webwork by Miguel Santos

The digital age provides us regular people with tools of creation and editing that give us the power. With the technology available at hand, everything now is just a click away. Gone are the hassling days of having to rely on heavy equipment and huge production budgets in order to produce your own film. One good example of this is the Nokia commercial wherein Gary Oldman appeared to be making a movie with simply his phone. The wide array of gadgets available on the market has not only given every average Joe the chance to be the next Lucas or Spielberg but also an avenue for these projects to be showcased in. The focus on local home movies is now shifted towards a more public audience. According to Jenkins, these movies are supposedly placed in the middle ground of the commercially focused "dot-coms" and avant-garde aesthetics of the low res movement. This means that these so-called home movies that draw inspiration from different cultural references lies in between two extremes, it can have the best of both worlds. This genre of the fanboy films is the product of combining media convergence and participatory culture. Basically these films are the outcome of a fan’s dream to live out or at least be the mastermind of his own fantasy. This was proven by the numerous spoofs and remakes of the cult favorite, Star Wars. The popularity that arose from that film made it somewhat of a "catalyst" for amateur filmmakers worldwide. All around the world, different make-believe stories and re-enactments were being thought up and actually made into short films. Convergence can be seen with the use of music from the film, dialogue, costumes, and even toys. On the other hand, the participatory aspect was the whole process of actual execution and a form of mimicry of the film. Fans all around have found inspiration in Star Wars and will thus create their own works of art. But this does not limit the newfound creative power to fanboys today. If you think about it, these ideas of mixing up media references, inspirations and actually doing something about them, making something happen is what lead to the eventual success of popular film and TV creators. For example, as mentioned by Jenkins, Even Lucas drew inspiration from cultural references in creating that masterpiece of his. This goes to show you that the ability to be inspired and actually do something about it was made possible to everyone. This also ranges to popular TV shows. Examples of these are comedy shows like South Park, Mad TV, and SNL.

Here's the commercial for the Nokia N93. It shows the numerous capabilities of the phone. Nowadays, with technological advancements like this phone, it is now so much easier to showcase one's creativity. I think this is one example of the "DIY" culture that works very well with digital cinema.

South Park is known for its crude insensitive humor and the parody of social issues. The creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, like George Lucas, are actually examples of fanboys who were able to produce and to showcase to everyone their "fantasies." Before its sudden popularity, South Park started out as an animation short created by the two. Other than the humor, the show's animation is what's noticeable. The decision to make the animation out of cut-out cartoons was inspired by the two creators' love for Monty Python's Flying Circus which the Matt and Trey are big fans of. Influences of culture can greatly be seen in their work and their jokes rely heavily on them. From the animation to the issues they poke fun of, South Park is an example of a fanboy's work that actually hit it big.

Short clip from the Make Love Not Warcraft episode of South Park

We now live in an age wherein these spoofs, parodies, and the ability of different forms of media to crossover amuses and entertains us. Plus with the impact of digital cinema, a lot more is possible. There is now freedom for everyone and anyone to create and distribute their works of art. Jenkins mentions how digital cinema can be seen as an outlet for commercial development. In my understanding, this expands the fanboy creativity to actual TV productions. For example, so many comedy shows nowadays take references from different serious drama shows. I don't think it's a lack of originality but more of an accepted appreciation of how no matter how opposite different ideas are, they can always relate and end up creating something good. For example, SNL with their "Dear Sister" Digital Short. In that segment, references to The OC can be made. In MAD TV, they also have a skit there wherein they spoof 24 with Bobby Lee. All over, you can see how culture really inspires fanboys, or anyone actually, to produce what he/she thinks is funny, interesting, scary, etc. Although you can't really say that the aim of the comedy shows like SNL and MAD TV is the same as that of the satirical and pop culture attacking South Park, the creativity in communicating the message is present in both. Culture has actually been a source for creativity ever since. As mentioned, even George Lucas drew inspiration from Laurel and Hardy to Battleship Yamamoto. Media today is a good mix of convergence and participatory. The flowing of ideas from different films to shows, to music, etc, and the collaboration done on them continue to entertain, amuse, and even inspire us.

Here's the SNL Dear Sister clip, sorry I find it really funny

Here's the 24 spoof made by MAD TV with Bobby Lee and John Cena

Durnham, M.G., & Kellner, D. (Eds.). (2006). Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. US: Blackwell Publishing.
Stone, Matt, & Parker, Trey. (2001). South Park Studios Faq.
Jenkins, Henry. Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture.

Participatory Culture and Fan Fiction

Jenkins’s postmodern analysis of fan films in the digital age poses potential for the emergence of new types of culture and politics. To begin my analysis on his work, I think it is necessary to first establish a sense of what being a fan means. The word is derived from the Latin word "fanaticus", which is used to describe the orgiastic frenzy of temple worshippers from many centuries ago.

Today, there are certainly very different levels of fanaticism that exist, but to speak of fans as a general, encompassing category is to refer to the most active of audiences. They consume media texts regularly, and to some extent, obsessively, as their lives are heavily centered on these objects of consumption, and they take their love for these media products far and beyond the "normal" cultural experience (thus differentiating them from mere consumers). A regular consumer of music, for instance, might just be content with sporadically listening to pop songs on the radio or watching music videos on MTV, while a music fan would eternally be hooked to their iPods, hoard copies of EPs, LPs, albums, singles, bootleg copies of live performances, b-sides, merchandise, and the like, and would even go through great lengths just to see their favorite musicians live. (In this article, a fan even goes so far as having her favorite boyband member's baby.)

