Perhaps no issue makes disciplinary differences in approaches to the popular transparent like the question of injury. In Fan Studies, scholars are very attentive to the agency of fans and concerned about reductive characterizations of them, just as fans are attentive to dismissive interpretations of their love objects. Fans and media studies scholars more broadly push against causal claims about the injuriousness of popular culture that are more common in the social sciences, as such scholarship rarely without examines the transformational and utopian work of the popular. This talk takes as a case study a popular text in which accounts of injuriousness came from multiple directions: the HBO limited series Watchmen. Damon Lindelof called the show “a very expensive bit of fanfic,” and for some fans of the original comic book, the injury was the emphasis on race and social justice. Many fans were also sympathetic to comic book writer Alan Moore’s understandable objections to constant infringement on his intellectual property by the publishers. For some descendants of the Greenwood Massacre, the writers were guilty of cultural theft. And for others, the political discourse of the show was injurious because of its casting of a Black woman as a police officer and the treatment of reparations. In this talk I will explore how injury is just as important as pleasure in our understanding of the role of the popular in our lives, and discuss how competing injuries often structure evaluations of the popular text’s value.
Rebecca Wanzo is Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.
Interlocutors: Grace Gipson, Malika Imhotep, and Patrick Johnson
Hosted by Abigail De Kosnik
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