From 1960s housewives exchanging Star Trek zines, to early-internet Harry Potter message boards, to small pockets of community on modern social media, fans have been connecting over their shared love of a source material for decades, and the Internet has made creating and finding both original and fan content more accessible around the globe. This kind of worldwide connection brings people into contact with people they might not meet otherwise, and can foster an awareness of others' lives and perspectives. Though fandom has always been at least subtextually political, the last few years have brought more and more conscious use of fan spaces as a vehicle for discussion of social issues. Even in spaces that pride themselves on diversity and inclusivity, though, unconscious bias still underlies the conversation. I studied the fandom for the Mechanisms, a queer storytelling folk punk band, to look for how these biases manifest in treatment of canon-typical actions in fanworks about characters based on race and gender, including transness. By surveying fans on their views of characters and analyzing fanfiction for frequency, severity, and treatment of violence perpetrated by canon characters, I found patterns in how characters with different identities were treated, and how these treatments interacted with dominant narratives surrounding people with those identities. While the kind of egregious mischaracterization that started this discussion within the fandom seems to be an outlier and did not appear in my sample, more subtle inequalities do exist. My research offers a snapshot into one fandom, and how in discussions of racial and gender inequality, public conversations, self-reported attitudes, and created content are not necessarily consistent.
University / Institution: Utah State University
Format: In Person
SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Area of Research: Social Sciences
Faculty Mentor: Joyce Kinkead