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Unformatted text preview: Comic Book Fandom and Cultural Capital Jeffrey A. Brown Mass entertainments have the power to capture our hearts and our dreams. The pleasure we derive from entertainments can sometimes sweep us into what appears consuming and fanatical behavior. But this fanaticism is only evidence of the complexity of our relationship with mass-mediated texts. Rather than blind devotion, fandom is a means of expressing ones sense of self and ones communal relation with others within our complex society. Individual fans and entire fan communities develop intimate attachments to certain forms of mass-produced enter- tainments that, for whatever reason, satisfy personal needs. These fan communities construct a world as rich and intricate as any traditional perception of high or red culture. Both the practice of fandom and its object of enthusiasm-T.V. shows, rock n roll bands, movie stars, romance novels, etc.-are usually perceived with disdain within the dominant value system. As Fiske (1992) argues, the culture of fandom is associated with the tastes of the disempowered, of people who are subor- dinated by the socio-economic system that determines the status of indi- viduals within the general community. The institutionalized image of fans as social misfits devoted to accumulating worthless information about crass entertainments (Jenkins 9- 11) has caused fandom to be devalued as one of the basest and most superficial aspects of popular culture. Yet recent cultural studies work, both in America and Great Britain, has opened the door for understanding fandom as a legitimate cultural expression. What I propose here is a consideration of comic book fandom as a complex system with its own rules for determining the worth and stature of popular texts. Nowhere are the traits of fandom more clear than within the culture of comic book enthusiasts. The well-defined community of comic fans allows a unique insight on how and why fandom is an important aspect of contemporary culture. Comic fandom, and the practice of comic-book collecting in particular, is evidence of the complex and structured way in which avid participants of popular culture construct a meaningful sense of self. They create a culture that simultaneously resists the tyranny of high culture and forms what Fiske calls a shadow 13 14 Journal of Popular Culture cultural economy (Cultural Economy 30) that mimics bourgeois stan- dards. Fiskes term is derived from Bourdieus (1984) metaphor of cul- ture as an economic system divided along the twin poles of cultural and economic capital. Bourdieus theory provides an apt language for dis- cussing how people attempt to invest in and accumulate qualities that are perceived as valuable within a culture. Like our capitalist economy, the cultural system distributes its resources on a selective basis to create a non-fiscal distinction between the privileged and the deprived. The system ascribes value to certain tastes and devalues others. Typically system ascribes value to certain tastes and devalues others....
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This note was uploaded on 04/20/2008 for the course IDS 102 taught by Professor Eaton during the Spring '08 term at North Shore.
- Spring '08
- The Bible