Textual Poachers And TV Culture

When I was in college I took a class on “fan cultures” and how the subculture of pop fandom could be incredibly complex and intricate.  The class brought new light to these very niche cultural divisions and brought a new definition to a “fan” of something.  These people were really serious!  One book that we used as a text in the class was “Textual Poachers” by Henry Jenkins.  Here is a review of the book:

When most people think of o Star Trek fan, they imagine a young man with glasses and a polyester uniform stretched tight over his paunch. In this book Henry Jenkins explodes that myth. The typical television fan — of Star Trek or any other show — is female, educated, and often caught in a job that doesn’t make full use of her abilities. In media fandom, she finds a social and intellectual world that is a rich complement to her mundane existence. Jenkins also discredits a more pervasive myth — that of the tv viewer as an addicted idiot passively receiving broadcasters’ ideology of consumerism. In truth, fans appropriate material from tv shows, making new meaning. They write stories and folk songs, and even make videos from re-edited programs. Not all viewers are as active and creative as fans, but it’s clear that we need to rethink basic ideas about the viewing process.

For readers like myself who are involved with modern interactive technologies such as The Well, Internet multimedia, and virtual reality, this book is an important reminder not to view more traditional media forms as “passive.” –Amy Bruckman

The colorful term “slash” refers to the convention of employing a stroke or “slash” to signify a same-sex relationship between two characters (Kirk/Spock or K/S) and specifies a genre of fan stories positing homoerotic affairs between series protagonists. Slash originated as a genre of writing within Star Trek fandom in the early 1970s, as writers began to suggest, however timidly, that Kirk and Spock cared more deeply for each other than for any of the many female secondary characters who brush past them in the original episodes.

Fan interpretive practice differs from that fostered by the educational system and preferred by bourgeois culture not simply in its object choices or in the degree of its intensity, but often in the types of reading skills it employs, in the ways that fans approach texts. From the perspective of dominant taste, fans appear to be frighteningly out of control, undisciplined and unrepentant, rogue readers. Rejecting the aesthetic distance Bourdieu suggests is a cornerstone of bourgeois aesthetics, fans enthusiastically embrace favored texts and attempt to integrate media representations into their own social experience. Unimpressed by institutional authority and expertise, fans assert their own right to form interpretations, to offer evaluations, and to construct cultural canons. Undaunted by traditional conceptions of literary and intellectual property, fans raid mass culture, claiming its materials for their own use, reworking them as the basis for their own cultural creations and social interactions.

Bruckman, Amy. “Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Callers.” Whole Earth Review 81 (1993): 99.