Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Week 5: Fan Culture

 The Harry Potter Alliance? Zombie Apocalypse? The Walking Dead #1: Special Edition? WOW! The readings this week were, at first glance, kind of odd, kind of weird. Or was that just my old age talking? When I told my kids, they were thrilled, envious and…superciliously pitying!

Henry Jenkins’ chapter, “Fan Activism as Participatory Politics :The Case Of the Harry Potter Alliance (2014), put a brilliant perspective on collaboration and activism based on fiction and fandom. On the one hand, it makes sense that people who believe intensely in something, would gravitate towards one another in many facets of life. The idiom “Birds of a feather, flock together” comes to mind. Jenkins states: “The HPA embraces a politics of “cultural acupuncture,” mapping fictional content worlds onto real-world concerns” (Jenkins, 2014, p. 65). And this stretches my sensibilities just a bit. As I read the chapter, I tried to put myself into this space. Would I align myself with others who are fans of my favourite shows/movies? #GreysAnatomy, #MadamSecretary, (retro)#WestWing, #HungerGames, in order to raise funds for Syria; defeat the Harper government? I really don’t think so. So, I wondered, as I read …what’s the ‘draw’?  I would think it is because the HPA marries the Harry Potter content world with real life events in order for people to understand what is going on and how global events impact us all. And, (this is a judgment on my part) maybe these people aren’t solidly connected with people in their real time lives, who would provide them with a face-to-face forum in which to exchange ideas, politics, and to problem solve. Alternatively, maybe they don’t like the people with whom they’re connected in their real-time lives. Either way – it’s a powerful statement on the power of the fictional worlds created by authors such as J.K.Rowling that fans would activate based on a shared love of said world and its characters.

Watching the “Zombie Apocalypse” was quite an entertainment. I honestly thought that at any moment, the people in the documentary – the ‘Preppers’ were going to take a bow and that we would find out that this was an acting class and they were students doing a culminating activity! I was quite surprised at the statement that there is ‘scientific proof’ that there is a possibility of a zombie apocalypse. Phrases that had my eyebrows raising: “Inside the Zombie Mind”; “Zombie-proof the house”. The woman, Patti Heffernan, is so convinced of the imminence of a zombie attack, that she chose her community and house location accordingly. I also gave this woman Understatement of the Year Award: “When a being turns and growls at someone who has just shot them and goes back to eating, ummm, that’s a red flag for me…” (5:18 – 5:25). And I found it quite chilling when she says: “Even my daughter knows we only shoot zombies in the head” (8:37). The time and energy that the Preppers put into this survival preparation was very revelatory. I had no idea. No wonder gun laws don’t pass in the US! And how about the high school English teacher who suggests going off the beaten path to stock up on nutrition if one is caught unprepared? His idea – go to the pet food store and buy cat food! And I was very relieved to find out that there is an organization one can join called the Anti-Zombie militia.

So – here was my thought after the documentary. What if these Preppers got together and collaborated and pooled their resources to help the homeless, hungry and displaced people in their own country? Or reached out to help Syrian refugees? Like those in the HPA, they could connect with people who are like-minded, committed and driven to help out real people in real distress.

Henry Jenkins. “Fan Activism as Participatory Politics: The Case of the Harry Potter Alliance.” DIY Citizenship. Eds. Matt Ratto and Megan Boler. Cambridge: MIT, 2015. pp. 65-73.


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