Fangirl forever

I am a fan of many things and a part of many fandoms. Whether it be the incredible diverse fandom of Harry Potter, my own personal fan obsession of Jennifer Aniston, Friends obsession, and the previous early obsession of One Direction and Twilight… but we will just move past those ones.

I’ve always known I am quite a fan or quite obsessive with many things. Yet, I’ve also always known there are definitely people with stronger obsessions than mine. What I hadn’t yet realized was that everyone is a fan of something. No matter what it is or to what extent, everyone is a fan of something.

Not only this, but this idea of the ‘fan’ is not a new thing in any way. The fan life has been around for an exceeding amount of time whether it be the insane fans of The Beatles and Elvis or even earlier fans of I don’t know… Achilles?…

What perhaps can be viewed as more of a new notion however, is the idea of the ‘bad’ fan and anxieties about the obsessiveness of fandoms. This is seen from the anxieties about a perceived lack of distinction between fandom and reality, thus causing the ‘bad’ fan. And when thinking about these types of fans, we may stumble across things such as this.

 

We see images and videos of fans behaving like this, and the stereotypes surrounding them are hard to ignore. I know I for one jump straight to them being gullible, childlike and easily influenced. This is also the same as the perceptions and ideas around audiences and media audiences.

Despite these insane, diverse and somewhat erratic fandoms that exist. Those who want to change the world and have dramatic influence over the creation of what they are fans of itself, we are missing many representations of gender and race. There are these same key issues in fandoms that exist also in wider society.

There are many incidents occurring of sexual harassment towards female cosplayers, as well as general abuse towards women with these interests and opinions. Not only this but there is a lack of women, people of colour, different races in fan texts- most obviously in Hollywood. Fans are often at the forefront speaking out against these. An example of this is the Marvel superhero Black Widow and how she has never had her own solo movie, and rarely ever appears in any Avengers merchandise.

The world of the fan is so diverse and creative, and explains many ideas behind how people engage in the media.

Help! I’m panicking morally!

I panic about a whole range of things. I guess you could say I’m a ‘panicker’ (not a word but it felt right). I panic about having to drive to new places. I panic about parking (especially at uni). I panic about whether or not I’m going to panic.  So when I read the topic for this week was ‘Moral Panic’, I thought yes! I’ll totally understand this!

And then I panicked I wouldn’t understand this…

In all seriousness, ‘moral panic’ is a concept or theory that depicts an idea about societies. This ‘moral panic’ begins with a group of persons who emerge as a ‘threat’ to societal values and interests. The mass media portrays this group in a stylized and stereotypical manner, while the moral barricades are started usually by right thinking individuals.

An example of a ‘moral panic’ throughout time could even be the youth of the time. Specifically the Millennials in this current time.

We are constantly worrying about Millennials and their rudeness, their disrespect for older generations and their entitlement. And a majority of the times they are portrayed in the media, its is done so in a negative way and in a stereotypical manner.

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This video for example depicts millennials obsession with social media and external gratification. Despite this fear behind technology, the media seems to always portray it in a way of the moral panic with millennials. How they are the ones with this awful obsession and idea of technology, just because they grew up with it and actually know how to use it.

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This article however in a way depicts both sides the argument, stating we need to stop this moral panic about millennials and why.

Another example of a group at the centre of a ‘moral panic’, and perhaps a more historical example, are the Salem Witch Trials. This is the a perfect example of a moral panic and the implications of one. Women were accused of witchcraft due to ‘crazy’ or ‘hysterical’ behavior or targeted towards women who were social outcasts. This ‘moral panic’ reinforced and strengthened the authority of religious leaders, as witchcraft was seen as a direct threat to to Christian values.

This concept of ‘moral panic’ is not a new ideal, and I don’t believe it will be one ending anytime soon either. There are always people who break social norms and they are always feared by others incapable of breaking the norms themselves.

Now excuse me while I go panic about this blog being wrong.

Leave it on the Dance floor

What is ‘Dance Moms‘?

When I ask this I’m not asking for an analysis on Abbey Lee and her love for Maddy, or how addictive this show is, or how annoying Cathy from Candy Apples is (OMG!!! so annoying though). Instead, what I’m asking is what this show, and others of the sort, really are, and mean in society?

