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2006 (C 2006) SociologicalForum,Vol.21, No. 3, September DOI: 10.1007/s11206-006-9022-6
Cultureand Stigma:Popular Cultureand the Case of Comic Books
2006 Publishedonline:17 October
This paper argues that a better articulated conception of stigma can enhance the analysis of popular culture. Beginning with the work on stigma by Erving Goffman and other scholars, the article contends that the stigma sometimes attached to the production and consumption of popular culture is distinct from the low status associated with certain forms of popular culture. Unlike low status, stigma discredits cultural forms and practitioners often rendering them problematic. This reassessment of stigma is applied and developed further through a study of comic books, showing the various ways stigma can operate in popular culture. The analysis suggests that stigma significantly impeded the evolution of the comic book as an artform, illustratingthepotential negative effects of stigma in popular culture.
massmedia. KEY WORDS: popularculture; status;culture; stigma;
Goffman (1963) in his classic work Stigmaarguedthat a stigmatized by the powerof a singleattribute,such person'ssocialidentityis discredited as being visuallyimpairedor a druguser. He also arguedthat suchindividuals may be viewed as deservingof some kind of intervention.Goffman, however,never addressedstigmain relationto popularculture.Yet the basic aspectsof stigmathat he outlinedresonatewith past and presentideologies concerningpopularculturalforms and the individualsassociatedwith them. Earlyjazz, for example,was framedas a musicwhose audiencesfell trancelikeinto vulgarand wantonbehavior(Ogren,1989),while the fans of
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and thus has far more negative effects and elicits more direct action from the people Goffman(1963) calls "normals.Low status is usuallya precondition for the stigmatization of a culturalform.. 2002. and Hills (2002). stigma also played an importantrole (Lopes.columns. 1999). rap music)..And stigma. between stigma however. while works by Gamson (1998) and Grindstaff(2002) addressthe stigma attached to television talk shows. points to how fans of popular culture often have their social identities discreditedand their behaviors characterizedas pathological." It seems importantto thinkthroughin a more generalway how stigma works in popularculture. but differ in distinctways as social phenomena. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .83.g.But low status and stigmaare not even if equivalent.2000). I believed it was time to readdressthe basic role of stigmain popularculture.and other writingsin the subcultureof comic books. countrymusic) or have low status and be stigmatized(e. (2001).and fans of comics.drug-addled no link to reality(Paterline.The framingof popularcultureas enmeshedin a hierarchy of culturaldistinctionsseems inadequatein delineatingthe differencebetween stigma and low status. since theirintroduction and this stigmahas affectedcomic books as well as artists. Other works on fan culture addressingstigma include Jenkins (1992).unlikelow status.g.The second part presents a general This content downloaded from 27. In my previouswork on jazz. My interest in popular culture and stigma stems from my research on comic books in America.interviews. I believe they are closely related.readers.While low status certainlyhas negative social effects. The issue of stigmahas appearedin other scholarship on popularart. Pustz (1999).388 Lopes nomadswith the GratefulDead were viewed as directionless.This articlebegins with a brief review of important points in Goffman'sand others'analysesof stigmathat elucidateways of understanding culture and stigma.makesan individualor culturalform problematic. 2000). and I found that other comic book scholarsin America shared this experience (Pustz. Bacon-Smith(1992. This scholarship.I even experiencedthis stigmain the responsesfromcolleagueswhen I chose to studycomicbooks.does not clearlydistinguish and low status.251. example. Jensen audiences. But in once again facing the power of stigmain the world of comic books. I found the multiplelevels of stigmato be quite remarkable.10 on Fri. Radway(1984) looks at efforts of female readersto managethe stigmaassociatedwith romancenovels. 2005).In readinghistories. and for fan cultures.Comic books have been stigmatized in the mid-1930s. Harringtonand Bielby (1995). Brunsdon (2000) addressesthe stigmaattachedto the soap opera genre.A popularculturalform could have low statusbut not be stigmatized (e. they might overlapin terms of culturalforms and practitioners. stigma leads to the discrediting of an individualor culturalform in a global sense.
The most interestingaspect of the stigma experiencedin the world of comic books in North America was how the of comic books as subliterateand a children'smediumprestigmatization vented this artformfromevolvinginto moreadultgenressimilarto those in the field of popularliterature.and LexisNexis. magazines.He This content downloaded from 27. One of the greatestcomplaintsin the subculture of comic books is the difficultyof transforming the comic book beyond the limiteddomainimposedby the stigmaassociatedwith this culturalform.83.and (5) books publishedin the subcultural economy of comic books.A comic book subculturethat emerged in the 1960s representsthe subcultural economy.JSOTR. the term Goffman By using stereotype.alongwith a continuumfor differentiating between statusand stigma. and specialtyshops (Pustz. (2) the comic book catalogs Preview and The Standard Catalog of Comic Books. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Likemy earlierworkon the discourseon jazz.books. 1996). Wizard. STIGMA Goffman emphasizedthat stigma refers not directly to an attribute but to a "specialkind of relationshipbetween attributeand stereotype" (Goffman.I analyzedthe discourseon comic books in these two officialculturaleconomies from the late 1930sto the present.not a reflectionof an individual'sinherentqualities.I looked at (1) the fan magazinesComic Artist.2002. the New York Times Index.Culture and Stigma 389 framework for understanding stigmaandpopularculture. and Comics Journal.He arguedthat an attributethat stigmatizesone type of person can just as easily signalthe normalcyof another. emphasizedthat stigma was a social construction. conventions.10 on Fri. my analysisof comic book discoursewas dividedinto two fieldsbased on John Fiske's (1992) distinctionbetween an "official" culturaleconomy and a "subcultural" economy. The finalpart appliesthe generalframeworkon stigmato my more recent researchon comic books.There I focus on my past researchon jazz (Lopes. (3) industry websites for dis- tributorsand publishers.Thisis the negativeeffect of stigmaon the evolution of a culturalform.websites.(4) fan websites. Officialculture is representedby the general press and academicjournals. 1963:4). The case studyof comicbooks also revealsone aspectrarelyaddressed in how stigmaaffectspopularculture. This subcultureeventually besides comic books: included. I used the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature.251. The case study of comic books is based on my researchon the 20thcenturydiscourseon comicbooks.He also argued that stigmain certaininstancesis an articulation of social class distinctions.1999).This is how comic books evolved in Europe and Japan(Sabin.2005) andotherworkin popularculture.
It is importantto emphasizethat being stigmatizedis more than being discredit means being susceptibleto interventions ited in social groupinteraction. uals as they go throughdifferentstagesof understanding Link and Phelan (2001) arguethat labelingtheory best conceptualizesthis socialprocess-especially since stigmatheoriesandtheireffects can change over time.did not addressthe way socialinstitutionsor moral entrepreneursmake individualswith certain attributesproblematicand then demandintervention.251.Goffmanstressedhow stigmaacts as an agent for group formation as individuals grapple with its effects.390 Lopes confirmsthis in his discussionof the "moralcareer"of stigmatizedindividtheirpredicament. discountedone" (Goffman.2001).and Steele have an attributethat "conveysa social (1998:505). This content downloaded from 27. phenomenon(Link Goffman also pointed to how stigmatizedindividualscan reject the stigma theories of normals through contact with "sympatheticothers." our minds from a whole and usual person to a tainted. which cuts acrossdifferentsocial situationsand social roles. can attempt to "pass"as normals.however.Major.Goffmanalso emphasizedthe more whetherexperiencedas shame. them to being discredited.As later clarifiedby Crocker. and such reinterpretation effects of stigmaby validatingan deal with the negativeand discriminatory alternativetheory of the significanceof their sharedattribute. as extreme as institutionalization.or self-derogation. can allow for a collective reinterpretation of 1963:24).The collecof normals'stigmatheories throughgroup-formation tive reinterpretation of this attributeas lead to the also may reshapingof normals'understanding who defend their members become stigmatized group spokespersons group. at least. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .or cenimprisonment.The crucialpoint is the global natureof such discrediting.Individualswith stigmatizedattributes.Suchstrategies."To be discredited It is to be "reducedin is to be viewed as lackingor inferiorto "normals.to themselves. drug treatment.Group-formation can help individuals normals' stigma theories. A stigma "can funcand relationships" tion to dispose membersto group-formation (Goffman.stigmatizedindividuals identity that is devaluedin a particularsocial context. in stigmaas a social and are crucial elements Discrimination power sorship. Goffman also focusedon the strategies-stigma management-that individuals adopt interaction.in other words. or at least subject The basic effect of stigmais to discreditindividuals.10 on Fri.This labelingof individualsas deviantcan lead to viewingthem as a threatto the socialorderor.selfglobaleffects of stigmaon self-identity. to minimizeor avoid problematic involve general control over "signs"indicatingthe stigma or control over personal informationthat can lead to being discredited.for example.83. Goffman. hatred. which can often lead to victimization. and Phelan.1963:3)." More important.
