This week in Fandom, we discussed how companies commercialize and profit from Fandom. In the above image, I went around to trendy stores and found clear examples of cultural appropriation for profit. There is a big movement in retro chic and the things I loved as a kid are apparently cool again. It’s mind boggling yet understandable that this happened in the 1990s with things from the 1970s.
The assigned reading for the week covered what happens when a large conglomerate (Twentieth Century Fox) auctioned props from Buffy the Vampire Slayer on eBay when the series wrapped in 2003 — the auction and the concomitant online reception occasioned a unique and enlightening collision of fandom, consumption and internet culture; allowing anyone to purchase clothes and props from the show, allowing anyone to dress and act like any character they preferred.
I vaguely remember hearing something about this when I was in high school — maybe in the LA Times. I was a youth of the WB (now CW) that was the home of Buffy and several other shows. These were the first of their kind for enlisting an exceptionalism concept on a public television channel. This along with other shows and spinoffs were core of my elementary and middle school conversations when I was younger, as well as a key indicator of what to ask my parents to purchase for me as well, thanks to brilliantly designed product placement) . I know my fashion sense in elementary school was limited, but by middle school and high school my friends and I were all influenced by television shows such as Buffy for what outfits to wear as well as other commodities to own.
Buffy was a television story that integrated the new fun technologies that we were being introduced to within a hour of story depicting a heroin defeating demons. Intact in this were great interwoven storylines sharing how unsafe the internet truly was. I suppose that could have influenced how I interpret the various exchanges at our fingertips on the web. Needless to say, Buffy and other shows of its era were definitely part of the weekly routines of catching up on the latest and greatest that we were able to integrate into our every day, consumer-driven lives.
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan perse — I honestly barely remember watching the show. However, I do understand the concept of wanting something special; something limited; something that I can only get from one place; and then be able to brag to others about it. I think somewhere I may have a script of the show, maybe from a silent auction from my elementary school or middle school that my mother won. That and other perks of growing up and going to school in Los Angeles, I suppose I had an unfair advantage to receiving these fan texts.
In other cases, my uncle bought a Shaq sneaker — just one shoe and placed it with it’s certificate of authentication in the foyer of his house under a glass box. There’s a sense of pride, of adoration, and economic capital that comes with purchasing items that are limited, expensive, and worn by their favorite fan objects. If I remember correctly, this was won on a public auction on QVC or something of similar nature.
In the article, it’s interesting to see the various degrees of reasoning for why someone would purchase the props as well as the frustrations attached towards the studios for putting the items up for auction in such an enlisted forum. This was for the public audience to purchase private one-of-a-kind items through a public action with private exchange. It’s pretty clear the intention and was advertised as such, but there were still some upset fans who wanted to take a stand against the studio and their motivations to commoditize their fan objects.
For varying reasons of why someone would want to purchase this memorabilia, the argument on whether it separated this from true fans is a remarkable attempt to challenge the motivations of this auction. Role playing, cos play, and other types of fantasy role playing are by far a great reasons in the sense of actually using these props. In a legal disclaimer, Fox even warned that: "[Items] are not to be used for their seemingly functional purposes and are only intended to be sold as collector's items. DO NOT use the items purchased through this Auction for any functional use." However, I find that there would be more value in keeping them in a safe place, knowing that one would own a piece of the show, not necessarily devaluing the item purchased with additional wears and tears. But who knows. People are people and they will do what they wish, given their conditioned contextual views.
Even prior to the show some fans had been challenged by Fox’s legal teams to take down various fan sites. There’s this place that Buffy Fans (and this goes beyond Buffy Fans) — basically all Fans create what they want within the context of the Fan Object and what they envision onwards through the eye of their identity. Fans will interpret and extend storylines to suite their own fantasies and desires in their own Fan Contexts; it’s inevitable. This story and others like it are interesting in that the momentum of upset fans can really change the direction of a story entirely. It’s a powerful movement that challenges the business leaders that are making the most money out of the Fan Objects to begin with.