dysprositos ([personal profile] dysprositos) wrote2009-06-02 03:41 pm
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Fannish expectations

The conversation over in [personal profile] oliviacirce's posts about the differences between the Scary Ponies Oh No (commonly referred to as "book fandom", "SF fandom", "con-going fandom", and "those fanboys over there") and the Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh (a.k.a. "media fandom", "LJ fandom", "us fangirls", and "LJ-centered Western media fandom which reads Metafandom") is spawning all sorts of interesting discussion.

There have been all sorts of distinctions made, among them:

  • Demographics: mostly white men versus women with a more-proportional white:nonwhite ratio;

  • Fanacs: LARPing, collecting, trivia, filk versus fanfic, meta, fanart, fanvids

  • Primary location: conventions versus Internet

  • Thinking style: linear versus hypertext

  • Relationship with the PTB: worshipful with a side of "I'll be one someday" leading to a tendency to side with them, friendly, officially-sanctioned versus neutral or adversarial, resistive to attempts at commercialization, and little interest in becoming a PTB

  • Attitude towards fanacs: commercially viable and potentially career-launching versus fun and non-commercial amateur hobby

  • Attitude towards canon: love or hate, but don't criticize, only fixable by fanwank, only one canon versus love and hate, criticize even your favorite shows if they deserve to be, fixable by fanfic, multiple canons

(Note that this is about the overall culture, not individuals by any means. There's far too much overlap for this to be at all a useful metric on the individual level.)

These differences lead to larger differences like the Scary Ponies Oh No dismissing activities, like fanfiction, associated with the Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh, often either because it's not being used as a launching point for a career (because the path from consumer to creator is so much a part of Scary Ponies Oh No expectations, if you stop midway, you're not an amateur, you're a failure); because it's perceived as trying to "fix" or, worse, redo canon and is thus an insult to the PTB; because it's a girl thing; or some combination of the preceding.

(Or, just thought of this, the tendency of Scary Ponies Oh No to bring their "squee, not critique" attitude to bear on themselves, so there are a lot of celebrations of fannishness but not so much introspection of what it means to be a Scary Pony Oh No or what needs to be improved or fixed. There tends to be a lot of "what do we do about the graying of fandom" hand-wringing, but also a marked resistance to any kind of change within fandom, without which young people are less likely to be interested. [Have you seen the SFWA website?] And not many discussions of things like sexism, homophobia, racism, and so on within fandom--whenever people do try to bring it up, the reaction of "we're not like that!" or "if we are, it doesn't matter!" or "we are like that and it matters, but there's nothing we can do about it but wait for the Old Guard to die off" is strong. Whereas one of the defining features of the Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh is a tendency toward introspection and self-critique; that's what Metafandom is for, after all: discussions of fandom, like this one.)

One of the points I made was

I think it is also worth noting that (it seems to me that, standard disclaimers apply) Scary Ponies Oh No expect a greater degree of homogeneity of interests outside the obviously fannish. I.e.: cats, computers, chocolate, RenFaire and/or D&D (or GURPS or whatever), a passing familiarity at least with Morris dancing, anti-Microsoft, &c. I'm not really sure what the equivalents for Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh would be; it's my perception that we're (much?) more likely to be liberal or leftist in some way, while Scary Ponies Oh No have a higher degree of libertarianism, and certainly if nothing else Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh fandom as a whole seems to expect anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, &c. sentiment.


to which [personal profile] aamcnamara replied

I think that the Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh also (to a certain degree) are anti-Microsoft--there are definitely expectations, just different ones. Like you, though, I am not certain exactly what those are.


So, lest this question get lost in the larger discussion: what expectations do we (Western media fandom as found on LJ and other journaling services, and united with such communities as Metafandom, Fandom_Wank, Fandom_Secrets, and so on) have of each other that are not related to fandom but that are not expectations we would have for humanity at large?

