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CHAPTER 1 “Never underestimate your audience. They’re generally sensitive,
intelligent people who respond positively to quality entertainment”. (Stargate SG-1 ‘200’, 22nd November 2006) This dissertation investigates how fans attempt to negotiate with a particular text and how certain texts display awareness of their audience and their fandom. The interest in fan culture has stemmed from my engagement with cultural theorists through study of Media. Stuart Hall (1973) in particular informs much of this study in that his theories on how audiences view certain cultural texts through three key hypothetical readings; dominanthegemonic position, negotiated position and the oppositional code’. These three readings are the means by which the audience relate to a text and are especially pertinent in a study which demonstrates how the audience and specifically the fandom chose to receive the text in question. Hall has also added to the debate on what is meant by quality within the communication framework. Hall and Whanell (1964) argue that “…“The struggle for what is good and worthwhile and what is shoddy and debased is not a struggle against the modern forms of communication but a conflict within these media.” (1964: 15). It is apparent from the previous statement that the debate on what constitutes ‘good and worthwhile’ subject matter has changed from judging the entirety of ‘forms of communication’ to attempting to judge within these parameters. Bignell and Lacey echo this particular sentiment in their exploration of just what is meant by ‘quality’ and how it “…is not a matter of contested definition as an academic term but also relates problematically to the notion of ‘good’ television” (2005:11). In Kincaid’s view, watching television and, in particular, television drama, is such an involving exercise both mentally and emotionally it is easy to see how viewers can become caught up in that world. It is also possible for viewers to start to identify with a
certain character to such a degree that they see themselves as similar to the character, “… perceives that others think they are like that character, wants to be like the character, and cares about what happens to the character.” (2002: 138). Alasuutari discusses the shift in the theory of audience reception studies from Stuart Hall’s (1974) theory of ‘Encoding/decoding’ to the more modern ‘Constructionist’ viewpoint where programmes have the audience ‘built-in’ or, as Alasuutari refers to it, “…programmes-with-an-audience…” (Alasuutari, 1999:7). In many ways the ‘constructionist’ viewpoint is more relevant now as more viewers have access to a computer and the internet than seven years ago. Viewers are able to express their opinion wholesale and seek out like-minded individuals in both blogs and websites to create ‘Fandom’s’ and in a way they are constructing their own enjoyment. Science Fiction as a genre and especially drama series Science Fiction can and does have a different impact and interpretation for those both viewing and critiquing. The long running Star Trek franchise, in its five carnations (Star Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise) has inspired many varied cultural readings. Geraghty informs that the series “…used the science fiction setting to comment on American social problems of the sixties such as racism, sexual inequality, and American imperialist foreign policy.” Geraghty then goes on to argue that once the “…fans realized that these were his intentions the series was perceived differently and academic interest steadily followed.” (Geraghty 2003: 443). This is a very good example of one fandom propelling discussion on a sociological level and in an academic manner. There is a lot more literature on both the Star Trek series and indeed its audience than there is on the much more recent Stargate SG-1 owing to the longevity of the franchise of Star Trek. However, Stargate SG-1 is a series that takes an incredibly postmodern stance towards the
stories and the audience through its extensive use of pop culture references and extreme self-awareness as well a good few references to issues mentioned within the ‘Fandom’ in general. In this respect I believe it to be a useful text as it is one that attempts to connect to both the audience at large whilst also singling out the ‘Fandom’.
CHAPTER 2 There is a growing body of academic work on the subject of Media Studies that can be traced at least as far back as Hall and Whannell (1964) in their book The Popular Arts. They argue that Media should not be counted off-hand to be less than culturally “…good and worthwhile…” but they go on to insist that the conflict lies “…within these media’ as to what was academically valuable and what was “… shoddy and debased…” (Hall and Whannel, 1964: 15). Stuart Hall (1973) in particular informs much of this study in that his theories on how audiences view certain cultural texts through three key hypothetical readings. The first reading being the ‘dominant-hegemonic position’. This occurs when…”the viewer takes the connoted meaning from, say, a television newscast or current affairs program full and straight, and decodes the message in terms of the reference code in which it has been encoded, we might say that the viewer is operating inside the dominant code.” The second reading is the ‘negotiated position’. Hall has stated that “…decoding within the negotiated version contains a mixture of adaptive and oppositional elements: it acknowledges the legitimacy of the hegemonic definitions to make the grand significations (abstract), while, at a more restricted, situational (situated) level, it makes its own ground rules - it operates with exceptions to the rule.” The third and possibly most important reading for this research project is the ‘oppositional code’. This is when a viewer “…detotalizes the message in the preferred code in order to retotalize the message
within some alternative framework of reference.” Nick Lacey (1998) is one inheritor of Hall’s work on media analysis and impresses upon the reader just how much we are touched by the media in everyday life. In the book Image and Representation: Key Concepts in Media Studies, Lacey lays out the conventions used by media professionals to “… influence us every day of our lives…”. Lacey continues Hall and Whannels’ assertion that Media studies is important although he does so from the point of view that we are constantly surrounded by examples of media text, more so than Hall and Whannel while writing in the 1960’s. Lacey goes on to argue that in media texts the “…images are created in order to communicate a message…” (1998:5). It is the task of the media student to not only decode this message but to discover the methods by which it was encoded. Another successor of Hall’s is Jonathan Bignell and in his book Media Semiotics (2002) he lays down a solid framework for interpreting the signs we are subject to every day, just as Lacey has argued“…because society is so pervaded by media messages, semiotics can contribute to far more than our understanding of ‘the media’ in the narrow sense” (2002:1). In Media Semiotics, Bignell discusses the ‘signs’ encoded into texts from magazine advertisements, television fiction and cinema. The interest of this research, however, is in television, namely television drama, a genre which is, according to Paterson “…at the heart of every broadcasting schedule.” (1998:57). In this piece of work, Paterson charts the changes faced by television drama and how formats have changed due to international competition, changing technology as well as regulatory shifts. Paterson also explains the forms, genres and purposes of drama as well as the more political and social dimension it has taken in the past. An example of this is “…Alan Bleasdale’s Boy’s from The Blackstuff, maintaining a political eye on the culture and politics of the nation through the 1970’s” (Paterson 1998: 59). I would like to revisit a point made earlier by Hall and Whannel, that the ‘quality’ of