For those who have no idea what I am talking about or what (literally) ‘Dance Moms’ is (have you been living under a rock??) let me explain: ‘Dance moms’ is a reality TV program that follows an elite group of dancers at Abbey Lee Dance Studio. The girls are freakishly talented, the moms are insane and Abbey is basically the devil. Sounds amazing right? Despite all of the controversy its faced, it still carries a popular impact in todays society, and this is due to ‘The Public Sphere’.

‘The Public Sphere’ cannot really be defined by one concrete example, for in todays society it amalgamates itself in many forms. The news, a reality TV show, a talk show, or even Facebook. We all may forget, or not realize, its there, but it is the basis of discussion. To put it simply, it is an area of social life where people come together to discuss social problems and influence political action.

Despite this idea obviously being partaken in much of societies history, the ‘theory’ wasn’t made known until 1962 by Jürgen Habermas in ‘The Structural Transformation of Public Sphere’. Habermas explained the theory as a kind of 18th century coffee house, where men would meet and discuss issues. This has faced much backlash and retaliation today due to the exclusion of women, the lower classes, and all other minorities. However, it was the first general idea.

Today it is no longer likened to a coffee house, as for us, it is everywhere. Now, as soon as you comment or share a post on Facebook you are interacting in ‘The Public Sphere’.

Taking it back to ‘Dance Moms’, this isn’t just a ‘Public Sphere’, but a Mediated Public Sphere’. Which is basically the same thing but you could describe is as a controlled production of a ‘Public Sphere’. In this ‘Public Sphere’, the participants are the dancers, the moms and Abbey. There is always a debate sparked with the participants due to an issue being discussed in the show. And more often than not, this debate can reach the viewers, creating a wider discussion in ‘The Public Sphere’.

Take this episode linked above for example, the girls are partaking in a dance about texting and driving and its implications. This is a terrible and real issue in todays society. It could have easily sparked debate in viewers, and the moms, about the issue and how real and dangerous it is, most likely through the sphere of social media.

Not just the specific issues discussed, but the ones implied, such as the strain on the dancers, or Abbeys influence, in the show itself allows viewers to discuss the series. This creates debate and political action. Take this for example.

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As we can see, ‘Dance Moms’ is just a minuscule example of ‘The Public Sphere’, and how we all interact in it. Despite this series being part of the ‘Mediated Public Sphere’, it is still ‘The Public Sphere’ none the less.

Beyoncé matters because we are told so

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Beyoncé is the pinnacle of modern societies entertainment. She is what young girls aspire to be and what older woman try to be. She is an artist who makes the world stop…..carry on (bad pun). Her meaningful songs and powerful lyrics persuade us to think different things like that pretty hurts or single ladies should always have their hands up. And her signature looks and images shape fashion and style. But what if I told you, this is only because someone else is telling us so. And this someone else is the media.

We cannot deny Beyoncé is an amazing artist in her own right. However her stigma and powerful influence in todays society isn’t just because of her talent or our obsession, its because of her portrayal in the media. In case you are really confused and angrily yelling at your screen “NEVER SAY THIS ABOUT BEYONCÉ SHE IS THE REASON FOR EXISTENCE” let me explain what I mean…

The media isn’t just a free system where anyone can say, think, or portray anything they want. In fact, it is far from that. It is a carefully monitored system that does not allow for much freedom. Not just this, but people OWN it. They choose what is shown and what isn’t. They CONTROL it. And we don’t have a choice in the matter. We are constantly influenced by this thing called the media, and think we are individual, independent thinkers because we read the news. Furthermore, Australia has one of the highest concentrated media ownerships in the world, if you aren’t sure what I mean just look at this image.

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These are the only people controlling what you see and what you don’t. The only people telling you that Beyoncé matters.

I am also a victim of this, as I really didn’t know the truth until yesterday. I always thought.. ‘Oh I listen to triple j and watch abc news so I’m getting like real news and thinking for myself cause I’m so independent’. Oh how wrong I was. Believing I was forming my own opinions about current issues and whether or not I thought red was a good colour for Jennifer Aniston (it is though she can wear anything).

Despite our limited access to the media and perhaps anger or fear towards this. Media will always portray some sort of opinion, and it is important to bring awareness to the fact that we are only getting few of those opinions. So next time you see Beyoncé in the media telling ladies to get in formation, ask yourself, why do you think this matters?

