The World of Fandoms According to Hayley Mandy

As part of a requirement for one of  my university subjects, I will write a critique on the project of a fellow classmate. I have chosen Hayley Mandy’s Fandom vlog series. Hayley has utilised YouTube as the platform for her videos which, at the time of writing, numbered 6 in total. I personally have not had a great deal of exposure to fan culture and I was hoping that Hayley’s series would enlighten me!. To get a little better acquainted  with the topic I garnered a ‘street level’ definition of Fandom from The Urban Dictionary which describes it as

The community that surrounds a tv show/movie/book etc. Fanfiction writers, artists, poets, and cosplayers are all members of that fandom. Fandoms often consist of message boards, livejournal communities, and people.

This definition indicated to me that the subject matter was potentially huge and that in some way the content for the vlogs would cover the subculture surrounding popular fandoms and the interactions between members on a societal level.  However, this is probably just scratching the surface of this topic, which I imagine has great potential for creative development with a very diverse range of material and overall an excellent chose for a vlog series. I will discuss Hayley’s Fandom series under the headings-

Aims – in which I will outline Hayley’s goals for her project

Trajectory– the progression of content for the series

Methodology– the methods used to make the blogs and how she went about reaching her goals

Concepts– The themes which help us to understand the underlying structures and how it fits within our society

Unfortunately as I was not able to attend Hayley’s Beta presentation, my critique is based purely on her YouTube series.

AIMS

Hayley discusses her aims for the series in her first vlog titled Introductory to Attack on Fandom (watch above). She tells us that she will cover a variety of issues including associated topics, strengths, weaknesses and what influences them, the fandoms she follows,  as well as promising to “make it incredibly entertaining”. Other aims mentioned are the discussion of fandom communities and “how they have formed their own worlds”, and the history of fandoms. Hayley raises the issue of the way in which fans have been affected and manipulated by the marketing strategies of mega entertainment corporations and how they are being shaped into consumers of merchandise produced purely for profit. The series will cover copyright laws that pertain to fan fiction and fan art, the formation of fan communities and how successful they have been and their progression as fandoms. Finally Hayley aims to show the influences fandoms have on society. This includes the paraphernalia which comes with being a fan of which costuming and the making of costumes plays a major role. This leads into the topic of cosplaying and cosplay events and competitions which Hayley tells  us are significant, both Internationally and in Australia.

TRAJECTORY

The Fandom series consists of six YouTube videos titled Attack on Fandom Trailer, Introductory to Attack on Fandom, History of Fandoms, Conventions and Cosplay Part 1, Conventions and Cosplay Part 2 and what appears to be a repeat of Attack on Fandom Trailer. The Conventions and Cosplay videos Parts 1 and 2 give us an inside look at a couple of cosplay events in which some of the ‘characters’ are interviewed and from this we gain a better understanding of the topic from a fan’s perspective.  I understand that this series has been made as an ongoing project which may explain the lack of a conclusion to the videos and the published vlogs only covered some of the topics mentioned in the introductory video.

METHODOLOGY

A picture of two cosplayers
Screen shot from the Fandom series

The vlogs appear to have been made using a laptop for the main recordings of Hayley speaking which unfortunately did not always  capture her completely in the frame. Predominantly the series was made in a home environment except when we were taken to actual events. Much of the footage was taken from this event at which fans were interviewed about the costumes and the characters they were portraying. In this case, Hayley was not conducting interviews however, she was present at one of the events which was shared with the audience through a series of slides featuring Hayley and other fans in costume. The two cosplay clips make use of  recorded background music which enhances the overall viewing experience. Hayley speaks directly to the audience and has a very natural delivery.

CONCEPTS

One of  Haley’s  project aims was to review fans as consumers of entertainment media and the marketing strategies that is directed towards these groups. In his essay The Future of Fandom Henry Jenkins

asserts that fandom represents the experimental prototype, the testing ground for the way media and culture industries are going to operate in the future. In the old days, the ideal consumer watch television, bought products, and didn’t talk. Today, the ideal consumer talks up the program and spreads the word about the brand. The old ideal might have been the couch potato; the new ideal is almost certainly a fan.

The concept of fandom is not a new one, however technology has affected the way in which fans interact with each other and with the media which they consume. Jenkins also quotes from a report prepared by Andrew Blau which says that “[t] he media landscape will be reshaped by the bottom-up energy of media created by amateurs and hobbyists as a matter of course”. This is suggests that it is the fans the themselves who will drive the formation and development of entertainment genres rather than the media industries.

CONCLUSION

The concept of a series of blogs around fandom has potential for being interesting and engaging. Hayley has a very personable style for this medium and obviously is very engaged with the subject matter. The objective of exploring fans as consumers is very worthwhile as Henry Jenkins discusses in his essay published in the book titled Fandom. The topic of fandom is extremely diverse and cannot be tackled as a whole and I think that Hayley’s fandom series would have benefited from targeting a specific area, such as consumerism and fans. This could have been explored in more detail by linking to the cosplay events. The difficulty of engaging with this medium is that it needs to be relaxed in its delivery however the information should be concise and well researched. It is therefore essential to follow a script without seeming to do so which in itself is a difficult task. I believe that this is a very worthwhile project and would be very successful with more structure, more emphasis on editing techniques and research.

References:

Jenkins, H  2007, ‘Afterward: The Future of Fandom’ in Gray, J, Sandvoss, C, & Harrington, C, (eds), Fandom: Identities and Communities in a Mediated World, NYU Press, New York, viewed 20 October, 2014.
<http://muse.jhu.edu/&gt;

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