Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #3

Exploring Subcultures

Although I would consider myself a member of various subcultures, they are all based around music. My favourite genres of music are rock, metal and indie music, as well as pop-punk, pop and alternative. Music is one of the most important things to me, and although I actively engage with other fans and musicians and feel as though it has been a major factor in my life up to now, I am aware that many people and would not see me as a member of these subcultures. There is an idea among many that members of subcultures dress and act in certain ways, and I don’t feel that I personally conform to these expectations. An example of this would be in 2008 when The Daily Mail described ‘emos’ as people who ‘wear dark clothes, practice self harm and listen to ‘suicide cult’ rock bands.’

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In Resistance Through Ritual (1975), Hall and Jefferson suggest that subcultures are formed by people who are trying to ‘resist’ the mainstream. This was the basis of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies’ idea that ‘Juvenile Delinquency’ came from an attempt to oppress Capitalism. I personally don’t think that the reason I listen to music not considered ‘mainstream’ is because I am trying to resist being seen as ‘following the crowd’ or wanting to be ‘indie’ or a Hipster, rather than because it is the music I enjoy more than the repetitive, manufactured, overly-produced music that seems to dominate the Top 40. Despite this, I regularly see fans of previously unknown artists who waste no time in accusing them of ‘selling out’ and ensuring the rest of the Youtube community know that they were fans when no-one else was.

This theory has also been criticised for placing too much emphasis on the working class who supposedly create subcultures through their lack of acceptance into other areas of society. As well as this, I remain hopeful that I am amongst the majority of music fans who are more interested in the actual music, rather than how many others are listening to it. For these reasons, I feel that this theory needs updating to accommodate the ways most people find new music and become part of subcultures: the internet.

I have found that the subcultures I am a part of have allowed me to meet and talk to other people with similar interests to me, often just because they are wearing a t-shirt of a band I don’t know anyone else who likes. Dick Hebdige discusses how subcultures are formed in ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style’ and suggests that when first formed through a ‘common resistance,’ subcultures are seen as radical by dominant society, but as the style of clothing or music that defines the subculture become commodified by large media industries, it will eventually become more mainstream and accepted by homogenous masses. A recent subculture this theory can be applied to is ‘Hipsters’ whose way of dressing is now recognised, as well as mocked online.

Overall, I find that my participation in musical subcultures gives me a common interest with others. Although I often do not dress typically of the subculture, I often wear band merchandise to express my interests. Also, though I find certain genres preferable, I do listen to a wide variety of music that means that even if other people do not share my main taste, I will usually still be able to discuss music with them.  I think that like myself, many people who do not look or act as a stereotype of the subculture are still just as active, enthusiastic and interested in it than those who do.

Bibliography

Hebdige, D. (1988), Subculture: the Meaning of Style, London, Routledge.

Jefferson, T., Hall, S. & University of Birmingham. Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (1976), Resistance through rituals: youth subcultures in post-war Britain, London, Hutchinson in association with the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, University of Birmingham.

Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #2

Fan Communities and Fan Consumption

It has been continually pointed out to me that I easily become obsessed with bands, TV shows. There have been past instances where I will hear of a band for the first time but will then own four posters, six t-shirts, every CD and be a heavily involved member of their fan forum a week later. Similarly, I have gone from feeling apathetic towards a TV show one day, to sitting up on my laptop all night the next watching every episode and following all the actors and crew members involved on Twitter. I am then likely to drive every person I speak to for the next few months crazy as I regurgitate ‘fun facts’ I have learnt from my hours of reading every Wikipedia page related to my new obsession. The fact that my sisters still remind me of how I used to spend entire days watching, rewinding, and re-watching The Jungle Book video when I was young proves how little I have changed since I was three.

