Sunday 28th May 2017,
Televisual

Fan Production as Industrial Response in ‘Transformative Works & Cultures’

Fan Production as Industrial Response in ‘Transformative Works & Cultures’

Some of you may remember the web series The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else, a satirical show about Rasha, a Lebanese lesbian forced to date men to finance her book project. The series got a lot of coverage last year, from NPR to Jezebel, and a host of lesbian-focused blogs and websites. Super-syndicated across various networks — Strike TV, KoldCast, AfterEllen, RowdyOrbit, among others — it was a successful experiment in indie production.

I was fascinated the producers’ efforts to posit an alternative to Sex and the City and its many copycats by integrating chick-lit/rom-com storytelling with a sensitivity to race, gender and sexuality.

So, in the spirit of honoring the amazing things filmmakers can do, I wrote up a case study of the show now published in the current issue of Transformative Works & Cultures!

The article is for a special issue on race and fandom, an outgrowth of a 2009 symposium on race, ethnicity and (new) media. Because of the journal’s focus on fan studies, I emphasized the series’ use of Sex and the City to market their show in the broader media landscape. Judging from the coverage they received, it seems to have worked.

The thrust of the essay underscores the importance of the market and industry for producers of fan works. Fans have historically tried to influence the industry — typically Hollywood — in a lot of interesting ways, including direct forms of activism. Now, for many years, digital marketplaces have allowed fans to create their own commodities, a way to get the industry’s attention through capitalism. Creating a web series has become in recent years an important part of that process, from Machinima to original dramas and sitcoms.

Most independent web series creators have a mainstream media property to which they are responding. Most media producers do as well. Television shows and movies get sold by resting on the shoulders of success. Ringer = Lost + Alias (right?). You know the drill.

A lot of web shows made from 2007-2009 used Sex and the City as a referent (the other popular referent was The Office). The Real Girl’s Guide is among the most direct, since the creators were both fans of the series and anti-fans of the films (as were most of us!). The producers of the show were saavy marketers and used their particular perspective on woman’s media — an effort to integrate issues of race and sexuality — to get press and attention.

Check out the article if you can — I tried to minimize jargon — and let me know what you think in the comments or shoot me an email at aj (at) ajchristian (dot) org.

PS – For those fans of RGGTEE the producers tell me a plan for season two is in the works. Stay tuned!

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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