connect the dots: would Castiel survive tumblr’s intimate collective?


I’m having one of those periods where despite being chaotically busy, my mind has decided to connect all sorts of dots and chase down various connections between the things I’ve been doing that I thought were disparate. I used to post these types of thoughts on my academic livejournal, now long defunct. I think it’s time I start similarly brainstorming in blog form. And not only that, but I’m also (for various reasons which I’ll get to below) feeling its time to either crosspost or move platforms entirely, to, yes, tumblr. [I’m going to resuscitate this tumblr if you’re interested.] So here’s today’s crazy synthesis, in what I hope will become a new-old habit:

Dot one: I posted at Antenna last week about Squaresville and the intimate collective; it’s part of a larger project/book chapter that’s in its infancy, about web series and audience/fan address. I’m finding watching the development of web series transfixing; it feels like watching the birth of film narrative in real time. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was heartbreaking to see end, not just because I miss the characters but because I miss the excitement of seeing how a transmedia story could unfold so beautifully and so surprisingly (despite being such a familiar narrative) across all these different platforms.

Without doubt, the breakthrough, stay-with-you element of LBD was Lydia, who with her abundant emotion seemed to capture and channel something so vibrant and of-the-moment about YouTube culture and Tumblr culture. At first I thought that this version of Lydia was going to be too over the top parody, but instead she was the heart of the series, the light shining at its center.

So yes, in my Antenna post I talk about Squaresville, and specifically about Zelda’s monolo7ue, “Fell in love with a song,” which is about her/our intimate/deep/intense connection with music/media, and about how the video invites others to share their own mirrored music love, or to perform their own versions of the narrative. Of course Zelda is portrayed by Mary Kate Wiles, who also plays Lydia, and who also speaks to us as herself on Tumblr. (I was especially moved by her making this post about what playing Lydia has meant to her.) There’s something about Mary Kate’s performances that just seem to capture the spirit of individual emotion (dare I say “feels”) and the intimate collective, united by emotion, that I find so compelling these days within fandom, and specifically within tumblr fandom.

Dot two: Yesterday, in my Theories of Spectatorship class, we were fortunate to have Kristina Busse skype in to speak with us, to talk about her work on the ethics of fan research as well as her experiences with acafandom and fan studies in general. We had a terrific conversation, and at one point we were talking about whether the (mostly) unspoken fan rules of asking permission & attribution when re-posting were shifting within tumblr culture, what with retumbling being at the heart of the interface and culture. Now this was April 3rd, and so I had fresh in my mind April 1st, otherwise known in my corner of tumblr as the “Mishapocalypse,” in which everyone changed their icons to the face of (actor/overlord/possible antichrist/digital orchestrator of collective dada creativity) Misha Collins, and posted all manner of images with Misha’s face photoshopped on. This example popped into my mind as we were speaking with Kristina because it seemed to me a striking example of collective shared performance of emotion/identity, where individual ownership of any of these images was precisely not the point. Post after post declared variations on the “I am Misha; I am Misha, we all are Misha” theme. (One of my favorite examples…) It was about a temporary moment of collective affiliation, a public, intimate, performative collective with (our collective interpretation of) Misha the connecting point, the translation, the calque linking us together.

Misha has already been a topic of class conversation because my students read my recently published piece on him/his fandom/GISHWHES etc. One of my students even tweeted him with a link to my essay, which I feel very conflicted about because of all the issues that drums up with our fan-scholarly relationship to our subject/object of study, and our academic privilege, combined with some version of fannish shyness, but that’s a post for another time… I also shared with them my GISHWHES experience and recent runner-up GISHWHES award (a very distracting screen saver filled with the above mentioned collective dada creativity). And we’ve been watching select, Very Meta episodes of Supernatural. This week, we watched Changing Channels, in which Sam, Dean, and Castiel get thrown from show to show in the Trickster’s creation of TV world. One of my students retumbled this brilliant post at our class tumblr. I’m fascinated by this post because it envisions Castiel trapped within our shared world of tumblr, traumatized by what he finds there (specifically in the form of destiel). But (and here’s where I’m going to get fan geeky) which I think of the collective angel consciousness in Supernatural, (or is that really in fanon…) I wonder if tumblr would seem that foreign to him after all… Well, the collective consciousness part perhaps not, but I suppose that angels aren’t built for “all the feels.”

So, (loosely) connecting the dots: the intimate collective = collective intelligence + collective creativity + shared emotion, and together these three are changing our (or at least my!) assumptions about authorship and ownership and perhaps what we give and get from fandom and why.

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