media texts is not up for debate but that the battle rages within the environment. This point is especially relevant in Hammond and Mazdon’s (2005) book The Contemporary Television Series. “Moreover, it is striking that so many of these ‘quality’ series/serials emanate from the United States. Critics have also tended to condemn much American Television, claiming it lacks the quality and integrity of British production.” (2005:4) Hammond and Mazdon suggest in this book, that American television has not, until recently been condemned by critics for its lack of quality and quite wrongly as it has produced numerous critically acclaimed series including Six Feet Under, The Soprano’s and the fast talking West Wing. This book does more than defend American television; it provides critique on these series as well as explaining the structure and history behind the format. In terms of the audience, a very useful book is Brooker and Jermyn’s (2003) The Audience Studies Reader in order to get to grips with the key theories and methods used in investigating such an area that is, of course, the aim of this research paper. Brooker and Jermyn identify World War I as the point where audience studies was first utilised. This is due to the fact that its “….significance lies in the fact that it was from this historical moment onwards that ‘propaganda’ arguably emerged as a primary and indispensable weapon in any war effort…”. Although an effective feature of warfare at that time, it also “…brought with it the enduring notion of ‘the public’ as a vulnerable and persuadable lot ‘at risk’ from propaganda.” (2003: 5)
CHAPTER 3 The method used by this research study to investigate ‘Fandom’ is an amalgamation of Discourse and Textual Analysis. Russell (1999) sees discourse as “…sets of statements or multilayered texts. These sets of statements in effect construct the ‘object’ of which they are speaking, in the process of their being spoken about” (1999: 94). Discourse Analysis is used here because this study is analysing the discourse present within the fandom. Fairclough (1992) states that this discourse need not be based solely “…upon language and therefore linguistic texts…” but also applies to “…other symbolic forms such as visual images, and texts which are combinations of words and images” (1992: 4). This is especially important as this fandom creates a discourse through words, images and even video. Barker and Galasinski (2001) give a much more detailed interpretation of how discourse analysis may be applied to look at both the language itself and the meanings behind it. According to Barker and Galasinski, “…discourse analysis means that the investigation of language is required to go beyond the boundaries of the syntactic or semantic for of utterance”. It is not enough to simply look at the surface level of the discourse used, in order to properly conduct a discourse analysis one must be “…aware of the lexicogrammatical within the utterance as well as the utterances functions within its context”
(2001: 63) The aim of the textual analysis was to examine where in the text there are examples of ‘Fandom’ awareness. Textual research itself falls under the banner of the term qualitative research methods, a term which carries within its own discourse: “Qualitative researchers still largely feel themselves to be second class citizens whose work typically evokes suspicion where the ‘gold standard’ is quantitative research.” (Silverman, 2000:3) Despite the above statement by Silverman, there are those who believe that qualitative methods are required under certain circumstances. Lotz (2000) has stated “… understandings gained from qualitative reception studies do offer more information about the process of engaging media…” (Lotz 2000: 112). I do agree with Lotz on this principle which is why I have chosen a qualitative stance for this research project as opposed to investigating a quantitative analysis of viewer ratings which would tell me how many people watched the show but it would not tell me how the audience engaged with the text. Starkey (2004) has made similar comment on the nature of different types of media research and how they warrant either a qualitative or quantitative approach. “Cultural consumption is problematic from a number of different perspectives, but certain responses from producers, regulators and commentators depend on the measurement of consumption according to quantitative and qualitative parameters. The reliability of the data can vary widely, not least because in certain areas consumption is invisible to those who would measure it, and so they must make estimates based on assumptions about methodology and sampling techniques.” (Starkey, 2004: 3)
This research requires a qualitative textual analysis in order to investigate the strength of the audience and especially the ‘fans’. In this research paper, textual analysis will be used on both the series as text as well as the fandom as text. “However, a textual analysis that takes place without examining the institutional, cultural and economic conditions in which texts are produced and understood is necessarily limited.” (Lewis & Jhally, 1998: 111) A major part of examining the audience’s reaction towards the series lies in looking at the reception of the series by the audience and as Lull (1995: 112) states “…one of the key theoretical developments in cultural studies research in recent years has been to show how audience members create their own meanings from media content to control certain aspects of their experiences with the media”. Henry Jenkins (1992) in his book Textual Poachers: Television Fan & Participatory Culture presents the most convincing argument as ‘Fandom’ as an ethnographic group, a “…social group struggling to define its own culture and to construct its own community…”. At the same time Jenkins (1992: 3) does admit that what he offers is a “…necessarily partial account of that sub-cultural community…(page 3). It is of interest that this book was written in 1992 and there were not as many homes across the world with internet access which in turn, limits the scope Jenkins’ study has in relation to how the ‘Fandom’ as a community has grown since then. That said, his work has laid the groundwork for studies such as this research project and how heavily the dawn of the internet has influenced this once isolated section of the viewing audience. Lull (1995) informs the bedrock of why an investigation into the audience and specifically fandom is becoming a growing trend in cultural studies. The fandom of my chosen text adds their own interpretation of ‘canon’ through online message boards, fan creation and websites like any other. Jones (2004: 163) has even gone as far as to state