 

Who is this man holding a cactus?

Who is this man holding a cactus? you may ask. Or perhaps you may think, wow, that’s an awkward image. Or some may even say oh hey Michael Cera, what you doing with that cactus?

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Michael Cera holing a cactus 

Despite your possible confusion and questioning of why I am posting a picture of Michael Cera holding a cactus, I want to pose a question. What is this image? You may think it seems like a simple question but in reality it isn’t necessarily.

You see, this image can mean many different things to many different people. When looking at the study of semiotics, each person has different cultural or social backgrounds, or even a  variety of experiences which influence them to see and decode this image differently. Simply, there is no correct way to interpret this image.

Despite there being no correct way to interpret this image, this being the connotations, There is a correct way of seeing this image, or, in better language, we all see the same image, this is its denotation. This images denotation is a man holding a cactus and looking out to the desert with a pensive stare. That is what the image represents, without adding meaning or any other knowledge or background. However, when we begin looking at this particular images connotations, things begin to differ.

As earlier stated, to some this may just be a man with a cactus. Although, to others they may notice that is in fact Actor Michael Cera holding a cactus. This creates a different meaning to those who know he is an actor due to their different experiences of maybe seeing him in a film. They may begin to think of this image as a photoshoot, or a promotion for a movie, instead of just a photo of a random man with a cactus, like those who don’t have the context of him being an actor may interpret. To add a different meaning entirely, someone may have the knowledge of the landscape behind the image, and to them it begins to look like a place they know, and a whole different interpretation arises. To me personally, I see this image as a perfect example of Michael Cera. It profoundly encapsulates his awkwardness and everything surrounding it. As you can see, the image of this man holding a cactus can be read in a multitude of ways, due to the extent of peoples knowledge about the man himself, or even the landscape of which the image is set.

Hopefully it is now clear of why I am discussing an image of Michael Cera holding a cactus.

 

 

 

We’re all an audience and the media is our stage

Despite many of our best efforts to rid the world of many aspects of the media and to stop it from ‘overtaking’ our lives, we failed. It now cannot be denied that for most of us the media is what our day revolves around and we are its not so humble audience.

So what is a media audience you may ask, well disregarding the most obvious answer; you! A media audience is a group of individuals who are being influenced and provoked by the media to listen to it’s ideas and think in certain ways. Some members of our audience may say this sounds scary, some may say it seems ideal. However in some ways the media is really both. It can be a way of bringing ideas together or tearing them apart. Not like literally that would be weird… But its influence can be seen as both good and bad, as most radical ideas usually are.

There have always been many ideas about the use of media, particularly the extent of this use that shape the way we use it and view it. Privacy is a key concern that the media has made a more prevalent fact than ever. When Facebook first came to the forefront and everyone was getting ‘poked’ and ‘tagged’ (I really hope everyone reading this has Facebook, otherwise I’m a creep) my dad was always terrified about being ‘tagged’. He would get angry about the prospect of being ‘tagged’ online for all to see and ‘don’t tag me’ became almost like his catchphrase. Now you may be thinking this seems reasonable, some people just don’t want to be put on the internet for all to see, and I totally agree. However the fact is, my dad never had Facebook, never had an account and in no way could ever be ‘tagged’. There was just always such a misunderstanding and a fear of privacy with this new site that put your information on the internet for all to see. Especially to older generations who couldn’t fathom this understanding of media because they didn’t grow up with it like I did.

Privacy in the media today is something many people have a real fear of, just like my dad and ‘tagging’. However Violence is another paramount concern people always seem to link to the media, whether it really can be linked or not. The idea that ‘Assassins creed’ really has an influence on children and they are going to pull out an assault rifle when they’re parents tell them to do the dishes. Despite this notion being quite prominent there isn’t necessarily much evidence to suggest it exists.

These anxieties aren’t necessarily going away any time soon as they all come back to this misunderstanding and fear of the media and what it can do to society. However it doesn’t stop us from being the media’s audience, and I don’t think it ever will. As it is us who make up the media, we create it and change it everyday. We may never truly understand it and how we are influenced by it, yet in some strange way, we are the media.