commonplace blog
Organized fandom is, perhaps and foremost, an institution of theory and criticism, a semistructured space where competing interpretations and evaluations of common texts are proposed, debated, and negotiated and where readers speculate about the nature of the mass media and their own relationship to it… Within the realm of popular culture, fans are the true experts; they constitute a competing educational elite, albeit one without official recognition or social power.

Henry Jenkins, 1992, Textual Poachers, p.86 (via fanthropologist)

#Most accurate definition of fandom as a construct I have ever seen #I approve

(via amorremanet)

I’ve had librarians say to me, “People in my school don’t agree with homosexuality, so it’s difficult to have your book on the shelves.” Here’s the thing: Being gay is not an issue, it is an identity. It is not something that you can agree or disagree with. It is a fact, and must be defended and represented as a fact.

To use another part of my identity as an example: if someone said to me, “I’m sorry, but we can’t carry that book because it’s so Jewish and some people in my school don’t agree with Jewish culture,” I would protest until I reached my last gasp. Prohibiting gay books is just as abhorrent…

Discrimination is not a legitimate point of view. Silencing books silences the readers who need them most. And silencing these readers can have dire, tragic consequences. Never forget who these readers are. They are just as curious and anxious about life as any other teenager.

David Levithan - Supporting Gay Teen Literature (via cake-light)
Culture matters


Sometimes I hear people say that racism/sexism/etc in culture isn’t important or worth criticizing. ”Oh it’s just a book,” they say. ”It’s just a crappy TV show.” ”It’s just a commercial.”

This argument always baffles me. It’s like if you put poison into a fish-tank and then say “Oh well I didn’t poison the fish, I just poisoned the water.” The fish lives in the water, dumbass; it’s completely submerged in and surrounded by the water. I’m pretty sure that poisoned water is going to affect the fish.

Similarly, we all live constantly immersed in this miasma of information that we call “culture.” People are not born prejudiced. We don’t emerge from the womb knowing that all black men are scary thugs, that all Latinas are spicy sexpots, that all Indians are violent savages, that all women are weepy and frail, that all gay men are depraved pedophiles, and that all people in wheelchairs are objects of pity. We learn these things, usually starting at a very young age, and we often learn them from our culture — the books we read, the movies we watch, and the constant barrage of advertising that we don’t really pay attention to but which still manages to seep into our brains, and which shapes the way we think about the world, for better or for worse.

If you want to save the fish, you need to purify the water.

Fan fiction is what literature might look like if it were reinvented from scratch after a nuclear apocalypse by a band of brilliant pop-culture junkies trapped in a sealed bunker. They don’t do it for money. That’s not what it’s about. The writers write it and put it up online just for the satisfaction. They’re fans, but they’re not silent, couchbound consumers of media. The culture talks to them, and they talk back to the culture in its own language.

The Boy Who Lived Forever | Time Magazine (via gypsy-sunday)

This is probably the best, non-judgmental description of fan fiction I’ve ever heard of in main stream media. 

(via raeseddon)

Ah, intent. You unfalsifiable talisman of airy exoneration. This is the second twanging string to the Belgian court’s bow, the outraged insistence that the artist was no racist, had no intent to “create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment.”

The great advantage for its deployers of this defence is that it is completely unprovable either way. Which is why, whatever one’s opinions of their actual bona fides, it is generally strategic to focus on what a person said or wrote, rather than what they think or are.

Which is exactly what Mondondo and Enright do. Their claim is that this book is racist. Because it is. Intent shmintent: whatever Hergé intended, are these disgusting sub-minstrel figures ‘degrading’? Anyone who denies that the answer is yes is a fool or a knave.

There is the absurd hyperbole, to turn a victimiser’s culture into a victim. In his effort to derail the issue, Staggs insists that the “trump” of racism is “used to blot out any part of our cultural heritage that might cause embarrassment.”

“Blot out.” Right. Who, after all, could forget the monstrous erasure performed by Stalin on Trotsky, by putting a warning sticker on him and refusing to shelve him alongside The Gruffalo? The Tintin Vanishes. Quick, conjure images of book burning! First they came for the Boy Reporter and shelved him alongside Persepolis & Sandman, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Boy Reporter, etc.

I’m all on the Yes Train about China Miéville’s analysis on racism apologists and their crusade to excuse the children’s book Tintin

I’m riding the Yes Train because China says exactly what I think about people trying to give racism a pass on “intent.”

(via racialicious)

Holy damn, China Mieville does not fuck around with his antiracism! Look who just rocketed to the top of my “to read” list:

Being asked to apologise for saying something unconscionable is not the same as being stripped of the legal right to say it. It’s really not very fucking complicated. Cry Free Speech in such contexts, you are demanding the right to speak any bilge you wish without apology or fear of comeback. You are demanding not legal rights but an end to debate about & criticism of what you say. When did bigotry get so needy?


Literary Characters and Their Real-Life Inspirations: Tintin — Palle Huld
The 15-year-old Danish writer and actor’s 1928 voyage around the world, documented in his book Around the World in 44 days by Palle reportedly inspired Hergé’s Tintin.

Aaaah that’s so cute and ridiculous!


Literary Characters and Their Real-Life Inspirations: Tintin — Palle Huld

The 15-year-old Danish writer and actor’s 1928 voyage around the world, documented in his book Around the World in 44 days by Palle reportedly inspired Hergé’s Tintin.

Aaaah that’s so cute and ridiculous!