Membersof a stigmatized subgroupcan theories contact with others and groupreject stigma through sympathetic formation.leading to variousinterventionsfrom criminalprosecutionto censorship.83.The work of Goffman and others on stigmaobviouslyresonateswith the historyof popularculture. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .National moral crusadeshave been waged againstpopularculturein America.I propose the following eight-point frameworkfor analyzinghow stigmaworks in popularculture.includingthe formationof organizations on focused advocacy. STIGMAAND POPULAR CULTURE How might we approacha general understanding of popular culture and stigma?We can begin by recognizingthat stigmaoccursin a broader social context in whichsocial class and other social groupdistinctionsplay a role in the articulation of stigmatheoriesin popularculture.includingboth formsand practitioners.for example. And Sternheimer(2003) points to the special role that childrenas a social groupplay as victimsamid adult fears engenderedby broad social change that make popularmedia a convenient scapegoat.Beisel (1993) also shows how debates concerningobscenityin the early 20th centuryarticulated class distinctionsin the stigmatizationof popular pornography.the debate over mass culture duringthe 20th centuryarticulatedsocial class distinctionsin the framing of high art and popularart (Swingewood. while the nudes enjoyed by an elite audiencewere defended as high art. (2) Stigmacan be global or more specificto genres. styles.Finally.Storey.10 on Fri.We can see the social constructionof stigma in how normals and the stigmatizednegotiate the meaning of stigma in popular culture.(1) Stigma can attachto varioussocial objects.Cultureand Stigma 391 Often such defense leads to collectiveactionby the more vocal membersof the sociallystigmatized and group. Beginning with the broader context of how stigma articulatessocial class and social group distinctions. Social class and social group distinctionsplay out in a variety of ways in how and when stigma occursin popularculture.Group-formation has been criticalfor their developmentof alternativetheoriesof theirpractices.251.The general of culture in the United States alreadyarticulatessocial position popular class distinctions(Gans. This content downloaded from 27. or social roles. 1974).Stigmatizedparticipantsin popular culture also use stigma managementin dealing with normalsand the effect of discreditedsocial identities.defense or advocacyalso occurs aroundstigmatizedculturalforms and groups.2001). We see it also where popularcultureis stigmatizedbecause of its association with specific social groups. publicationsspecifically All these basic aspects of stigma are present in the world of popular culture.1977.
consistentlyconfronted Pornography theories that have discreditedit and viewed it as problematic(Dean.stigmamanagement.Women'sclubs and dance associations joyed by demanded interventionthrough strict codes of behavior for dance halls. Jazzwas viewed in generalas problematic for its harmful. This content downloaded from 27.(4) Stigmausuallyimpliespotentialharmor pathology.however. which is particularly importantas social class and group distinctions act to elicit or eliminatestigma. Criticsof jazz musicin the 1920s associatedit with African Americanculture.2005).or at a specificlevel of genre. 1996. so they attemptedto wardoff the stigmaassociatedwith this musicby claimingto "cultivate" this suspectmusicalstyle. Jazz elicited a stigmatheory that viewed this style of music as a dangerto moral as well as aesthetic conventional values.as withhigh-art"nudes" or middle-class like Playpornography boy Magazine(Beisel. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Older musiciansworriedthat this musicalform would corruptyoung musicians who caught the jazz bug. CulturalForms Stigmacan be attachedto culturalforms. in some distinctions group way.83. or condiscrediting or discredited in their entirety. 2002.1983).had to satisfythe public's musicians demandfor jazz.or enblack or white audiences. can eliminateor reduce Sigel.392 Lopes forms and practitioners and making (3) Stigmais a process of discrediting them problematic. 1993.Yet even in this case.(6) Stigmaelicits deor alternative theories.This associationdrove criticsto discreditits vernacular style. suchstigmaarticulates social And as the case of pornography demonstrates. and stigmamanagementcan affectthe developmentof a culturalform. tent. Few formsare consistentlystigmatized fit this of It has seems to level stigma.deviant influence on both audiences and artists. So stigmausuallyworksto discreditculturalforms at more specificlevels of genres. Professional in the 1920s.It canworkat a generallevel. young caught jazz bug in the 1920s were assimilated into the professionalclass of musiciansand its legitimatetechniques. Jazz musicprovidesan excellent exampleof how specificstyles of culturalforms are stigmatized(Lopes. (5) Stigmacan lead to variousforms of intervention. a formin its entirety. 2000). Criticsdiscredited jazz whetherplayed by black or white musicians. class distinctions this stigma.At the same musicians who the time. This frameworkprovidesa path to the varietyof ways culturalforms and practicescan be stigunderstanding matized. (8) Stigmatheories can change over time.style.251.10 on Fri. or idioms.(7) Both stigma fensive claims.Ehrenreich. styles.It also allowsfor comparisonof differentculturalformsand practices.
Big band "swing" the vernacularstyle of jazz and assimilatend result of both transforming of a new ing generation popularmusicians.83.Rose. class.Binder (1993). "swing" of The case jazz shows how stigma implies that something about a that is.The cultivatedjazz style called eliminated the earlierstigmaattachedto jazz.The recentpoptalk shows has elicited stigmatheoriesclaimingthat such ularityof "trash" of asocialbehavior in theirportrayal showsare morallycorruptandharmful since they also these are not And arbitrary. Certain dance styles in the early history of America were discreditedby moral authorities for their harmful power to induce deviant behavior (Erenberg.2002).1983). show how stigma reflects race. More contemporary examples include rap and heavy metal music as genres that have been discreditedand held suspectfor theirpotentialharm(Binder.And Binder (1993) of rap and heavymetalmusicalso articulated arguesthat the stigmatization Grindstaff racialand classdistinctions.In the case of pornography. The case of jazz also shows how stigmaworks to elicit some form of or "wise"defenders. Radway (1984) shows a strategyof stigmamanagement among the authorsof historicalromancenovels who deflect stigma by developinghistoricalaccuracythroughresearch.while rap was framed mostly potential mostly as a general threat to the social order. (2002) also arguesthat the stigmaof and inappropriate trashtalk shows reflectsa class hierarchyof appropriate content.from of pornograinto a shadow economy to the "passing" going underground publicationslike Playboy Magaphy with the introductionof mainstream zine (Ehrenreich. examples (Grindstaff. Binder (1993)arguesthatthe crusadeagainstheavymetal andrapmusicinvolveda a racialideology.Thismanagement musicof the 1930swas the distinctpath of development. Nasaw (1993) points to how the moralprotestationsagainstpopulardance in the past stemmed from class and racial prejudices. metal and rap examiningheavy of defense were used to wardoff detractorsof found that several "frames" these musicalgenres. culturalform is problematic.Cultureand Stigma 393 This cultivationof jazz musicand musiciansalso had "wise"defenderssuch of stigmaset jazz on a as the famouscriticGilbertSeldes.10 on Fri.251. defense on the part of its practitioners music in the late 1980s and early 1990s. it has harmfulor pathologicaleffects. and other social group distinctions. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Brigman(1997) highlightshow the of pornography changesover time.Heavy metal was framed labelingprocessthat articulated to its threat as a audience. dependingon varyinglestigmatization as of gal definitions obscenity well as the political orientationof various This content downloaded from 27. 1981. 1986). The history of stigma and popularculturalforms also points to how stigma is a social constructioncreated througha labelingprocess.1993. Peiss.interventionhas led to a numberof strategiesof management. 1994).
