We Want You: Transmedia Performances of Fan Devotion, Desire, and Domination

Curator's Note

Supernatural guest star turned series regular, Misha Collins, has used twitter to mobilize a vocal and expressive fan base. While his position on the show has remained somewhat marginal through the series’ fourth and fifth seasons, Collins’ twitter followers (currently topping 60,000) proactively celebrate his centrality to their appreciation of Supernatural and his accessibility on twitter. Together, Collins and his fans author a narrative of celebrity/fan co-creation. Via twitter, Collins has dubbed his fans “minions,” and fans embrace and propagate this label on multiple online interfaces including Twitter, Livejournal, and YouTube, thus playfully coauthoring a cross-interface narrative of fannish world domination.

Placing Collins at the helm, fans frame him as leader of a movement of affect, transgression, and excess. Both Collins and his fans cultivate a camp or ironic deployment of military discourse and authoritarian aesthetics. This “Minions Recruitment Advert” by @Manic_Minion playfully trades in the language of propagandistic and instructional film as it constructs both Collins and his fans as knowing performers of nationalistic fannish devotion. The video envisions the call to minion-hood as the opportunity to participate in communal, renegade military organization, highlighting specific images of women engaged in military and industrial labor. The skills described in the video reference various in jokes mined from Collins’ purposefully absurdist and parodic tweets.

This play with irony and affect calls to mind the more visible, mainstream interactions between Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and his Colbert Nation, but where Colbert and fans perform a excessive libertarian masculinity, Misha Collins and his minions intertwine transgressive and stereotypical gender performances. Indeed, gender and sexuality are key in these discourses of military (dis)order and affective domination: in works such as this video, fans celebrate Collins as a renegade yet thoughtful artist who models an alternate mode of masculine authorship. In so doing, the mostly female fans perform and thus author their own fan personae as transgressive, aggressive, and overtly sexual, yet intellectual and self-aware. This fannish self-representation invokes and then implodes stereotypes of excessively emotive female fandom.

Comments

Lindsay H. Garrison's picture

Individual vs. community?

Great post, Louisa! This is a fascinating example to look at in comparison with Kristen’s excellent discussion of the squeeing, cheek-grabbing performance of emotion in female fans. Here, as you mention, the intellectual self-awareness is clearly present and somewhat foregrounded in a way that works against the stereotype of squeeing fangirls. I’m curious to know what you think might be at work here as to why that might be.

My first thoughts, in comparing it specifically to something like Kristen’s example of "Oh My Salvatore," are that it might have something to do with factors of age and community. There seems to be an older, somewhat more culturally aware sense of irony at work here that younger, stereotypical female fan performance lacks. In addition, I’m particularly interested in the way Collins term "minions" and this vid at once construct and hails a specific sense of community. That is, expressing one’s affinity for Misha Collins means expressing your belonging to a group rather than just your individual feelings. Does the presence/construction of an interpretive community allow for more playful transgression in performing fandom? Does the presence/construction of an interpretive community allow for a different kind of interaction with celebrities themselves? 

Kristina Busse's picture

 I’m so glad you’re bringing

 I’m so glad you’re bringing up all these issues. Louisa and i talked last night and both thought that we somehow needed to make clear that there was a reason Louisa’s vid went last, that the week was thematically related but also, maybe, in a way arranged in a certain meaningful order. Because, yes, the Misha minions are definitely more self aware and expressedly self ironic, aren’t they?

I think belonging to a group is vital to a different form of engagement, because most times the central relation moves from a parasocial one with the celeb to a real one with the other fans! I’ve talked about that at length before, and I do think it’s one of the reasons transformative fan communities often feel alienated by affirmational fan communities and vice versa. (I’m using terms that have recently been debated extensively in my corner, i.e., here: damned-colonial.dreamwidth.org/484925.html)

Louisa Stein's picture

 Hi Kristina—I’m so glad you

 Hi Kristina—I’m so glad you brought up the order of the in media res pieces, because yes, I do think there’s a flow in how they speak to each other. I’m pleased to see many of the evolving discussions touching on points that emphasize the interrelatedness of these seemingly distinct case studies.

