The Chronicle

‘Hey, strictly speaking’: An inside look at the world of ventriloquism

‘Hey, strictly speaking’: An inside look at the world of ventriloquism

December 23, 2015

It was a cool, fall day in 1985 when Jonathan Geffner, 32, was wandering aimlessly around Manhattan.He had dropped out of a doctoral program in piano performance at New York University and was unfulfil...

Hi, my name is ____ , and I’m in a fandom

By ARTS & CULTURE REPORTER

November 23, 2015

Filed under Arts & Culture, Features

It’s not easy being a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment, or so freshman theatre major Sharonda Tutson discovered when she shared her love of the wrestling program in a class presentation and learned some people thought WWE was for kids, she said.“People don’t think I’m mature because [WWE is] like fake wrestling and has a bunch of cheesy storylines, but I like it,” said Tutson, noting that she has about 40 action figures and 11 games and gets looked down upon because people do not typically expect an 18-year-old girl to collect wrestling action figures.Groups of fans with a particular shared interest are commonly known as fandoms. Each fandom also has factors that contribute to whether they are seen as OK or valid in society like the quality and popularity of the content they appreciate and age or gender of a fan group’s majority. There’s a pecking order in a fandom, with activities that are seen as childish at the bottom and those with an established status, prestige or wide-spread acceptance at the top.Acceptance of a fan group ultimately depends on what a culture thinks is an appropriate thing to be a fan of, said Paul Booth, associate professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communications at DePaul University. “Outside of media, if you talk about any sort of fan group that’s accepted, your sports fans are going to be much more accepted than any sort of TV or movie fan,” Booth said. “The reason sports fans are rarely looked down upon in our culture is because sports is considered a normal activity. It’s considered a part of everyday life, so sports fans are just doing something ‘normal.’”Tutson said along with her age, she thinks being female makes people look at her more strangely for liking WWE.“WWE is seen as a men’s interest, not women’s,” Tutson said. “To be a girl and own action figures and video games and watch [‘WWE RAW’] every Monday night—it’s different.”Fan activities seen as stereotypically feminine, like a common adoration for a particular movie star, do not fare much better.“If [a fan group] is all females, people are like, ‘Um, this doesn’t really matter because it’s what girls like, and girls just think the guys are attractive, and that’s all that matters to them,’” said Tayler Reed, senior design and creative writing double major and Muggles Association ofColumbia president.Those who retain an interest in childhood games or entertainment are also ridiculed.Freshman film major Graham Frassinelli said he has had a similar experience with his love of Tokusatsu, Japanese live-action TV and movies like “Power Rangers” or “Godzilla.”“A lot of the shows I watch are targeted to an age range of 8- to 13-year-old Japanese youngsters, so I do get some weird looks when I’m watching it, and they’re spouting dialogue that makes no sense outside of a children’s show,” Frassinelli said.Robin Brenner, a teen librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts and author of the article “Teen Literature and Fan Culture” in Young Adult Library Services vol. 11 issue 4, said the general power balance of our culture affects how people view fan groups, and if a person is already outside of the mainstream majority, what that person likes is automatically considered less valuable.“There is a gender bias, and there always will be for something young teenage girls like [especially],” Brenner said. “There will be a lot more criticism and policing of the way people are fans.”According to Brenner, people were up in arms a few years ago about the extent to which teenage girls were fans of and enjoyed “The Twilight Saga.”“The Twilight Saga” was a phenomenon among most young women, but it also resonated with adults and became a large fan group that was likened to a cult by people like Miley Cyrus in 2009 and many media sources.Along with gender and age bias, Frassinelli said other factors influence people’s perceptions of fan groups.“Some [fan groups] are based around a work that is not high quality in a lot of people’s eyes, like ‘Twilight,’ and there are fandoms where the work is not necessarily low quality, [but] it’s the actions and the way the people who are into it behave that makes people uncomfortable,” Frassinelli said.So much for external perceptions of fans being the only negativity fans face, because being an active member of a fan group ends up inviting other problems as well. Each fandom has fans who go too far at times like those who make “rules” and try to make other fans prove their knowledge on the material before conceding they are a “real” fan, Brenner said. “It’s just a matter of knowing not every fan is like that,” said Tabitha Rees, a junior business & entrepreneurship major and vice president of Muggles Association of Columbia. “You have to be able to differentiate between the [fans] who go too far and the ones that have an average, healthy relationship.”Reed said she thinks larger fandoms like that of “Harry Potter” tend to be more widely accepted because of the “nostalgia factor.” People understand those types of fandoms because they have been around for so long.Some of those people who are considered most fanatic—the word from which fan is derived—are known as “shippers.” They want the character, actor or artist to be in a relationship with someone of their choosing, often another character, actor or artist. These shippers are known for creating fan art or fanfiction depicting the people they “ship” in a relationship together.