Although I do eventually lose interest, I am still a fan of everything I have ever gone through one of these obsessive phases over and still proudly wear any merchandise I acquired during that period. I can relate to several of the stereotypical characteristics laid out by Jenkins (1992) in his essay on Star Trek fans, ‘Get A Life! Fans, Poachers, Nomads.” One characteristic is ‘brainless consumers who buy anything associated,’ which, although I have so far resisted spending over £100 on a Harry Potter time-turner necklace, is something my extensive collection of band t-shirts proves I am guilty of. The only other of these characteristics I feel applies to me is that I ‘place inappropriate importance on devalued cultural material,’ but in my opinion, learning The Big Bang Theory theme tune on piano was a more productive use of time than revising for A Levels.

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Joli Jensen (1992) identifies two types of fans: the obsessed loner and the frenzied, hysterical member of the crowd. Fortunately, I feel that the latter applies to me. I cannot attempt to argue that the amount of time I spend could not have been better spent reading a classic novel or learning another language, but I would also be wrong to suggest that it has led to no benefits. Upon being the single person from the 150 students in my school year group to move to Birmingham for University, I found that being part of fandoms and having a common interest on which I could start a conversation made the experience much less daunting. I would consider music to be my main interest, and becoming a fan of this has made me more open to and more appreciative of styles of music I wouldn’t normally have listened to. For this reason I agree with Anthony Giddens in ‘Modernity and Self Identity’ (1991) who states ‘A person’s identity is not to be found in behavious, nor in the reactions of others but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going.’

Bibliography

Giddens, A. (2008) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Cambridge, Polity.

Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, New York, Routledge.

Jensen, J. (1992) ‘Fandom as pathology: The consequences of characterisation’ in Lisa A. Lewis (ed.) The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, London, Routledge.

Fandoms, Subcultures and Cult Media #1

Auto-Ethnography

“It’s somebody who is obsessed with a particular star, celebrity, film, TV programme, band; somebody who can produce reams of information on the object of their fandom, can quote their favoured lines or lyrics, chapter and verse.” – Matthew Hills, 2002

I consider myself a fan of many different things. I love films, I obsess over TV shows, and I’m constantly online, finding new artists and talking to others about my main passion; music. I feel proud to be a fan of the music, films, books, television and all other media I consume, and I often show this buy purchasing merchandise and sporting t-shirts bought at concerts. However, there is one particular area of fandom mentioned in Hill’s definition above which I neither participate in, not can fathom why so many others do. This area is celebrities.

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Magazines and tabloid newspapers are currently full of meaningless stories about Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Katie Price or Josie Cunningham’s new haircuts. With an average over 10 million Twitter followers between them, these four women are classic examples of celebrities who are ‘famous for being famous.’ Rather than relying on musical talent, acting skills or a love of writing, their looks and scandalous front page stories have been enough for them to achieve more fame and wealth than most of society, whilst seemingly putting in a fraction of the effort. However, they each seem to have a large number of devoted followers who view them in the same way I, and many others, view musicians, actors, directors and authors. This is something I can never see myself participating in.

Alongside many others, media theoriest Theodor Adorno views fans negatively and as acting as a homogeneous mass, consuming the ‘false needs’ expelled by the ‘culture industries.’ Similarly, in ‘Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture,’ Henry Jenkins lists several stereotypes of Trekkies (Star Trek fans) which could be applied to other fandoms. I believe that several of these can be applied to followers of celebrities. The one I felt was most applicable was that they ‘are brainless consumers who will buy anything associated with the programme or the cast.’ Of the four women I have mentioned, Josie Cunningham is the least well known, with only 108k Twitter followers. However, in July 2014 she was able to make £30k selling four tickets to the birth of her third child (which were refunded when she discovered she would be having a girl…) Although three of these tickets were sold to journalists, it shows how much that story would be worth to the readers of certain publications.

This example shows the lengths some people go to for celebrities which are further than most people would go for their favourite band. Although I view the fandoms I am a part of as communities of people who share interests, this shows that a single person with enough media hype surrounding them is enough to create fandoms just as dedicated.

Bibliography

Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M. (1944) Dialectic of Enlightenment, Germany

Hills, M. (2002) Fan Cultures, London & New York, Routledge

Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, New York, Routledge