Date of Award

8-1-2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Whaley, Rachel

Abstract

The focus of this research is “fanvids” which are the creative work of fans that combine clips or images from a visual “canon” source (usually a television series or movie) to music to create an alternative narrative. By using qualitative content analysis methods, I sampled from the television show Supernatural and the 2009 film Star Trek to understand the ways diverse characters were presented and what types of cultural narratives existed. Then I sampled from seven different vidding communities, collecting a total of 105 vids and 6509 comments on those vids as the second part of my sample. Then drawing on the sociological subfields of social psychology, gender, cultural studies, as well as the broader literatures of media and film studies, I analyzed both the data from canons and fanvids. My analysis centered on the following research questions: a) What are the cultural narratives present in the canon sources and how are those narratives rejected, accepted, replaced, or otherwise transformed within fanvids? (b) How do the narratives present within the canon source and within the vids reflect the ideologies and spirit of the culture that produces those narratives? (c) Are these vids and discussions a sign of potential change in cultural ideologies and narratives and, if so, what change is taking place? My findings within the two canons include an emphasis on a masculinity that maintains control through violence and aggression; in contrast vids reject this type of masculinity and the larger cultural narratives that support it, except when that violent masculinity is sexualized in the context of homosexual relationships. Further, vids predominantly reject the heteronormativity found in both Supernatural and Star Trek in favor of presenting queer relationships. Within this dissertation, I have used the transformation from canon to fandom as a narrative proxy for cultural change. The differences and similarities between canon and vid point to deficiencies both in narrative and in representation in the media we are producing in the U.S. as well as narratives that are stable and enduring, so much so that fans add them even when they are not present in canon. These are the stories our culture, right now, is built on; essentially, these are the narratives that are part of the cultural ideologies that reflect hopes, dreams, beliefs, and ideologies of the people within our society.

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