I'll start, adding to my comment above: I think that we have a tendency to expect each other to have some familiarity (even if only in passing, through reading each other's meta and reaction posts and out-of-fandom fic) with particular source texts that have or had large fandoms, e.g., Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel: the Series, Firefly, the Sentinel, the Man From UNCLE, Stargate: Atlantis and Stargate: SG-1, Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Torchwood, Sarah Connor Chronicles, Star Trek, Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more recently Merlin, Supernatural, and Dollhouse. Not necessarily be fannish about, not necessarily have seen the canon for, but at least have heard of it and maybe have some knowledge of what it's about, main character names, &c.
jonquil: (Default)

[personal profile] jonquil 2009-06-02 11:33 pm (UTC)(link)
I think there's an expectation that there be *something* Sfnal somewhere you're squeeful about -- squeeful with reservations, very possibly, but squeeful.

I think that the scarier of the Scary Ponies expect that you be willing to contend with somebody who disagrees with you -- you may whimper inside friendslock, but in public you have to be able to accept that people will critique your works and/or your reasoning.

I fail the "maybe have some knowledge ... " test on Xena, Sentinel, Sarah Connor, Merlin, and Supernatural. Yet ain't I a fangirl? :)
vacillating: text on a multicoloured background: Gone to play poker, back when I run out of clothes, your muse (Default)

[personal profile] vacillating 2009-06-07 02:30 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm wondering at what point one passes or fails the 'may have some knowledge' test: there are four shows on that list for which I have never seen any canon nor read any fic, and three more where I've read no fic and seen exactly one episode, and yet in every case I recognise the name and could find someone already on my lj flist who was a real fan of the show.

Maybe that only proves something about the circles in which I have friends.
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)

[personal profile] damned_colonial 2009-06-02 11:46 pm (UTC)(link)
I expect/assume that the Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh, regardless of gender, are feminist, pro-choice, and pro-sex.
jonquil: (Default)

[personal profile] jonquil 2009-06-02 11:47 pm (UTC)(link)
I don't expect pro-choice. I have fandom friends who aren't.
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)

[personal profile] damned_colonial 2009-06-02 11:52 pm (UTC)(link)
Hmm. I can't say I've polled every one of mine, but it is certainly something I'd assume at least on the level of assuming that they're familiar with BtVS and Harry Potter, yknow? My expectations might be wrong from time to time, but they're a reasonable first approximation.

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[personal profile] bibliofile 2009-06-10 08:48 am (UTC)(link)
I expect that fans, whatever their position on choice, have put thought into that position. I see far fewer fans with knee-jerk positions on abortion and other issues that are also important to me. I don't necessarily expect to agree with them, but I do expect to be able to discuss those issues.

(This of course does not mean that they won't have knee-jerk reactions on OTHER topics!)
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[personal profile] wychwood 2009-06-03 01:55 am (UTC)(link)
I wouldn't go quite as far as "expect", but I tend to assume that "poly" and "bi" are both much more likely than in the general population.

ETA: Hi! I subscribed after seeing your comment discussion in [personal profile] oliviacirce's journal.
Edited 2009-06-03 01:55 (UTC)
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[personal profile] nike 2009-06-08 05:29 pm (UTC)(link)
I'd add "asexual" to that as well. I keep stumbling across more and more asexuals in fandom ever since I came out as an asexual slasher and [community profile] metafandom picked it up. :D

Heck, I'd just about add "queer" in general to my expectations, except that's not quite right. "Non-comformative" is better (or it would be if the spellchecker didn't insist it's not a real word). Even the ones that admit to being straight and in a heterosexual relationship get into things society tends to brush aside, like women's sexuality and rights for minorities (GLBT, disabilities, anti-ageism, anti-sizist, feminism, race, religion, etc).

