The “Oh My Salvatore” Vlog as a Case of “Crazy” but Permissible Fan Behavior

Curator's Note

**Spoiler alert: This clip concerns the season finale in graphic detail.** Today’s curated clip explores a fan’s video reaction to the season finale of the CW’s The Vampire Diaries (TVD). While I am not sure why the vlogger, Chloe elected to record herself in an automobile, I am quite sure she was excited, astonished, awed, and all-around giddy from the events of the episode. Indeed, a few wonderful pieces on the first season of TVD with regard to genre and narrative plotting (http://bit.ly/dAKG5F and  http://bit.ly/9comjf) suggest the reasons that the poster was so elated. However fascinating (and funny) this young woman’s fan relationship is to TVD, what is more useful to this week’s theme is the clip’s connection to celebrity culture. The only reason that I knew about this video’s existence is Twitter, where the“Oh My Salvatore” vlog was tweeted by TVD actors and showrunners. Actor Ian Somerhalder (Damon) tweeted that she was “a genius”; actress Nina Dobrev (Elena) tweeted she was “brilliant. amazing. enthusiastic. You, lovely lady are pretty cool.” Further, both co-creators and executive producers Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec re-tweeted the video on their respective Twitters.*

What I want to suggest through this clip is not just that the supposed boundaries between celebrities and fans are being blurred through Twitter, but rather that a particular type of fan is necessary for these blurring relationships. Searching fan reactions to TVD on Youtube yields a variety of ages and races but the one characteristic that is most common is the freaky, excited, cheek-grabbing hysteria many posters perform. For celebrities, particularly those involved in these productions, giddy fandom is more accessible than the more thoughtful, reserved kind. I suppose that the tangibility of emotion relayed by these fans is easier to discern for the famous than the more cerebral “aca-fan” who may gush or squee (God knows I did throughout the season) about the characters but is still able to ask difficult questions and be critical when necessary.

This is not to say, however, that the “geeked out” responses are not intelligent. These fans demonstrate mastery of the narrative in ways very similar to fans of daytime soap operas and so-called narratively complex primetime dramas. However, it is the manner in which vloggers like Chole engage in these conversations that seems to endear them to the celebrities and not, for example, the kinds of acafan interactions mentioned above that try to legitimize TVD as a “quality” series. Indeed, it may also be true that the types of fans who post to Youtube are more “discoverable” to celebrities than acafans. Although I am quite doubtful that Williamson, Plec, Somerhalder or Dobrev would respond to the articles written above or retweet them—which only suggests that they are no more scholarly than the squeeish fans they adore.

      *In these recent Youtube vids, Chloe gives a slideshow of the Tweets that “made her life” and a thank you video to the celebs and her new public. Here (http://bit.ly/ckGurb) and here (http://bit.ly/aKGdPC).

Comments

 This is so fascinating,

 This is so fascinating, Kristen.  I’m particularly interested in this idea of stars/celebrities being uninterested in the academic discourse (or aca-fandom) produced around them.  For instance, John Mayer would never link to a piece I wrote about him deconstructing his Playboy interview on my blog, but he might link to someone doing a cover of one of his songs.  Maybe that’s what I’m drawn (Twitterwise, especially) to ‘celebrity’ critics — such as Dana Stevens at Slate, Anne Thompson, or even Lainey Gossip — who respond much more positively to critical deconstruction (that’s also inflected with fandom).  

 

 

Kristen Warner's picture

Thanks, Annie.

Thanks, Annie. I’d say that there are certainly different kinds of celebrities (perhaps celeb intellectuals would be a better description) who would indeed respond to acafans like us. John Mayer? No. Case in point: the newsstory about the guy from Austin auditioning for the opportunity to host one of Oprah’s new shows. He certainly may win without this assistance but it doesn’t hurt that John Mayer sent him a video through Youtube praising his efforts. Story and videos here: http://tv.yahoo.com/blog/wheelchairbound-lady-magnet-could-be-the-next-oprah—1323 This kind of affective response to an audition video saturated with humor and a little sentiment is precisely what I saw happening with the "Oh My Salvatore" vlogger.

