One question that fanworks like vids, fiction, and art bring up is just how valid fan interpretations of source material are. In other words, is the author dead?
(Avengers spoilers after the cut)
Do you know what you’re going to be for Halloween?
Let me make it easier for you: who’s your favorite character? In movies, TV shows, books, or even just your favorite singer.
That’s what you’re going to be. It’s just that simple. Or rather, the decision is. The actual process afterwards, that’s where it gets complicated.
I’m facing this dilemma myself right now, and I’m looking to cosplayers for inspiration. Cosplay is the action of dressing like a favorite character from a movie, book, video game, or other media. The level this can be taken to is breathtaking. You know the way Civil War re-enactors will spend hundreds of dollars on authentic buttons for their uniform coats? That’s the level of detail cosplayers lavish on their costumes.
For example, here’s a cosplay of Sakura Haruno, from the popular manga and anime Naruto:
This cosplay is simple, but getting it right can be work. The cosplayer went to the trouble of buying a wig and using props to complete the picture, in addition to either buying or making the costume clothing. This tutorial shows all the steps that go in to creating even a simple costume like this one.
There are costumes that can even be more intricate than what is seen in the original show, like this one:
Shotzgoboom, here cosplaying Suki from Avatar: the Last Airbender, used patterned fabric to give the costume more texture than just plain green fabric, and embellished the armor as well as the headdress. Her makeup also reflects the original character’s makeup, something much harder to achieve in real life than in a cartoon. Her notes about the cosplay include the fact that it took three weeks to make, is physically impossible to put on by herself, and gets very, very hot.
Shotzgoboom put up an FAQ here about her Suki cosplay as well as other costumes she’s done.
Fan conventions are where cosplayers really shine. One of the most famous conventions, San Diego Comic Con, regularly draws cosplayers showing off their creations. Cosplay doesn’t stop at human characters, either: cosplayers can earn cred by creative interpretations of inanimate objects or other spins on favorite characters.
Two cosplays of Kratos, from God of War.
That’s not a toy photographed in close up, that’s a guy. Painting yourself bright green shows some commitment.
Hopefully this has given you some ideas, as Halloween approaches! If you want some more inspiration, Cosplay.com, American Cosplay Paradise, and CosplayLab all have image galleries and forums to discuss costumes with other cosplayers.
Okay, now that we’re a few weeks into this, I can finally admit it: I’ve been dying to write about fanvids the whole time! Fanvids (or fanvideos, or just ‘vids’) are music videos made by fans. Defined by Fanlore.org, the fanwork equivalent of Wikipedia, “Vidders take short clips of footage, generally from live-action source such as TV or movies, and arrange these clips over a song to make an argument or tell a story.”
Like fanfiction and fanart, vids are a way for fans to comment on something they love. For instance, a vid can be a celebration of an entire show and its ensemble cast, like this Community vid by atsp88:
Or a vid can focus on a single character or episode like Prodigi’s fan trailer for the Community episode Modern Warfare:
Fanvids have a serious side as well. Fans use videos to comment on their favorite shows, but not everything they have to say about their shows is positive. As we will see in the next two examples, vids can be used to critique shows and highlight themes never explicitly stated in the show itself.
First, there is Lierdumoa’s vid “How Much is That Geisha in the Window?”, a comment on Joss Whedon’s show Firefly. Firefly is a science-fiction show based in a vague space-age future where America and China have joined forces to become the central federal government, called the Alliance. Lierdumoa’s video critiques Firefly’s heavy use of Asian aesthetics and imagery on the one hand, and its lack of any Asian main characters on the other. As Lierdumoa’s vid notes at the end, there is only one Asian actor in Firefly with an English speaking role, and that character is a prostitute. The vid gives vent to frustration with the syndrome of “invisible Asians” in Firefly, and the fetishizing of Asian culture.
Another excellent example of a critical vid is Sisabet and Luminosity’s “Women’s Work.” The vid, which can be viewed on Luminosity’s livejournal page, examines the popular mainstream drama Supernatural and “argues that the show is predicated on violence against its (disposable) female characters” (Winters, “Vidding”). It highlights the use of women as “disposable” characters, good for roles as victims and vamps but not anything beyond that.
(Warnings for blood and graphic violence.)
As we have discussed in class, media in general and entertainment specifically is becoming more participatory. I think vids are a particularly pointed example of this. Not only are fans creating works that comment on or critique their favorite shows, they are able to use the show’s footage itself to make those arguments. Instead of simply saying “Supernatural’s depiction of women is misogynistic” Sisabet and Luminosity use footage from the series and show exactly how many times and different ways the show kills off its female characters.
