As you may know, in March, I went to the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Annual Conference in Washington DC. The conference was really a fun and thought provoking event, and I’d like to share some of my experiences.
To frame the event, I want to mention a tweet (whose author I cannot remember or find, sorry!) that acknowledged the challenge posed by such conferences where participants must move smoothly between, or even simultaneously inhabit, the spaces of “fan” and “scholar.” I must admit that I didn’t always do a good job of balancing those two perspectives, but I tried to balance the two by using my fan-ness to chose which panels to attend and my scholar-ness to evaluate and engage with the material of the papers presented within those panels. I thought that was a decent compromise. 🙂
I heard one paper by Jamie Dessart about the series 3 episode Blink. For those who aren’t familiar, this is the episode that introduces the Weeping Angels, who will attack whenever possible but are immediately frozen into stone statues whenever someone is looking at them. During her presentation, Jamie insightfully analyzed the way that this episodes uses screens, and the penetration of screens–the Doctor penetrates the screen of the tv through the recording of his image on the videotape and most shocking to me (fan alert!) the audience penetrates the screen of the world of Doctor Who by watching the angels to keep them frozen when characters in the show can’t. Crazy!
I listened to a couple of papers, one by Antoinette Winstead and one by Heather McHale, about the companions of Doctor Who. This included a consideration of what the Doctor Who series says about female agency (re: not good things) and a consideration of the way that companions often move from peace-loving adventures to gun toting rebels.
Once Upon A Time, Twilight, and 50 Shades of Gray
Perhaps my favorite panel of the conference was one in which these three topics were discusssed. Stephanie Hartley gave an interesting paper wherein she observed that in Once Upon A Time women are forced to chose between power and love but that men in the series can have both. Ashley Donnelly gave a fascinating paper about how she uses Frankenstein and Breaking Dawn together to talk about the creation of non-human lives as a way to distance students from baggage that prevents them from really engaging with abortion debate. What an awesome and creative way to approach that topic! And Jessica Van Slooten gave some analysis of 50 Shades of Gray and its message about power/submission and femininity.
I went to a panel about Downton Abbey (choice made as a fan) and then realized that the panel was not from the scholarly perspective that interested me (re: feminist)… so I must admit I was a bit disappointed there, but that was my own fault and no one else’s.
I went to two panels were we ended up discussing the feminist, post-feminist, and/or anti-feminist messages of Lena Dunham and Girls. Interesting papers were presented by Michael Winetsky and Sara Lewis. Having not seen the show, I couldn’t really weigh in, but the conversations were engaging and thought provoking. And I’m still not sure if I want to watch the show or not.
I went to some other interesting papers and panels, and my own presentation went well too. Oh, and I got to cruise around on the metro and meet up with some good friends and eat yummy food, and someone even asked me for directions (so I must have looked like a local= win). All in all, it was a very enjoyable, if somewhat exhausting, trip.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these shows, and if you’re interested, I’d love to share a coffee or meal with you at PCA/ACA 2014 in Chicago!