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[personal profile] badgerbag 2009-06-08 10:14 pm (UTC)(link)
I tend to assume that's more likely for SPONs but maybe both camps!
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[personal profile] nicki 2009-06-03 08:18 am (UTC)(link)
*also subscribed from linking over from the convo on [personal profile] oliviacirce's journal*

I think there's a general expectation that people will have a sense of humor. Not about everything, but definitely willing to play with some things. And to be participatory. In my observation if a PPMB shares a thought, they are kind of expecting someone to respond to it, to supplement or turn it around, or flip it upside down.
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[personal profile] nike 2009-06-08 05:38 pm (UTC)(link)
I think you're on to something. I mean, just look at this post and it's responses. How many groups are willing to have an intelligent conversation while simultaneously referring to themselves as the Pretty Princess Monsters Blargh and the other group as the Scary Ponies Oh No?

(I missed where we did the naming, but I suspect it was a very fun conversation.)

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Re: via metafandom

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[personal profile] aquaeri 2009-06-04 02:20 am (UTC)(link)
I don't know that I actually have the expectations you list, but on the other hand, I do expect them to be different about certain things than Scary Ponies Oh No. And I just can't escape the idea (sorry, I'm a bit obsessive) that while SPON are feminist, it's in that "we can all be boys together" sort of way, while PPMB seem to me to be actually doing female-socialisation-based culture.

(I myself went through a "we can all be boys together" phase but I think it's worth leaving behind. Because some aspects of "being a boy" are privileged asshole behaviours.)

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[personal profile] starlady 2009-06-05 10:40 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm with [personal profile] damned_colonial on what my default expectations about social attitudes are. Otherwise, I tend to think it much more likely (though by no means assured) that one has at least some familiarity with anime and/or manga. But that's one of my main research areas, so I will admit the bias upfront.
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[personal profile] damned_colonial 2009-06-06 03:14 am (UTC)(link)
FWIW, I don't have familiarity with anime/manga nor comics, and find that it limits my fannish participation to some extent. I've started picking up some bits through fannish osmosis, which helps, but I basically think you're not far off the mark there *if* you extend it to include western comics too.

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[personal profile] jlh 2009-06-07 11:37 am (UTC)(link)
This is so interesting because I think that in particular, the expectations and assumptions of Metafandom and Fandom_Secrets are so different as to be almost divergent, because they originate in such different places, and while Metafandom frequently makes me feel that I am not "really" in fandom, Fandom_Secrets tends to reassure me that I definitely am.

In fact, I had a long conversation on F_S with someone who was surprised that shows that are nothing like the ones you have listed have at least moderately sized and very active fandoms. I'm thinking not only of shonen manga like Gundam Wing, but also of shojo manga like Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket, female-targeted tv shows like Gossip Girl and Grey's Anatomy, and especially sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother and The Office, not to mention all the rpf written for American Idol. There's definitely an overlap between all of that and the core of SF/F fandom, partially thanks to HP, but many of those anime fans will not have a working familiarity with most of the shows you mention.

I find it interesting that in LJ multi-fannishness and the idea of being fannish as an action that so many are taking fannish activities and applying them to very mainstream canons as well as acknowledging that fandom has many mothers: not only classic SF/F fandom, but also rockfic fandom (whose roots are nearly as old, and entirely separate; see the bandom/rockfic debates) and anime fandom (which tends to be much younger, and often its fans are often not involved in SF/F to any real extent). Never mind comic book fandom, which of course has lots of ties to SF-F fandom but whose canons you have not mentioned. I'm not saying these fandoms are separate, and in fact, I don't even have to argue for their inclusion, as a cursory glance at Fandom_Secrets will show you that they are already a large part of fandom, as would a check at the fandoms that get posted regularly on Femslash Today). I would argue, rather, that the idea that SF/F fandom, in whatever medium, is the One True Fandom (see, arguments that HP was a feral fandom, or that there cannot, by definition, be a Gossip Girl fandom) is being eclipsed by the behavior of fans.

