead of to work. When you have kids with the freedom to be kids, you have kids with the time and the literacy to read books. If you walk into the children’s room of a public library today, or if you flip through the mental library of books you read as a kid, you probably notice some common motifs. Kids are powerful, smart, and cooperative. They work together, and they save the world.

Adolescence took a long time to be invented at all, and it took an even longer time to become a somewhat stable archetype. It’s only in recent human history that people a) live long enough for adolescence to be a different physical experience than adulthood; and b) live in a society that indulges an extended period of fooling around, experimenting, and generally doing nothing to benefit society. And it’s really only in the last few decades that medical advances have allowed us to understand that adolescent brains truly are distinct from children’s and adults’ brains, and they respond to stimuli in a different way.

The “first” YA books were published before there was a term for it, and each was published by an adult press, not a children’s imprint. Those titles are Maureen Daly’s Seventeenth Summer (1942), J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951), and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders (1967). But if you really want to talk early YA, you look to the 80s and 90s. You name authors like Robert Cormier (The Chocolate War), Lois Duncan (I Know What You Did Last Summer), Nancy Garden (Annie on My Mind), and Angela Johnson (Toning the Sweep). These books and authors represent a time when shifts were taking place in children’s departments and editors were taking stock and making plans for what they were realizing was an untapped market. What’s going on in these books? Teens are battling things that are more inside than all around them, they’re experiencing it now (as opposed to many teenaged narrators in adult fiction, who more often than not have retrospective glance on the things they are experiencing) and in the end, they save themselves. They’re not simply slightly older Pevensie siblings, gone again to Narnia.

So why does it matter that the entire internet, minus the incredibly vibrant internet subculture dedicated to children’s and young adult literature that knows it better than anyone else, uses the term “YA” so indiscriminately?

I used to be a librarian, and there is no word I hated to hear more than “appropriate.” I do, however, believe that books should “resonate,” and the work of librarians, teachers, and other adults who get books into the hands of non-adults is undermined by casual internet journalism’s insistence that anything written for people too young to buy cigarettes is YA. There are tons of YA books out there that are great, that I would hand to every 17-year-old who walked in the door, but I would never give it to an 11-year-old. That’s not because the tween can’t “handle” it or lacks the reading level. It’s because good books with good editors and good marketing departments are aimed at the people they will most resonate with. An 11-year-old is not experiencing the same things, physiologically or socially, as a 17-year-old. They should not be reading the same books. They deserve to have books that are for each of them as individuals.

Middle grade literature has its giants and its celebrities, both in the form of today’s author-superstars and in the reverence we hold for editors long gone, like Ursula Nordstrom. Kids have skills and needs that are met by these books, from vocabulary level to themes to alignment with developmental stages. YA is not for them, and the authors of the amazing middle grade novels that hit shelves each year deserve to be celebrated for the people they choose to serve—children.

The same goes with teens, but with higher stakes. The best thing about YA is that it taps into a demographic that is never interested in doing anything an adult says they should do and, without trying to teach a lesson or change any minds, simply offers a story that says, “I see you.” Ever since adults jumped onto YA, book prices have gone up, which makes it difficult for actual teenagers to afford the books purportedly just for them. New imprints that boldly and loudly assert that they are For! Teen! Readers! strive to reclaim the YA space in the name of real adolescence, but it’s difficult to retain that control when adults (who are by all means welcome to read whatever they want) keep trying to take, twist and rename a cultural product that was not made for them. Content and themes have grown darker, grittier, and more true to the real lives that many teens live, which is wonderful. This fuels the fire of would-be book banners who seek to control what teenagers read before they escape adult clutches and enter the real world. In turn, conflating middle grade and YA mean that more YA is appearing in libraries where it has no place, and that gives way to even more book challenges, because “YA” becomes synonymous with “dark, horrible book about despair.” The people who work to craft stories that successfully do the very difficult job of accurately portraying teen life without inciting an eyeroll and without harming an actual teen along the way deserve praise for what they do.

It’s not about which category (not genre) is better; it’s about not wanting to be given a social studies award when you’re a biology teacher, and not wanting to be asked to sing karaoke when you’re tone-deaf and would rather be painting.


Sarah Hannah Gómez writes, teaches group fitness, sells biotech skincare products, and consults on library- and literature-related matters. She is pursuing a PhD in the history and critical theory of children’s/YA literature. Visit her at shgmclicious.com or on Twitter @shgmclicious

Photo: Young Adult collection in the Salem Public Library in Salem, MA

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Book Review: Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Culture http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/book-review-made-in-korea/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/book-review-made-in-korea/#respond Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:58:49 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10127 by Raizel Liebler

Made in Korea : studies in popular music (2017), edited by Hyunjoon Shin and Seung-Ah Lee is another excellent entry in the growing field of academic studies of Korean pop culture available in English. Thematically, this collection works hard to situate Korean popular music — ranging from folk music through jazz to trot to punk and rock to Korean hiphop through early kpop to present-day kpop — within both a historical and musical context. This context is highly deliberative, with the provocative introduction explaining how little Korean music is understood within larger cultural contexts, both from musicologists and international fans.

Throughout the majority of the essays regardless of specific genre — such as folk or punk — there is a focus on the importance of the push-pull of government intervention on both popularity and music production, from bans (prevention of certain musical forms), to censorship (prevention of certain terms and more), to government financial support of idol labels.

