Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture

By Henry Jenkins | Go to book overview

Introduction

Textual Poachers offers an ethnographic account of a particular group of media fans, its social institutions and cultural practices, and its troubled relationship to the mass media and consumer capitalism. There are, of course, many different types of fans-rock fans, sports fans, movie buffs, opera enthusiasts, etc.; "fans" have a much longer history, fitting more generally into longstanding debates about the popular consumption of fiction or audience response to popular entertainments. As Cultural Studies has directed more attention on the process of reception, and as researchers have begun to construct more precise accounts of both historical and contemporary audiences, we are beginning to develop a more sophisticated understanding of how these groups relate to the mass media and draw upon it as a resource in their everyday life. I focus on only one of these fan cultures here-an amorphous but still identifiable grouping of enthusiasts of film and television which calls itself "media fandom." This group embraces not a single text or even a single genre but many texts-American and British dramatic series, Hollywood genre films, comic books, Japanese animation, popular fiction (particularly science fiction, fantasy, and mystery)-and at the same time, it constructs boundaries that generally exclude other types of texts (notably soap opera and for the most part, commercial romance). This group is largely female, largely white, largely middle class, though it welcomes into its ranks many who would not fit this description. This subculture cuts across traditional geographic and generational boundaries and is defined through its particular styles of consumption and forms of cultural preference. The fans discussed here come from New England and the Northern Seaboard, the South, the Midwest, the West, and the Pacific coast as well as from England, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, and Europe. Perhaps my most difficult claim will be that such a widespread and diverse group may still constitute a recognizable subculture.

Textual Poachers identifies at least five distinct (though often interconnected) dimensions of this culture: its relationship to a par

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