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Normally when I go to a conference there are at least one or two sessions where I skive off to do something else -- take a walking tour of whatever city we're in, have a nice long lunch and sit in the sun, whatever. Not this one. For every slot there were multiple sessions I wanted to go to; if only I could have cloned myself! This is super long, so I've put the session summaries behind cuts.

[Lesbians in your sauna and princess scientists]So, 8am Thursday I jumped right into "Gender and Sexuality Politics in U.S. Television Culture" with three excellent papers. The first one, "Queered Telefeminism and Female Friendships," among other things showed clips from a very funny episode of Designing Women in which Suzanne encounters an old beauty pageant colleague/competitor who announces she's "come out." At first Suzanne doesn't get it ("Well ah do think forty is a little old to be a debutante, but ever'one deserves a pahty" lol!) but then she assumes the friend must be in love with her. Later she and the friend are in a sauna and Suzanne says, "Ah'm sorry, we just cain't be anythin' more than friends" at which point an older woman who has been listening to their conversation leaves in a huff, and Suzanne leans out the door to shout, "Y'all have a lot more problems then lesbians in your sauna!!" *snerk* The second paper looked at masculinity in Buffy, and raised the interesting point that traditional "macho" masculinity is more often than not portrayed negatively in the series. Examples given include Adam is hyper-strong but constructed, unnatural; Riley's excessive strength and macho abilities come from a drug; Warren is a brilliant engineer but also a misogynistic murderer; Caleb represents classic evangelical viewpoint, women are meant to be dominated. Buffy and Willow, on the other hand, have natural in-born power. The third paper, "The Cinderella Scientist: A critical reading of The Big Bang Theory and Women in Science," really made me think: the presenter reviewed the episode where Leonard is tasked with speaking to a class of high school girls about women in science and pointed out that although the alleged mission is encouraging women in science, the actual women in science are off at Disneyland getting dressed up/made up as princesses, the men ultimately fail at their task and yet they are rewarded (Howard gets to role play as Prince Charming, Leonard gets all hot over Penny in her princess dress, and Amy is lying on the sofa being Snow White and waiting -- in vain, of course -- for Sheldon to kiss her awake. This didn't make me like the show any less, but it did make me think about the degree to which it truly shows women as equals in STEM fields.

[De-filing]Next, a Stephen King session with three papers drawing on his latest novel, Doctor Sleep. Since I'd recently finished reading it, this one caught my interest. The first argued that Dr. Sleep and Joyland, which were written basically during the same time period, could be read as companion texts -- that is, having read one gives you a richer reading experience of the other. King of course is notorious for interlocking people, phrases, ideas, etc. across his entire body of work. The second paper, "Filing/Defiling in Stephen King," explored the extended metaphor of files/memory, and was the most interesting for me as an archivist. At the start of The Shining, the man who's interviewing Jack Torrance for the caretaker position has all these files on him; the Overlook sucks Jack in by pushing its files at him -- the scrapbooks, the boxes of clippings in the basement (like a virus?); in Dreamcatcher Jonesy hides information from the alien possessing him by visualizing his mind as a room of file cabinets and hiding information by misfiling things or putting them behind the cabinets; in Dr. Sleep Abra and Dan share "files" mentally (including the "meme" of a cartoon pedophile that they modify and send back and forth) and Abra visualizes her mind as a room of file cabinets in order to entrap Rose the Hat. It was quite interesting, made me think of Caryn Radick's excellent paper on an archival reading of Dracula. The third paper was about teacher/student relationships in King, specifically Danny/Halloran in The Shining (though of course there's also his father's relationship with his students), and then Danny/Abra and to a certain extent Rose/the girl she turns in Dr. Sleep.