There are also little mentions throughout the book regarding elements in Korean pop culture that would not be apparent to international fans. For example, while discussing trot, the editors mention how to a Korean audience the melody, rhythm, and singing style of the Wonder Girls song Nobody sounds local, while simultaneously to an international audience, it sounds like a Motown girl group throwback sound. (61)

While all of the essays are interesting, two essays specifically reflect present kpop fan studies and production. As snapshots, the importance of these essays will grow in time, considering how little is written about kpop with such an important critical tone. Dong-Yeun Lee’s Who’s Afraid of Korean Idols? even discusses the emotional labor by idols — and how what is perceived to be “real” is carefully constructed: the “idols’ emotional labor–initially taken up for pleasure as well as a means of living a fantastic life– is piled upon real labor.” (177) The cynicism that is nevertheless realistic, considering the churn rate for idol groups, continues: “The idol’s destiny is like that of the fancy flowers that may fall off before others; no one knows when they may not be there anymore.” (178)

Finally, I appreciated what Sun Jung’s chapter, Emerging Social Distribution: The Case of K-pop Circulation in the Global Pop Market, will do for my own research! This chapter focuses how kpop spreads, especially to and among international fans. Jung states “fans and other active audiences develop an expertise for the content and a mastery of distribution technology during which economic and cultural values are generated through audience activities” (57). The spread of kpop is based on a “conceptual paradigm of an intrinsic mixture of two different models–the newly emerging alternative, grassroots-driven, bottom-up model, and the existing, corporate-led, top-down model–in which multilayered regional, global, industry, and audience desires intermingle in the building and acquisition of cultural capital.” (57)

Overall: Strongly recommended for its historical context and discussion of the political economy surrounding Korean popular music. Properly places the popular music of South Korea as both opposition to and benefiting from government and structural forces. Not a casual read!

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TLF at C2E2 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/tlf-at-c2e2/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/tlf-at-c2e2/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 00:52:30 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10125 If you’re gonna be at C2E2 in Chicago this weekend, you can check out TLF co-founder Keidra Chaney at these two panels:

Professional Geek: How to Turn Your Passion into A CareerApril 21, 2017, 5:15 PM – 6:15 PM
A panel of professional geeks from various industries, including video games, music composers, producers, podcasters, and journalists offer the audience sage advice for how to break into your chosen industry, and tell some funny stories of how they got into the jobs they’re in now. Includes a discussion on the different ways that being a geek can help you become a better professional, and advice on everything from copyright law to networking and turning your favorite thing into your career.

Behind The Parable And The Power: A Celebration Of The Black Women Creators Of The ‘Verse
April 22, 2017, 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM
The ladies from A Black Nerd Girl’s Journey and More Than Warriors And Weather Witches are back! This year, we’re going to celebrate the black women behind the pages and productions of our favorite stories from the ‘Verse. We will laud the history of their influence, analyze how far we still need to go, and hopefully hear from the audience how their favorite black women creators have inspired them to pursue their own geeky paths.

Photo by Betsy Scott

 

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Two Asian-American Women Discuss the “Ghost in the Shell” movie http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/asian-american-women-ghost-in-the-shell-movie/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/asian-american-women-ghost-in-the-shell-movie/#respond Thu, 13 Apr 2017 16:35:49 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10120 After years of controversy about casting Scarlett Johansson in the Dreamworks/Paramount live action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, the film opened this month to lackluster reviews and poor box office numbers due to moviegoers’ frustrations with the whitewashing of its main character (Major Motoko Kusanagi/Mira Killian). Dawn Xiana Moon and Michi Trota share their differing takes on the film from the perspective of two Asian-American women with a fondness for the 1995 anime.

Michi: I was a bright eyed college freshman when I saw the original Ghost in the Shell anime. We rented a beat-up VHS (subtitled, not dubbed) from Tower Records in Boston (RIP), and crowded into my teeny dorm room to watch the movie on my old 27” tube TV.

Even though I’m sure I missed a lot of the finer details and subtext, I still remember being struck by the deep philosophical questions about humanity, individual identity, and technology that GitS attempted to tackle. Not only was it hauntingly beautiful (and at times viscerally disturbing) to watch, the story wove a complex dialog about the boundaries between humanity and technology, and where individuality begins and ends.

While Motoko is the main character, the 1995 GitS isn’t so much about her individual journey as it is about what insights her journey reveals about the nature of humanity in a world where technology can either augment or replace not only the human body, but the human mind as well. The result is an unsettling and challenging spectacle that clearly resonated with audiences for over 20 years.

By flipping the story to focus on Mira’s (Motoko) individual journey to awareness, Paramount’s adaptation of GitS manages to strip away everything that made the original so appealing, exchanging it for yet another banal — but visually gorgeous — revenge story about a hero done wrong by an evil organization. Mira’s mysterious past turns out to be a fabrication, and the antagonist she’s hunting down turns out to be another victim of corporate malfeasance and unethical science, rather than an artificial mind that wishes for human mortality. In short order, Mira and her team have no choice but to go rogue in order to find the truth and get justice.

It’s a story that we’ve seen countless times before, one that’s particularly Western in its focus on the triumph of rugged individualism. Multiple shots of Johansson stoically staring into the distance and musing about how “different” and “lonely” she feels in a cybernetic body aren’t nearly enough to convey larger themes of technology’s effect on the humanity and the concept of individuality.

By making Mira unique in her ability to have a fully integrated human mind in a cybernetic body (this wasn’t the case in the 1995 anime, where there were others like her), as well as her retaining her individual identity rather than merging with Kuze (Motoko chose to merge with the Puppet Master), any questions about the nature of humanity and how our evolution may be affected by our relationship with technology is virtually absent in this version of GitS, much to the film’s detriment.

It’s adding insult to the injury that is Paramount’s whitewashing of Motoko by not only re-casting her as a white woman, Scarlett Johansson, in a particularly wooden performance, but by also literally making whitewashing the root of Mira’s story. Mira was originally a young Japanese dissident woman, named Motoko Kusanagi, in what was clearly Paramount’s attempt at a clever nod to the original but comes off as especially condescending, who was taken by a greedy white corporate mogul and white scientist so that her brain could be transplanted into a cybernetic body, a successful merging of technology and flesh that heralds the next evolution of humanity.

Naturally, that cybernetic body wears the face of a white woman. In effect, it’s pulling a Reverse Psylocke on Motoko/Mira, a narrative choice that’s breathtaking in its blatant ignorance of white supremacy and cultural context. This same whitewashed fate was presumably forced upon Kuze, the other major character, as well, whose current body wears a white face but whose mind originally belonged to a young man named Hideo.

This choice to have people of color living within white bodies poisons the entire film, because there’s no escaping the subtext that even in this futuristic world where miraculous things are possible, the culmination of human evolution apparently wears a white face with a mind that’s been wiped of her ethnic identity. If the aim of the story was to comment on how white supremacy abuses POC bodies and twists our minds to idealize and internalize whiteness out of a sense of entitlement to our entire selves, it missed. Horribly. Instead, GitS’s narrative is the concept of how “not seeing race” always defaults to “white” writ large.