251.assimilatedpopularvernacular dance styles to more sociallyacceptablestyles. while the crusadeagainstheavy metal and rap led to advisorylabels it did not lead to any significant for recordings.Stigmathus has the potential to affect the developmentof a culturalform.This combination set the foundationfor the later emergence of modern jazz in the 1950s. Both Binder (1993) and Brigman (1997) note that labeling involves both the detractorsof popularcultureas well as its defenders. though it does not alwaysdo so. or gender?Have artistsand producers attemptedstigmamanagementor defendedthemselvesagainststigmatheories? And finally.like Irene and Vernon Castle. CulturalPractitioners: Producers/Artists Producersand artistsalso can be the social objectsof stigmatheories. This content downloaded from 27. ularjazz.untrainedin legitimate musical techniques. And that the criticismof trash talk shows Grindstaff 1997). Only within the Associatedwith vernacprofessionalworldof musicwere they stigmatized. race.specificattributesgiven to producers. which imposed a set of standardsfor acceptablemoral content. 2002). So by the 1930s. Doherty (1999) arguesthat the Hayes Code. (2002) argues has had no appreciableeffect on their content or popularity.83. they were viewed as "illiterate" amateurs.or other attributessuch as class. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . have artists and producerssignificantly changed their in to practices response stigma? The stigmaof earlyjazz in the 1920'spopularpressfocusedon the music not on musicians(Lopes. But how are such artistsand producersdiscreditedor viewed as problematic?Are theirsocial identitiesspoiledin a global sense. changein the lyricsof these or to their demise in the genres complete popularmusicmarket(Garofalo.394 Lopes anti-pornography groups. The social identity of jazz musicians was not stigmatizedin a global sense duringthis period. Erenberg(1981) also shows how leaders of social dance in the early 20th century.10 on Fri. or are they stigmatized in a specificrole withintheirown profession?Does the effect on social identitydepend on specificforms.Only jazz musicianswho assimilatedinto the professional culturehad lucrativecareersduringthe swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. did have an effect on Hollywoodfilmuntil the 1960s. the stigma within their professionalfield actually who combinedjazzpractransformed the practicesof certainjazzmusicians tices with the cultivatedtechniquesof professionalmusicians. But what is the effect of stigma on particularcultural forms? The case of jazz shows how stigmacan lead to the transformation of a cultural form.On the other hand.
it.on the other hand.In the case of pornography.andin New York Citycabaret cardswere revokedfor drugviolations. varietyof interventions This content downloaded from 27.those time when these musicianswere respectedprofessionals outside the field saw them as asocial and deviant and portrayedthem as such in novels.as well as in the press.Cultureand Stigma 395 While swing legitimizedjazz music. and colleges and performed by a new generationof jazz musicians. Black rap artists'social identities.involvingthe persecutionof artists. black and white jazz musicians'social identities were stigmatizedin the popularimaginationand by social scientists(Lopes. 2005).And this presscontinuallycominterplained about how jazz musiciansthemselveswere not particularly ested in managingtheir stigma. and academicjournals. Normals' stigma theory refractedthe stigma of sexual promiscuity. The case of jazz musiciansshows how artistscan be stigmatizedwith respect to their social roles in a professionalfield or in a more global sense as their social identities are held suspect by normals.What changedthe stigmaof jazz culture was its actual decline and disappearance.Boyer.and distributors (Dean. its producersare stigmatizedboth in a globalsense and in the profession of filmmaking.83.Federal and local authoritiestargetedjazzmusiciansandclubs. 1994).at a in theirfield.preventing musicians fromperforming at legitimatevenues. 2002). 1994).And interventionagainstpornography and obscenityhas also occurred. And such a stigmaled at times to intervention. 1996.While their professional roles were spoiled in relation to their artisticpractices.from the 1930sto the early 1960s.but to no avail.This was certainlythe case for jazz musicians. Rap musicianshave also experiencedintervention. movies. we can expect the possibilityof interventionon the part of normals. By the 1970sjazz was found in more legitimate venues such as festivals.many of whom came from middle-classbackgrounds and had conservatory or college training.drug use. not the musicthey performed. It is clear that the stigmatization of contexts.Popularartistshave been subjectto a by normals. have been stigmatizedin terms of racialstereotypesof violence and criminality of artistscan occurwithina (Rose.Nor did this stigma affect the practice of jazz musiciansduringthis period. and heavy drinkingassociatedwiththese musicians. The jazz press went to great lengths to counteractthe stigma of jazz musiciansandjazz culture.from specificprosecutionssuch as that of 2withpoliceharassment andin organizing Live-Crewin Floridato difficulties concerts(Binder. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .their social identities were spoiled in relation to specificattributesdistinctfrom these becauseof the stigmaassociatedwith practices. publishers.10 on Fri.251. Ironically. concerts.Rose. variety When producersare stigmatizedas presentinga potential harm.1993.
Fandom is an interestingstigmatizedculturalpracticebecause. it is the fandomof low-statuspopularculturethat normalsview as problematic. I my research.whilefans of low-statusformsareviewed as emotional and irrational. not the television show Star Trekand its offshoots. This content downloaded from 27.while casual fans are not (Harringtonand Bielby.but it is not necessarilystigmatizedas its appreciative fans are.morality.Bielby Bielby.Stigmatheoriesobviouslyworkin a varietyof ways in termsof culturalpractitioners.1992.For this reason. sociability. Jensen (2001) arguesthat what separatesthe opera "lover"and antique "collector"from the stigmatizedfan of heavy metal music is status. as this musiceventuallyreacheda large.What also is interestingabout the relationshipbetween stigma. while the stigma is widespreadin certain respects. is that an object might have low-status. white male audience who were viewed more as susceptibleto rap'sdeviantculturethan as stigmatizedthemselves.251. 2004). So.howthat and fans audiences were not ever. Grossberg. Even within fandom. Yet stigmatheories can stigmatizeboth a form as withrapmusic.sciencefictionfandomis stigmatized but not the genre (Jenkins. Inwere viewed as victims of eitherjazz musicin the 1920s stead.On the otherhand.1992). were viewed as normalssusceptibleto the deviantinfluenceof this stigmatized music. and fandom itself. While sciencefictionis a low-statusform. given the obvious prejudicein labelingcertainlovers of cultureas fans and othersnot.it has not been stigor rapmusichave been.A numin these ber of audiencesand fans of popularculturehave been stigmatized in and found ways (Jensen.rapartists. simplyput. jazz stigmatized(Lopes.the fluidityof stigmais apparent. 2002). Here. We see that stigmatheories do not necessarilyincorporateboth form Binder (1993) argues.rationality. 1994).for example. the objects of fandom. they mostly or deviantjazz culturefromthe 1930sto the 1960s. 2001).Trekkiesare stigmatized.Even with regardto rap. 1992. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .andrapaudiences(Rose.that heavy metal fans and practitioner. hardcore fans are often discredited.2001. Jensen also notes that fans of high-status formsare viewed as intelligentandrational. only the matizedin Americaas pornography fans are discreditedand viewed as problematic.83.These practitionerscan find that their social identityis spoiled in terms of intelligence.Jensen. stigmatized fandom could be seen as a more specificstigmaof a style of fandom (Fiske.or addictiveand violent behavior. 1995).10 on Fri. not all "fandom"is stigmatized.middle-class.maturity.396 Lopes CulturalPractitioners: Audiences/Fans Audiences and fans can also be stigmatized.however.my discussionof audiencesfocuses on the stigmatization of fan cultures. andits practitioners.
