Changing Relations Between Fan Cultures and Industry: The Legitimation Paradox

Judith Fathallah

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    The ways that fans of popular media engage with their preferred texts are changing and expanding rapidly. Over the past ten years, there has been a rapid growth of creative communities, largely online, devoted to producing and sharing fanart, creating and photographing costumes, translating, subtitling, editing videos, modifying games, and more. Beginning in 2013, the first large scale discourse analysis to address fanfiction was conducted by the present researcher. It was concerned not only with the construction and consolidation of social ideology but with processes of change: how discourse is solidified, adapted and/or undermined. In the work eventually published as Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Cultural Texts, the study established that fanfic operates through a paradox of legitimation. It argued that through fanfic attempts to legitimate itself through appeal to the very construction of authorship it subverts, an ultimately Romantic conception of the lone male genius imbued with the powers of originality. Using the cult television texts Sherlock (BBC), Game of Thrones (HBO) and Supernatural (CW) as a case study, discourse theory adapted from Foucault was utilized to establish that discursive formations from the source text can be de- and re-constructed, sometimes consolidating canon’s constructions, but at other times, altering Othered characterizations and criticising statements from canon. Paradoxically, however, this process both utilizes and functions through the capital of the already-empowered: the White male Author, and/or the White male protagonists of the series. Prior to the publication of Fanfiction and the Author, my primary focus was written text. The researcher has since gone on to utilize multi-modal tools in the study of fanvids, artwork, and even musical conventions. In the second part of the article, it will be explained how changing media affordances of sites like Tumblr critique and undermine traditional conceptions of authorship and authority through their structure as modes of engagement as much as their content, and finally suggest some strategies of engagement for industry professionals.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)6-11
    JournalJournal of Management Practices, Humanities and Social Sciences
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2019


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