It’s all a damn shame because aesthetically, GitS is beautifully rendered, full of glorious futuristic neon signs and holographic 3D ads amidst shining towers of metal and glass, with subtle callbacks to dystopian science fiction classics like Bladerunner. Seeing the film in IMAX 3D certainly enhanced those visuals and the 3D was seamlessly integrated. The action sequences are perfectly serviceable, and the visuals of Kuze’s broken and exposed cybernetic form, juxtaposed against Mira’s smooth and seamless body, manage to evoke that same feeling of discomfort and Otherness that permeated the original anime (the scene in which Kuze removes part of Mira’s cybernetic face is chillingly rendered). Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and Chief Aramaki (Takeshi Kitano) were absolutely delightful, Aramaki in particular – Johansson could learn a lot from Kitano about how microexpressions actually work.

But for all its visual splendor, whitewashing and Orientalism are irredeemably at the heart of GitS. While the setting is still supposed to be a futuristic Japanese city, and there are Asians and other POC seen on Mira’s team and in the city, there’s no ignoring that the majority of the principal players in this story are all white: Mira, Kuze, Dr. Ouelet, Cutter, even Batou. Stripped of the specific cultural context of Japanese society’s reinvention of itself post-WWII and its resulting unique relationship with technology, this incarnation of GitS’s narrative about corporate malfeasance and stolen identity is, pardon the pun, a mere ghost of the original.

The insistence that GitS needed to be funneled through an American lens with a bankable (read: white) star, despite the popularity of the original that made it a tantalizing property in the first place, leaves the unmistakable stench of “We like your stuff, just not you” that has permeated so many offerings from Hollywood for decades, not just in the last few months (although Doctor Strange, Great Wall, Iron Fist, and Death Note immediately come to mind).

It’s one more reminder that Asians & Asian Americans are Other, that we’re expendable, and once white supremacy has taken what it wants from us, our erasure on the altar of Orientalism is still an acceptable practice in American media. Let me be clear, because apparently there’s still a temptation to avoid acknowledging that whitewashing (not “controversy” or “claims” about whitewashing) is a problem in this movie: Ghost in the Shell failed because whitewashing IS bad writing. And all the gorgeous visuals and well-choreographed action sequences in the world aren’t worth overlooking that fact anymore — if they ever were worth it. Ultimately, the choice to whitewash Motoko and GitS’s narrative itself tanked what could have otherwise been an enjoyable, if pedestrian, B-level movie.

Michi’s Verdict: Give it a hard pass and just treat yourself to a rewatch of the 1995 anime instead. For bonus points, try Jennifer Phang’s brilliant Advantageous for a masterful examination of technology, individual identity, and family sacrifice.

 

Dawn: I was surprised: I didn’t hate Ghost in the Shell.

Granted, the bar was low.

As an audience member, I never want to hate the thing I’m watching – I’d rather spend my time supporting art that challenges, that inspires, that connects. As an Asian-American and critic, I was fully prepared to hate Ghost in the Shell. After two years of controversy and months of ever-more-ludicrous news about Scarlett Johansson’s character – her name is Major, no, it’s Mira, but don’t worry, Johansson would never “attempt to play a person of a different race” – and slogging through 13 episodes of Orientalism and awful writing in recently-released Iron Fist, I expected a disaster. To my surprise, I didn’t find one. What I found was a very Hollywood retelling of a very Japanese story, with all the mixed results that entails.

I was born in Singapore, where the population is 80% ethnically Chinese. We have ethnic minorities there too – the country has four national languages. When I started kindergarten, I was surrounded by media that looked like me – Chinese women were featured in ads, television shows, music, and film. When I moved to Michigan at the age of five, I was a foreigner – growing up, I remember how notable it was to see any variety of Asian, let alone Chinese-Americans in anything. These days it’s still rare: a study from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism noted that of the top 100 films in 2015, not a single one featured an Asian lead. Half the films didn’t even have an Asian character.

Given all of these things, Asian representation in Hollywood carries a very different weight in Asia than it does in the US. Asians in Asia – who, one must remember, aren’t a monolith – watch Hollywood films and expect them to be white because America is white (obviously, this impression isn’t entirely reflective of reality, but it’s one that the media we export supports). Asians in Asia aren’t looking to Hollywood to make sense of themselves or their stories – they have media that performs that function already, and if they’re part of the group that is the majority in their country, they’re used to being dominant. That’s why Ghost in the Shell creator Mamoru Oshii can make statements saying, “There is no basis for saying that an Asian actress must portray [the Major].”

Asian-Americans, on the other hand, aren’t reflected in Asian media or American media – we don’t exist. Our stories aren’t told. We’re desperate to be seen, to be treated as something more than invisible. Hollywood whitewashing hurts us because we never see ourselves reflected as fully-realized people. Which leads to us forgetting that we can be fully-realized people.

If Ghost in the Shell was created in a vacuum, the story of a cyborg wrestling with her humanity and uniqueness would have felt generic, but serviceable enough to gird stunning visual effects, cinematography, and art direction. Director Rupert Sanders and team clearly did their homework – so many shots here were lovingly crafted recreations of shots from the 1995 anime, and the film is beautiful.

Within the confines of the film, the fact that Major Mira Killian turns out to be a memory-suppressed Motoko Kusanagi, now a young, dissident runaway rather than the lifelong special ops police officer of the anime, is a twist that recalls Robocop, and one that highlights the fact that the Major’s robotic body is owned by an evil corporation intent on using her, regardless of consent. It’s not a particularly creative story, but it works.

However, art – even pop art – does not exist in a vacuum.

Context matters. And in context, the entire plot of Ghost in the Shell is a justification for casting a white actress in a Japanese role. It’s as though the story was a direct response to the criticism levied from both the fan and Asian-American communities: “We had to cast a white actress, but it’s OK because it’s important to the story and look, she’s actually Japanese underneath!”

Similarly, the attitude of the Hollywood version changes dramatically from the 1995 anime. Hollywood is concerned with fast pacing, quick cuts, and, like American society, individuality. The Major’s story here is that of a single woman wrestling with what it means to be the only one of her kind, and whether being a cyborg makes her human or not; Hanaka Robotics wants to protect her as an investment, as property, because she’s the first successful experiment in putting a human brain into a cybernetic body. She’s crafted to be a weapon.