that “…it has become something of an orthodoxy for scholars to elevate television fans to the status of modern-day Robin Hoods, folk heroes busily snatching back ‘our’ popular cultural texts from the greedy global conglomerates who claim to own them.” There are several ways in which a ‘Fan’ can engage with the text of their choice. In terms of a televisual text simply watching the series discussing it with friends could constitute engagement. Another method would be to read the various professional fanzines such as SFX, Dreamwatch, Shivers or the more specific series based fanzines. Possibly the most popular mode of ‘Fandom’ engagement is using the internet to seek out new territory in which to engage with like-minded individuals and indulge in activities as mundane as posting on a message board to the more involved fan-fiction or fan-video creations. Many television series these days encourage engagement with the internet to simply view the program. Apple’s ITunes offers downloads of certain television programs for a payper-view experience or even a Season Pass, this includes both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis (ITunes Store). The downloaded episodes can then be watched on the computer or downloaded to a portable video device, most often an Ipod. The British Dr Who releases ‘Tardisodes’, mini-episode that can be found on the official BBC website and downloaded onto a portable device or watched on the computer (BBC Press Office). Most every television programme being broadcast has its own official website from the creative company and from the channel on which it is being broadcast and that is not counting the various fan-sites which spring up. The internet is arguably the easiest and most dynamic method by which fans can share their opinions with others with similar tastes without being judged by others for immersing themselves in what is still regarded as insignificant or trivial subjects. As Stargate SG-1 series writer Joseph Mallozzi states, there is “…something strangely comforting and delusively empowering about chiming in with an anonymous mob…” (Mallozzi, 2007). It is for this reason I have chosen to focus my study of fandom on how it occupies the online domain, by whom and what conventions and forms it adopts and how these online communities can appear to influence what is created by the writers and producers of the series.
THE SAMPLE The data required for this research was collected from the following websites: Gateworld Stargate SG-1 Solutions Ancients Gate The Sam/Jack Horsewomen Startoons Nialla’s Breadbox Editions Websites are easily the most accessible form of fan involvement with a particular text and if a fan explores the sites that are present they are bound to find a group that are sympathetic to their opinions and values. The two main Gateworld and Solutions both contain their own message boards for fans to participate in discussion about episodes, characters. Unfortunately, posting in the ‘wrong’ forum with the ‘wrong’ opinion can lead to being ‘flamed’, a fan term for suffering verbal abusive from the other posters who do not share the sentiments posted. This is not commonplace on moderated boards and such behavior is not tolerated in the two larger fan created message boards Gateworld Forum and Our Stargate. As Hall (1973) has demonstrated, viewers decipher their own meaning from a specific text through a dominant, negotiated or oppositional reading of that text. The two chief websites in this area are Ancient’s Gate and The Sam/Jack Horsewomen. Within these websites, fans will find pieces of Fan-fiction or Fan-Video. Fan-Fiction is not a new exercise and has been present long before the internet became commonplace but with the internet, more people are able to get their stories read by a much higher portion of the fandom. Fan-Video is a much more recent development. This activity sees fans using video editing software to cut together certain clips from episodes to make a small (most often the length of a song) video tribute to the series, character or character pairing. This
is one step farther than simply using the characters in the fiction, it is using the series as nothing more than ‘rushes’ to be cut and edited to create a video and message of the fans own choosing, a definite step towards the ‘Robin Hood’ allusion. Then the website Youtube solved the problem of what to do with the video when it was done, especially if the creator hadn’t access to an online domain. As fans create their own meaning from the text, there is definitely potential for gentle satire and an opportunity to subvert the text. Two websites which support this view are Leah Rosenthal’s Startoons and Nialla’s Breadbox Editions. Leah’s Startoons are cartoon strip parodies of Stargate SG-1 characters, directors and even writers. There are also cross-over strips between Stargate SG-1 and other television series. Nialla’s Breadbox Editions are mock episode transcripts of Stargate SG-1 which contain the opinions of fans, production crew from writers to craft services. In each ‘Episode’ there are hypothetical debates between the audience, the fans and the (mostly) writers about what is happening in the episode. The episode chosen for the discussion is Citizen Joe as it is an episode which displays fan opinion on many issues and is therefore valuable in investigating how fans view their opinion being used in such a manner. Textual Analysis is used on three episodes of the text itself; Wormhole X-treme Citizen Joe 200 Wormhole X-treme was written as a celebratory 100th episode for the series and as such it included behind-the-camera personnel making both cameo and, in the case of series director Peter DeLuise, a leading guest part. The basic story was a sequel to Point of No Return (season 4) and was concerned with the character Martin Lloyd. Marty, had written a television series pilot, ‘Wormhole X-treme’ based on his knowledge of the top secret Stargate program, and it was taken up by a network. The four characters of ‘Wormhole’ strongly resemble the four characters of SG-1 which gives the episode a strong
opportunity for some gentle satire towards the series itself, the actors, the characters and even Audience opinion. Citizen Joe is basically an entire episode about a ‘fan’ and how that fan views the series, its characters and its creative decisions. This is made possible through the science-fiction explanation that the character of Jack O’Neill activated a piece of alien communication technology by picking it up and the guest character of ‘Joe’ (played by Dan Castellaneta, the voice behind Homer Simpson) found a similar device at a garage sale. Both characters experienced flashes of each others lives over the eight years spanned by the series which meant Joe was able to see the exploits of the characters in a way that viewers of the series would view them also. The writers were therefore able to include issues being discussed within the fandom and put these them into the mouths of Joe and those around him. This episode was intended as a celebration of Stargate SG-1’s 200th episode and sees the return of the Martin Lloyd character from Wormhole X-treme. The ‘series’ has been cancelled after only three episodes being aired but DVD sales encouraged the network to make a television movie to wrap up the story. Martin contacts Stargate Command and has SG-1 give their thoughts and opinions on his script. Although not as oriented in ‘fan opinion’ as Citizen Joe, 200 still manages to include comments plucked straight from the opinions of the online fandom and give them to SG-1 to criticise the script already written by Martin Lloyd. Stargate SG-1 has been running consecutively from 1997 until it’s cancellation in August 2006, ending its 214 episode run with the ironically titled Unending. There are many episodes that contain popular culture references and others that refer to the series’ history or mythology. There are also character and story arcs for long-term viewers, or the fandom, to follow. In terms of episodes that have resulted in eruptions of fan reaction there is Meridian and Heroes Part 2 where both featured the deaths of two major characters. Although these episodes do mark both audience awareness within the series and have caused notable reaction within the fandom, the chosen three episode have
discussion and reference to the larger arcs together with more concentrated examples of fandom awareness.