Lindsay H. Garrison's picture

Visibility of Fan Performance

Thanks for this great post, Kristen. I think you make an excellent point about this type of enthusiastic, squee-ing fan being the most accessible for these blurring relationships between celebrity and fan. Part of it, it seems, is of course the fact that this particular fan is clearly in line with what the CW and the show’s producers might be looking for in imagining the show’s success - she’s picking up on all the preferred readings and pleasures of suspense, romance, humor, sexual tension, etc. and is clearly an invested, involved viewer in the target demographic. It’s almost like she could be the epitome of what CW execs were imagining as their ideal viewer/fan.

I’m also interested in larger discourses of young female fandom. Might this type of enthusiastic performance of fan emotion also be the most accessible to celebrities/producers because it’s what they’ve come to expect, i.e. from decades of coverage/constructions of young female fans in various news/entertainment outlets? It reminds me of articles and interviews I was reading recently in TigerBeat magazines of the 1960s, where musicians were constantly talking about how much they loved their "fans," and the same pages were serving to construct those "fans" as young, giddy teen girls by featuring gushing quotes from young, white women. The "Oh My Salvatore" blog is a fascinating contemporary example of this long tradition of accenting the visibility of a certain type of fan performance.

Kristen Warner's picture

Lindsay, Thanks for your

Lindsay,

Thanks for your comment. I agree that the ways that these young women are emoting certainly is modeled after mediated images they’ve seen before. What I think is most intriguing about the celeb’s retweeting Chloe, for example, is labeling her a "genius." I think she’s quite astute but frankly, is far from a genius—at least as I’d describe it. But, again, to the larger point being made today: is my idea (as an academic) of a genius so drastically different from those celebrities that I’m missing the point? Is my version of genius related to those academic posts mentioned? If so, then it is no wonder that these boundaries privilege those kinds of "genius" acts.

Louisa Stein's picture

Quality vs. Emotion

Kristen—Very interesting post! I should say, off the bat, that TVD is on my summer must-see list, and so with your spoiler warning in mind, I haven’t yet clicked through to see the video itself. But I’m still quite intrigued by your analysis—especially by the notion that (aca)fans who try to position TVD as "quality" wouldn’t be as welcome as the preferred emotional reader.

I wonder how much of this comes down to the imagined gender and age of the audience? For example, would similar acafan/critical analyses of Mad Men or Lost be more easily slotted into conceptions of the imagined fans for those series, and thus welcomed by the producers? And on the flip side, would a fannish post gushing over the relationships or fashion in Mad Men be seen as taboo? How much do accepted fan performances deviate depending on the popular and industrial discourse surrounding a particular series/network?

Plenty of food for thought here! Also, how does the still-emerging/evolving model of acafan analysis represented by Antenna fit into a larger spectrum of fannish critical analyses found on personal blogs, livejournal, dreamwidth, TWOP, etc.?

Kristen Warner's picture

Mad Men vs TVD

Louisa,

I think you are spot-on when you suggest that acafan/critical analysis would be more welcome on progams like Mad Men and Lost. I think those shows avail themselves to a certain class of consumer. The demographics for Mad Men are particularly niche and mostly suggest a particular socioeconomic status that allows them the opportunity to be "cerebrally challenged" by a series. Conversely, TVD’s demographic is probably imagined as a bunch of little Chloe’s running around (or sitting down in their parent’s automobiles) squeeing over how "hawt" Damon and Stefan are. I absolutely think that the type of series dictates the types of permissible fan behaviors and more to the point, the ways that the actors involved in the production behave with the fans. I can’t imagine Jon Hamm on Twitter—let alone, retweeting a Mad Men-esque version of Chloe.

Narcissism, Academic Style

Interesting post, Kristen. It, along with the responses here raises some interesting questions for an academic criticism of media, technology, and "celebrity." Even YouTube videos have a poetics — it makes perfect sense that the Vampire Diaries actors will circulate the looniest, goofiest fan videos.  What do the vast majority of us look for on YouTube anyway? The funniest, grossest, most excessive things we can find. The communication of emotion involves codes that are widely legible and accessible — cheek grabbing, screaming, "OMG"-ing, etc. Everyone loves to be loved.  That someone in as narcissistic a profession as acting would be drawn to the most histrionic demonstration of a fan’s investment is….. well, obvious.