Therefore, I would say that I do not expect people in fandom to have a familiarity with the texts you bring up—I certainly wouldn't be that popular in Idol fandom if I did! And what's interesting about that is how much the conversation about fandom changes when you step outside of SF/F and into other genres. In particular, the whole "female characters we like" conversation becomes very, very different (see sistermagpie's recent post on the same) or the aforementioned Femslash Today listing that includes Guiding Light and Gossip Girl and GG rpf and 30 Rock and Grey's Anatomy. Race becomes different, too, when you're talking about anime (which has its own, but very different, problems) or sitcoms (which are incredibly segregated) or reality tv.

It's technically multi-fandom spaces like Metafandom that actually are not pan-fandom as much as they are multi-fannish about SF-F fandoms and then those tangential fandoms that female fans of SF-F tend to like, which then get retrofitted into being the same "kind" of show, in order to fit the model. It's the drive to fit the behavior of fans into some sort of small model, instead of its insanely large, sprawling reality, that leads so many into being frustrated with Metafandom and ultimately denigrating it. It's unfortunate because I think Metafandom can be a great resource, but as I have experienced it, it is somewhat blind to its own boundaries and prejudices.
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[personal profile] dachelle 2009-06-07 04:28 pm (UTC)(link)
I've long thought of [community profile] metafandom as less conversations about fandom, and more conversations about fandoms the people compiling the links happen to be involved in. I write in a RPS fandom about an indie band that I would not classify as being part of either bandom or rockfic, and I wold say that I'm probably the only person in my fandom who even knows what Metafandom is. I only know it exists because I have people on my LJ flist from back when I was in Buffy fandom who subscribe and have talked about it, although I was in a different end of Buffy fandom than the fic fandom. I agree that conversations in other fandoms can be very different. For instance, conversations about writing female characters are not the same in a fandom about a television show with female characters as in my RPS fandom about a band consisting of all men where the only female characters would be their girlfriends and family members. The more I read Metafandom, the more I realize that although I write fanfic, I probably don't identify as a fanficcer (I write and have only ever written fic for one fandom, and have no interest in ever writing fic for anything else), and although I'm in a fandom, I'm not sure I'm a part of fandom as a whole. I do find the larger social conversations that come up on [community profile] metafandom to be interesting, necessary, and often educational, but the ways in which Metafandom discussions claim to intersect with fandom as a whole don't always apply to my fandom, or to my experience of it.

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elspethdixon: (Default)

[personal profile] elspethdixon 2009-06-08 04:21 pm (UTC)(link)
I expect fannish people to be moderate-to-liberal on the social/political spectrum as opposed to conservative. Not necessarily pro-life/feminist/etc., but not a member of Focus on the Family or an avid fan of Rush Limbaugh, either.

Most importantly, though, I expect people in fandom to have an intense emotional investment in at least one book series/show/movie/comic/some form of fictional thing, and in particular an intense emotional investment in one of more the the characters from said source canon. If their major fannish thing is RPF, I expect them to also be fannish about something fictional or to have been in the past (like J2 fans generally also being SPN fans, LotRPS coming out of LotR fandom, Bandom having strong connections to slash fandom as a whole, etc.). I tend to associate strong investment in the world/setting of a canon but not the characters in particular a little more with the Old School SF fandom crowd, and strong investment in the characters with the fanfic crowd (not that people from both crowds aren't interested in both, but I have this impression that the fanfiction/slash/mediafandom crowd are more likely to be character fans before all else).

I expect other slash/het (as opposed to gen) fans to have shipping preferences -- I know there are many people who don't, but every time I run into someone who reads/writes slash or het but doesn't ship, I'm amazed all over again that such people exist. You'd think I'd have learned better by now, but die-hard OTPing is such a vital part of the way I'm fannish about things that I have as hard a time groking people who don't get/like OTPs as I do those people who can't see slashy subtext even when the writers/actors/creators put it there on purpose ("There is no homoerotic subtext in the movie Ben Hur. You're imagining things.")

