Fan Film, Fan Films

Is The Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge Sexist?

Voting for the Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge closes out today, making this your last chance to vote for the Audience Choice Award, which will be handed out at the San Diego Comic Con, on July 24. I suspect that most of the fan film community feels the SWFMC is a good thing, but not everyone agrees, and that’s what we’re gonna explore today after the jump.

Now, it’s no secret that I have some issues with the Challenge, but they tend to do with the lack of financial compensation for winning entries. However, in my upcoming book on fan films, , Dr. Henry Jenkins, Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, explains why he’s not impressed with the Awards at all—because they discriminate against women. If you don’t know who he is, to give you a frame of reference, when it comes to the academic study of modern fandom, analyzing fan creativity and discovering how Big Media can interact with fans on a better/more fair level, Jenkins is Obi-Wan Kenobi, hands down.

So here, in the first excerpt anywhere from Homemade Hollywood, is Jenkins giving his take on the Challenge and why it’s not a level playing field for both sexes. It’s a bit heavier than most of the book, but that’s what you get when you talk to the foremost fandom academic in the world:

Discussing the issue, he remarked, “the fact that Lucas has allowed certain modes of fan cinema to gain public visibility and rejected others, has strong gender dimensions…. Even the fact that it’s a contest speaks to the male side of the equation, because women have had shared [vidding] showings; they’ve tended not to do contests. The notion of fandom as a competition as opposed to a collaboration would break along gender lines.

“So when Lucas says you can do documentaries or parodies rather than fan fiction or reappropriated images, that’s a schism that reflects those taste preferences…. The overall amount of parody is produced by men, and in part, this has to do with a particular emotional dynamic: Parody is a way of acknowledging and distancing one’s self from the content, whereas fan fiction is a way of bringing about an emotional closeness to the content, of getting inside the heads of the characters and exploring their emotional lives. If you prohibit fan fiction, but you allow parody, the overwhelming number of people participating in the competition will be men.”

While Jenkins acknowledged that Lucasfilm’s policy change in 2007 to include dramatic fan films was “a step in the right direction,” he pointed out that “it’s vidding that’s really the female form of response and the one that’s going to be hardest for Lucas to embrace, because it involves the direct repurposing of their content.”

What do you think? Is he on the money? Is Lucasfilm being selective in its support of homebrew Star Wars cinema? Are women getting the short end of the stick here, or is this nitpicking? I know what I think (and you’ll have to buy the book to find out—or at least browse it at Barnes & Noble), but let’s hear what y’all have to say in the Comments.

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