Yet while there is a certain adoration and fascination with the media text at work, fans also simultaneously struggle with the meanings that these texts contain. This frustration and ambivalence, which I will eventually elucidate on in the following parts of this webwork, finds its best contemporary example in the ending of the Harry Potter saga, which drew mixed reactions from readers. (Read the comments in this post to see some of those reactions when the ending leaked on the Internet).

In the age of the proliferation of increasingly available portable and digital technologies, fans have been given the opportunity to address this struggle — they are now openly allowed "multiple entry points" (Jenkins 2006:553) not only in the consumption process, but also in the "annotation, appropriation, transformation, and recirculation of media content" (Jenkins 2006:554). Fans have been given the power, through their dynamic media environments, to manipulate, rework, and create new cultural expressions of the media products they consume. This phenomenon has offered, in a very postmodern fashion, an opportunity for "radical alternative[s] to dominant media content" (Jenkins, 2006:555), providing subcultures and minority groups a space in which they can engage in their own discourse and question hegemonic media representations. Their intentions, most importantly, should never be put in question. Such fans, Jenkins believes, "seek not to shut down the corporate apparatus of the mass media but rather to build on their enjoyment of particular media products, … and to use them as inspiration for their own cultural production, social interaction, and intellectual exchange" (2006:556).

Jenkins hails the Web as one of the technologies that have made alternative media productions the very powerful media texts we now know today, with the visibility it offers and the far-reaching range it provides (by allowing media texts to infiltrate through many different levels, such as the local, the national, the international, etc.). The pervasive "building of social ties within a 'virtual community' defined around shared interests" (Jenkins 2006:556) is worth a close look. Destabilizing rigid modernist boundaries of geography and nationhood, fans from all over the globe who may never get to meet each other in person and share very few “real life” connections with each other get a space in which they can freely interact and communicate.

While Jenkins centers most of his arguments in the essay on the phenomenon of grassroots filmmaking, I would like to extend his insights to the realm of fan fiction. In the age of user-generated content, fan fiction is definitely not a new term and perhaps needs a short introduction — it is a form of literature where fans create their own works of fiction in relation to the original media text (or canon), shaping it to their own ideas and fantasies. A widely popular genre of which is slash fiction. The term "slash" refers to the “the convention of employing a stroke or ‘slash’ to signify a same-sex relationship between two characters … and specifies a genre of fan stories positing homoerotic affairs between series protagonists” (Jenkins 1992). The characters used are usually males; slash fiction involving two females has yet to gain the same magnitude of popularity.

Harry and Draco slash fan art from here
To read actual Harry slash Draco fan fiction, visit this community

Kirk and Spock slash fan art from here
To read actual Kirk slash Spock fan fiction, visit this website

Legolas and Aragon slash fan art from here
To read actual Legolas slash Aragon fan fiction, visit this community

Taking slash fiction purely out of context and examining it as a text in itself reveals that it is nothing much but a pulpy, masturbatory story, often saturated with sexual encounters that are often inadequately prepared for in the plot by its writers. Most events even appear to be a self-indulgent fleshing out of the writers’ personal sexual fantasies. As such, the politics of representation in the text is also in most cases as problematic as the dominant representations in the original media texts. Descriptions of sexual intercourse in slash fiction are usually very vivid and detailed, often crossing the boundary of what is considered artful and tasteful — they can be perverse, vulgar, and offensive to the sensibilities of readers.

Yet a closer look would tell us that slash fiction is a form of resistance to dominant sexual perspectives. “Slash… has many progressive elements: its development of more egalitarian forms of romantic and erotic relationships, its transcendence of rigidly defined categories of gender and sexual identity, its critique of the more repressive aspects of traditional masculinity.” (Jenkins, 1992) Thrupkaew agrees, asserting that the creation of these egalitarian romantic and erotic relationships through slash fiction is a strong feminist gesture (2003), for women find themselves equipped with the ability to lay claim to images of men. As they grapple with gender and power issues, they undermine patriarchal assumptions and reconfigure men into characters who are more vulnerable, sensitive, and expressive of their emotions, creating a plurality of representations that would otherwise be virtually unheard of in the dominant media. Bacon-Smith (1992) also notes that this writing process is sexually exciting and liberating for female writers, for “the fictional arrangement allows [women] to both be one man and have another man.”

The media space on the Web for fan fiction writers is more empowering for the minority groups — most especially women and homosexuals — as compared to real life. In the postmodern age, fan fiction gives fans the power to create and recreate symbols and meanings, thus making discourses capillary and dispersed, with a multitude of hybrid cultures and perspectives present in the work.

Bacon-Smith, Camille (1992). Enterprising women: Television fandom and the creation of popular myth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Jenkins, H. (1992). Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. New York: Routledge.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture. In M. Durham & D. Kellner, Eds. Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Blackwell Publishers.
Thrupkaew, Noy. 2003. Fan/tastic voyage: A journey into the wide, wild world of slash fiction. Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture 20. Retrieved February 16, 2009, from

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