The anime, on the other hand, like the society it comes from, is more interested in collective identity – the Major is one of many, and putting a “ghost” into a “shell” isn’t unusual. As a rule, Asian societies think more communally than Western ones – they’re more concerned about families and countries than they are about individuals. Thus the anime is more philosophical: “Overspecialize,” it says, “and you breed weakness.” Evolution is necessary, and many parts are needed to make a whole that thrives. The anime also asks what constitutes sentient life, what the implications are for society when technology makes renders bodies interchangeable. Can a machine have a soul?

Dawn’s Verdict: Viewed charitably, the live action adaptation was a typical Hollywood blockbuster set in a meticulously-crafted cyberpunk world. Viewed more harshly, the film borrows the trappings of the 1995 anime but loses its soul. It’s as though the filmmakers kept the shell, but switched the ghost.

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The Black Woman Getting Ready: A Routine Rarely Portrayed in Mainstream Media http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/the-black-woman-getting-ready-a-routine-so-rarely-portrayed-in-mainstream-media/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/the-black-woman-getting-ready-a-routine-so-rarely-portrayed-in-mainstream-media/#respond Fri, 07 Apr 2017 13:20:57 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10094 by Neyat Yohannes

Van (Zazie Beetz) lies half asleep in bed next to a fully-awake Earn (Donald Glover), whose headphones are blaring to such a degree that they’re supplying the score for the second scene of Atlanta’s series premiere. Van accepts, with some reluctance, that sleep is a thing of the past and listens to Earn describe the peculiar dream he’s just had. After a quippy back-and-forth that introduces us to Van’s no-nonsense attitude—a clear coping mechanism for the cards life has dealt her—we are reminded that despite what we hope for with his curious lede, Earn is merely a mortal man who hasn’t evolved past dreaming about canoodling with hot women. The two make-out before an “I love you” arrives a beat too late, prompting them to get out of bed and start their respective days.

atlantaWhat’s not mentioned above, or in any of the high-brow think pieces published with haste just minutes after this instant classic premiered, is that we meet Van with her bonnet on. If that’s not titillating enough for the black women in the audience, we also watch Zazie Beetz engage in a full-on kissing scene with that blue and orange scarf still secured to her head. And what’s more, during a mild argument with Earn, we watch Van undue her bantu knots as she starts her day. If you’ve ever had a black girl for a roommate, or a lover, or just happen to be one, there’s nothing foreign-sounding about the above observations. Bonnets and protective styling are part of the average black woman’s daily routine. But what’s radical is the fact that we get to see them realized on-screen. It isn’t done in a showy way or with awkward comedic timing. Instead, they are presented in the same mundane way a character might pour a glass of water or sit at a desk—just another everyday occurrence.

But it isn’t everyday we see the black woman getting ready. Not on TV or film, at least.  While women-driven shows like Broad City shamelessly reveal what female-identifying people do behind closed doors, it’s easy to forget about intersectional feminism in the midst of our excitement. The nighttime regimens and morning practices of black women are seldom shown on the big or small screen, so the inaugural episode of Atlanta is something particularly noteworthy. It’s one of the few and far between instances of a black woman going through the motions of her daily routine with an audience before her to glean new levels of awareness from her every move.

While the aforementioned scenes in Atlanta were perhaps too subtle for those outside the realm of the black experience to notice on more than a subconscious level, the scene from How To Get Away With Murder during which Viola Davis’ character, Annalise Keating removes her wig is considered a landmark event. It’s apparent that it continues to interest many inquiring minds because when you begin typing Viola Davis’ name into Google, the first result is her name followed by “removes wig.” In her debut book, You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, Phoebe Robinson describes this momentous occasion as “THE SINGLE GREATEST MOMENT IN BLACK WOMEN TELEVISION HISTORY.” She makes this proclamation with purposeful caps lock and then justifies why lowercase letters just wouldn’t do. She says:

It’s not an overstatement when I write that watching a part of the black woman’s beauty routine reflected back at me made me praise dance the way I do when I’m in the Pillsbury crescent‑roll section of my grocery store. This scene was so real, so honest, so raw, so everything because this is what a lot of black women look like when not in public. To present that to America was huge. Not only did it show what beauty preparation is like for many black women, it let most, if not all, non-black people into a world that had previously been off‑limits to them. (excerpt from You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain , courtesy of New York Magazine).

And this world was introduced to them on a network—American Broadcasting Company (ABC)—that’s been around since the forties. To provide context, ABC came into fruition two full decades before the Jim Crow laws were no longer in effect. So it’s clear that covering the black person’s narrative wasn’t apart of their initial mission. Especially not a black woman’s narrative. Considering ABC didn’t cast its first black Bachelorette until 2017, the Annalise Keating wig removal scene serves as even more cause for celebration.

That said, it was also during the forties that Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Academy Award. She was named Best Supporting Actress in 1940 for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. While it was much to the chagrin of many black folks of the time—and of today—that McDaniel won the award for portraying a slave and perpetuating the Mammy archetype, it’s important to note that she did make strides for black actors in film. In her book African American Actresses: The Struggle for Visibility, 1900-1960, Charlene B. Regester gives McDaniel her props and acknowledges the fact that she lent a hand in black actors breaking out of sedentary roles in film. Regester writes:

Hattie McDaniel empowered herself in Gone with the Wind (hereafter GWTW) through her transformation of the subservient (subordinate, dehumanized, and devalued) into the dominant (defiant and directing). She managed this through her commanding presence, strong posture, exertion of power, and fearlessness in the role of Mammy, and in doing so McDaniel redefined and reconstructed public images of African American womanhood. The point is debatable, but through her performance McDaniel did move this character (and character type) out of the margin and into the film’s center. (Regester, 131).

Hattie McDaniel, though wildly successful in the film world, was a rather tragic figure. Regester doesn’t ignore this in her praise of McDaniel and even underlines the devastating aspects of the actress’ life, which include suicide attempts and depression. It’s also worth mentioning that regardless of her active representation of black women on-screen—granted, in servile roles—she was repudiated by her community and mainstream black media.