CHAPTER 4 This section looks in greater detail at the websites previously mentioned for examples of fans deciphering, or reading, meaning from the text itself. In this Chapter are the more general informational and discussion websites Gateworld and Solutions. The websites which offer, in Hall’s (1973) opinion, a more ‘negotiated’ and often ‘oppositional’ reading of the text are Ancient’s Gate and Sam/Jack Horsewomen which feature works of FanFiction and Fan-Video. The websites Startoons and Breadbox Editions hold up the perceived ‘dominant’ reading of the text beside their ‘negotiated’ and ‘oppositional’ readings to humorous effect. GATEWORLD Fan and web-hobbyist Darren Sumner created Gateworld because he viewed the show as “…so entertaining, so well written and produced, with such an attention to its own previous continuity [it] needs a Web site that maps all of those points of continuity and character development. GateWorld was born.” (Gateworld, 2007, Site History) Although not an official site, Gateworld comes as close to any online Stargate SG-1 community to being sanctioned by the series owing to their ability to boast cast and crew interviews from both Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. The site even hosted an online blog from series writer Joseph Mallozzi. It is a fan run site which has grown from its
inception in October 1999 under the then name of Starguide. The main focus of the site is to offer fans of the series information such as episode guides, articles and reviews and even an encyclopedia of the Stargate universe, the Omnipedia (Gateworld, 2007, Omnipedia). The site has acclaim beyond that of the fandom itself and has been mentioned in magazine publications, including Entertainment Weekly who claims that Gateworld is “… to Stargate followers what the ancient circular rings are to the premise of the show: a portal," the article reads, recounting the origins of the site and calling GateWorld "the most respected Stargate gathering spot on the Web." (Sumner, 2006, Entertainment Weekly Features Gateworld). “One of the most significant developments regarding how viewers and fans consume film and other offerings such as the cult television program The X-Files is Online Interaction and Message Boards.” (Dodds, 2006: 120-121) There is also the opportunity for fans to communicate with one another and share thoughts and opinions through Gateworld’s Forum (Gateworld, 2007, Gateworld Forum). The topics discussed include fan reviews and opinions of aired episodes, characters and character pairings as well as spoilers for upcoming episodes and discussion on interviews with key cast and crew members. STARGATE SG-1 SOLUTIONS The fan website Stargate SG-1 Solutions prides itself on being “…an independent site: a Stargate site by fans, for fans. From its inception as the original SDJ - the 'Save Daniel Jackson' campaign site - Solutions has been about empowering fans, giving them voices online.” (Solutions, 2007, Many Voices). Like Gateworld, Solutions is not an official website for the series and it contains much of
the same content as Gateworld, interviews with cast and crew, episode reviews and instead of the Onmipedia of Gateworld, Solutions has utilized the Wikipedia engine to create a working list of trivia contained within the Stargate universe called Stargate Wiki (Solutions, 2007, Stargate Wiki). Quite surprisingly, series writer Joseph Mallozzi (2003) provides the website with a production diary over six chapters which details the creation process from the pitch to the completion of the episode. It is, Mallozzi claims “…our starting off point to the wonderful world of television production: the writing team…as I deliver you a blow by blow breakdown of the production process, from concept to finished episode." (Mallozzi, 2003, Joseph Mallozzi’s Production Diary). It is a unique feature of this particular fandom just how involved personnel such as Mallozzi are within the fandom itself. Each chapter of the production diary details a different aspect of production and he charts the successes and failures he and other writers have faced during one of these stages. The information gives fans unique insight into the making of the series but it also gives would-be writers some helpful advice and an idea of what the job is really like. “You must have the best job in the world,” my sister-in-law once marvelled. “You just sit around all day making stuff up.” Yes, I’m sure this is how some envision the writing process: the writer, furiously tapping away at his or her laptop, turning the ideas on and off like tap water. But the reality is scriptwriting can be a long and arduous process replete with delays, disappointments, and dispiriting setbacks.” (Mallozzi, 2003). Stargate SG-1 Solutions also has its own Message board, the Stargate SG-1 Solutions Forum (Solutions, 2007, Stargate SG-1 Solutions Forum).
