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Fan Culture and Social Identities - Essay Example

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Fan Culture and Social Identities

An instrument this pervasive, this appealing and this convenient is certain to influence the belief systems of society. It seems that question is no longer whether it does rather how much and in what manner.
In current times we have seen how television has morphed from simply a provider of entertainment and a means of recreation, into a god-creator of a proxy-community - where people are drawn to the images and to the text and use them to form social identities and forge cultural distinctions.
The notion of a "fan culture" is a complex one. There are a whole plethora of reasons why an individual finds himself "hooked" to a particular television show. When these individuals come together, a whole community is created, a whole subculture is forged, and the fans cease to be peripheral observers and become active agents and manipulators of the text itself. From "borrowed material", or the material churned out by television producers, scriptwriters and directors, fans craft a patchwork quilt all their own - fusing their own individual experiences and perceptions and coming up with an entirely new animal resembling in parts, and far removed from, in other parts, the original text.
This is the theory posited by Jenkins in the book "Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture" (1992) where he navigates through the media fan community and demonstrate how the cultural practices within it serve to rework the text and create its own social institutions, with its own hegemonies and rules.

In order to explore how media defines social identity and on what level, this paper shall take as an example the success of the 1990 hit television show Twin Peaks. It illustrates that the effect of media on social identity can be both normative and prescriptive. First, the portrayal of young adults in Twin Peaks can be prescriptive in terms of lifestyle and behavior. Second, the developments in television genre occur simultaneously with developments in sub-culture. And that the profit-oriented nature of media makes it dependent on and influential to social change.

Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, the first season of Twin Peaks television series garnered one of the highest ratings in ABC Network for that period. Set in a seemingly quiet background, Twin Peaks features small town American life, but with a twist. For the viewer lying on the couch, eyes glued to the screen, watching this series is similar to watching community life before his eyes with characters as true to life as his next-door neighbors. Twin Peaks, like the many in its genre, represents the American viewer's cultural origin.

The story starts in the murder of a popular teenage girl, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), whose body is found wrapped in plastic by the river. The discovery of this body hence starts a series of investigation in the fictional town, Twin Peaks. The plot thickens as the trail for the murderer likewise leads to the revelation of town secrets. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that each character lives his own secret often convoluted life. Twin Peaks incorporates mystery, drama and a touch of horror and though it was far from being a traditional detective series or drama, it was well received by the American audience.

In this paper, we look at three ways in which the audience use of media text is inextricably interwined with the cultivation of their social ...Show more


In a country where 98% have at least one television, 70% have more than one television, 70% have cable, and 51% of households with children have a computer (Paik 1994, p.519), the potency of media in general and television in particular cannot be overemphasized…
Author : trey00
Fan Culture and Social Identities essay example
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