And Beisel (1993)showshow working-class consumers of "nudity"are stigmatized. white. In terms of stigma.1983). since not all consumption by subordinatecommunitiesis stigmatized. normals).It may be viewed as bebut not as discrediting the social identityof ing in poor taste or superficial the individualsor makingthem problematic. This content downloaded from 27.or gender The inoculationof undercertaincircumstances mitigatebeing stigmatized.83. Moving beyond fandom of popularcultureI would like to consider a of consumption generalaspectof consumersandstigma.251.generatingalternative theories.. or other subordinate social groups. STIGMAAND STATUS on stigmaandpopularculturealso is helpfulin addressMy framework between the stigmaand status. gender.Culture and Stigma 397 Fan culturealso points to how group-formation aroundculturalpractices can providea basisfor rejectingstigmatheories.or black consumersis a commonphenomenon in the United States.e.The stigmatization is what Bourdieu(1984)refersto as the "culturally It is most ofarbitrary. point recognizehow certainsocial groupsare more prone than othersto be stigmatizedin theirconsumptionof culture. middle-classconsumersagainststigmainitiallyconstructedaround black culture.Hills (2002:67)arguesthat a "discursive mantra"exists in fandom of "a relativelystable discursiveresource which is circulatedwithin niche media and fanzines and used (by to wardoff the sense that the fan is 'irraway of communalrationalization) tional.black artists. volved constructing professionalplayboyconsumer The is to (Ehrenreich.10 on Fri." ten a refractionof distinctionsof class. The whole in Playboy instrategyof Hugh Hefner in "mainstreaming" pornography the ideal.As noted at the beginningof ing relationship this essay. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . commuFiske (1992) moves furtherin notingthat fandomsare interpretive nities that share a unique discourseabout their object of consumptionand about themselvesas fans.The arbitrariness of stigmatized consumersis againapparentin how attributes of class."'Jenkins(1992) also highlightsthe importanceof sciencefictionfan culturein constructing alternativetheoriesto legitimatescience fictionand fandom-a general process of practionersconstructing what Fiske (1992) callstheirown "subcultural official culture economy"against (i.Yet this stigma is doubly arbitrary. Bielby and Bielby (2004) argue that fans' simple possessionof "expertknowledge"of a culturalform sets a popularaestheticthat works againstthe power of elite criticsin general. and defendingand advocatingboth the culturalpracticesas well as the culturalforms associatedwith them.while elite consumersare viewed as having sophisticatedtastes that inoculate them from potential harm.race. middle-class. stigmaand statusare certainlyclosely relatedsocialphenomena. race.
1993).Stigmausuallyimplies that somethingis inappropriate.FollowingBryson. wrong. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .or individuals low forms and with statusare immature.83.Ang (1988).this musicand its listeners archyof distinctions benefited from the stigmatizationof heavy metal and rap music.251. harmfulor pathological.however." socialeffects.dislikit and findingit probleming a culturalformis not the same as discrediting atic.but stigmatizesthis genre as harmfulto women'sinterests. The exampleof popularmusichighlights the differencebetweenstigma and status. Bryson (1996) shows that the musicalgenres enjoyed by fans with the least education-gospel."andthe stigmaof culturalpractitionformsimplies"harmful ers impliesthat they are "intellectually debased. at the extreme.the shiftingconstruction stigma are intimatelyintertwined:a form and its practitionerscan move and backagain. normalsmake a cognitiveleap beyond simple dislike or imputinginferior tastes or intelligence.It is clearthat stigmahad a differenteffect than did low statusin the worldof popularmusic. of stigmatheories. And Garofalo (1997) argues that the rise of countrymusic at this time was directlyrelatedto the attacksagainstrock and rapmusic. for example. while countrymusicand its listenershave a low statusin termsof the hierin musicaltaste in America.398 Lopes But in termsof both discrediting andproblematizing a formor practitioner.This pose movesfrom(1) low statusindicatedin preferredformsandpraccontinuum tices to (2) low status indicatedin dislikedforms and practices. and." Certainly emotionally discreditedto a certainextent outside their interpretivecommunities.And the extreme of intervention the greaternegativeefformsor practitioners highlights againststigmatized fect of stigma and the cognitiveleap beyond the low-statusimplicationof merelypoor or inferiortaste.but not problematizedas they are by stigma.psychologically suspect.10 on Fri.No one needed to defendcountryor gospel musicto the ParentsMusic Resource Council.notes that the critiqueof romancenovels is not a simplematterof dislike.rap and heavymetal-retain low statusamongmusicallytolerant"cultural omnivores" who indicatea dislike for such genres.statusand Given.Bryson(1996) arguesthat fromlow statusto stigmatization even ascriptionof low statuscan be viewed as movingfromthe preferences of particular statusgroupsto their actualdislikes.I proa continuum movingfromlow statusto stigmain popularculture.Jenkins of bourgeoistaste and disruption (1992:17)arguesthat "fans'transgression hierarchies insures of dominantcultural their preferencesare seen as abnormaland threateningby those who have a vested interestin the mainteJenkinsalso explainsthat the stigmaof cultural nance of these standards.Clearly. Even if Bryson found that many culturalomnivoresdislikedcountrymusic.(3) stigma This content downloaded from 27. country.Yet in the late 1980sand early 1990sonly heavy metal and rap music were viewed as dangerousand requiringintervention(Binder.
and Goulart(1986). This content downloaded from 27. this stigma development discussionshows how stigmaand statuslie on a continuumof culturaldistinctionwith distinctconsequencesfor those socialobjectssubjectto stigma theories.Daniels(1971). creators.83.Pustz(1999). In 1938 Action Comics #1 introducedSuperman.Disney entered the market with Donald Duck in 1938. readers.teen. the questionremains ject and makes it problematic. stigma has been associatedwith the formitself. WonderWomanin 1941. STIGMAAND THE WORLD OF COMICBOOKS Since the introductionof comic books in the mid 1930s.presentsan excellent case for applyingthe framework introducedabove. the producersof comic books.(4) stigmainindicatedin discreditedand problematic dicatedin forms and practicesviewed as harmfuland pathological. This sectionbegins with a brief history of comic books and then analyzesstigma in relationship to the comic book as a form. romance.Academicbooks on this historyincludeSabin(1993.and its producers.I have also shown that can affect the of both forms and artists.More important. its content. while the teen characterArchie had his own comic book by 1942.Robbinsand Yronwode(1985). Comic books aimed at women appeared with Sheena: the Queen of the Jungle in 1939.Such a continuumallows us to differentiatebetween status and stigma and to of stigmaand statusin popularculture. followed by such comic books as Tessie 2For historiespublished for the generalmarket. for example.2 By the early 1940s. and the readers/fans of comic books. A Very ShortHistoryof ComicBooks The first introductionof the standardformat for American comic books was Funnies on Parade in 1933. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .superhero.and jungle queen.Finally. chartthe social construction In applyingmy frameworkto forms.and (5) stigmaindicatedin formsandpracticeselicitingformsof intervention. is my point that stigma alwaysdiscreditsa social obFrom this basic point. whether interventionsagainstthese social objects occur or whetherforms of stigmamanagementor group-formation occurs.see.this discussion shows the complex ways stigma works in popular culture.Cultureand Stigma 399 formsand practices.however. therefore. artists.action. 1996).a lucrativemarket of comic books for childrenand adolescentsexisted with a variety of genres: adventure.the first comic book superhero.10 on Fri.251. mystery.and fans.Now I turnto a detailedcase studyof comicbooks and stigma.Nyberg(1998). The world of comic books.andWright(2001).and audiences.