FAN CREATIONS FAN FICTION, FAN VIDEO AND FAN-ART Fan-Fiction Fan-Fiction is an activity undertaken by fans of any particular text to use the characters and setting of that text to create their own stories. In terms of Fan Fiction – or its more common term, ‘Fanfic’ – relating to a television series, the fiction is most often a ‘fix-itfic’ or a ‘missing scene fic’. These types of fiction generally involve the writer adding a scene they believe should have been in the episode for either continuity, character or character pairing purposes. It could also be used to prevent the death of a favoured character in ‘fanon’ where it did actually occur in the series canon. The Fanfic Symposium website contains mainly articles, not of Fan Fiction or ‘Fan-fic’ but on the subject itself from an objective point of view. Each article is an essay on the nature of Fan-fic, how it began, its development and why it is such a popular activity amongst fans. It is, as claimed by Kaddorienne “…a way those of us “common folk” who don’t have the luck to get into the very small field of professional screenwriting or successful novel-publishing can tell stories of our own.” (Kaddoriene, 2006, The Fanfic Symposium).
Fan Video Fan-Video’s are small films, a more popular term being Music Video’s, where a fan has taken clips from any series and used a video editing software to splice the footage together with music. As with any community, the creators of Fan-Video have their own conventions, politics, rules and etiquette to acknowledge. The most common misstep in this community is using footage from one Fan-Video to create another one without properly crediting the source. The Anti-Clip Theft Union is one such website which denounces such activity and are tired of seeing “…beautifully edited music videos dissected and having their clips used for other videos with out the original vidders permission.” It is, however, understood by this website and the community in general that “…vidders do not own the clips in their videos, nor should they claim to” (Beth, 2006, The Anti-Clip Theft Union). This is of course simply fan politics as, essentially, it is plagiarism of a source which has already breached intellectual property through the use of both the clips and the music incorporated.
Stargate SG-1 is no exception when it comes to the volume of fanfic and fanvid there is available which makes an analysis on every piece virtually impossible. However, it is easy to seek out ‘factions’ within the fandom who share common views. The two groups focused on in this section are the writers and video creators who work with the Jack and Daniel dynamic at the website Ancient’s Gate and fans of the Jack and Sam pairing who reside at The Sam and Jack Horsewomen website.
Ancient’s Gate This website is dedicated to the collection of Fan-Fiction, Fan-Video and Fan-Art which celebrates the relationship between the characters of Jack O’Neill and Daniel Jackson.
Although there are some groups, including this one, who read the relationship between the characters as more involved, there is a canonical friendship between both men. O'NEILL: And obviously the whole friendship thing, the foundation, it's all solid. DANIEL: Obviously… (Stargate SG-1 ‘Shades of Grey’, 27th March 2002) Ancient’s Gate specialises in works that continue the canon of the characters’ friendship and also in works which pair the characters romantically. In fan-fiction terms, to pair two characters of the opposite sex romantically in a piece of fan-fiction, fan-video or fan-art the characters are being ‘shipped, a fan term derived from the world relationship. To pair two characters of the same sex romantically in a creative piece it is termed as ‘slash’. The term ‘slash’ originates from the forward slash keyboard character used to connect the characters involved, in this case, Jack/Daniel. The etymology of such a term is believed to originate from the earlier Star Trek fandom where writers would write Kirk/Spock pieces. (Kustritz, 2003: 371). Sam and Jack Horsewomen The Sam and Jack Horsewomen website is comprised of Fan-Fiction, Fan-Video and FanArt relating to the relationship between Jack O’Neill and Samantha Carter in the series. It is similar to Ancient’s Gate in that it is dedicated to a specific character pairing, in this case, Jack and Sam. However, unlike the Jack/Daniel pairing, the Jack and Sam ‘ship’ is canonical through reference in the series, the first example being of the episode Divide and Conquer. O'NEILL: I didn't leave…because I'd have rather died myself…than lose Carter. ANISE: Why? O'NEILL: Because I care about her. A lot more than I'm supposed to.
(Stargate SG-1 ‘Divide and Conquer’, 23rd July 2001) It is not simply the character pairing that connects this group but the belief that “…the Powers That Be have planned and created their show, their characters and characterizations for a reason, and should be allowed, without threats or insults from the fandom, to carry out that vision” (Mission Statement, 2000, Sam and Jack Horsewomen). In light of the above statement, it can be argued that this website is making a conscious decision to follow Hall’s (1973) ‘dominant reading’ theory.
