Tag Archive for fandom

Always take a linkspam to a party, Rose. Linkspam is good.

An oldie but goodie post at A Dress a Day, “You Don’t Have to Be Pretty“:

Now, this may seem strange from someone who writes about pretty dresses (mostly) every day, but: You Don’t Have to Be Pretty. You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.

It’s excellent, go read the rest.

From Racialicious, “How Felicia Day and Chris Hardwick (Unwittingly) Reinforced Geekdom’s Whiteness.” And you should also read the essay by Pam Noles they link in the beginning, “Shame.”

Feminist Harry Potter is one of the best Tumblrs on the internet. Behold:

Luna Lovegood with the caption "A real feminist takes risks without fear & always prioritizes justice, even when everyone else thinks she's crazy."

Hermione Granger with the caption "Because our culture marginalizes the experiences and perspectives of women, this book is called 'Harry Potter' even though I saved Harry's butt a hundred times."

Via Doctor Who News, David Yates says they definitely ARE making a Doctor Who movie, but probably not for 5 or 6 years.

Graham Norton interviews Lalla Ward about her work on the recent audio book of Shada by Gareth Roberts (and Douglas Adams), her time playing Time Lady Romana, and so on. Worth a listen.

On Tor.com they discuss seriously (despite dismissing the idea as silly on Twitter) who they’d like to see cast as a female Doctor – some great casting ideas there along with those we’ve already discussed!

At the Social Justice League, how to be a fan of problematic things.

At i09, they list 10 times the Doctor acted like a total bastard on Doctor Who.

At Tor.com, they discuss Paul Cornell’s decision to forgo being on SF/F panels that do not have 50% women contributors.

Feel free to discuss on any of the above links in the comments!

 

Why I Don’t Cosplay

I’ve been a geek all my life. From the time I was a little girl I grew up on Star Trek and had a deep, undying love for Sherlock Holmes. I lived blissfully unaware of the mocking geeks get as I grew up because I was homeschooled. My peers were fellow kids at church and clubs. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I realized I was different. A girl at summer camp teased me for using large words, which I thought were normal, every day words. It was also around that same time I started getting teased for being overweight.

I’m not going to say that I’ve been brutally teased like some people I know. My incidents of being bullied for my weight are very few (several have happened online with extremely rude comments or emails). We’re talking a handful of incidents over a very long period of time. Personal attacks are rare, but the general overall feeling about overweight women, especially in the geek fandom is intense.

While my body image and confidence are usually fine, going to a big convention filled with scantily clad hotties sends my shields up. I’ve been in earshot of people who snicker and laugh at the plus-sized Batgirls or other cosplayers who don’t fit the skinny actresses they’re portraying. Once I asked one of these curvy girls to pose for a picture and genuine shock crossed her face. Other times it’s been a large man in a Roman gladiator outfit who gets laughed at or the plus-sized Princess Lei. Every time I heard these snickers and laughs I was less comfortable with dressing up.

I’ve only dressed up at a convention once, despite having attended many. It was DragonCon, I was on a panel for my audio drama podcast and I dressed up as my character, Anya. My mother made me a skirt and I painted a shirt to resemble her Once More With Feeling costume. In a large group of costumed people (my best friends were Buffy and Drusilla), I felt more able to handle my perception of dressing up. It helped my costume wasn’t too far out there (I mean, it was a skirt and shirt). Even so, I was ill at ease despite the euphoria of celebrating an amazing production and having a packed out room to hear our performance. I rushed back to my hotel room and changed as soon as I could.

So when I saw all of the Doctor Who cosplayers at Gallifrey One again this year it brought up those emotions. I remembered the poor girl who asked on a forum who she could dress up as being plus-sized, the only answer she got was ogre Princess Fiona. I wanted to scream.

I can’t even say it’s Hollywood’s fault per say. When I considered dressing up as an actress who is plus-sized and was figuring how to do her costume I read a glut of nasty YouTube comments and the emotional response just flared up again. Here was a wonderful actress, who I so admired, being skewered online because of her weight (I know, I know it’s YouTube, what should I expect, but still it’s awful).

Cosplaying is supposed to be, at least for me, an escape. It’s a chance to be someone else for awhile and to live in their skin. I love walking around Gallifrey One and seeing the responses people get to their costumes. One girl, dressed as Sherlock, was walking away and another girl caught a glimpse of her and yelled out, “I believe in you, Sherlock!” It was like when little kids see their favorite characters at Disney and believe, in that moment, that they’re real. It warmed my heart. But, I can never have that experience because of the reactions I have heard in the past.