1993).1993). Superman.The superhero genre declined in sales and lost its dominancein the market.By 1953. adult-oriented marketdevelopedthat coincidedwith a boom in romancecomic books for adult females.sales increasedinto the early 1990s. October 1997:6). reachedavof sales issue 18 1.Since then.and the most This content downloaded from 27. 1993).251.So such titles as Crime Does Not Pay and Tales from the Crypt elicited a national anti-comicbook crusadethat eventuallyled to a self-imposedindustrycode for comic books in 1954. It also helped to initiate a decline in the comicbook market(Sabin. April 1942:1478). By the late 1970s.and comic books thus featured more adult content (Sabin.Withthe growinginterestin comic books as investmentsin the 1980s. April 1982:170-72.10 on Fri. In the post-WorldWarII periodcomic books continuedto experience of genressuch as romance. 22 August 1949:41). After the war. comic books were distributedto soldiers as cheap and exchangeable entertainment.horror.The crusadesucceededin eliminatingmost adultcontent comic books (Nyberg.mid-level comic book was reported to have monthly sales of 40. During the war.000.comic book distribution significantly standsand other generalretailoutlets to specialcomicbook shops (Comics JournalSpecial.27 The most popularcomic book. October 1997:4).1 May 1954:1906).Many older genres faded away.and the superherogenre became the predominant genre in the market(Sabin. romance comic books outsold all other genres (Time. the boom markethad 650 titles. In 1997 a successful.with sales droppingas muchas 50% (ComicsJournalSpecial.a new. and annualsales at nearly 30 million dollars (Newsweek.and a boom with a diversification science fiction.83. 125 differenttitles appearing monthly. October 1997:3). shifted from newsIn the 1970s.000 erage per (PublishersWeekly. The more serious Classics Illustrated was introduced in 1941 to expose childrento classicalliterature.The marketcontinuedto declineduring the 1960s.By 1949.October1997:4-5).The new marketrelied on direct distribution:shops preorderedcomic books with strict limitationson returnof unsoldissues. for example. 1998).crime.until suddenlyin 1993-1994the market entered a crisis with a sudden and steep decline in sales (Money.This expansioninvolvedcateringto more adultreaders. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .400 Lopes the Typist.27 September 1954:77).000-60.250.the comic book marketwas a smallsubcultureof mostly adolescent and college-age male readerswho frequentedspecialty comic book shops.ComicsJournal Special.This changeled to a changein the percentageand type of individualsreadingcomicbooks (ComicsJournalSpecial. the market has remained in crisis. December 1943:55). Criticsarguedthat one-quarterof comics sold in 1953 were crime or horror comics (Time 3 May 1954:78.The early 1940s saw a comic book marketwith monthlysales of 25 millioncopies.and revenue at 70 milliondollars(Publishers Weekly. a monthly circulationof 70-100 million.
North claimedthat the "bulkof these luridpublications dependfor This content downloaded from 27.1996).in more than 40 newspapersand magazines. 19 June 2003).cateringto a youngadultmarket.83.Thiscriticismalso establisheda long-lasting assumptionthat comic books were strictlya children'smedium. librarians.criticshave vilified comic books and "comic book reading was defined as a problem.The alternativecomic book market brought women back to comic book readership. October 1997:6). This criticism. Amazing Spiderman. Nyberg(1998) andWright(2001) to the editorial "A 1940 National point Disgrace"by SterlingNorth in the News as the first national assault againstcomic books that ChicagoDaily was reprinted. in 1995.was genre-based.000 successfulcomic book. althougha diverse arrayof genres for both childrenand adults does exist. Comic books also were immediatelycondemned for their content. magazines. These comic books were sold in "headshops" (Estren. works that promoted a fantasyworld. however. fanand crime retrieved tasy.diamondcomics.and parents.but even this sharedependedless on alternative comicbooks thanindependentcomicbooks basedon populargenreslike adventure.com/marketshare.In the mid-1980s.Independentpublishers directmarket. A few educatorsarunimaginative that no evidence existedto confirmthe harmfuleffectsof comicbooks gued feared by teachers.Nyberg. Japanese comic books-manga-also have become increasinglypopularover the last few years. what are commonlyreferredto as alternative comic books appeared(Sabin. however. Criticsviewed comic books as subliterate and feared they would disrupt children'sdevelopment of literacy.accordingto Nyberg.although male readers still dominate the market (WashingtonTimes.far outpacingthe closest competitorby more than double the sales (Comics Journal Special.10 on Fri. American comic books are still dominatedby the superherogenre.andjournalsignoredthese academicsand continuedto stigmatizecomics. Today. an undergroundcomic book market appearedthat centered on the counterculturemovement of the time. however. found that criticsin newspapers. 1987). The above historyfocuses on "mainstream" comic books. and the marketlasted until the mid-1970s. In the late 1960s. 6 February in 2003representedroughly35% of the 2002:A02).They were publishedby independent comic book publishersand sold in comic book shops.251. The Comic Book as Cultural Form Nyberg (1998:1)argues that since their introduction." This stigmatheory attackedthe mediumitself. Comic books' poor quality and small print also were feared to harmchildren'svision. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Cultureand Stigma 401 had monthlysales of 234. (http://www. In general comic books were seen as poor-quality.
villages and municipalities throughoutthe countrysheriffs.In 1949.HenryE. National and local groups were organizedto monitor retailers.From 1948 to April 1954.and local actionsagainstcomicbooks. . This content downloaded from 27.January1941:105-7..and in certain communities groups gathered to rituallyburn comic books (New York Times. The nationalattentionof the senate hearingsand anti-comic book crusaderscoupledwiththe fearof legislationled the comicbook industry to imComicsCode in 1954(Nyberg.11 December 1948:18). the New YorkTimespublishedmore than90 articles related to proclamations state legislativebills. [and] finally to cap the climax mass burningsof comic books were publiclyheld in several communities"(Journalof EducationalSociology.prosecutors. Schultz.2001).. parentsand teachersthroughoutAmericamust bandtogetherto breakthe 'comic'magazine" (Wright.10 on Fri.mayors. In towns. local by civic organizations. Century. Communitydecency crusadesmade interventionsin a variety of ways..Othereditorialsandarticlesin the early1940scondemnedthe contentof comicbooks Christian 4 November (e.251.. 1942:1349-51).. 2001:27). Superhuman heroics. voluptuous females in scanty attire. ordinances..g.11 November 1948:34... Unless we want a coming generationeven more ferocious than the presentone.1998).'and cheap political propagandawere to be found on almost every page.churchesand civic organizations took up the cry and finallythe greatNationalCongressof Parentsand Teacherswith a membershipof six million made the drive againstcomics a cornerstoneof its national program. Special organizationslike the CatholicNational Office for Decent Literatureestablishedblacklistsfor comic books. blazing machine guns. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . hooded 'justice. This change in the industryalso broughtthe superherogenre back as the dominantgenre afterit had lost its hold followingthe war. The code eliminated adultcontent and reestablished comic books as a children'smedium.councilman and the law-makerswere goaded and prodded into action and many did their best to please and appease the angrytorrentwhich has been loosed. while cleaning up the remainingcontent (Wright.29 June 1948:20. "Women'sclubs.torture.402 Lopes their appeal upon mayhem....murder..The Comics plement a self-censoring Code virtuallyeliminated comic book genres such as horror and crime. AtlanticMonthly. December 1949:215-24). But it was not until after World War II that a nationalmovement in America against comic books would take off.83.a memberof the New York CityBoard of Educationand a defender of comic books.. noted the rise of a national moral crusadeagainstthem.when the Senate Judiciary Subcommitteeon JuvenileDeliquency met in New York City to investigatecomicbooks.30 November 1948:32.and abduction. Nyberg (1998) argues that this movementadopted two tactics:communitydecency crusadesand legislative action.
