- co-editing an anthology with a colleague (Gaby Malcolm), and
- creating/managing/editing a Gene Kelly fansite.
Yeah, that’s right: a fansite. Before you judge, roll your eyes, and call me a freak, hear me out. But first, here’s a bit about our anthology, currently titled Locating Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century.
Since contemporary popular culture often positions William Shakespeare as more of a social concept than a playwright, Gaby and I wanted to compile a volume that considers alternative strands, identities, and locations of “Shakespeare” (e.g,. metanarratives, gender-reworking, inter-cultural adapting, online streaming, Twitter feeds). Going in, we knew the topic would draw some interest; we just didn’t realize how much. Dozens of abstracts landed in our inboxes, virtually all of them creative, interesting, and thus very hard to turn down. After a tough deliberation process and some difficult-to-write rejection letters (honestly, the concepts were all so good), we’re pleased with the lot: essays ranging in subject matter from Dr. Who to Jewish revenge films, from the Sleep No More experiment to Twilight, and from Manga Shakespeare to Just Macbeth! More to come after the September deadline…
Now, to the fansite — and the obvious question some of my readers are asking:
Why would an academic maintain a fansite; isn’t that what overweight, obsessed, infantile social misfits do?
First, that unfortunate “Trekkie” stereotype I just alluded to is outmoded. Sure, some hardcore fans of various shows, films, celebrities, games, etc. fit that description, but many, many do not. And we should recognize that. For example, Mathieu Deflem, a sociology professor at the University of South Carolina, made the news last year because of his Lady Gaga fansite, Gaga Front Row. The professor/little monster has seen Gaga in concert nearly 30 times, met her 5 times, and owns more than 300 of her records on vinyl and CD. No doubt some would consider this behavior obsessive, and perhaps it is. But Deflem is also using his experiences with and knowledge of the flamboyant pop star in his lecture-based course, “The Sociology of Lady Gaga.”
Since we’re on the subject of Gaga, we might also look at Gaga Stigmata. Edited by PhD students and artists with MFAs, the site is billed as a “technological journal that takes seriously the project of shock pop phenomenon Lady Gaga.” Indeed, in some ways, Gaga Stigmata takes the form of an online academic journal (e.g., requesting submissions, publishing scholarly analyses), but it’s also a fansite. For example, some posts feature single images of Lady Gaga, petitions to make a Gaga musical, and video-art tributes — or those things one might find on a fan’s Tumblr or an unofficial fansite for the Gilmore Girls, Gordan Ramsay, and Kanye West. Other academic-run fansites I’ve encountered are
- Bardfilm, a site dedicated to commentary on Shakespeare-related films and television shows, videos, plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare in pop culture;
- Fashion and Film, a blog and a Tumblr that consider inspirational costume design and influential fashion films (e.g., Mildred Pierce, Bonnie and Clyde); and
- the Organization for Transformative Works, a group that runs/backs several fansites and wikis devoted to fan-fiction.
Finally, I’ve also spoken with colleagues who maintain (or once maintained) fansites, write fan-fiction, and contribute in other ways to fandom. But most of them, it seems, prefer to remain anonymous. I’ve decided against that norm as my name, profession, and online identity are clearly attached to my fansite, Gene Kelly Fans.
I created Gene Kelly Fans for a purely selfish and scholarly reason: if (or when) I decide to craft a book-length manuscript on Gene Kelly and his star image, I want all of the GK news, videos, commentary, images, tweets, and tributes I’ve come across over the past few years to be stored in one place, easily accessible with links, tags, categories, etc. Another reason to maintain such a site (or a gallery at least): have you seen Gene Kelly?! Swoon.
Still, what began as a little hobby/project to which I posted erratically — I’ve only so much time between teaching, publishing, and applying for jobs! — has evolved into a fully functioning fansite with multiple contributors (what great folks!), an accompanying Twitter account (600 followers and counting), and two ongoing series:
- Gene Kelly: The Basics: we answer questions new Gene Kelly fans ask
- Love, Twitter: in 140 characters or fewer, fans share their love for Gene
Moreover, a Centennial Celebration series is in the works and will commence on Gene’s birthday, August 23. This was suggested by one of our contributors who knew Gene personally in his later years. Who. Knew. Gene. Personally.
That’s what been wild about this entire ride. Because of Gene Kelly Fans (and that darn post on why the song-and-dance man gets me all hot and bothered), I have spoken with — virtually and in real life — Gene Kelly’s
- friends and family members,
- co-stars (guest post coming soon!),
- long-time admirers (e.g., Glee‘s Harry Shum tweeted this to me),
- delivery boys (dude delivered fruit to Gene during the filming of That’s Entertainment II!), and
- people who own and wish to sale Gene’s costumes. OMG!
Again, I realize most academics do not run celebrity fansites, much less under their own names. I also understand that some of my colleagues would consider Gene Kelly Fans overkill. “Just stick to your research and teaching,” they’d warn. “Don’t waste your time with something extra.” But at this moment, this is my research. Along with Shakespeare of course, Gene Kelly (and musicals in general) are my academic interests; they are what fuel my writing and publishing. And come on, what’s not exciting about visiting with people who literally hold Gene Kelly’s clothes in their hands and who’ve actually visited the star’s Beverly Hills home on multiple occasions? Not a bad way to spend one’s time outside the classroom…