Jillian, you were talking earlier about the hardships of locating Latina/o media fandoms and that when you do, the conversations are often expressing negative affect about being continually rendered invisible. How for you does that intensify or complicate your work to what is already established in fan studies?
Part of the issue stems from there being little research on Latina/o audiences, let alone studies of Latinx fandom. Up until recently there have been few dynamic representations of the Latinx community in mainstream media. As such, earlier studies of Latina/o audiences were not locating Latina/os as fans. However, what was overlooked is that Latina/os do find some media extremely pleasurable. In particular, many Latina/os are fans of Spanish-language and alternative forms of media. For example, in my essay in Melissa A. Click’s and Suzanne’s Scott’s edited volume The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom, I talk about how Latinx fandoms are understudied in fan studies, partly because the pleasurable media texts are in Spanish and/or they are part of specific Latinx subcultures (e.g., Chicana/o Morrissey fans, telenovela viewers, Selena drag queens, or salsa dancing fans). Latinx fandoms are also overlooked because of the medium and genre. For example, there is quite a bit of literature on Latinx music listeners and dancers. However, these scholars do not necessarily identify their work as fan studies, largely because most of fan studies focuses on television and film and not music.
I’m intrigued by this idea of “self-tropicalization” and think an analogy is how Black women navigate the notion of ratchetness as one of the pleasures of watching reality television. What do you find Latina fan communities do with those texts?
That’s a great analogy. I think it’s a way of reconciling stereotypes and also a move away from a politics of respectability. For example, in my chapter in Elana Levine’s edited volume From Cupcakes to Ladyporn, I found that Latina fans of Lifetime’s Devious Maids series (2013-16) enjoyed the show’s Latina cast despite the backlash it received from Latina/o media advocacy organizations and scholars. Critics of the show viewed the series as merely reproducing the Latina archetypes of the spitfire and the maid. On the other hand, Latina fans were excited about the first-ever cast of five Latina leads on television. Fans also found immense pleasure in the maids talking back to their employers (something they felt they could not do in real life) and being cast as morally superior to the white characters.
What aspects of black women’s fandom would you like to explore next? Also, are you noticing differences between fans of reality television and scripted television (not that reality TV isn’t somewhat scripted)?
That’s a good question. Honestly after completing the Iris West article for The Routledge Companion of Media Fandom, I think I’ve said my peace on Black women’s fandom for now. What I think I’m interested in thinking about are more macro questions about how fandom has evolved over the years splintering into what I see as at least two different versions of itself: a more traditional kind of closed fandom and what I call the transparent labor economy whereby being a fan is a means to some sort of clear (and sometimes not so clear) cut way to a neoliberal end. I think the transparent labor economy cuts across all kinds of fandom race, gender, and sexuality demographics and impacts the way we understand how participatory cultures function.
Then again, I witnessed some true fan girling at Essence Festival last year in New Orleans when a crowd of Black women squeed for their lives when Queen Sugar’s Ralph Angel appeared on stage so...maybe they’ll be a return, lol.
But to your second question, it’s interesting to me that there isn’t that much of a distinction between how fans talk about reality television and how they talk about scripted. The routes that are used to discuss issues that each format puts on the table regarding community topics like relationships, friendship, finances, and respectability, feel similar in both modes.