some of these effortswere successful. This content downloaded from 27. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .1987).www.the ComicBook LegalDefense Fund (CBLDF) was establishedto fight censorship.1987).Most interventions against comics were attacks on comic books with adult content since the 1960s.at times of interventions.19 comic book marketcollapsedby the end May 1974:55). which again used obscenitylaws to attackartists. particularly in viewed the intervention the 1980s as stemmingfrom "various it clear.While LegalDefense Fund. But since all comic books were part of the direct market and specialty shop system. alternative comic books and newly introduced adult-orientedcomic books put out by mainstreampublishersestablished a foothold in the directmarketthat emergedwith the rise of special comic book shops.But a crucial aspect of the stigmaof comic books has been global criticismof them as a medium. book content remains a Comic stigmatized beyond question as servingmasculinefantasyidentificationin superherocomics or serving immoraldesires in comic books with sexuallyexplicitmaterial.And the recent success of mangahas not elicited stigmatheories because the genres importedfrom Japanare orientedto childrenand adolescents.and retailers(ComicBook retrieved16 June2005). comic books once again caught the eye of religious watchdog groups and the state.In 1986.Scatteredprosecutionscontinuedduringthe 1990s.org/history.83. newspapercomic stripswere never viewed in this fashion. by moralwatchdogsand the state in seventies as the adult content of the underground the early reappeared comics was attackedthroughexistingobscenitylaws (New York Times. The shift from newsstandsand generalretail outlets to comic andretailersto sell comicbooks that book shops allowedsmallerpublishers were not subjectto the ComicsCode.10 on Fri.251.The underground of the 1970s(Estren.publishers. As the CBLDF makes published for adults.and the CBLDF has remainedactive.comic books were viewed as also socially or morally harmful. interventionagainstcomic books never reached the national level of the moralcrusadein the late 1940sand early 1950s.This stigmatization.Cultureand Stigma 403 By the late 1960s adult content had reappearedin comic books with comics (Estren.cbldf. however. This brief history of comic book censorshiphighlightshow this form that both discreditedcomic books experienceda process of stigmatization and framedthem as problematicand deservingof some form of interventhisform tion.The adultcontent of underthe rise of underground comics included explicitsexualandviolentcontentas well as radical ground Intervention social andpoliticalcriticism. Whilethe stigmatheoryof comicbooks involveddiscrediting as simply subliterate. As comic book fans and artistspoint out. moved of content. The stigma theory of comic books as strictly a children's medium has had a significanteffect. In the early 1980s.
to borrow fromGoffman. (http://www.. Practicein ComicBooks:Artistsand Producers In the earlyyears.It was common for graphicartists to use fake names when workingfor the industryfor fear of doing irreparable damage to their long-termcareers.10 on Fri. by the way.And as Goffman (1963) argued. illustrated literaturehas neverbeen stigmatized.first-generation comic book artistWill Eisner remembered.. 1988:16). we'd say we did illustrations" (Groth and Fiore. 2001). This content downloaded from 27.Comicbook artistsagreedto give publishersthe rightsto theirworkpartlyin orderto keep their anonymity.Only comic book artistsin the world of graphicart seemed to fear being discredited and therefore feel the need to "cover"themselves in order to "pass"as normalsin the graphicart world. The visual element is not stigmatizedper se. were there as a kind of steppingplace.cbldf.comicbook artistswere stigmatized withinthe world of graphicart. Comicbook artiststhen were regardedboth socially and in the professionas what the Germanscalled an Untermensch. becausetext was separatefromimage and thereforepreservedits sanctity.. dreamingof becoming a syndicatedcartoonist for the newspapers.and children'sbooks as legitimate literature. The stigmatheory of comic books as subliteratestems from their mixture of image and text.or going into book illustration.Comicbooks.. In a book of interviewscompiledby the editors of the ComicsJournal..stigmamanagement can lead to victimization."[N]o one in my shop used their right names. but comic strips were viewed as adult material. hopefully.. a subhuman.The view of comicbooks as a mass-produced productof poor quality made artistswho worked in this industrysusceptibleto being discredited as graphicartists.It was not uncommonfor those of us who were doing comic books not to say we were doing comic books.Here we see how a stigmacan transferfrom a form to those who produceit. .capawith immatureand unsophisticated ble of engagingonly individuals tastes.404 Lopes religious and conservativeleaders . that was a first stop to either. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .2001).83. of comicbooks as a juvenilemedium.. when we were at a cocktail party. All of them there. Comic strip artistswere respected. claimingthat 'comics are for kids"' retrieved17 Oct.artists Besides the stigmatization and fans of comic books still note that comic books are stigmatizedas less than literatureand less than visual art (Sabin.as were graphicillustratorsfor children'sbooks.But for manycriticsthe "transgressive" mix of image and text in comic books underminedthe supposedlysuperior qualityof printcultureas well as the unique qualitiesof visualculture (Varnumand Gibbons.org/history..are viewedby normalsas not quite a full medium.251.1996).
In any given comicbook store. but also to readers of comic book pornography. overweight. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .dark.). But this phenomenonis linked more to low status than to stigma.By the 1980s.however.the comic book market into what MatthewPustz (1999) calls a fan "comicbook was transformed culture. These shops caterednot only to superherofanboys.comic book readerswere viewed more as victims of the potential harmsof a discreditedform.comic book culturewas a smallsubculture lescent and college-age male readers(The alternativecomic book market The male comicbook fans that wouldhave more femalesin its readership.10 on Fri.acne ridden.. Duringthis period.often on the basis of their comic book art. In the 1970s.many artiststalk of the rejection of comic book art in art and graphicart schools. .a lucrativegenre for both retailers and publishers.83." soon themselves frequented specialty shops These shops were often located in nondescriptshoppingmalls-windows covered with posters.Well why not? Have you seen where we shop? Most comic book stores are dirtyand smelly.comic book artistshave found a communitythat validatestheirworkas worthyof attentionandpraise.A fanboy on the fan website iFanboy lamentedthe stereotypeof fanboysand the additionalsordidreputationof comic book shops. of the comic gitimacy Practicein ComicBooks:Audiencesand Fans Comicbook readersdid not sufferthe same fate as artistsin the early years of comic books. Certainly."Both his work and my own researchinformthis section on comic book fans and stigma.a few alternativecomic book artistshad been hired as graphicartists. "Mostpeople. With the rise of a comic book fan culturein the 1960s.. and immature geek perverts.This others"providesan alternativeview of the lecommunityof "sympathetic book artist.. and when I say people I mean women.the level of stigmadirectedat comic book artistsis not a majortheme in interviewsfoundin fanzinesand books today in the subcultureof comic books. walk two steps down from the Supermanrack and you can look at Cherry This content downloaded from 27. consider comic book readers dirty.Cultureand Stigma 405 Outsideof earlieraccounts.and the more general negative attitude of the fine art world towardcomic book art and artists.When you walk in you hope to god that'sdirton the floor and not dandruff.and damp-their marginalstatusgenerallysignaled by their appearance. Comic book artistssince the earlieraccountsdo not discusseffortsat stigmamanagement. found labeled as "fanboys.led to a changein the type of individualwho read comic books on a regularbasis. of mostlyadoIn the 1970s. The decline in the mass market.251.
com/archive/apr99/geeksquad. "I guess you could say I was your average dork" retrieved 4 Dec. 2001). Such commentsincludereferencesto the addictivenatureof comic book fandom. Geeks were not popular.ifanboy.talking about his childhood. is anothercommontheme. of fans as failuresin the subcultureof comic books as a self-identification the eyes of normals.. but realize that commitmenttakes a bit of maturity ."Geek"is a commonpejorativeused within poor partners. As one fangirlsuggestedin her fanzine article "DatingTips for Fan-Boys.com/dec01/art_1201_1.10 on Fri.com advice column"AskDr. The basic fanboy'ssocial identityis discreditedgenerallyas asocialpoor interpersonalskills.The alienationof fans fromnormals.""Fromthat tial Tartarticle"Confessions moment on. or poor workers..whetherteachers or peers.sequentialtart.sequentialtart.What should I do? I was thinkingof maybe immersingmyself in the black arts and castingsome kind of spell on her. I'm not askingyou to stop being a fanboy or a pop culture geek ..com/view/.com/askdoomll_colm.""Ifyou do get seriousabout a youngwoman. I was callingcomic book stores all over the Las Vegas area like a junkie looking for her next fix.my fellowjunkies." "I reallylike this girlat school and I wantto ask her to the prom.sequentialtart. I'm in [a] band. 2001). Fangirlson the fan website Sequential Tartdescribedtheirexperiencesas geek children. retrieved22 May2002).comicfanmag. Fanboys and fangirls also commonly make self-derogatoryor selfeffacingcommentsaboutthemselvesthatreflectthe stigmatheoryon comic book fans.com/archive/dec99/indy_1299. or the ones who liked computersor comicbooks"(www.. you can still be a fanboy. They were the quiet kids. 4 Dec.The problem is I'm kind of a geek. shed_033001.. I read comic books and I'm not good at sports. too" (http://www.'Do you have any back issues of this book?'And let me tell you something. lack of intelligenceand lack of self-esteem.251. Doom.Fanboysalso are viewed as sufferingfrom arrested development.One fangirlwroteof her comicbook addictionin her Sequenof a Female ComicBook Junkie. I was hooked.83. retrieved 17 October 2001) Or as one comic book artist admitted.but it would help if you decided to become a retrieved fanMAN. I don't know.cgi/columns/guest/landoftheunwaretrieved2 May 2001). 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . . These expressionsare evident in this note sent by Love Struck in Los Angeles to the Comicfanmag."Iwas an outcastbecause of my penchantfor readinginsteadof wantingto be up on fashionor whatever band or teen idol was cool at the time.you may have to do a bit of growingup. it is not easy getting a comic book store owner to take you seriouslywhen This content downloaded from 27..406 Lopes Poptart"(http://www. (http://www. Whatwouldyou do?" (http://www. or the spastickids. But this also translatesinto social roles as fanboysare viewed as poor students. particularlyas they grow older and remain committed to comic books. asking.