Fast-forward to the year 2000. The new millennium brought us the Y2K bug, frosted lip gloss, and low-rise jeans. But for black women with healthy appetites for television, the most meaningful gift was the premiere of Girlfriends: an American sitcom that followed the lives of four very different young black women living in Los Angeles. The series had an eight-year run and black viewers aggressively sought it out because it provided an accessible alternative to shows like Sex and the City, notorious for leaving black folks out of the narrative save for the fetishization of them (read: the season six arc where Miranda dates her black neighbor, Blair Underwood). That, and it was also just a damn good series that any audience could enjoy. Its IMDB page boasts an impressive list of accolades to prove it.

Girlfriends also sky-rocketed the career of the ever-exuberant, Tracee Ellis Ross. We had the honor of watching Ross get ready every week during the early aughts and we’re allowed the same access even today, as we try to keep up with Rainbow “Bow” Johnson’s chic hairstyles on the ABC hit show black-ish. Tracee Ellis Ross has always had a strong command of her hair. Even in the instances that don’t grant us permission to her morning or nightly routines, it is clear that her hair is never an afterthought. Aside from her stellar comedic timing and vivacious personality, her hair has always been her crowning glory. It doesn’t overshadow her and it isn’t her prized possession, but rather, it serves as a beacon of light for black women struggling to maintain their natural hair. It’s something to aspire to when the going gets tough with all of the expensive leave-in conditioner, time-consuming protective styles, and homemade hair masks.

In 2014, Ross spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the natural hair boom in network television and her relationship to it. She said:

I think it’s huge that I’m wearing my natural hair texture on ABC in primetime. As Dr. Rainbow Johnson on black-ish, I think my hair is part of the reality of this woman’s life. She has four children and is an anesthesiologist and a wife. She doesn’t have a lot of time to fuss with beauty, so her look is pretty simple. I’m very conscious of how I wear my hair on the show, and yet it’s the way I wear my hair as Tracee. You hire me, you hire my hair, and you hire my ass. It’s all coming with me.

Much like Hattie McDaniel brought black actors out of marginalized roles with little to no speaking parts, Tracee Ellis Ross has managed to bring natural-haired black women to the forefront. And with them, their routines.

However, it isn’t just natural-haired black women breaking barriers on-screen. Cue the BET series Being Mary Jane created by Mara Brock Akil, the same woman who helped bring Girlfriends to your television set. The show follows the public and private life of Mary Jane Paul (Gabrielle Union), who’s a successful television news anchor based in Atlanta. Mary Jane struggles to strike a balance between her demanding career, nagging family, and the near-impossible task of finding the perfect guy. Being Mary Jane is unique in that it spends an unprecedented amount of time showcasing Mary Jane’s routine. The majority of episodes begin with Mary Jane getting ready to start her day and end with her preparing for bed.

Each morning, we watch Mary Jane begin with her daily affirmations in the form of reading the quotes she’s pre-written on the post-it notes that litter her headboard, generously-sized picture window, and bathroom mirror. We watch her traipse around her immaculate home, take a luxurious shower, remove her bonnet, and apply her makeup as she readies herself t for another exhausting day of work at Satellite News Channel. And the same goes for her nighttime routine. The series puts Mary Jane on display as she wipes the day off, takes her IVF injection, ties her hair up, and slips into bed to answer emails.

In an especially memorable episode, Mary Jane is in crisis mode when her hair stylist cancels her appointment without notice—a frightening phone call that, more often than not, every black woman has been faced with. By the time Mary Jane learns her stylist has flaked, she has already removed her sew-in, revealing Gabrielle Union’s real hair. While she has a healthy, gorgeous head of hair, Mary Jane is petrified at the prospect of going to work the next day to do a live news segment sans weave. So in a last-ditch effort, she calls her niece over that very night to reinstall her old weave. While Mary Jane relaxes with a glass of wine as her niece, Niecey tends to her hair, she confides in her:

You know why I begged you to come over here? Because your perfect aunt was terrified of going to work without her weave. Terrified that no one would think I was beautiful. That people would think I was average and I’d be invisible. So maybe that pedestal you put me on is a little too high. I’m human (Season 2, Episode 7: Let’s Go Crazy).

This intimate look at a situation black women deal with all the time is refreshing to see on TV. The black women in the audience can relate to it and everyone else is given the opportunity to gain a better understanding of black haircare. Moreover, this is a chance for non-black viewers to start to comprehend the pain black women feel as they attempt to reconcile their beauty with what the rest of society considers ideal or beautiful.

In the last several years, the most accessible place for black women to catch glimpses of each other’s beauty rituals aside from being in the same room has been YouTube. We all know by now that YouTube served as a launching pad for an outstanding number of creators including black folks like Issa Rae (formerly of Awkward Black Girl fame and currently the creator and star of the HBO hit Insecure) and Donald Glover (who started out on Youtube doing derrickcomedy and is now the creator/star of the previously mentioned FX hit Atlanta) who’ve moved on to full-fledged careers in television. YouTube is also home to a slew of vloggers who’ve found a way to monetize their passion for the billion-dollar industry that is beauty.

Black women religiously flock to the pages of vloggers like ItsMyRayeRaye and Patricia Bright who’ve long since passed the millionth subscriber mark. They’re just two of the countless beauty enthusiasts out there who’ve made careers out of the beloved Get Ready With Me (GRWM) video. Whether it’s a tutorial on getting your edges laid or simply a woman trying out her new eye shadow palette in front of the camera, GRWM videos have fast become a practical and emotional tool. They provide insight on navigating an industry that often ignores melanin and kinky hair. They also just serve as an oasis that allows black women to see themselves reflected in something other than a mirror.

The GRWM video is certainly not exclusive to YouTube’s black community, but it is an invaluable asset to black viewers who rely on it to provide them with beauty information that isn’t readily available. These videos review products while keeping the black consumer’s best interest in mind; which is rather revolutionary because despite the black consumer’s buying power being worth well over one trillion dollars, the black buyer is arguably the most neglected. And these videos come in all shapes and sizes. Some GRWM vloggers are talkative and will regale you in a hilarious “what had happened was…” type of story while revealing the secrets of a good contour. Others are less chatty and offer a more soothing option with soft, serene music to achieve that easy-like-sunday-morning aesthetic. Some are more lifestyle driven and are perfect for the black woman who just wants to live vicariously through an “It” girl who actually looks like her. A black woman having the ability to open her laptop and watch another black woman have brunch or decorate her apartment is a simple joy, but it isn’t taken for granted because we all know these are infrequent happenings.