Hey Tintin fans! I was looking up some pictures of Abdullah, and apparently our favorite future-emir was based on a real boy, Faisal II, who became the last king of Iraq at 3 years old after his father died in a car crash in 1939. In 1941, Herge saw an article about the “boy king” of Iraq in National Geographic, and created the Abdullah we all know and love!

Like Abdullah, Faisal II was very fond of practical jokes. Sharif Ali bin Hussein, who was a relative to Faisal II, can quote Abdullah’s lines in Tintin from memory and is very fond of how Herge portrayed his cousin as Abdullah.

I love finding out things like this! Look at how handsome Faisal II looked in his 20s up there! :D

Very interesting!


Annoying, annoying, annoying — it would be funny if it weren’t so predictable. And what’s the “annoying” thing, exactly? Bad acting? Revealing clothes? A high-pitched voice? Look at the men in the scene with the woman and ask yourself: is it really possible that every single male actor, in every single role, is always and without fail less irritating than the woman? Are women really that talentless, that stupid and terrible and vapid? Or are you sitting back and waiting for the woman to be better (but not too much better!) than everyone else before you’ll give her your grudging approval?

People will often cry gross over-intellectualisation when popular culture is critically addressed, as if it is somehow exempt from serious consideration because it is itself ‘non-serious’, just a bit of fun that doesn’t require or deserve dissection. I disagree; every expression of art is a product of its environment and as such will reflect the concerns, preoccupations and neuroses of the time. Mainstream entertainment particularly, by its very nature, has to reflect the dominant modes of thinking in order to qualify as mainstream, and in that respect, mass entertainment is even more fun to pick apart.
Simon Pegg, ‘Nerd do well’ (via lucy-vanpelt)
More thoughts on Buttons

So tonight when I was supposed to be doing transcription, I instead had a Media Thoughts jam with hatalie! Also a good use of my time: I may fail school, but at least I will have analyzed the shit out of every episode of every TV show I have ever seen.

Anyway, we revisited an earlier discussion about Buttons, or Narrative Kinks, or, “I don’t know why I love this element of this story so much but get in my brain, you!" And we started talking about Anti-Buttons, or pet peeves, or "I don’t even know why I hate this so much, but please knock that shit off!" This was hardest for me, because I will sometimes bend over backwards to read something the way I want to, all "but if you look at it this way it’s totally subversive or something!” Even if it means I’m giving the creators way too much credit, sometimes I get the most enjoyment out of a story by inventing elaborate ways in which it secretly does not suck. (Death of the Author, okay you guys?)

Also, just as it was hard to for me to keep sexually appealing concepts out of my Narrative Kinks, it turned out hard to keep politically reprehensible concepts out of my turn-offs. But we’ll see how closely I can keep to “it just bothers me!” (Hint: just like I’m into dancing/fighting ambiguity mostly because it is totally hot, I am against catty lady competition plots mostly because they are totally sexist. So, not neutral at all!) Here goes:

  • Catty lady competition plots
  • First person present tense (often)
  • Flat villains
  • Romanticization of war
  • Action scenes that don’t contribute to the narrative symbolically or to characterization concretely
  • Disingenuous cliffhangers (as in, there actually was never any danger, five seconds into the next chapter/episode it’s all “Haha just kidding, this is a plastic gun and I was teasing!”)
  • "Most humans only use ten percent of their brains." Yeah I’m going to just stop you right there.
  • Political intrigue that focuses only on the rich and powerful, never touching on the citizenry/commoners/home front
  • Bringing the dead back to life, unless that’s already been firmly established as a Thing in-universe
  • Worldbuilding that looks cool, but makes no functional sense
  • Mechas. Sorry.

What pet peeves do y’all have in your media? What bores you? I’m curious to see what Lists people come up with for this.

If science fiction tells us anything, it’s that in an infinite universe inhabited by innumerable races and species, the story is still about white people.


Finished reading The Blue Lotus, and was reading up on Herge and his interesting history with racism. These are some excellent essays: 

Can the Subaltern Draw: The Case of the Arab Henchman by Nadim Damluji

Tintin in Otherland by Alex Buchet 

This is unrelated to Tintin, but Nadim Damluji’s essay about the orientalism in Craig Thompson’s Habibi is also excellent and sums up my thoughts about it more eloquently than I ever could in my own words.

Reblagging for great justice.

Alternatively, some fans may find it tempting to argue “Well this media is a realistic portrayal of societies like X, Y, Z”. But when you say that sexism and racism and heterosexism and cissexism have to be in the narrative or the story won’t be realistic, what you are saying is that we humans literally cannot recognise ourselves without systemic prejudice, nor can we connect to characters who are not unrepentant bigots. Um, yikes. YIKES, you guys.

And even if you think that’s true (which scares the hell out of me), I don’t see you arguing for an accurate portrayal of everything in your fiction all the time. For example, most people seem fine without accurate portrayal of what personal hygiene was really like in 1300 CE in their medieval fantasy media. (Newsflash: realistically, Robb Stark and Jon Snow rarely bathed or brushed their teeth or hair). In real life, people have to go to the bathroom. In movies and books, they don’t show that very much, because it’s boring and gross. Well, guess what: bigotry is also boring and gross. But everyone is just dying to keep that in the script.
Dolores Umbridge’s “avoidance and theoretics” approach to D.A.D.A as opposed to actual knowledge drew a lot of parallels to the U.S. sex ed debate.