Does this mean that comic book fans are never asocial? Does this mean comic book fans are not obsessed with attainingeach issue." about their objects of consumptionand about themselvesas fans.Hills (2002:123) providesan insighton the use of the addictmetaphoras he cites the common use of religiousmetaphor in fan cultures.251. the self-referentialcomments by comic book fans are in part a co-optationof the normals'stigma theory.The comic book becomes a sign of the asocial and obsessive individual.10 on Fri. asocialbewhy is there assumedto be a relationship of fanboysor fangirlsmatchesan haviorand addiction?The stigmatization attribute(readingcomicsas youngadultsor older) with a stereotype(comic books as a children'smedium). This interpretivecommunityalso prescribesthe "stylingof hair or make-up.Cultureand Stigma 407 you tell him that you live 268 miles away but you PROMISE that when you come into town next month you will stop by and pick up your books" retrieved16 May2002).the choice of clothes or accessories[that]are waysof constructing a socialidena fan comof one's and therefore asserting tity membership[in] particular with Individuals who a intermunity"(Fiske. 1992:38). of their favoritecomic books? No. At the same time.1999). The fanboy or fangirlimage is a stereotype. and then this "arresteddevelopment"is taken to be symptomatic of a more generalasocialor addictivepersonality. identify stigmatized to of become susceptible stigmatization regardless their pretivecommunity actualcomplexpersonalitiesand abilities. In identifyingwith this subculture.This last point is particularly since of of the and the behaviors and fanboys appearance many portant fangirlsdevelop after they enter comic book culture. (http://www.the geek or the dork. finally.Sevtransforms eral of the quotationsabove from fanboysand fangirlscan be viewed as a collective retellingof the rite of passagefrom youth to adult fandom. and back issue. they adoptwhat Fiske (1992) calls its "enunciative producFandoms areinterpretive communities thatsharea uniquediscourse tivity.com/archive/sept01. an acknowledgementof the normals'perceptionsof fanboys and fangirlsthat them into rites of passageor badgesof honor (Pustz. however. It is furtherironicthat the "presentation of self" adoptedby manyfanboys and fangirlsbecomes evidence not that the person is a creativerebel (whichis how fanboysandfangirlsmost often see themselves).and true membershipin the referencesto addictionare ways of demonstrating comic book fan community. and as Goffman argues.sequentialtart. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .but evidence imof a failureto adaptto the normalworld.83. But what constitutesasocial socialidentity?Whatconstitutesobsessiveor adin termsof an individual's dictivebehaviorin consuminga favoredculturalform?Whatleads fanboys and fangirlsto label themselvesas geeks or dorks or addicts?And. stigmais the relationshipbetween an attributeand stereotype. "My interest lies in how one stigmatized group (fan This content downloaded from 27. between comicbooks.
"They alwaysportrayus as geeks and losers.The firstSan Diego Comic Con was in 1970.From this community.is full of double meanings.constantirony.The first long-runningfanzine was Alter Ego. Comic book conventionshave involved a variety of activities. iFanboy.of course. This discourseis even evidentin certain comic books that deal with variousissues in comic fandomin humorous and self-reflexivefashion.Accordingto an early history of comic book fandom by one of its founders.and fanzinesprovided a communitythat young fanboys. and this annualconventionwould eventuallybecome the biggest in the United States.So as the stigmatheory about fanboysarose. These older fans of the 1950sand 1960swere partof the earliermass audience of comic book readers. This older generationalso was responsiblefor creatingthe firstcomic book conventions. Comicfanmag.251. 1999). made the constructionof a commuof stigmatized nity or subculture possibleby fosteringthe group-formation individuals.At firstsmallnumbersof fans attendedthese affairs.could join as members.such as Dan Clowes' Ghost Worldand John Kovalic's Dork Tower.. and rationalizations as fans grapplewith their sharedcommitmentto comic books and the stigmatheoryof theircommunity.beginningin the mid-1950sa small group of comic book fans began publishingfanzines(Schelly. such as Sequential Tart.groupidentification. and Fanzing. So.408 Lopes culture) may draw on the discoursesof an alreadystigmatizedgroup (religion and new religiousmovements).10 on Fri.. the subcultureof comic book specialtystores.The firstNew York Comiconwas in 1964. fan-art.and eventuallyfangirls.groups. yes. conventions. only fans-as part of the cultural stigmatizationof 'excessive' fandom-will be called upon to account for their pleasuresand attachments. Most fanzines were short-lived. An importantpart of the comic book cultureis fanzinesand conventions.individuals. Throughthem.therefore. which started publicationin 1961. By the mid-1960s. and organizations others"constructedan alternativetheory of comic books of "sympathetic and comic book fandom.. in comic book stores people This content downloaded from 27. Ninth Art. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .A comic writer and illustratorpointed to the importanceof this subculturein his complaintabout media portrayalsof fanboys.aided by comic book shops." Comic book fan discourse. the membersof comic fandom collectivelyestablish a national subcultureset against normals'stigma theory.The late 1960sthen sawa blossomingof fanzineswithSchelly(1999) citinga list of 671 fanzinetitles.but the importantpoint for our purposesis how conventionsand fanzines. and collector-oriented.three basic types of comic fanzineswere being published:article-based. Here we begin with an older generationof fans predatingthe fanboy and fangirlgenerations.83.Today.the Internethas provided a perfect medium for fanzines.
includingadultoriented and alternative-oriented material. To attack fanboys and superherocomicsis oddlyto join the ranksof the moralcrusaders of the 1950s. The overarching culture means that the internaldistinctionsare both painfullyavoided at times and aggressively embracedat other times.and fanboys. At the most general level.Cultureand Stigma 409 andwe have to sticktogether"(National get along.and alternatives. aspect of fanboys and fangirls.is not a homogeneousand comHills (2002) arguesthat withinfan cultures pletely harmonioussubculture. The world of comic books. TorontoEdition. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .251. frustration amongalternativesand others on the state of the marketleads to constantcomplaintsabout the limited natureof the marketand to attackson dominantgenres. giventhe strongly shared view that the stigmatizationof popular comic book genres is the worst thing that has happened to American comic books.and they complainaboutthe dominanceof superherocomicbooks and fanboys in the subculture(ComicsJournal.if not ironic.its status as a marginalized and stigmatized fandomin the United Statesunitesthese groupsas victimsof normals' of this substigmatization stigmatheory on comic books. Alternatives'theory of value rests on legitimatingcomic books as serious adult "sequential art"that is as worthyof respectas novels or painting.It is a certainsubculture Post. Pustz (1999) discovered that in comic book culturethere are competingtheories and subgroups whose interests diverge.some comic book fans "cross-over" amongsubgroupsand theories of value.The collectors' theory of value focuses roughly on pre1975comicbooks and comicbook artists(ComicBook Artist. but many of the tensionsanddistinctions follow alongthese generatedwithinthis subculture three lines. there are competingtheories of value and competence.On the other hand.Given the marginalposition of the stigmatization This content downloaded from 27. The cultural economy and theories of competence in the world of comic books also point to a rather contradictory.The economic crisis that struckthe comic book market in 1993-1994 has led to a more contentioussubculture that highlightsthe boundariesof distinction.fanboys. Obviously.10 on Fri. Each subgroupand theory of value has its own professionalfanzines:collectorshave ComicBook Artist and alternatives have the and ComicsBuyersGuide.mainstream publishers.Attackingfanboysand the superherogenreis somewhatideologicallycontradictory. Comics Journal.83.Of course.Fanboys'theory of value supportscontemporary superhero/fantasy genres.fanboyshave Wizard.June2002:7).infightingand pointingthe fingerof blame is not uncommonwhen any culturalcommunityis in crisis.January2002:14-15). While comic fandom as a whole has its own subgroupsand different theories of value and competence.4 May2002:T03). I would argue that there are three differenttheories of value withinthe comic book subculture:collectors. however.