Vids are visual essays, and they can make their points more succinctly and more understandably than written essays. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Works cited in this post:
Last week I introduced the bookmarking site Pinboard. But what makes it different from similar sites like Delicious and Diigo? And how did it become so popular with fans looking to keep their fandom-related bookmarks in one place?
To answer these questions, gather round, one and all, for the tale of….
Once upon a time, a great number of fans used Delicious to store their fandom bookmarks. This worked great, fannish activity prospered, and everyone used Delicious to find new fanfiction or authors they hadn’t heard of before.
Storm clouds appeared on the horizon, however, when a slide from a Yahoo! product team meeting was leaked, and showed that Delicious, as part of the “Sunset,” a.k.a. “products-we-no-longer-value” group. Was Delicious being shut down?
No, in fact, it was only being sold and revamped into something much different from the site fans had come to know and love. On September 27, 2011, AVOS, the new managing company, transitioned the site. Users who hadn’t opted in to the new terms of service found themselves locked out of their accounts, and painstakingly organized bookmarks had been rearranged seemingly at random. The bookmarking site had been restructured into a social networking that included bookmarks; unsuited to a large portion of the fans who were using it. It was time to find a new site for fandom to call home.
In came Pinboard. At the time of the Delicious transition/meltdown, many users were trying to find a site to store their bookmarks. Diigo and Pinboard were at the forefront. Like Delicious, Diigo was free, whereas Pinboard required a signup fee that made many users wary.
What put Pinboard in the lead was that, unlike Delicious and Diigo, Pinboard acknowledged fans’ needs and responded to them directly. Maciej Ceglowski, the creator of Pinboard, welcomed the sudden influx of users enthusiastically, and even requested tips on what kind of features they were looking for. Ceglowski’s willingness to listen to his new users resulted in a 59 page document with a table of contents and code samples. After being ignored by Delicious, fans responded to Ceglowski’s positive attention and placed their loyalty with Pinboard. The move was made.
Moral of the story: Don’t ignore your audience – give them what they want! Hopefully that’s what I’m doing here… If not, feel free to send me your own 59 page manifesto.
1) What is Pinboard?
a. A social bookmarking site
b. An example of collective intelligence
c. NOT Pinterest
d. “One dude in his underpants somewhere who has five windows open to terminal servers.” – The Economist
e. All of the above
Answer: E, all of the above.
Pinboard.in is one example of fannish collective intelligence at work. By “collective intelligence” I mean Henry Jenkins’ idea of consumption as a collective process (Convergence Culture, pg. 4), of people bringing together what they know to pool their resources.
Different from that epitome of collective intelligence, the wiki, Pinboard is but a simple bookmarking site. But its popularity with fans of TV, movies, books, and other story telling media is an illustration of two types of collective intelligence.
First, the bookmarking site allows fans to gather their favorite fanfiction, videos, essays, and other fanworks in one place and share them with other Pinboard users. Second, the story of how Pinboard became a bastion for fans demonstrates how fans can “vote with their feet.” When one site became unfriendly to them, fans acted as a group and took their business elsewhere.
I literally can’t say enough good things about Pinboard – but this is a blog post, not the New Yorker, so I’ve condensed it down to a few salient points, (helpfully gathered from Pinboard’s own list of its advantages):
– No ads
– Simple interface
– Fast like a cheetah on Red Bull
– Has a developer devoted to quick customer service
For a one-time fee, Pinboard gives users a place to store all their bookmarks and find people with similar interests by searching tags. Anytime you find something interesting on the Internet and don’t want to forget it, Pinboard is there for you. Getting an archival account, which means paying an annual fee, means the site will create a stored copy of every page you bookmark. If a webpage you’ve saved ever goes down, you still have your cached copy and can keep it as long as you want.
So how are fans using Pinboard, and how is this an example of collective intelligence? As I stated before, fans can use the bookmarking site to store links to their fanworks. Fans save what they consider to be worth keeping around, and in effect each Pinboard account has become an archive of its user’s recommendations, or simply a reclist. Users can track tags to see what other fans are linking to, or add users to their network to get an updated list of what links their friends are saving. Pinboard lets fans collect and share news, stories, and anything else fan-related.
So if this hasn’t convinced you, check Pinboard out and take a tour!
Next week we’ll be talking a little more about Pinboard, but we’ll be focusing on how it became popular with fans. Check Fandemonium out next week for the tale of The Great Delicious Migration.