For the Misha Minions, I feel it’s key that the performance of social relationships isn’t just with other fans, but with the community that is imagined to encompass fan and celebrity together; this seems like a key distinction fostered by the sharing of the twitter interface—(and one obviously reflected in your Eli Roth/Bluberries example as well!)

Can you expand on your parallel between the individual/community fan dynamic and the transformational/affirmational divide? I’m not sure as I see it it breaks down quite so cleanly, as much affirmational fandom also depends on community (albeit perhaps a more hierarchized sense of community…)

Kristina Busse's picture

 Oh, I don’t think it breaks

 Oh, I don’t think it breaks down all that easily. I think there are more community/transformational and more affirmational/individuals (and I do think it’s gendered on top of that), but it doesn’t break down all easily…especially not when we think of imagined community (as you never cease to fail to remind me :)

I do think the imagined co-creation that includes Misha’s really important here. That’s a great point! In most fandoms I’ve been in I’m not aware that the actors/producers are necessarily seen as partners…more as other or, at worst, as opponents, so to speak…

 

Louisa Stein's picture

Hi Lindsay—Thanks for the

Hi Lindsay—Thanks for the comment! Yes, I definitely think you’re on to something about the individual vs. community fan performance. Worth noting, though, that both The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural are on the same network, and have many of the same viewers/fans. So that helps really draw out what you suggest here—that it’s about the *performances* of particular modes of fandom, rather than necessarily a question of demographics. 

For the case of Misha Collins and his minions, I also think it’s key that the imagined community is one that encompasses fans *and* celebrity, albeit in distinct roles (of minion and ruler, no less…) And I would say that in this case the interpretive community authoring its understanding of itself does indeed encompass both sides. It seems to me that this is a similarity between my and Kristina’s examples. Also (and I’m not sure if this extends to the case of Eli Roth and the Blueberries) for Misha Collins & Minions, that fan/celebrity imagined community is held up in opposition to TPTB (be it the CW or SyFy) as a subcultural formation with internally shared values and a perception of fan/celebrity reciprocity.

So yes, this particular mode of community fan identity may indeed foster a different type of interaction between celebrity and viewer… which leads me to wonder how this interaction then fits into the larger production structures and perceptions of the value of fans on the part of the producers? Does the network value Misha Collins’ twitter list of 60,000+? Was that a contributing factor to his contract renewal? Or do they view this decentered (or re-centered around a side character) community as a possibly destablizing factor? 

 

 

Kristen Warner's picture

the minions vs. the oh my salvatores

Lindsay I think you bring up some really great points about the distinction in demographic between TVD online fans and Mischa’s Minions. I think also that because Collins is in direct conversation with the minions that it creates a space for them to feel a part of this celebrity—which is very unlike TVD and its actors. Right now, Ian Sommerholder is talking about the oil spill in the Gulf and wants people to retweet what he sees (he was reared in Louisiana); however, he is not trying to create followers to necessarily spread his message (something I recall Mischa doing with that whole P. Diddy trending topics debacle last year). Moreover, he never talks to fans on Twitter, which is why it was such a big deal when Chloe the vlogger was chosen.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that yes, the difference is largely the demographic; but it’s also the amount of attention the celeb chooses to have with the fandom that separates the minions from the squee!fan.

Louisa Stein's picture

Hi Kristen—Very

Hi Kristen—Very interesting! Building on this, I’d venture to say it’s not only the amount of attention but the type or mode of attention and interaction: not only did Misha encourage followers and coordinate them to take down PDiddy for the lucifer is coming campaign, but he/they also interact in a way that fosters their own community mode of interaction. It’s not only the interface of twitter, but also the playful/satiric tenor that is shared by both fans and celebrity in this case. Crucially, it’s not just that Misha Collins came into an already existing fandom and copied their modes of interaction—more that he engaged a still evolving fandom and the fandom shifted to encompass the celebrity/fan interaction.

Thinking about these modes of celebrity/fan interaction really does help shed light on the significant difference between the fan/celebrity interactions stemming from TVD and Supernatural/Misha Minions, especially given the fact that both series are on the same network and indeed have an overlapping fan base.

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