[Beatrice, Benedick, and crossover fics]Next session: "Fans Crossing: Cross-Textual, Cross-Media, Cross-Fandom." The first paper was my favorite, about how frustrated viewers of Angel were that Fred and Wesley never had a chance to get together, and then Joss cast them as Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. The larger point was about creators whose body of work functions as a unified whole that's greater than the sum of its parts, something called (if I wrote it down correctly) "hyper-diegesis." Hyper-diegetic casting, then, is where one character gets to do something as another character, through the medium of the actor playing them both. Like Fred and Wesley, who (sort of) ended up together as Beatrice and Benedick, because Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof played both parts. Then there was one about Walking Dead and how it keeps the fans going through "transmedia storytelling" -- that is, through tv, video games, comic books, etc., so there really is no "off season." The last session was particularly interesting to me as a writer of fanfic: it explored what makes a crossover fic work. Essentially the presenter's argument was that crossovers work when they are able to inhabit a larger universe in which the "strange" elements of both worlds can coexist and neither breaks or conflicts with the other. So for example, a Harry Potter/Twilight crossover in which Lupin grows up in the werewolf community in Forks is perfectly reasonable. She referred to these as "second degree imaginary worlds" which I thought was kind of cool. This is why I love Discworld/Harry Potter crossovers -- all those witches and wizards seem perfectly compatible :)

[Star Trek and the monomyth]I was really tempted by the Gothic Classic film session (Dracula, The Haunting, I Walked with a Zombie, Jane Eyre) but instead fell prey to my love of Star Trek and Star Wars. Among other things, I learned that every single one of the Star Wars movies follows the 17 stages of the classic monomyth, that Kirk=Dionysos and Spock=Apollo, and that the Enterprise may be a representation of the Divine Feminine. Yes, really. One interesting snippet of argument is that in Jungian terms one could view Kirk and Spock as each other's "shadow self" which may explain why they're the original and most enduring slash couple: because we perceive them as two halves of a whole.

[Geek firls and the fandom police]The last session of the day was maybe my favorite (though it's hard to pick): The Borders of Fandom, Female Desire in Fandom. The first paper was about fan edits like The Phantom Edit which re-cut Episode II to remove all trace of Jar-Jar Binks :D He drew a parallel between this and Hollywood's now-familiar habit of releasing alternate cuts, extended cuts, director's cuts, etc. suggesting that the latter was an outgrowth of the former, and listing some of the informal rules that the fan-edit community has evolved in an attempt to respect copyright. The second paper, "Fake Geek Girls": Who Called the Fandom Police?" was brilliant; it started with Tony Harris' rant against cosplay chicks, then talked about how badly Twilight fans were treated at the 2009 Comic-Con, and questioned the definition of a "real" fan. Does it depend on real-life participation, knowledge of the source material, breadth or depth of engagement? Ultimately (she argued), questioning the authenticity of female fans arises from an assumption of male heterosexuality: "Women do this to get attention from men because." Very interesting and provocative. The last paper was on Johnlock erotica so it was just plain fun :D However, she also made the salient point that good erotica relies on satisfaction for the characters, not just for the reader.

Along the way I also learned an excellent quote from Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant; we have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

Whew, OK, that was fun! If anybody wants to know more about any of the sessions, let me know. For now, I'm off to bed so I can get up at 6am to catch a 7am train ::cries::


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Apr. 29th, 2014 05:05 am (UTC)
Sounds like you had a lot of fun.

I find Big Bang theory's treatment of women to be appalling to the extent that I can't watch it. I recognise that there are things that could technically be called jokes but watch it with cold eyed disfavour.

Erm Spock as Apollo really doesn't work for me. Healing, music, divination ...they're not very spockian attributes.
Apr. 29th, 2014 10:09 am (UTC)
Erm Spock as Apollo really doesn't work for me - Heh. I thought that was a bit of a stretch, too. I'd have thought Athena, what with the wisdom and all. She was going with the "knowledge" aspect of Apollo, apparently. She also put Capt. Pike down as Zeus and (of course) Scotty as Vulcan :)
Apr. 29th, 2014 05:24 pm (UTC)
Wow, sounds like you were very busy and all very interesting to boot. :)
Apr. 30th, 2014 09:22 pm (UTC)
I was like a kid in a candy store, no lie. Hanging out with a lot of people that not only like all the stuff I like, but they like to talk about it. Bliss :)

Edited at 2014-04-30 09:22 pm (UTC)
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