“Each fandom has a weird part of it,” Rees said. “Shippers are usually looked down upon in every fandom. I totally get how shippers are looked down upon because there are those crazy ones who make actors uncomfortable.”Rees added people think star-oriented fan groups are only made up of women who watch shows like “Supernatural” because the main characters are attractive, but the fan group has a huge subgroup made up of nonheterosexual women or men.For example, it is assumed the majority of “Glee” fans are teenage girls, when most of the friends Rees has made are either adult women older than 30 or males, she said.“When the loudest part of a fandom is teenage girls, everyone assumes everyone who follows those people is a teenage girl,” said Skyler Ray, Columbia Whovians president—a group devoted to all things related to the BBC show “Doctor Who”—and a senior cinema art + science major. “There’s this crazy atmosphere because they can be really excited and there’s a lot of screaming that happens, but that’s their way of being excited.”In fact, the only difference between teenage girl fandoms and sports fandoms is: it is typically older men screaming instead, which makes it OK, Ray said. If the straight, white male majority of the population can relate to the interest, it confers automatic acceptance.Someone interested in wine or cigars rather than anime is more likely to be considered an aficionado, devotee or connoisseur.  People who do not fit into that straight, white male label have a harder time being accepted for their interests.“I have a friend who is very into One Direction but is a 20-year-old, genderqueer human being, and those [fans] get looked down on so much, even though it’s just four boys running around on stage,” Ray said. “The fact that they have a [mainly] female teenage following, everyone is like, ‘They’re all crazy.’”Or as Booth notes, the things young people are fans of tend to be less valued than the things adults like.“[The prejudice] is not because the fans of One Direction are any different than other fans, it’s that One Direction is considered a juvenile type of fandom,” Booth said.David Zoltan, Fleet Admiral and founder of Geek Bar Beta, 1941 W. North Ave., believes the inherent prejudice against things teenage girls like should be challenged.“We have a culture of people who are deeply passionate about all these various things we surround ourselves with as geeks,” Zoltan said. “We need to find ways to not just celebrate the things we love but the things other people love as well and find ways to celebrate them together in a way that is conducive to all of us living our lives with joy.”Ray and Reed both agreed the ranking system put in place to decide which fandoms deserve respect does not make sense and should not be the social norm.Ray noted people always have “weird” prejudices against things other people like, but no one has any basis for why they are against people liking a certain thing.Reed said respecting everyone’s interests is just the kind thing to do.“People are just shitty,” Reed said. “Just because you love something so much, people want to ruin it for you. They don’t like it, so you shouldn’t like it. I don’t think there’s any good reason people have to be mean about fandoms.”Reed said because YouTube fandoms are still fairly new, older people are still trying to understand why it is popular among the youth.There are different ways to find a fandom one may fit into whether it is online or in person because fan groups exist for almost everything. People who love something a lot will find others who do as well.Brenner said communities can form at conventions, but the biggest communities are forming online. She added that conventions are ways for fans to connect with each other and find other people who like what they like and will not think it is weird.“I think [fandom is] an amazing space people have created outside of school where you learn and create together by helping each other,” Brenner said. “Everyone has that moment in life [when] they find their people—some people have it in high school, some have it in college.”Fan groups help people express their creativity in ways they probably would not otherwise do, and fan art, fanfiction, fan videos and fan music come from a desire to share and be part of the art someone loves, Brenner said.“Anyone who considers themselves part of geek culture should have every right to celebrate within that culture,” Zoltan said. “[At Geek Bar], we embrace the fact we recognize people like ourselves who embrace that geeky side of their nature and have cool stuff they’re doing and want to share with the world.”Rees said she believes attending Columbia and finding people accepting of her fandoms is karma coming back to help her after she lost a friend group in high school because they did not understand her love of “Harry Potter.”“I’m in college now, so I’m supposed to be growing up and getting a life and moving on passed all those children’s franchises, but I can’t bring myself to tear away from them,” Frassinelli said. “They’re such a big part of my identity that I have no desire to let them go away.”

