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The phenomenon of fandom: Refuting the view that consumers of mass media culture are passive cultural dopes?

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Samantha Barbas' book Movie Crazy.
  3. John Fiske.
    1. Semiotic productivity.
    2. Textual productivity.
    3. His book Understanding Popular Culture.
  4. Conclusion.
  5. Bibliographical references.

In the last century television, film and video came to dominate the mass mediated world and increasingly continues to do so today with an abundance of entertainment being brought into the homes of millions of people globally provided by the culture industry. A popular and traditional view of mass media audiences sees them as passive 'culture dopes', a phrase used by Stuart Hall (Notes on Deconstructing 'the Popular' 1981) describing the audience as passive consumers of whatever media is placed in front of them. Although not supported by Hall, this was the opinion taken by Adorno and Horkheimer in the mid 1940's who took a pessimist view of the culture industries believing that ordinary people are unable to resist the power of the mass media.

[...] Jenkins (1992) quotes the term "textual poaching" taken from the work of de Certeau (1984) which can be applied to the work of fan fiction which fills the gaps, and explains fan writing "as a strategy for appropriating materials produced by the dominant culture industry and reworking them into terms which better serve subordinate or sub cultural interests". Jenkins uses the example of Star Trek fan fiction which is for the most part written by women for women to read, with the focus being directed more on the relationships of the characters than on the adventure and technological aspects which men fans tend to be more active in (Jancovich and Lyons 2003). [...]


[...] On the other hand, in the case of consumers who find semiotic and enunciative meaning in a mass circulated text, and where it must be argued that the majority of people are situated, it is more likely that the audience may be passive cultural dopes on the basis that they define their social identity and find community from what the media places in front of them. Therefore, it would appear that when considering the audience there needs to be a distinction made between the majority of people who consume mass culture and the minority who produce their own culture within the 'shadow cultural economy'. [...]

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