With new shows like Atlanta, Being Mary Jane, Insecure, Queen Sugar, and the like, it’s easy for the black woman to feel as though she’s been presented with an embarrassment of riches. For once, she doesn’t have to watch a show just because it boasts black cast members. She finally has a few options and most of them are available during the coveted primetime slots. But in the grand scheme of things, mainstream media still has a ways to go when it comes to the visibility of black women. For so long, black girls have clutched classic films like Waiting to Exhale or Poetic Justice close to their hearts and continue to re-watch them for just another glance at Janet Jackson’s iconic box braids or to fall under one more wistful spell as Angela Bassett sits in front of her vanity.

The archives of the black woman on-screen-and-doing-her-thing are no doubt gaining new files, but these moments are still limited and meant to be savored. Before a black girl wearing a bonnet on-screen is no longer a needle in a blonde haystack, it is perfectly within every black woman’s rights to press rewind and watch the hell out of these scenes. Afterall, they’re what keep her buoyant in a world that makes drowning easy. Until they’re no longer an exciting rare occurrence worth writing about, scenes of the black woman getting ready will always be of the utmost importance.


Neyat Yohannes works as a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Okayafrica, Hello Giggles, The Coalition Zine, and Blavity.

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Hold the #MartialArtsMayo: A Review of Iron Fist, Part 3 of 3 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/hold-the-martialartsmayo-a-review-of-iron-fist-part-3-of-3/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/hold-the-martialartsmayo-a-review-of-iron-fist-part-3-of-3/#respond Wed, 05 Apr 2017 19:08:12 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10108 At last, Dawn Xiana Moon and Michi Trota ​complete their​ 3-part​ review of Marvel’s Iron Fist on Netflix, covering episodes ​10-13​. ​Was the series worth it overall? Well, at least there were cake, cocktails, and quite a lot to dig their critical teeth into. ​Thank you for listening to this review mini-series, and don’t forget to check out the audio commentary Dawn and Michi recorded for the Iron Fist episode 13 finale​ below!
Bonus Track!

​Dawn and Michi recorded themselves watching the finale of Iron Fist, and you can listen along by syncing this audio track with the episode itself! While there’s plenty of snark to go around, it’s fairly clear that after 13 episodes our intrepid reviewers were on their last legs. For the record, Dawn’s TV apparently didn’t like Iron Fist either because less than two minutes in on the first run at recording, it flipped out and refused to turn back on for a good several minutes.

 

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Hold the #MartialArtsMayo: A Review of Netflix’s Iron Fist, Part 2 of 3 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/hold-the-martialartsmayo-a-review-of-netflixs-iron-fist-part-2-of-3/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/04/hold-the-martialartsmayo-a-review-of-netflixs-iron-fist-part-2-of-3/#respond Sun, 02 Apr 2017 00:38:23 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10103 ​In part ​2​ of a 3-series audio review, Dawn Xiana Moon and Michi Trota ​continue their ​review of Marvel’s ​​Iron Fist​ on Netflix​​, covering episodes 5-9​. ​Sadly there was no cake, but there were plenty of facepalms (and cocktails)​. Part ​3​ will cover episodes ​10-13​, with a special ​additional ​audio track of Dawn and Michi reviewing ​Iron Fist’s​ finale.

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Does Marketing to Fan Communities Help or Hurt Fandom? http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/03/does-marketing-to-fan-communities-help-or-hurt-fandom/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/03/does-marketing-to-fan-communities-help-or-hurt-fandom/#comments Fri, 31 Mar 2017 14:50:34 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10090 By Allyson Gross

Fans are remarkably good consumers of content in already-codified, tight knit communities. To market something to fans is an exercise in adapting or channeling some aspect of the fan object or experience into the marketed product — knowing your target demographic is, after all, Marketing 101. It’s with this understanding that director Daniel Schloss and writer Charlie Sohne created Truth Slash Fiction, an in-production television series about boyband fans who write slash fanfiction, the fan practice of writing queer romantic fictional stories about characters and real people. The writers of Truth Slash Fiction quickly caught the online attention of the One Direction fandom, especially writers of slash fanfic about One D. Rather than the fateful meeting of target demographic and product, however, the virality of the show’s trailer on Twitter in the fall of 2016 was met with mixed, often negative responses by the fans of the British-Irish boyband. While One Direction fans served as the show’s inspiration, the majority of them also hated everything Truth Slash Fiction represented.

truthslashfiction2Certainly not the first nor the last of its kind, the case of Truth Slash Fiction is representative of the importance of understanding fandom practice in marketing towards its communities. Ultimately, there’s a difference between marketing towards fans broadly, and marketing specifically towards fandom and the interior to the fandom practices. From television series like Truth Slash Fiction, to commercials, and even brands on social media, using inner-fandom practice like shipping and fanfiction, and targeting fandom desire as a marketing tool has produced mixed results among fan communities. Whether received by fans as a knowing hat tip from brand to fandom, or demonized as a flagrant abuse of the fourth wall, brands and producers marketing products towards shippers highlights the slippery nuance of public versus private fan practice, and the monetization of fandom. While an understanding of fandom practice is crucial for success in marketing to these communities, to be marketed towards or publicized to begin with sometimes challenges the very fan practice that external parties are attempting to identify with. If successful marketing is all about visibility, what happens when you market towards a demographic that doesn’t want to be seen?

As consumers, we’re familiar with the myriad ways that fandom is marketed to the broader public. Beyond the easy thematic jump from boyband fans to boyband television, we’re even more familiar with less related cross-promotion between brands and produced media: It’s Captain America chasing Bucky in a 2016 Audi commercial, or Twilight inspired vampires in an earlier 2012 Audi commercial. For the purpose of analyzing fan response to the phenomenon, the most relevant distinctions to make are in 1. who is doing the marketing, 2. what the product is, and 3. the intended audience. To use the Audi commercials as examples, the Audi motor vehicle company marketed a product unrelated to the produced media (a car, an external good unrelated to the fictional worlds of Twilight and the Marvel Cinematic Universe) to the broader public utilizing the popularity of the movies featured.

