Fan Film, Fan Films

Upcoming Symposium on Fan Productions

pijip_logo_shortSometimes it seems as if fans live in their own quiet ecosystem here on the internet, with some taking on creative endeavors—making films, fiction or whathaveyou—and others simply enjoying the bounty of those efforts.

Of course, nearly everything placed on the internet is visible to anyone who stumbles across it, and the realm of “fan production” can take on an ant farm-type quality when you take a step back from it. That, to some extent, is what the academic world sees when it studies fandom and fan production, and to whit, there’s an upcoming symposium in Washington, DC, sponsored by American University Washington College of Law’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) that will cover that very topic, focusing specifically on women and their roles in fan production.

Now, it’s pretty well established that women just don’t “do” fan films that much, preferring fan fiction and other pursuits; I’ve written about the topic in my new book, Homemade Hollywood, but I’m hardly the first person to come to that conclusion. If you’ve never really wondered why women eschew fan flicks, there’s a pretty good thumbnail sketch of the reasons below in the symposium’s call for papers.

IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections

IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections
6th Annual Symposium
April 24, 2009

Special Theme: Female Fan Cultures and Intellectual Property

Sponsored by
American University Washington College of Law’s
Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property
Women and the Law Program
Journal of Gender Social Policy & Law

In collaboration with
American University’s Center for Social Media
Rebecca Tushnet, Georgetown University
Francesca Coppa, Muhlenberg College

Deadline for submission of abstracts: December 19, 2008
The 6th Annual Symposium on “IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections” seeks papers on female subcultures and their relationship to intellectual property and copyright regimes, with a particular emphasis on fan works and culture. Appropriate topics include: fan arts, including fan fiction, arts, music, filk, crafts, and vids; and fan communities: including clubs, forums, lists, websites, wikis, discussion groups, rec sites, and other creative, celebratory, or analytical communities.

Introduction & Context

Historically, the study of subcultures has been biased toward male groups and activities: first, because male activities (e.g. punk rock, motorcycling, football hooliganism) tend to be public, and therefore visible; second, because many male groups have been seen as overtly resistant to mainstream norms. In contrast, many female subcultural activities took place in private, in the domestic realm or in other less visible spaces, and those that were visible tended, in the words of Sarah Thornton, to be “relegated to the realm of a passive and feminized ‘mainstream’ (a colloquial term against which scholars have all too often defined their subcultures)”; in other words, the things women did and do have often been framed as mainstream, passive, commodified, and derivative; consuming (in the negative sense of passive product consumption), rather than consuming in the sense of a passionate obsession or devotion to art or criticism.

This has changed significantly in the last twenty years, not only due to a rising feminist interest in subculture studies but also with the rise of fan and audience studies. In their pioneering “Girls and Subcultures” (1975), Angela McRobbie and Jenny Garber presciently suggested that scholars turn their attention “toward more immediately recognizable teenage and pre-teenage female spheres like those forming around teenybop stars and the pop-music industry.” Even they had trouble seeing what girls do as interesting and importing, noting that “[b]oys tended to have a more participative and a more technically-informed relationship with pop, where girls in contrast became fans and readers of pop-influenced love comics.” McRobbie and Garber don’t associate being “fans” with participation, and they see girls as “readers” only. In fact, as we know from fifteen years of fan and audience studies, fandom is a highly participatory culture, and female fans also write, edit, draw, paint, “manip,” design, code, and otherwise make things.

However, even within this brave new world of mashup, remix, and fan cultures, what boys do (fan films, machinima, music mash-ups, DJing) is often seen by outsiders and critics as better–more interesting, more original, more clearly transformative– than what girls do (fan fiction, fan art, vidding, coding fan sites, social networking). This normative judgment risks legal consequences.

We are seeking projects that investigate the ways in which issues of originality and ownership as related to copyright and other issues of intellectual property intersect with this gendered understanding of cultural productions and engagement, especially since these historically female subcultural activities and practices have increasingly become culture.

IP/Gender Mapping the Connections Organizational Details

* DEADLINE for submission of abstracts is DECEMBER 19 at 5:00pm.

* To submit an abstract for consideration, fill in this web-based form. Participants will be notified if their paper has been accepted for presentation by January 15.

* The symposium will begin at 6:00 Thursday, April 23, 2009 at the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. The symposium will convene from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm on Friday, April 24, 2009.

* To view papers and programs from prior IP/Gender: Mapping the Connections symposia, please visit

* Papers may be published in the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law.

* If you are interested in attending the event, but not presenting work, please contact Angie McCarthy, Women and the Law Program coordinator at [email protected] for details.

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