FAN SATIRE In the Stargate SG-1 fandom the two main sources of fan satire is Leah Rosenthal’s Startoons and Nialla’s Breadbox Editions. LEAH’S STARTOONS Leah’s Startoons are individual cartoons of the Stargate SG-1 characters in comical situations and often interacting with characters of other series. In Fig 1 Leah is referencing the extensive use of Simpsons quotes on Stargate SG-1 while acknowledging Patty and Selma’s affection in The Simpsons for the television series MacGyver, a series which starred Stargate SG-1 lead Richard Dean Anderson. The nods to popular culture aside, Leah also produces work that pokes gentle fun at the choices made by the creators of the series over the years. The fact that fans are aware of these choices as errors demonstrates yet another example of Hall’s (1973) theories on
‘readings’. Fig 2 is in response to the overt feminizing of the Samantha Carter character and is seen in the cartoon as Sam’s wild hair and severely accentuated chest. In the cartoon, Daniel shields Teal’c eyes lest they both “…turn back into wallpaper”. The ‘back’ referred to in the cartoon is the change made to the character of Sam at the beginning of season 4, a change which resulted the characters of Teal’c and Daniel featuring less in the series and being, therefore, ‘wallpapered’. It was also a move which subsequently caused Michael Shanks to retire as Daniel Jackson at the end of season five when his character was being heavily under-utilized due to the more military and government based stories being brought in. Fig 3 and Fig 4 are actually created in response to a comment made by series writer Joseph Mallozzi. The ‘elf’ characters featured in the cartoons are executive producer Robert Cooper and writer Joseph Mallozzi, both of whom guided the beginning of season nine and the introduction of the Mitchell character. In Fig 3 they are seen baking a magic scone and in Fig 4 they are met by Daniel and Mitchell where Daniel must interpret their ‘Elfin’ language to inform Mitchell that the elves “…don’t make toys [but] they write scripts”. The idea for drawing them both as ‘script elves’ came from Mallozzi’s online blog where he states that, “…there is one board whose fans have been consistently negative about the show over the years who have found much to enjoy in season 9, which is nice.” However, there were, in his opinion, certain fans who chose “…the sour grapes route by dismissing the popularity of season 9 on their own forum by chalking it up to "mystery writers" who are undoubtedly responsible [and other] crackpot conspiracy theories involving script elves.” (Mallozzi, 2005, Joseph Mallozzi’s Blog). This is fairly interesting as it demonstrates there were fans who, in Hall’s (1973) opinion changed their ‘reading’ from ‘oppositional’ to accepting the ‘dominant’ reading, that is, accepting Mitchell as the new leader of SG-1 in Jack’s place. NIALLA’S BREADBOX EDITIONS The Breadbox Editions are a wonderful collection of parodies of the Season 7 and 8 episodes of Stargate SG-1. They include audience
participation in the style of Mystery Science Theater 30001. They were written by Nialla, who posted them originally to the AlphaGate fan fiction list. Solutions is proud to reprint them with Nialla's permission. (Stargate SG-1 Breadbox Editions, 2005, Stargate SG-1 Solutions) The Breadbox Editions are basically episode transcripts with a running commentary from fans of certain tastes. Some of these factions have already been mentioned, fans of ‘ship, slash and ‘Noromo’, a term derived from the X-Files fandom meaning ‘no romance’ between the characters. As an exercise it should be useful to look at a specific episode parody, Citizen Joe, an episode which actually attempts to see the series from a ‘fans’ perspective and one which will be examined in greater depth later. As can be seen, the transcripts include audience and writer participation in discussion and, as will be seen later, what Nialla is expressing in each part is common complaints or opinions within the fandom and often centered around certain groups. “CHARLENE: Don't get me wrong, it was exciting. Its just that personally, I like stories that are more about inter-personal relations, and a little less to do with things blowing up. AUDIENCE: It's *shit* blowing up, not things. Geeze, get the details right. And "Serpent's Grasp" was brimming with interpersonal angst! Shit didn't start blowing up in bulk for years after that! WRITERS: An episode with a big boom had interpersonal angst? AUDIENCE: Watch it and see! (Citizen Joe, 2005, Stargate SG-1 Breadbox Editions) In an episode that seeks to point out the writers’ awareness of the common discussions present in the online fandom it seems to have been an effective exercise as Nialla has her ‘audience’ acknowledge and admit to those feelings and misgivings by backing up the character of Charlene when she bemoans the lack of Team interaction from the series.
CHARLENE: Well, for one, it seems to me like the team interaction isn't what it used to be in the beginning. TEAM FANS: We like you, Charlene. A lot. (Citizen Joe, 2005, Stargate SG-1 Breadbox Editions) The next portion of the ‘transcript’ is basically echoing the sentiment of the fans at Daniel’s return, an issue that was met with approval by many fans and disapproval by others who had become attached to the character of Jonas Quinn in his short-term replacement of Daniel Jackson.
JOE: Doctor Jackson, can I just say, thank goodness you're back. Not that Jonas was a bad guy, but after all you've been through together, you belong here with SG-1. DANIEL FANS: Can we get a Hell Yeah?! JONAS FAN IN THE BACK: Uh, no? REST OF AUDIENCE: HELL, YEAH! (Citizen Joe, 2005, Stargate SG-1 Breadbox Editions) Again, it was the writers who initially picked up the feelings of the audience to have Joe say that, although they were rather dismissive of the Jonas fans. If we examine this example of fandom discourse, we can detect shades of Hall (1973) in that both a ‘dominant’ reading from the fans of Daniel Jackson and an ‘oppositional’ reading from the fans of Jonas can be clearly seen. As far as a ‘discourse analysis’ is concerned, Nialla presumes that the reader knows just what is meant by ‘Daniel Fans’ and ‘Jonas Fans’. This knowledge would only be available to a regular viewer of the series and perhaps only a member of the online fandom could fully appreciate what is being inferred.