In the realm of nonfiction, celebrity product placement, like a Diet Coke commercial starring Taylor Swift, is similar — while Swift’s music has nothing to do with carbonated drinks, her association with the product drives traffic, if not outright profit. We watch the commercial, featuring Swift being overwhelmed by a horde of cats, not because of an interest in Diet Coke, but because of a popular interest in her person. These examples, directly referencing or featuring sub/objects of fandom, are marketed towards their fans as well as the public. Whether or not I’m a fan of Taylor Swift, the commercial is still accessible to me as a viewer. There is, after all, nothing exclusive to the fan experience about a pop star drinking soda. Of the ways in which fan objects intersect with marketing, these are the most common examples.

To market a product towards fandom, however, is an altogether different phenomenon than the above. Where Audi and Diet Coke reference and feature popular media objects for broader promotional purposes, marketing towards fandom utilizes specific understanding of inner-fandom practice, and/or is exclusive in its fandom references. In short, it’s making jokes or references only fans would get through referencing fandom things. Furthermore, brands marketing towards fandom more often takes place on platforms like Twitter — as opposed to more broad-reaching, public-facing modes like television commercials — where fan communities already exist. As Twitter accounts provide brands with easily accessible, humanized online presences, the platform facilitates easy engagement across fandom and corporation. Brands are ultimately able to market to fandom on Twitter through engaging with them as if they were fans themselves.

In response to a July 2015 tweet from a Supernatural fan that “@Astroglide ships Destiel,” or the popular slash ship of Dean Winchester and Castiel, the lube manufacturer’s Twitter account wrote, “We really just want to see a scene where Dean tries to explain to Castiel what lube is. Gold.” The reference to fanfiction about the popular Supernatural pairing proved amusing for many fans. Fans engaging with the Astroglide account made both declarations of love for the brand, as well as suggestions for how to further engage with the show and its fans. As Astroglide continued to tweet about Destiel throughout the day, the account repeatedly referenced the success of its engagement with the fandom, at one point commenting, “letting Gabe log onto our Twitter account today was clearly a good choice #Destiel.” As marketing to Supernatural fans utilized exclusive fandom references, tailoring tweets to fans of the CW drama alienated the rest of its followers, and the account knew it. “All of our followers that aren’t Supernatural fans are so confused right now,” wrote @Astroglide, but the brand didn’t mind; Accompanying the tweet was a reaction gif of SNL’s Kristen Wiig crying over a photo of Supernatural star Jensen Ackles. That the Astroglide account continues to tweet about Supernatural and even live-tweet episodes of the series is a testament to the benefit of the online buzz that the engagement with the fandom produces. Though tweeting about Supernatural may not translate into offline purchases from fans of the show, it’s not for nothing that Astroglide now seems to be, according to one fan on Twitter, “the Lube of Choice for most DeanCas fics these days.”

When done well, marketing towards fandom can yield significant online social currency within the targeted audience. At its best, it’s amusing when an otherwise impersonal corporation makes what seems like an inside joke or reference to something you love; At its worst, it’s capitalism fishing for clicks in the guise of a social media manager trying to fit in with all the kids online. For some within the One Direction fandom, a hat tip from brands to the popular fan fictional relationship between band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson serves as a beloved testament to the reality of “Larry Stylinson”.

In response to a 2016 Instagram post from Styles of a “lonely buffet,” the Pizza Hut UK Twitter responded, “@Harry_Styles Louis will be back soon. Then you can all come to Pizza Hut for the greatest buffet on earth… #LouisYumlinson.” At the suggestion that Harry was “lonely” without Louis, fans responded with notes ranging from excitement that “Pizza Hut knows what’s up,” to declarations that “Pizza Hut is my new favorite pizza place now!” With over 15,000 retweets and over 13,000 likes, the original tweet by Pizza Hut was a one-off, humorous attempt by the brand to engage with a subset of One Direction fans — arguably, one of the largest fandoms on the platform — with the obvious intent to trend online. Fans’ amused response was ultimately predicated on the perceived mutual acknowledgement and understanding of the Larry Stylinson phenomenon. Larry was so real, it seemed, that even Pizza Hut could tell.

But what happens when the product being marketed to you is about you? Cue Truth Slash Fiction, the indie television series about boyband fanfiction. When the trailer for the television series first made the rounds on Twitter in September of 2016, One Direction fans who responded positively to the show’s premise expressed excitement over the recognition. More than just a one-off reference from a brand online, an entire television series was being shopped about their experience. In responses to the trailer on Twitter, excited fans wrote, “this is the story of my fucking life,” and tagged their friends with notes that there was “finally” a show that they could relate to. For some, the show was seen as a potential opportunity to normalize fandom practice. Despite initial discomfort, one fan on Tumblr wrote, “this might forces [sic] the public to realize, that a fandom’s fascination with slash fics is not the minority.” Better still, they continued, “this might be a powerful way of letting the world to know more about Larry.” But while the show intended to express an understanding of the One Direction fandom both on Twitter and in its product, the vast majority of responses ranged from wariness, to outright fear and distrust of the series and its intentions. Regardless of any effort expended by the Truth Slash Fiction writers to accurately depict and market a product for and about fans, to do so in the first place demonstrated a lack of understanding of the fandom itself. Even worse, by relying on fans to both promote and watch the show, Truth Slash Fiction cast its lot with a demographic that inherently mistrusted its product.

After the trailer for the series went viral in the fall of 2016, show producer Daniel Schloss tweeted, “Larries just lifted @truthslashfic to new heights causing #truthslashfiction to trend worldwide. The biggest and best fandom has our back.” Schloss rightfully attributed the virality of the show to Larries, a subset of the One Direction fandom oriented around the belief in a romantic relationship between Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. As both the inspiration as well as the target demographic for Truth Slash Fiction, Larries were indeed responsible for the series’ online buzz. Why they shared news of the show, however, was based less in admiration than it was trepidation. Even within fandom more broadly, real person fiction (RPF) is still a comparably controversial topic in and of itself. For many fans, the potential exposure of the fandom to the broader public prompted fears of ridicule or abuse. As one of the top replies to Schloss’ tweet noted, “you better have our back and not make us look bad okay?” Though Schloss attempted to assure the fan by replying, “we got you,” the statement was less than satisfactory for fans who routinely experience online harassment for writing the very fanfiction that Schloss & Co. were hoping to profit from. While an understanding of fandom practice is crucial to successful marketing, Truth Slash Fiction’s best attempts still fell flat for their target demographic. Where, in the end, did they go wrong?