What’s less obvious?  That the academic-as-fan argument hinges on its own elements of narcissism, particularly where new media and "celebrity" are concerned. I mean this less caustically than it sounds, but writing about celebrity with the patina of credibility offered by the role of "academic" opens up certain distinctions between media scholarship on celebrity and the affective vlogging even as it collapses others.  Kristen gestures to this well.  

I’m interested in Annie’s response, where in she mentions her own blog and her own reading of an actor’s interview in a popular magazine.  Does it matter that the actor didn’t respond?  Does scholarship on the topic really hinge on some reply from the individual in question?  Insofar as media scholarship on celebrity tends toward a textual critique, wherein the actor as person and the celebrity as text are different things, the experience of carrying out that scholarship with new media involves  at least some fantasy of connectivity with the world of celebrity.

 

Kristina Busse's picture

academia as safety net?

 Hollis, I think your question are really provocative. I loved Kristen’s analysis and the questions as to how especially female fans get constructed, but like you I constantly wonder where we ourselves fit in.

My own fan community has squee and criticism side by side and yet there remains an often uncomfortable relationship where squee often gets accused of being the enemy of the critical (and, in our conversations usually the social justice issues). Moreover, this is a community that shies away from the celebs more often than not, that long has had no engagement rules when initiating new fans and that continues to often relate awkwardly to fans becoming celeb objects of attention.

Likewise, as an academic, I am somehow allowed to love even as I criticize, to squee even as I analyze. (I just made a similar comment on Antenna about the way many seem to watch Glee, continuing to view it, because their academic goggles allow them to watch nearly guiltfree.) So how do we then relate to the celebrity? Do we need their feedback? Or do we theorize in the absence of the creators (who, frankly, at least in my field of literary scholarship have been dead for close to half a century :)?

And, finally, I find Louisa’s comment on quality programs (and possible gendering?) interesting. I adore TVD even as I couldn’t get into True Blood, yet this is an interesting pair juxtaposed for the Flow quality session. Do we care about Alan Ball’s awareness of our existence differently than we do about Kevin Williamson’s? Do we ourselves help to create (or at least perpetuate) the female fan images as we focus on certain shows at the expense of others?

What's behind the Twitter account....

I don’t think that a reading of a celebrity needs response or authentication to validate (or bring it to some ‘next level’) as scholarship — otherwise we’d all be waiting for the directors, producers, and other media-makers to come and respond to our analyses of various other cultural products, as celebrities ‘produce’ themselves (or rather, their image) in the same way that a director is the producer of a film.  With all that said, I do think that Twitter and Facebook have re-introduced the expectation of response — many celebrities regularly interact with their fans on Twitter, whether through re-tweeting or, in the case of Conan O’Brien, selecting one very lucky (and very random) fan to be the sole person that he/his account ‘follows.’

Thus because I’ve had some topics of discussion reply — including Ashton Kutcher, when I asked him if he was ghost twitterering, an experience I outline in detail in an article over at Flow  — I, like many others, have developed an expectation, or maybe let’s just call it a hope, that the chance for response exists.  Of course, as a star scholar, it’s crucial to think of that response as part of image formation and not privilege it as the authentic star him/herself.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t ‘squee’ a little when the Tweet comes in….it is, as you say, an instance of academic narcissism.

 Ultimately, the perceived accessibility of celebrities — either in the case Kristen describes or in my own case — has changed our expectations of what a fan-celebrity relationship or even an academic-celebrity relationship can look like…a point emphasized by Kristina’s post (which either goes up today or tomorrow).  To my mind, it’s a return to the perceived accessibility of stars during the classic era, when stars wrote advice columns, signed photographs, and responded to fan mail…..only, of course, they didn’t.  Thus it’s crucial that we remind ourselves that an ‘authenticated Twitter account’ does not equal the ‘true’ voice of the celebrity….but then again, the illusion (and the belief in a a true, individuated, authentic soul) is part of the backbone of celebrity culture in general.  

 

  

 

 

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