Friday, April 22, 2011

Day Three!

Very brief tonight (and a little snarky). By the third day of the rush of a conference and bad and/or overpriced food usually eaten on the run, I get weary.

One of the true delights of a conference such as this one is the sheer breadth of topics represented. Every scholar has a story about how they first got into their particular field, I know, but that knowledge doesn't stop me from wondering just how do you decide to devote your research time to the works of H.P. Lovecraft? Or American car culture? Or the depiction of faith healing on the screen?

Always ask these questions. Be prepared to listen to the answers, for scholars are far from the chalk-dusted bores they are often portrayed as being.

FryDaddy and I split up today to hit different sessions. He learned about Jack London and H.P. Lovecraft (an especially interesting bit there on town as civilization vs. rural as the home of evil and darkness emerged there, along with his suggestion that the lack of peer-reviewed scholarship be answered with something akin to Slayage, which is celebrating its tenth year this year), while I took in a quite interesting panel on circuses. The best bit was during the Q&A session when one spectator asked in a (hopefully unintentionally) snarky tone if the panelists had seen the HBO show Carnivale and if so, how that show fit in with their analyses. The answer, "Well, first off, that show's about a carnival, not a circus. Different tribe." Indeed - check here and here to see. Basically, elephants and bareback riders = circus; Tilt-a-Whirl and win a goldfish games = carnival. It's fine to ask questions outside your area, but specify that you know you're outside your area, Jack! (And don't use the term "circus" to describe something as being out of control. A circus is actually very organized and disciplined. The misuse of the term is taken as a bit of an insult, actually.)

I also attended a Whedon panel today that included a lovely panel on the use of tai chi in Buffy and Dollhouse and (more subtly) in Firefly. Interesting, as Firefly is the show with the most obvious Chinese influences, so you'd expect to see more in that show. Rabb and Richardson explained how it was "hiding in plain sight" and got the audience to participate, to boot! Also a presentation on the use of hands to communicate - whether they are clasped, separated, or even removed from the body entirely. I hope to see more done with that work.

It was also the Dr. Horrible sing-along. As one participant put it, "I don't sing well, but I make up for my lack of technique with volume!" Great fun was had by all.

Which brings me to my only sore point from this conference. There's a bit (not much, but a touch) in infighting amongst different sections. Some attendees see some sections as being more elevated, more "true" than other sections. Whatever. Look, I'm sorry if my wearing a fan T-shirt somehow makes you think that my scholarship isn't sound and that I'm a simple fangirl who wouldn't know Bakhtin, Foucault, and Barfield if they rose from their respective graves and bit me. Then again, I know it is sound, so isn't that your problem and not mine? I enjoy my scholarship and it's a shame that you see my fun as an attack on your work, but really - in this day of Cafe Press, go make your own quotable, clever shirt and quit trying to elevate your area by running down the creativity of mine. Grumble, grumble - isn't this the battle popular culture folks have all fought with our more hide-bound colleagues who seem to insist that the canon is just fine without the inclusion of women, minorities, or technological advancements? Seems like the red-headed stepchildren arguing over who Dad can come closest to standing.

Sorry. I know that television studies today is basically where film studies was in the 1960s - still a bit suspect. But you can't stop the future (or the signal) and the field will continue to advance, in large part due to scholars who know their stuff, write well, and present their work in an engaging fashion. And I'm surrounded by them tonight, which makes me proud, even if I'm a little off-key.

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