It also shows that stigmais differentfrom low status. if confrontedby this subculture. comic book readers.As is comof comicbooks.a normalmight not apply a withthis subculture and stigmatheory. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .10 on Fri. comic book artists. serious literature. at wideningthe content and readershipof comic books in the late 1940s and 1950swere subsequentlysquashedby a successfulmoralcrusade.410 Lopes of the subcultureof comic books. retailers.how can stigmaaffecta culturalform?Giventhe globaldiscrediting of comicbooks as both subliterate and only fit for children-mutually reinforcing stereotypes-the evolution of this culturalformhas been significantly The firstattempts disrupted. This history of comic books shows how stigma is a social constructionshiftingover time in terms of its ideology and focus of attribution. the beleagueredevolutionof comicbooks in NorthAmericais not This content downloaded from 27.or comic fandom.and normals-book publishersand readers-seem unable to view comic books as legitimate.The comic book movement and alternativecomics have also exunderground periencedcensorshipand prosecution. Thiscase studyof comicbooks highlights a rarelyaddressedquestionin researchon popularculture.Outsideof censorship. This historyshowsthat the social phenomenonof stigmaoutlined by Goffmanand otherscholarsmesheswell withthe ideologicalbattle and over comicbooks and the actualexperiencesof artists. the extent to which normalsconsciously expressa stigmatheoryaboutfans of comicbooks-aside froma more general view of fans of popularculture-is not clear.stigmatized.As muchas the subculture of comic books becomes a way to legitimatecomic book readers.fans. Certainly.on the basis of my review of the generalpress.251.ironicallythe stigmatheory of fanboysand fangirlsseems to arisemore frominsidethe subculture than from outside.publishers. This is not to suggest that. Whetherfocused on comic books. stigma is constantlyin flux as normalsand the stigmatizednegotiate the meaning and significanceof comic books.rather. one cannotarguethat fanboysand fangirls are ever even writtenabout.83.and misunderstood culturalform.manynormalsare unfamiliar are hardlyawarethat comic books are still sold and read! FINAL NOTE The world of comic books since the 1930shas confrontedstigmaand its effects in virtuallyall the ways highlightedby the framework introduced in this article. So.comic book shops. in Americancultureonly monlylamentedin the subculture seems to have the pornography privilege of being more stigmatizedthan comic books. The marginality of this subcultureseems to generate a perceived stigmatheory of normalsthat articulatesthe alienationfelt by fans of a marginal.
Cultureand Stigma 411 inherentto the mediumitself but reflectsin part a stigmatheorythat helps to impede its development. Beginning around 2002. School Library Journal. now re- views graphicnovels. Over just the last few years. 1 August 2002:9).The marketfor graphicnovels has continuedto grow over subsequent years.however. many academic This content downloaded from 27. 20 July 2005:4).The evidence is compellingthat stigma and "serious" playeda role in the obstaclesfaced by more "adult-oriented" comic books (Sabin. CONCLUSION Several of the scholarscited in this essay suggestin variousways how the positions of academicscholarsoften blind them to both the existence and power of stigma in culture. graphic novels-comic books in book-length format-captured the attention of 23 December2002:21). 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .October 1997). January 2006. But these factors do not fully explain the arresteddevelopmentof comic book aestheticsor perceptionsof the comic book outside comic book culture.the effortsof publishers. Professionaljournalsfor librariansalso began to take graphicnovels seriously (Library Journal. One causefor the earlydeclinein the comicbook market television(Sabin. Daily Variety.22 August 2005:30.The continwas new competingmedia. as well as to the combilityof massdistribution plete separationbetween the direct market distributionsystem for comic for printand literature(Comics books and the system of mass distribution JournalSpecial.1993). perhapsnormalshave finallydiscovered that the Americancomic book is a uniqueand complexart form.18 April 2005:23).6 March2006:18)Even mainstreambook publishersare now beginningto recognizethat comic books can present sophisticatednarrativeand visual art.10 on Fri.83.and the success of filmadaptations of comicbooks. to thismedium and fans in comicbook cultureto breakthroughthe barriers seem to have finally born some fruit.andthis declinehas been attributednot only to the anti-comicbook crusadeand the introductionof the ComicsCode. with Japanese manga representingaround two-thirds of the market in 2005 (PublishersWeekly. The generaldecline of the comic book marketcertainlyhas played its partin hinderingthe developmentof thismedium.particularly ued decline since the 1960shas been attributedto the lack of financialviafor traditional comicbooks. 1 February 2002:55.1996).To put it in other terms. and engagingadult material (PublishersWeekly. from Entertainment Weekly to the New York Times.artists. The recent successof film adaptationsof comic book series also have given comic books greatervisibility(Los AngelesBusiness Journal.251. both booksellersandpublishers(Publishers Weekly.And the general press. With the recent suc- cess of graphicnovels cateringto both childrenand adults.
Stigmais not simply a matterof taste. MA: Harvard University Press. Bacon-Smith.251. and William T. Friedland and J. the politics of interpretation. len 1988 "Feminist desire and female pleasure: On Janice Radway's 'Reading the Romance: Women. One could arguethat low statusis a prerequisite for the activationof stigma theories againstculturalformsand individuals.such as a new generationof feministscholarsin cultural studies. and powerfrontand censtigmaas an objectof studyplacesdiscrimination ter in any social analysis." American Sociological Review 58(2):145-162. althoughthat distinctionremains. Nicola 1993 "Morals versus art: Censorship.). I also hope to have demonstratedhow stigmaand status are two different social processes. and the Victorian nude. Amy 1993 "Constructing racial rhetoric: Media depictions of harm in heavy metal and rap music. againstculturalforms and practitioners. has worked to deconstructofficial stigma theories about popular culture. Matters of Culture: Cultural Sociology in Practice: 295-317. Boyer. Denise E. Philadelphia: Universityof Press..but a matterof discrediting forms and individualsas lackingin some fundamentalway and often deservingof immediateintervention. not simply an ideologicalbattle over culturaldistinctions. and the negative effects have gone beyond a question of low status. 2002 Purity in Print:Book Censorshipin Americafrom the Gilded Age to the This content downloaded from 27. that is. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. New York: Cambridge University Press.but is a criticalpolitics that addressesthe "real"negative effects of discrimination As Link and Phelan (2001) stress."' Camera Obscura 16:179-190. 1992 Enterprising Women:TelevisionFandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. Pierre 1984 Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Bourdieu.While recent scholarship. Cambridge. Binder. Bielby. of course. Camille 2000 Science Fiction Culture.The case studyof comicbooks shows how normals'stigmatheory has greatlyaffected comic books as an art form. Bielby 2004 "Audience aesthetics and popular culture. is a qualitatively Stigmatization greaterand differentlevel of subordination thanlow status.statusand stigmaare interrelated.And I would emphasize that puttingstigmafront and center is not simplyculturalpolitics. as well as those who have produced and consumed them. Mohr (eds.412 Lopes scholarshave acceptedofficialstigmatheorieswithoutquestion." In R. REFERENCES Ang.83.The most strikingaspectof stigmatheoriesversusstatustheoriesis the pathologizing and moralizingthat usuallyunderpinstigmatheories. Paul S.certainlymore can be done to spreadthe word. 18 Oct 2013 23:36:16 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Patriarchy and Popular Literature.Again. Pennsylvania Beisel. But low statusis not a guarantee of being stigmatized."AmericanSociological Review58(6):753-767.10 on Fri.
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