Stereotypes about Fans, Poachers, and Nomads

Henry Jenkins provides a nice mix of theoretical framework and popular culture in his book Textual Poachers. In the introduction he explains the way that his book “offers an ethnographic account of a particualr group of media fans, its social institutions and cultural practices, and its troubled relationship to the mass media and consumer capitalism” (p. 1).  Jenkins critiques the idea of maintaining an objective approach (etic) to ethnographic research and explains that there is subjectivity embedded in the so-called “objective” stance. Jenkins further argues that the distinction between the reader and the writer become blurred and the appropiation of the text gives it a different meaning or concept, a kind of ‘life’ of its own.

One of the aspects I liked most about this book is the way Jenkins weaves other theorists and their work in the study of his media culture. I think that one of his main strenghts lies in the way he cites other theorists and yet discusses a topic most of us can identify with, which grants it academic authority. I couldn’t help but wonder if a woman writer such as Radway would have been able to pull this off. I also thought some of the points Jenkins made regarding gender differences were overgeneralizations. Though I’m no expert on Fan subcultures, it seems odd to think that most fans are actually women and that the way that men and women read texts is very different. Though he acknowledges that these gender difference are not innate but social, his statement has some reductionism to it. He states that Bleich’s theories on child development and language acquisition reflect “the boy’s push for authonomy and the girl’s close identification with the mother and desire for affiliation, closeness, and community” (p.112). I do not want to dismiss these cultural or sociological factors of enculturation, but caution to avoid essentializing gender differences.

I really enjoyed reading about the functionality of gossip and the four major classes, being house-tlak, scandal, bitching, and chatting. I have always wondered why we enjoy gossip so much and the way it fulfill some sociological need for people.  Jones explains how “It is in terms of the details of the speakers’ lives and the lives of those around them that a perspective on the world is created” (p.80). Do we see major gender differences in the way we engage in gossip and its function? 

The part G.A.L. (Get A Life) made me reflect and feel sad about the lonelyness of some people who attempt to find a more rewarding alternative reality. Many of us at one point or another have made fun of the fans of Science Fiction shows and criticized their fanatic behavior towards fiction. I found reflecting on the way that we are all fans of one thing or another sometime in our lives. Jenkins states teh way that fans always know others who unlike them, are ‘really hardcore’ (p. 19).  What does it mean then to be really hardcore? What is hardcore to me, may not be to someone else. Particularly, we can always ‘blame’ someone else for being ‘worst’ than we are.  Overall this book has so many topics to discuss that I really found it very interesting. I’m looking forward to our discussion tomorrow.

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