So, I won’t cosplay. It’s the one area of fandom I’ve barely tried and it kind of makes me sad.

So why write about it here? Well, I didn’t want to really. I’m not a big fan of pity parties or being vulnerable in a public forum. I finally realized I should get the conversation going and perhaps make people think twice before they snicker at the plus-sized costumed fan walking through the hallways of your next convention. The cosplayer you save might just be me.

 

 

EDIT! Follow up post about this is here.

i09 commenters on femme Doctor cosplay: A response

Cross-posted at The Cosplay Feminist.

As a researcher of cosplay, who often makes conclusions about the feminist (conscious or unconscious) intentions of cosplayers, I am used to having people say my research and/or conclusions are illegitimate. I often have people tell me I’m “reading too much into” cosplay, that I’m assuming too much about cosplayers, that cosplay isn’t even more than women wearing pretty clothes (all women care about!), so what the hell is there to study?

The comments on my interview at i09 were no exception. I didn’t comment over there, because you have to pay me money to get me to go below the line at major websites, but I will respond to some of the “threads” of comments that were common over there. I also chose these four because I’ve heard them all before, and they are common objections or reactions to my research.

Reaction #1: People can cosplay without having motivations! As exemplified by this comment:

While there are many fascinating points about this interview, saying ‘…but even the ones who were less conscious were clearly making up for what they saw as a lack of female protagonists.’ it is too broad a brush to paint everyone’s motivations with. Sometimes making a costume for fun is just fun without any deep, psychological motivation behind it.

Pretty much everything human beings do creates meaning. Fashion is no different (and neither is costume). To say, “Some people just wear clothes for fun and without having other motivations!” is as silly as saying, “If I wear a suit to work, it’s because I have fun wearing it, not because my boss will then interpret me as professional and qualified.” Clothing has meaning, both personal and cultural. Cosplay is rife with meaning, determined by the wearer, the fan community, and the culture within which the cosplayer exists. The femme Doctors are using certain sartorial choices (like corsets, which may have overlapping meanings on the personal, fan community, and cultural levels) to create different meanings.

Cosplayers don’t always know why they make cosplay choices, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t subconsciously making decisions based on the meanings they want to convey. My interviews with cosplayers have borne this hypothesis out. At first, many want to say that they cosplay “just for fun.” And “fun” is a motivation behind their costuming, but it’s not the only motivation they have. When pushed, they are usually able to come up with all sorts of motivations for what they do. Or their choices conveniently match up with their interpretations. (Take my question to Niki La Teer, who dressed in a femme TARDIS costume and just happened to interpret the TARDIS as female.)

My short answer? No, people can’t cosplay without having multiple motivations and without trying to convey multiple messages/meanings. Everything in my research has led to this conclusion.

Reaction #2: Ladies cosplaying is for fapping. An example:

I would do unspeakable things to most of these doctors. Yep.

Not to mention the TARDIS.

Just…gross. Stop it, fans, because it’s not as endearing as you think.

Reaction #3: The companions are heroes, too! By saying they aren’t, you’re saying they aren’t awesome. Exemplified by this comment:

River Song isn’t a hero? I’d argue that Rose becomes a hero in her own right, too. Though I have problems with the direction they eventually took Martha Jones in, she certainly became her own woman, and a hero. We haven’t followed their solo adventures, but then Doctor Who isn’t their show- it hasn’t depicted Captain Jack’s independent exploits, either.
Sarah Jane may have started out as merely a companion, but her solo adventures have been covered.

All these characters play second fiddle to the Doctor, but since it’s his show, so that criticism seems invalid to me. Batman is a secondary (or tertiary) character in the new Batwoman series because it’s her book!
Like CJ, I applaud how this kind of fan activity can criticize or just recontextualize gender and how it works in the Whoverse, but it seems unfair to these great female characters to say that they’re mere sidekicks.

This comment even mentions why I said that the companions are “definitionally” sidekicks in Doctor Who: the show is about the Doctor. It’s not a two-man show, it’s a one-man show. Notice how there are no episodes in which companions appear, but no Doctor. But there are several episodes in which the Doctor appears with no companion. That’s because the show isn’t about them. They can’t be “heroes” in a show that makes them play “second fiddle” to a dude. You can’t actually have it both ways.