THE TEXT NEGOTIATES WITH THE FANDOM WORMHOLE X-TREME There are three chief incidents within this episode where the writers have picked up on specific fan comments, complaints and nitpicks and incorporated them into the episode. The first issue is the ‘Out of Phase’ question posted by the character Yolanda Reece, the Wormhole X-treme counterpart of SG-1’s Samantha Carter. Yolanda Reese: Uh, I'm having trouble with scene 27. It says I'm out of phase, so I can pass my hand through solid matter, or walk through walls. Director: Yeah, yeah, cos you're out of phase. Martin Lloyd: Um, exactly. Yolanda Reese: So, how come I don't fall through the floor? Martin Lloyd: We'll have to get back to you on that. (Stargate SG-1 ‘Wormhole X-treme’, 10th October 2001) This part was based on the discussion generated from the effects in the season three
episode The Crystal Skull in which it is the character of Daniel who is left out of phase. In the first instance, the review of the episode on Gateworld cited this as interesting in the analysis section of the review: “It is interesting to watch the ways in which he can and cannot interact with the normal universe: he could walk through people and through walls (he walked through the doors inside the hospital), but did not fall downward through the floor. Presumably, too, he was still breathing oxygen.” (Gateworld, 2000, Crystal Skull Review) Gateworld is one of the first and still most active Stargate fansites on the internet and boasts several interviews and connection with the Stargate crew and actors from the series also. This is simply one example of the ‘issue’ being identified by the fans and many clamored to offer scientific and rational explanation for this inconsistency. Another issue mentioned within the episode which gives reference to an article of fandom is that of the overuse of the ‘reaction shot’. In this episode it is an executive from the network rewriting the script to save on the budget, instead of showing the spaceship the scene calls for he instead suggests they have the character show their amazement: “We're gonna see it in their reactions. It's like `Oh my God, look at that ship. It's indescribable'. “ (Stargate SG-1 ‘Wormhole X-treme’, 10th October 2001) As Stargate fan and television writer, a blogger named Maggie has stated that her work in television writing has made her aware “…of the reaction shot thing they do on Stargate SG-1, though to be fair they don't really do it so much anymore. But there are a couple seasons there where any time something Portentous occurs, we are treated to reaction shots of each of the main characters in turn: one, two, three, four, all looking serious and worried and such. Once I noticed it, it made me giggle furiously every time it happened
again.” (Maggie, 2007, Bootstrap Productions). Despite this opinion, it has been claimed by series writers and directors Martin Wood and Peter DeLuise in an interview by Carole Gordon of fansite Our Stargate that the reason for the reaction shots is because “…you can blow up hundreds of spaceships in fiery balls, but unless you cut to the reaction shot of the face of somebody who actually gives a damn, the audience won't either." (Gordon, 2004, Major Wood and Airman DeLuise). The third most important issue of contention within this series is the fact that the majority of cultures the team visits on other planets actually speak English. MARTIN: Okay, scene 23 takes place on another planet. You think aliens eat apples? PROPS GUY: Why not? They speak English. (Stargate SG-1 ‘Wormhole X-treme’, 10th October 2001) Other series manage to combat this issue in different ways. Star Trek personnel all travelled with universal translators while in the series Farscape communication was possible through the injection of ‘translator microbes’ which translated all but proper names and colloquialism native to the speaker. In Stargate it is claimed that the ‘Gods’ worshipped by our ancestors were actually aliens who brought their language with them. This is the reason that the character of Dr Daniel Jackson, an expert in anthropology and linguistics was initially required but the need for his translation expertise gradually waned over the course of the series. There are some cultures and beings which definitely do not speak English but in those episodes the focus is most often based on the communication problem and solving that. CITIZEN JOE The first instance where an issue in the fandom is discussed in the episode is when Joe takes to telling his wife Charlene, his son Andy and friends about the stories he is,
unbeknownst to him at that time, receiving from Jack O’Neill via the alien communication device. JOE: What didn't you like about it? CHARLENE: Don't get me wrong -- it was exciting. It's just that personally I like stories that are more about inter-personal relations, and a little less to do with things blowing up. (Stargate SG-1 ‘Citizen Joe, 18th January 2005) To many fans, Stargate SG-1 was a series founded on the characters first with the sciencefiction aspect coming second. A simple search through the forums at Gateworld and Our Stargate will indicate the opinion shared by the character of Charlene. The Gateworld review of the Stargate SG-1 episode Avatar also reflects this sentiment. “The changes Stargate has gone through since it began are many, but I'm not prepared for the show to have changed so far that I have to watch a whole episode about shooting, killing, and blowing stuff up.” (Gateworld, 2004, Avatar Review) Another related complaint from both the fans and Charlene after a while of hearing the stories is that the ‘team’ is not what is used to be. JOE: Well, what do you think the problem is? Tell me. Maybe I can fix it. CHARLENE: Well, for one, it seems to me like the team interaction isn't what it used to be in the beginning. (Stargate SG-1 ‘Citizen Joe, 18th January 2005) Again this is a complaint so common to this particular fandom that the argument almost had to be addressed in Citizen Joe and even more strongly expressed on the Save Daniel
Jackson Campaign website. “…when ratings began to plummet after the airing of 'A Hundred Days' and the much loathed Laira, the launch of the Sam/Jack ship, the showcasing of one team member, separation of the team…a crop of new writers came in without understanding the core dynamic of the show and the team, and the result is this.” (Alison, 2001, That Was Then, This is Now) The perceived separation of the ‘Team’ in favour of a more demographic pleasing pairing of the leading male character of Jack and his subordinate Samantha ‘Sam’ Carter is an issue that to this day continues to foster negative relations between certain factions of the fandom, specifically between those for who Stargate SG-1 was a ‘buddy’ series with Jack and Daniel as the leads being supported by Sam and the alien Teal’c and other fans who have supported a Jack/Sam pairing from the beginning and are pleased it was made canon in the season four episode Divide and Conquer. A third representation of fandom present within the episode is the issue of Daniel’s return. This paper will look more closely at his departure and the campaign instigated by it in greater detail later in the paper but for now the focus is on the fan reaction to Daniel’s return as exemplified by Joe in meeting Daniel for the first time. JOE: Doctor Jackson, can I just say, thank goodness you're back. (He shakes his hand.) Not that Jonas was a bad guy, but after all you've been through together, you belong here with SG-1. (Stargate SG-1 ‘Citizen Joe, 18th January 2005) As has already been stated, Joe is the voice of the Fandom in this episode and forms his own opinions as fans do theirs. The character Joe refers to as Jonas (Corin Nemec) was brought in to ‘replace’ Daniel’s role of interpreter throughout Season Six. Jonas returned to his home planet in the season seven episode Homecoming.
