**Spoiler alert: This clip concerns the season finale in graphic detail.** Today’s curated clip explores a fan’s video reaction to the season finale of the CW’s The Vampire Diaries (TVD). While I am not sure why the vlogger, Chloe elected to record herself in an automobile, I am quite sure she was excited, astonished, awed, and all-around giddy from the events of the episode. Indeed, a few wonderful pieces on the first season of TVD with regard to genre and narrative plotting (http://bit.ly/dAKG5F and http://bit.ly/9comjf) suggest the reasons that the poster was so elated. However fascinating (and funny) this young woman’s fan relationship is to TVD, what is more useful to this week’s theme is the clip’s connection to celebrity culture. The only reason that I knew about this video’s existence is Twitter, where the“Oh My Salvatore” vlog was tweeted by TVD actors and showrunners. Actor Ian Somerhalder (Damon) tweeted that she was “a genius”; actress Nina Dobrev (Elena) tweeted she was “brilliant. amazing. enthusiastic. You, lovely lady are pretty cool.” Further, both co-creators and executive producers Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec re-tweeted the video on their respective Twitters.*
What I want to suggest through this clip is not just that the supposed boundaries between celebrities and fans are being blurred through Twitter, but rather that a particular type of fan is necessary for these blurring relationships. Searching fan reactions to TVD on Youtube yields a variety of ages and races but the one characteristic that is most common is the freaky, excited, cheek-grabbing hysteria many posters perform. For celebrities, particularly those involved in these productions, giddy fandom is more accessible than the more thoughtful, reserved kind. I suppose that the tangibility of emotion relayed by these fans is easier to discern for the famous than the more cerebral “aca-fan” who may gush or squee (God knows I did throughout the season) about the characters but is still able to ask difficult questions and be critical when necessary.
This is not to say, however, that the “geeked out” responses are not intelligent. These fans demonstrate mastery of the narrative in ways very similar to fans of daytime soap operas and so-called narratively complex primetime dramas. However, it is the manner in which vloggers like Chole engage in these conversations that seems to endear them to the celebrities and not, for example, the kinds of acafan interactions mentioned above that try to legitimize TVD as a “quality” series. Indeed, it may also be true that the types of fans who post to Youtube are more “discoverable” to celebrities than acafans. Although I am quite doubtful that Williamson, Plec, Somerhalder or Dobrev would respond to the articles written above or retweet them—which only suggests that they are no more scholarly than the squeeish fans they adore.
This is so fascinating,
This is so fascinating, Kristen. I'm particularly interested in this idea of stars/celebrities being uninterested in the academic discourse (or aca-fandom) produced around them. For instance, John Mayer would never link to a piece I wrote about him deconstructing his Playboy interview on my blog, but he might link to someone doing a cover of one of his songs. Maybe that's what I'm drawn (Twitterwise, especially) to 'celebrity' critics -- such as Dana Stevens at Slate, Anne Thompson, or even Lainey Gossip -- who respond much more positively to critical deconstruction (that's also inflected with fandom).
Visibility of Fan Performance
Thanks for this great post, Kristen. I think you make an excellent point about this type of enthusiastic, squee-ing fan being the most accessible for these blurring relationships between celebrity and fan. Part of it, it seems, is of course the fact that this particular fan is clearly in line with what the CW and the show's producers might be looking for in imagining the show's success - she's picking up on all the preferred readings and pleasures of suspense, romance, humor, sexual tension, etc. and is clearly an invested, involved viewer in the target demographic. It's almost like she could be the epitome of what CW execs were imagining as their ideal viewer/fan.
I'm also interested in larger discourses of young female fandom. Might this type of enthusiastic performance of fan emotion also be the most accessible to celebrities/producers because it's what they've come to expect, i.e. from decades of coverage/constructions of young female fans in various news/entertainment outlets? It reminds me of articles and interviews I was reading recently in TigerBeat magazines of the 1960s, where musicians were constantly talking about how much they loved their "fans," and the same pages were serving to construct those "fans" as young, giddy teen girls by featuring gushing quotes from young, white women. The "Oh My Salvatore" blog is a fascinating contemporary example of this long tradition of accenting the visibility of a certain type of fan performance.
Quality vs. Emotion
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.?
Narcissism, Academic Style
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.
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