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Editorial: CNet Article Just Plain Wrong

Posted By Jeff on May 2, 2005

Note: The original article was expanded on 5/4/2005.

In response to the CNet article with Henry Jenkins, a media expert from MIT, I have to respond to many of the assumptions and conclusions that I believe to be inaccurate.

I would like to thank Brad King at Technology Review. I have contacted Henry Jenkins at MIT to discuss his article. Mr. Jenkins responded to me today (May 4) and was very understanding on my position. He has agreed to discuss his research and book with me at a later date. Hopefully we will clear up some of the misunderstandings from the article.

LucasFilm has not shut down general fan fiction sites as the article claimed (TFN would be the first on the list). Mr. Jenkins has mixed 'slash' and general fan fiction on his conclusions of LucasFilm's gender bias. Slash fiction is only a sub-category of fan fiction. And yes, it is discouraged but not for gender reasons.

Jenkins: That's right. They set up restrictions. The restrictions they set up are: You can only use these sounds we provide you, you can't use copyrighted materials and appropriate or recontextualize it, you can do parodies, but you can't do dramatic expansions of the "Star Wars" universe.

That has a gender implication. By and large, most amateur parodies have been done by men. Most dramatic expansions have been done by women.

The authors are mixing fan films and fan fiction. Revelations, The Dark Redemption, and Broken Allegiance (well known drama/non-parody films) were all made by male fans.

The last statement would be mostly true if it was about fan fiction. Although more men are writing Star Wars fan fiction, female writers are in the majority. When TFN FanFiction was created, we were criticized from some visitors for allowing male authors to sit on the review staff. The dominance of female authors in Star Trek fan fiction is much higher. Female authors are also the primary writers of slash fan fiction.

There is the most visible layer, what's going to be out there on the Web that people can find. And there's stuff that is made but is hidden from view, that maybe gets shown at face-to-face gatherings but can't be publicly distributed. It doesn't mean the stuff isn't made, but it means that certain stuff gets a lot of press, attention and visibility, and a lot of stuff is buried from view.

As I said, one of the things that troubles me is that there's a real gender implication to that.

Again, they are mixing fan films and fan fiction..and he is still wrong. You can find drama fan films on the net, just look in TFN FanFilms. The fan film dramas get A LOT of attention in the media. Revelations was featured in as many or more articles as the official fan films awards at Celebration III. And in case he was referring to fan fiction, you can find drama stories in the TFN Fan Fiction section.

Is there any authorized outlet that's more geared toward women?

Jenkins: No. By and large, "Star Wars" has tried to shut down fan fiction, which has historically been an outlet for female expression, and has tried to shut down non-parody fan video, which is another outlet for fan female expression.

Again, this is incorrect. Star Wars is not trying to shut down fan fiction or fan films. When this happens, I will be the first to know. Non-parody fan video is not a "female" outlet. There is only a handful of female directors that make fan films of any type. As fan fiction and fan films evolve, we will see more cross participation.

After reading the email from Mr. Jenkins, I believe the "Non-parody fan video" that Mr. Jenkins is talking about is the fan music video. On the TFN FanFilms staff, we refer to these as "re-edits". If you don't know what I'm talking about, the fan music video edits video footage from a movie, TV show, or cartoon to music. Although we have seen a few Star Wars fan music videos, they are a lot more common with Babylon 5 and anime. And yes, Mr. Jenkins is correct. Most of the creators are female but like fan fiction, Star Wars has a closer balance of female to male re-editors.

TFN FanFilms does not host re-edits because we want some original content in our fanfilms. We make two exceptions; when a fan creates the original music (Jabba on the Dais, Wookie) or when the footage is edited in a way to create a fake trailer (Anonymous Director Episode II Trailer). LucasFilm has never contacted us about this use of original footage and in fact, complimented the Anonymous Director on his fake trailer in several interviews.

The most famous re-edits, the East Coast and West Coast Phantom Edits have never appeared on the net for long and they were created by men.

Back to the CNet article. I think many points that Mr. Jenkins was trying to make were taken out of context, edited down to the point they lost their meaning, or were generalizations that do not apply to LucasFilm and Star Wars fandom. I look forward to speaking with him over the next few weeks about his comments, research and book. Look for more updates in the future.

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