Doctor of Philosophy
Media, Art, and Text
Fan studies has examined how fan fiction resists heteronormativity by challenging depictions of gender and sexuality, but to date, this inquiry has focused disproportionately on slash, to the exclusion of other genres of fan fiction. Additionally, scholars disagree about slash’s subversive effects by setting up a seemingly stable dichotomy—subversive vs. misogynistic—where one does not necessarily exist.
In this project, I examine multiple genres of fan fiction—namely, slash arising from bromances; femslash from female friendships; incestuous fan fiction from dysfunctional familial relationships; and polyamorous fics. I chose fics from four televisions shows—NBC’s Revolution, MTV’s Teen Wolf, the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, and its spin-off, The Originals—and closely read them to identify patterns in their representations of gender and sexuality and how they connect to the source texts. Taking a dialogic “both/and” approach, I argue that critics claiming that slash is often not subversive are right to a point, but miss a key potential of fan fiction: its ability to evoke possibility—for new endings, relationships, and sexualities. Heteronormativity often asserts itself in endings; queerness plays in the middles and margins. So, too, does fan fiction. While some individual fics may reinforce elements of heteronormativity, many also actively question and transgress norms of gender, sexuality and love. Further, they embrace fluidity and possibility, and engage with the source texts and larger culture around them in a way that provides a subversive interpretation of both and offers insight into the function of the constructed nature of institutionalized heterosexuality.
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Available for download on Tuesday, May 10, 2022
American Popular Culture Commons, Critical and Cultural Studies Commons, Digital Humanities Commons, Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Commons, Other Film and Media Studies Commons, Television Commons