Monday, October 8, 2007

Fandom as a Reflection of the Mass Media’s Power(lessness)

In the piece “In the Realm of Uncertainty,” Ang relates Curran’s claim that since “audiences are conceived as active producers of meaning and produce a diversity of readings, that ‘oppressive’ role of the media [as transmitters of dominant ideology] has been considerably diminished, to the point that there might be no dominant ideology at all” (168).

Ang disagrees strongly with Curran’s stance that the audience is autonomous and that the mass media’s power is ebbing. In contrast, he believes that while “meaning is constructed rather than given,” we’re far from gaining “freedom and independence from media power” (168).

Meanwhile, Coppa’s piece on media fandom describes many “kinds of mass media storytelling [beginning] to form their own distinct culture” (50), with fans of an “obsessively researching nature” who immerse themselves in their fandoms with abandon, both absorbing all relevant minutiae and responding with the production of fan fiction, fan art, zines, and so forth.

We as fans have taken the initiative to really seize hold of the media we favor, certainly “produc[ing] a diversity of readings” and indeed becoming producers ourselves. Nevertheless, fandom demonstrates the thoroughness with which the media can permeate our lives, taking hold of not just out attention but even our creativity and imaginations. So my question is this: Given the intense “audience participation” that surrounds media fandom, is the mass media more (Ang) or less (Curran) powerful today than it once was?

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