As Aja Romano wrote for the Daily Dot regarding a 2015 film of a similar topic called Slash, “the story of queer slash fanfiction is the story of women building a community of their own.” For men external to fandom culture to repurpose those stories or even attempt to retell them ultimately misses the point of these communities very existence. As one Tumblr fan wrote in a critique of Truth Slash Fiction, “it keeps coming back to agency and how WE DON’T HAVE ANY in this situation because they’re just using us for material without actually listening to us.” And although mainstream discussion of fanfiction has risen in recent years, it’s often underscored by a mischaracterization or derisive undertone toward the writers themselves. By depicting the One Direction fandom, Truth Slash Fiction bridges into the even more complicated territory of fans whose fan subjects are real people. By drawing more attention to One Direction fanfiction, the showrunners runs the risk of breaking the fourth wall, or the invisible barrier between fan practice and fan subjects. In a post with over 200 notes on Tumblr, one fan noted that drawing attention to the fandom felt like a violation of a protected community. The post concluded, “they’re threatening our safe space and the place that makes us happy because they want to make money off of us and exploit us and I will never be okay with that.”

Even worse, what fans deemed the most egregious example of exposing their engagement occurred while attempting to assure the fandom of the show’s intentions. In an interview with fan-based blog Head Over Feels, Truth Slash Fiction writer Charlie Sohne attempted to convey his understanding of the One Direction fandom by name dropping several works of fanfiction he had read in preparation for the show. By explicitly naming and even linking to certain works, the showrunners publicly broadcasted fan works not intended for public consumption, and faced the wrath of fans as a result. Three days after the publication of the interview, the official Truth Slash Fiction Twitter account posted an apology: “At the time, we assumed that complementing work was a universally positive thing to do — we now understand that was a wrong assumption to make.” With reassurances that they would be directly apologizing to the named authors, the apology missed the point. The showrunners’ publicizing of fan works in a non-fandom space to bolster their own credibility within the fandom not only betrayed the trust of potential viewers, but also made vulnerable the authors they attempted to compliment. As one fan noted in response to the apology on Twitter, “you’re putting a spotlight on a very intimate area of the lives of fans regardless.” Regardless of the fact that it technically existed in public online, fans were adamant that their fan practice was only intended for their community. By marketing their fandom for public consumption, Truth Slash Fiction made visible something fans never wanted to be seen. Before the show had even been sold, fans had already turned against it.

While tweeting fandom references, or even attempting to incorporate your brand into fan culture itself may be advantageous to one’s social media strategy, marketing a product towards fandom necessitates an understanding of fan communities. Particularly when relying on a single fandom to be both viewer, promoter, and serve as inspiration, such understanding is even more crucial. Beyond the semi-amusing clickbait of fandom-oriented tweets, constructing an entire product around fan practice for fans is tricky territory perhaps best left alone. Knowing your target demographic, it seems, may also mean knowing when to not engage in the first place.


Allyson Gross is a writer and climate justice organizer based out of New York. She is a recent graduate of Bowdoin College, where she wrote a thesis on One Direction and populism. Allyson can be found  @AllysonGross, mostly tweeting about boybands, conspiracy theories, and Hamilton. 

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Book Review: Creativity Without Law http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/03/book-review-creativity-without-law/ http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/03/book-review-creativity-without-law/#respond Wed, 29 Mar 2017 16:11:11 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10088 by Raizel Liebler

Creativity Without Law: Challenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property (New York University Press 2017), an edited collection is an important contribution to the understanding of creative practices, both within and outside of legal frameworks. The excellent collection of academic essays edited by Kate Darling and Aaron Perzanowski includes discussions of recipes, tattoos, graffiti, and roller derby performers – as well as other forms of creativity.

All of the essays are interesting and informative, discussing the push-pull between “labor theory – the notion that the effort spent inventing, authoring, or composing demands the reward of property rights—and personality theory—the notion that one’s creations are a manifestation of the self and control over them is necessary for self-realization.” (3) And creating within a community with subcultural norms is essential for creators discussed throughout this book — an idea outside of traditional theories of IP production.

Of course, the two chapters that interest me the most are those that talk about these issues outside of the U.S. and about fandom. Olufunmilayo Arewa’s chapter, Nollywood: pirates and Nigerian cinema, delves into legal aspects of the Nigerian film industry, but the story is bigger than that – the “rise of Nollywood illustrates the revolutionary potential of digital technologies in Africa.” (230) Considering how much focus is only on Hollywood when considering copyright, it is important to see how other cultural industry loci work – from Nollywood, to Bollywood, to the South Korean pop culture machine and beyond. I would love to see more about these non-U.S./non-English creative industries, hopefully comparing and contrasting their reasons for success.

Considering she is the expert on fanfic and law, Rebecca Tushnet’s chapter, Architecture and morality: transformative works, transforming fans, gives an excellent overview of why fandom – and specifically the creativity of fanfic writers is important. Interestingly, Tushnet focuses on the importance of practice and play – two areas that aren’t usually discussed as values within IP.

Summary: Hopefully, the first in many books focusing on this new form of critical analysis of creativity and law. An important and essential guide! While this book should be used as a text in classes, all chapters are readable and interesting.

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Hold the #MartialArtsMayo: A Review of Netflix’s Iron Fist, Part 1 of 3 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2017/03/hold-the-martialartsmayo-a-review-of-netflixs-iron-fist-part-1-of-3/ Thu, 23 Mar 2017 21:06:23 +0000 http://thelearnedfangirl.com/?p=10084 In part 1 of a 3-series audio review, Dawn Xiana Moon and Michi Trota review the first 4 episodes of Netflix’s latest series, Marvel’s Iron Fist. They’d fully intended to watch 6 episodes but apparently they didn’t have enough cake and cocktails to make it any further. Part 2 will cover episodes 5-9, and Part 3 will cover episodes 10-13, with a special audio track of Dawn and Michi reviewing the finale as they watch it after briefly recapping episodes 10-12.

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