The intense emotional investment in a canon/characters is the one I really think is the true constant, more than which canon it is -- because as another commenter pointed out, the fandoms common on fandom_secrets don't line up 100% with the fandoms common on metafandom, but the intensity of fannish love and squee/hate remains the same.

edited to add: I actually associate this (criticize even your favorite shows if they deserve to be) pretty much only with the metafandom circles of lj fandom,, which is the only place I've seen it turn up frequently -- the idea that the things one is fannish about ought to be criticized and examined on the basis of race/gender/etc. I'd say that critical reception of a text is the exception, and uncomplicated squee/love/hate based primarily on one's emotional reaction to the storyline/perceived quality (ex: "the Star Wars prequels suck! You have betrayed us, Lucas!" "Frank Quitely's art makes my eyes *bleed*!" "[writer's name here] is a talentless hack!" and so forth) is the pan-fannish rule.
Edited 2009-06-08 16:29 (UTC)
vehemently: (Default)

[personal profile] vehemently 2009-06-09 12:08 am (UTC)(link)
I feel the need to report that, back in the lamb-white days days of USENET, critical reception did exist. Why, the X-Files had a whole separate newsgroup for it, because it was so unwieldy and abstruse. A fair proportion of the B5 moderated group ended up in in-depth discussions too: in both cases, more on the fact-checking and imagery-gathering and "wait, that makes no sense" side of criticism than on the social-issues side.

Some of the participants therein ended up Princesses as we know them now (and on LJ, though none are associated with Metafandom that I know of); and some I think were Scary Ponies testing out the waters (B5 was a particularly Pony-friendly fandom). Quite a few others would not today identify themselves with any flavor of fandom.

So it's not the critical reading itself that has developed as the Princesses have gone LJ; it's the spread of critical reading from one or two areas across the wide spectrum of Princess culture (and onto topics more weighty and political). Or anyway, the spectrum of LJ-based Princess culture.

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[personal profile] jlh 2009-06-09 08:16 pm (UTC)(link)
If their major fannish thing is RPF, I expect them to also be fannish about something fictional or to have been in the past (like J2 fans generally also being SPN fans, LotRPS coming out of LotR fandom, Bandom having strong connections to slash fandom as a whole, etc.).

That's really interesting, because one of the things I've noticed with assumptions about RPF is that actor-rpf or perhaps bandom—the rpf that is closely connected to fpf fandoms—is the majority of rpf. I don't find that to be true, at all. I'm not sure that the politifandom/fakenews people are necessarily linked in, and I find the rockfic people to be much further out. Idolslash/SYTYCD seems to be a first fandom for a lot of folks, and if anything, they're likely to go into the kinds of fandoms that are new and not tied to SF-F, like Gossip Girl or The Office or HIMYM. I see a growing group of relatively young people who write fanfic as a matter of course while being fannish about any thing, not as part of being a certain kind of SF-F fan. The one place they might have been was main HP fandom, but they saw HP as a teen book, a mystery book, but not primarily a fantasy book—not unlike Twilight.

That said, coming out of HP fandom and all that "feral fandom" criticism, I've been much more aware of the differences between the fandoms I've been involved with and main SF-F fandom (whether old school or new), and as the assumptions that all things fannish are the same slide away, I'm more interested in the similarities, because I think there are many.

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aquaeri: My nose is being washed by my cat (Default)

[personal profile] aquaeri 2009-06-18 01:07 am (UTC)(link)
I'm dropping in here because it's your most recent post. I want to say thank you for engaging with [livejournal.com profile] nellorat. I feel like it's my job (or part of my job) but right at the moment I have no clue how to engage with her to be heard, and I see you making many points I'd want to make, and you manage to tie them into both what she's explicitly saying and what I see as the background problem, which is well beyond my current abilities.

(I don't know how you ended up on nellorat's journal, but I have known her for a long time and aspects of this discussion have been long-running. Which is probably why, in addition to the flu, I feel like I can't see clearly what's going on at the moment except "I know you're wrong somehow".)