200 The first example of this is when the character Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell suggests a ‘zombie’ storyline with him alone fending them off. DANIEL: (to Mitchell) Just out of curiosity, what was the rest of the team doing while your character was fighting the zombies? (Stargate SG-1 ‘200’, 22nd November 2006) This comment is in reference to how Mitchell was “written in” in the latter part of season nine. There is also the matter of his replacement of Jack O Neill which is also quoted within the episode. MARTIN: Our lead backed out. I mean, how am I supposed to tell the story without my lead character? MITCHELL: Easy. You just bring in a character to replace him. (Stargate SG-1 ‘200’, 22nd November 2006) The replacement was obviously not taken well by all factions of the fandom, however, the character did manage to prove himself to certain fans, specifically fan critic Alison (2006) at Stargate Solutions. Cameron is a replacement. Everyone but Jack and Daniel started out that way. His addition to Stargate SG-1 has helped accomplish something I haven’t felt or truly seen since Season Three. (Alison, 2006, New Guy! Cameron Mitchell) It was the character’s ability to successfully integrate into the series that caused the disappointment at the change which occurred in the latter half of season nine and provoked certain fans into renaming the character as ‘Cambo’, a play on the popular
culture icon ‘Rambo’. An issue that had less to do with the creative decisions of the series was that of how some episodes were spoiled by the way the commercials for the episode were broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel. The issue was raised in 200 through the special guest appearance of Richard Dean Anderson, reprising his role as Jack O’Neill. VALA: Wow, I don't think anyone will see that coming. DANIEL: No, but there'll be spoilers. CARTER: Are you kidding? It'll be in the commercial. (Stargate SG-1 ‘200’, 22nd November 2006) The above comments by the three characters are in response to complaints made by fans that the episode promo’s shown during the advertisements breaks spoil major revelations from the episode, mostly the ending.
Fig 6. 31
Fig 7. 200
Fig 8. Farscape
The episode was an amalgamation of different forms of storytelling which included the use of puppets as shown in Fig 5, a possible reference to science fiction series Thunderbirds and perhaps even the more recent puppet comedy phenomena, Team America. Fig 6 is an example where the episode parodied other institutions of television science-fiction, such as Star Trek However, the most effective parody is that of Farscape in Fig 7, the series which was cancelled by The Sci-Fi channel after four seasons and was replaced by Stargate SG-1 after the series switched to The Sci-Fi Channel for its sixth season. It is an effective parody because Stargate SG-1 has both Farscape leads, Ben Browder and Claudia Black, on the series as Lt. Col. Cameron Mitchell and reformed thief Vala Mal Doran. As can be seen in Fig 8, the parody had Vala reprise Black’s Farscape role of Aeryn Sun and the section was also written to have Mitchell play Browder’s Farscape alter-ego John Crichton with Stargate SG-1’s Daniel Jackson as Farscape’s Stark. Both actors, however decided to switch parts on the day before filming. The Farscape parody was to address two points within the fandom. The first being how similar both Ben Browder and Michael Shanks look and how many fans have dubbed the series Fargate SG-1 because of the addition of both Farscape leads. “The two men do look alike, but they won't be playing brothers, or
evil twins, or even evil alien twins. Browder's character will be a Stargate Command military pilot who ends up joining the SGC's lead team…Ben and I discussed much, much more than the clearly vast and growing "Farscape"/"SG-1" crossover audience (we call ourselves Fargaters, thank you very much).” (Ryan, 2005, ‘Fargate Special)
CHAPTER 5 “Rather than being a sign of misguided psychological compensation, their closeness to particular texts demonstrates a desire to negotiate with the media in an active and creative way, in order to make its products relevant to the material and cultural conditions in which the fan or the fan community is located.” (Casey and Casey et al, 2002: 93) In investigating the issue of fandom in depth, the above statement could be said to be more in line with what the fandom is actually is and it gives an insight into the creative minds and talents that frequent the websites and message boards. Casey and Casey’s (et al) argument for how fans ‘negotiate’ with the media is very much in line with Hall’s (1973) theories on how the audience can interpret one of three different ‘readings’ from the text in question. In this research study it has been discovered that certain sections of the fandom adopt certain ‘readings’ dependent on what they prefer to see in the series. As an example, the Sam and Jack Horsewomen want to see a canonical romantic relationship between the characters of Jack and Sam although they believe the creators of the series should be allowed to create the series ‘their way’. This website supports the ‘dominant’ reading as the one being encoded by the series creators. The
Ancient’s Gate website enjoys watching the relationship between Jack and Daniel as friends in the canon of the series, the ‘dominant’ reading. However, they also write fiction and create fan-video’s on the criteria that their relationship is more intimate than is seen on screen. These fans have accepted what is being encoded, however, they are using a ‘negotiated’ reading to put their spin on it. In the research involved in such a study, I believe I have given a clearer understanding of what it means to be a ‘fan’ in this internet dominated age through exploring the ways in which fans negotiate with the text through websites, writing and reading of fan-fiction, creating and watching of fan-videos. I have also looked at the more satirical and critical sections of the fandom through Leah’s cartoons and Nialla’s episode transcripts. It is also important to investigate how the series itself acknowledges the fandom. This is possible through many episodes not mentioned but the main three are Wormhole X-treme, Citizen Joe and the celebratory 200. In investigating the issues of this particular fandom as in-depth as possible, I have discovered that fans are in indeed modern-day ‘Robin Hoods’ in many respects. The breach of copyrighted material for fan-creation is just one example of them robbing from the rich production houses to give to the ‘poor’ fans whose specific needs are not being met by the series canon. In the face of cancellation it is these fans who initiate letter writing campaigns to lobby for the series and support it. In this respect, its becomes more apparent why it is important for the creators to acknowledge the fans occasionally as both the fans and the creators need each other, it is in many ways a symbiotic relationship.
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