Sosin, Dawid (2019) The Mega-field of Science Fiction Film: Studying Fans' Negotiations of Cultural Value via Canonical, Art-house and Blockbuster SF Movies. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Despite research on fans, relatively little is known about the mechanisms behind the negotiation of cultural value of genre texts by fan consumers. The overall image of fandom that emerges from the literature (for example Fiske, 1992; Jenkins, 2012) is as a fairly uniform social formation of audience members devoted to specific pop-/subcultural goods and therefore displaying quantities of appropriate capital enabling them to engage a given field. I will explore field structures that build on Bourdieusian field theory (Bourdieu, 1979, 1992, 1993; Jenkins, 1992) by showing a lack of specificity in terms of field boundaries, allowing me to theorise fandom in relation to what I term an SF “mega-field”. I focus on relationships between cinematic science fiction and fans who engage with texts displaying a spectrum of ‘quality’ signified by cultural value.

To illustrate the negotiation of cultural value of texts by fans I examine three case studies: Alien (1979), Moon (2009) and Avatar (2009). These represent different qualities (canonical, art-house, blockbuster) and correspond to a palette of Bourdieusian tastes. I conduct empirical research using qualitative interviews with thirty-two science fiction fans who vary in terms of social background, gender, age, and level of engagement with the field.

Drawing from my data, I theorize Bourdieusian-based phenomena such as intra-fandom distinctions whereby fans engage with texts via a “fan gaze” showing paradoxically “detached immersion”. I also show supportive evidence for the downward cultural mobility of the most elite audience, omnivorous fans, which expands on Bourdieu’s theorisation of social action. Furthermore, I explore fandom’s approach to generic SF texts by illustrating the fannish drive to canonise textual novelty in otherwise theoretically repetitive texts. By focusing on readings of texts in relation to personal pragmatics, I discuss SF canonisation via “innovative cliché” – a position-taking which splits and recombines the repetition and difference inherent to genre (Neale, 1980). Ultimately, this enables me to theorize the formation of an SF “mega-field” acting as an industrial tool for audience expansion. To this end, I describe the intermedial nature of cinema which allows me to theorise SF films, as they are valued by fans, as multifunctional generic texts with an appeal directed towards the widest possible audience.

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