Here’s the thing: this show does not have to have a White man as its hero. It’s not a requirement to be on TV (even if it may seem like it). The producers have choices they make, and they choose for this show be focused around the subjectivity of a person played by an actor in a particularly privileged set of social and political categories. The people who say, “But the show’s about a dude, thus you aren’t allowed to be mad the ladies aren’t protagonists!” are completely missing the point. The show. Doesn’t have to be. About a dude. Even if they wanted to keep the Doctor a White man, it’s possible to have a leading duo in a television show where both subjectivities are at the center of the show, and one is not secondary to another. (See: The X-Files, Castle, Warehouse 13, Bones, etc.) Doctor Who chooses not to do this.

Further, it’s ridiculous to recognize that all the women in Doctor Who play “second fiddle” to the Doctor and then tell me they are heroes/protagonists. I should point out that the reason I used “heroine” as the label here is because, in my mind, the use of “heroine” to describe a secondary character is mainly rhetorical. Obviously, women doing femme Doctor cosplays are not of the opinion that companions are simply not awesome. But they want more. They want women to be the protagonists, the main characters, heroines.

The women of Doctor Who have been amazing. They’ve been complicated, flawed, funny, brilliant, and resourceful. I think they could be pretty fabulous heroines. But the show? It does not frame them as heroines. They may buck against the label “assistant,” but that’s what they are in the show. They are helpers and sidekicks. Their subjectivities, their storylines, their very existence on the show (and in River’s case, their very existence full stop) are predicated on the Doctor. They wouldn’t be there, and we wouldn’t see their stories, without him. Which is why they can never be called heroines.

Reaction #4: Cosplay is derivative, and thus not creative (enough). It took a while for this guy to come right out and say this, but he finally did:

The problem with fandom is that it wants to own the thing it loves and then transform it into their own image. Nu Who is a living testimony to this, but what’s wrong with just liking something for what it is?

If you want to be creative, create your own stuff. Fandom is inherently parasitic these days.

[Emphasis added.] I’d like to point out, first, the privilege inherent in the statement, “What’s wrong with just liking something for what it is?” Oh, you mean a pseudo-imperialistic show that often marginalizes women, people of color, asexual folk, and GBLTQ people? Yes, I suppose I could “just like” that if I was so privileged that I had my head up my own ass.

So, fan culture does indeed take raw material (a TV show, a film, a comic book, a novel) and (irreverently) rips it apart. Fans mine these texts for what they find relevant to their experience as a human being. And they transform that text. They recreate, re-imagine, reinterpret. Bourgeois values are against us doing this, in part because when fans recreate, they are refusing to accept the values, interpretations, and perspectives that are given from the Powers That Be (in this case, authorized creators like actors, directors, and writers). Going against power structures has never been okay with bourgeois value-systems, particularly when those interpretations (like femme Doctor cosplay) makes apparent the structures that oppress particular classes of people.

I’m going to guess this commenter is a straight, White, abled, cis-gendered man. The reason I’m guessing that? Because the show would already have to speak entirely to your (privileged) existence for you to say you’re a fan without irreverently reinterpreting the show yourself. (Or, he’s not, and he does reinterpret, but he assumes that because he doesn’t write fanfic or cosplay, it doesn’t count or he doesn’t do it.)

Let’s address, then, his statement that cosplayers should “be creative” by “creat[ing] their own stuff.” This is a common sentiment about fan works. People act like fan works are derivative, and thus they are less-than. I’ve got news for you, folks: Everything ever written down is derivative, except maybe cave paintings. (Maybe.) Every song you hear on the radio is derivative. (Yes, even the “good” music.) Every piece of artwork, every fashion creation, every architectural masterpiece, every piece of choreography: all derivative. That isn’t a critique; it’s descriptive. Fan works are simply more honest than most about their derivative nature.

So sure, you can draw an arbitrary line between, for example, fanfic and “real writing.” But that line is a construction, not natural truth. There’s nothing more creative about writing something not based on Doctor Who (or Harry Potter or Supernatural). You could argue that most fanfic is terrible, and thus it’s not real writing, and I would laugh at you. Most of the fiction that’s been written down in the world is just as terrible as the vast majority of fanfic. Perhaps you want to argue that because fanfic has not been published, it is not “real” or “creative,” but then you’re just being an asshole.

Fan works and productions are creative. Hell, the works you are deriding, those that reinterpret the text to fit their experiences, may even be more creative, if simply because they are more interpretive. Cosplay is not parasitic, it is productive, like all other fan production.