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

October 12, 2015

The first time sophomore theatre major Will Bruce was on set as an extra on NBC’s “Chicago PD,” he was approached by principal actor Jason Beghe, who struck up an unexpected conversation with him, wh...

Talking Body: Local artists challenge cultural appropriation outrage

Talking Body: Local artists challenge cultural appropriation outrage

September 28, 2015

When Rachel Dolezal, a former chapter president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was “outed” by her parents as a white woman after years of portraying herself as a ...

Reeling Film Festival Reels in Viewers with Visions of Progress

Reeling Film Festival Reels in Viewers with Visions of Progress

September 21, 2015

The 33rd annual Reeling Film Festival opened on Sept. 17 at the Music Box Theater, 3733 N. Southport Ave., focusing on LGBT filmmakers and films. The week-long festival, which debuted in April 1981, show...

Party at North Coast

Party at North Coast

September 8, 2015

You wouldn’t have known summer’s final days were approaching if you were among the thousands that gathered in Union Park Sept. 4 for the annual 3-day North Coast Music Festival. Wh...

Conquering the Curve: The struggles and triumphs of Columbia College’s baseball team

Conquering the Curve: The struggles and triumphs of Columbia College’s baseball team

May 11, 2015

With Columbia’s Renegades baseball team becoming more well-known on campus, the team’s original name has become a distant memory, even to those who have been at the college longer than a decade.Columbi...

Exploring gender in the classroom: Columbia students seek feminist education

By Managing Editor

May 4, 2015

Filed under Arts & Culture, Features

As the millennial generation ages, many are hopeful that long-standing societal problems including sexism will no longer be barriers to progress.However, some Columbia students fear that might not become reality.Gender equality within higher education has long been both a subject of interest and a goal of colleges across the country. Harvard Graduate School of Education lecturer Catherine G. Krupnick published a watershed ...

Outrage Culture: Justified or overblown?

Outrage Culture: Justified or overblown?

April 27, 2015

In recent weeks, Trevor Noah, a South African comedian and the designated successor to Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show,” received backlash for a series of tweets dating back to 2009.The tweets, in whic...

Kids today and all that jazz

Kids today and all that jazz

March 16, 2015

Born in the dark, smoky clubs along 52nd Street in New York City, 18th and Vine streets in Kansas City and the streets of Chicago and New Orleans—jazz is lauded by fans and critics as America’s gr...

Chicago: A training ground for comedic talent

By Arts & Culture Reporter

March 9, 2015

Filed under Features

In a world devoid of Chicago’s renowned comedic training centers, Stephen Colbert might have been reduced to just a silly sounding French name and Hannibal Buress might only be seen as the funny coworker at the office. Without the city’s legendary comedy scene, the names Bill Murray and Tina Fey might be utterly irrelevant.As a learning ground for some of the most renowned comedians in popular culture, Chicago has achiev...

Sounds like independence

Sounds like independence

By Arts & Culture Reporter

February 16, 2015

Filed under Arts & Culture, Features

In 2011, alternative-rock band The Maine was working on recording its third album, Pioneer, in a studio. According to guitarist Kennedy Brock, the album was recorded and presented as a final product to W...

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