Looking at this from a developmental perspective, you have to wonder what is going on in this child’s life that has enabled this sort of behavior at such an early age, as well as what impact this occurance will have on the rest of her psychological growth. This is a time in her life (three years old!), when she should still be learning how to play with others as opposed to next to them, and is beginning to develop and adhere to gender identity on her own, as opposed to what Mom/Dad told her to do. It’s disturbing (to me) to think that we’ve packaged and delivered rampant sexuality to such a degree that a three year old is able to pick it up and run with it.
The way that we (majority of society) look at this as ‘cute’ and ‘funny’ shows little respect or concern for the fact that her behavior is being validated and rewarded. As Louisa Stein mentions, we’re seeing previews of her future when such behaviors will no longer be ‘cute’. I wonder if little Cody will end up becoming one of those ‘desiring up’ adolescents who frequently date well outside of their age range, and then a ‘desiring-down’ woman.
Yes, the latest Miley incident is a great tie in here. In some ways it’s another attempt to contain female agency and sexuality. In other ways, it’s also playing out fears and anxieties about celebrity culture in general and it’s threat to (perceived) dominant values. I mean, Perez Hilton possibly being charged with a crime for this literally sets up the allegory of celeb/gossip culture ruining/exploiting the purity and innocence of America.
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.
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.
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.
Yes. that exactly!!! While there’s a certain ironic distancing going on, at the end there’s also a real enjoyment in the unironic fangirling. I think part of it is that growing up might have allowed us to be uncool in ways that we couldn’t allow ourselves as teens. But at the same time, there’s also a strange nonconformity yet again by liking things we yet again aren’t supposed to/allowed to like.
Or, to put it differently, we gained our creds by liking the cool bands, so we now *can* like the uncool ones. And also, we’ve realized that the entire system of subcultural creds is kinda…uncool :)
Not to mention all the issues of gendering involved in boybands!!!
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?
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.
Terrific post, Lindsay! I’m struck by how all of the clips so far have been both so full of affect and so unsettling: there’s something striking about this IMR week’s prolonged focus on visuals of female affect, agency, and negotiation; it’s worth noting that the word uncanny has already come up twice, and I felt a similar discomfort watching this video.
For this post specifically, building on the excellent comments above, I’m struck by the spectre of adolescent female desire that’s raised and avoided: as you say, Cody’s intense emotional desire is framed as cute and funny because of her age, but her performance of love for Justin Bieber certainly invokes images of her tween and teen years soon to come. And then there’s the sister, whom the camera allows in the frame but doesn’t settle upon, the one whose desire for Bieber is both more expected and yet more threatening. Female adolescent (and adult) desire is all over this clip, despite its seeming (intentional) absence.
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.?