Examples of creative processes are analyzing a text, reinterpreting a text, and critiquing a text. Fan works do all these things. An example of a non-creative process is “lik[ing] something for what it is,” or passively accepting others’ interpretations.

Why do we watch Doctor Who?: A fan scholar’s perspective

Cross-posted at Geek Feminism.

This line from ellecleg’s last post really got my attention:

But let’s be honest – the series is called Dr Who. We tune in every week to watch the man who flies the blue box.

It got my attention because I really wonder if many fans watch Doctor Who for the Doctor. It seems unlikely, given how irreverent most fans are towards source material (the TV, films, or books they are fans of). Fans are all about re-interpretation, re-invention, and analysis based on their own experiences. That stuff doesn’t start with their fan and slash fic, with their cosplay, with their fan vids. It starts with their actual experience of watching the show. And ellecleg’s point was that most of us understand we’re watching a show about a White dude with a British accent, and so to complain that the female characters aren’t up to snuff is silly, since we all tune in knowing they’re secondary anyway. But I would hypothesize I great deal of female viewers don’t tune in to watch the Doctor at all.

Yes, the female characters are secondary. But that’s a production decision. And fans don’t generally let production decisions get in the way when there is still something to scavenge from the show. This is the beautiful thing about fans: they don’t let creators tell them how they get to experience the show. I mean, the creators often do tell us how to experience the show (*cough, cough,* George Lucas), but fans don’t comply. And I would say that fans don’t just ignore the voices from on high that directly tell them “You can’t read it that way,” but they also ignore plot details, the structure of casts, and other elements in shows that tell them how to read it indirectly. So even though the companions are definitionally sidekicks to the Doctor, plenty of women will still read those companions as the heroes. They’ll still read the Doctor as a genderqueer character they can relate to. And they can do all that while complaining that Doctor Who needs a lady protagonist every once in a damn while.

In John Fiske’s Understanding Popular Culture, he describes a study done on female Charlie’s Angels fans. I don’t know if you remember that show, but the endings of the episodes were awful. Fiske claims,

The narrative closure of each episode is strongly patriarchal, as is the pleasure offered by the visual style of the program, and a textual or ideological analysis would conclude that patriarchy is recuperating signs of feminine liberation. Yet many women have reported reading Charlie’s Angels selectively, paying attention to the strong women detectives and almost ignoring the signs of the patriarchal closure. Some said that they would typically leave the TV set before the end of the episode and thus avoid altogether one of the main moments of patriarchal narrative power. (143)

That last bit made me laugh out loud when I first read it. The women who saw Charlie’s Angels as a pro-woman, feminist show, just walked away during the part of the show that put the ladies back in their place. As Fiske argues, we can’t make any assumptions about fans based on an assumption that readers sit still and read/view the way the creators want them to, because “popular reading is often selective and spasmodic” (143).

I don’t have to walk away from actually watching it, but I can tell you that when I rewatch River Song episodes, I conveniently pretend that her entire existence was not predicated on the Doctor. I pretend she’s just a woman who happened along the Doctor and became her badass self because she’s badass, not because she wanted “to find a good man.” (For serious, Moffat?) Because I loved River Song before “Let’s Kill Hitler,” and I’ll be damned if Moffat is going to ruin her for me.

Cartoon Jenny and River dance together.

Cartoon Jenny and River do a dance. From Comic Who, by Marco Castiello & Elisa Moriconi. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Some fans may not excise parts, but add parts. An immigrant or refugee might read the Doctor as similar to them–an alien who doesn’t quite fit in, whose home is far away or lost. An LGBT person might read the Doctor as queer, a character who shares their experiences. An asexual person might read the Doctor as asexual, focusing on the Doctor in particular seasons. And all of them may have these “selective and spasmodic” readings and experiences of the show without giving up the right to critique the show for not having enough people of color, queer people, or asexual people, or for portraying those people’s experiences poorly. I can love my version of River Song without giving up the right to tell Doctor Who that it needs to feature more independent, badass, older women who aren’t literally revolving around the Doctor.

Even if you look at this blog, we seem to talk about the Doctor not at all, and the companions a whole lot. Even ellecleg’s post is a love song to the female companions. (I think we can never have too many love songs to the companions on Doctor Who.)

So why do we watch Doctor Who? I imagine the answers are as varied as the viewers are. And the man in the blue box may be so much less important than the creators think he is.