Adornofangirl: Aca-fan, and Other Hybrids
November 15, 2010 § Leave a comment
Note: I wrote this a few weeks ago, when I was thinking through Twitter as the intermediary stage between life as usual in my safe digital spaces and my attempt to carve out blog space. I thought I’d offer an exploratory essay about my Twitter name in order to introduce myself, because, well, I like getting to know you games. Feel free to take this as an opportunity to tell me about your own Twitter name, that is, if it’s something other than your RL name.
I am an Adorno fangirl. Just semantically, this means at least three things: one, I’m a fan of the work of Theodor W Adorno; two, I’m a fan of the character of Theodor W Adorno, as he’s portrayed in the contemporary academic landscape; three, I’m a fangirl in general, and believe that fangirling is an appropriate approach to media artifacts, from Buffy to Minima Moralia. Of course, it means more than that. @adornofangirl is my alias on Twitter, for example, meaning that I value pseudonyms. That’s partly because I’ve been an avid internet user and social networker since middle school, and I’ve enjoyed creating ever-new identities for myself, and partly because, in the last few years, I’ve become increasingly aware of how important it is for me to advocate for pseudonymity.
Before you jump to point it out, I’m aware that I’m personally fairly easy to find. Although my Twitter account does not connect to my real name, it does have a picture of me attached to it, and, although I have always friends-locked my tweets, many of them seem to be googleable nevertheless. More significantly, I deactivated my Facebook profile in solidarity with gamer friends during the Blizzard RealID debacle, but even then, couldn’t be bothered to go through the proper deletion process — I guess all imaginable third parties will forever have access to the fact that I enjoy quoting liberally from Notes to Literature. So, I guess I should also make clear that I deeply value the concept of pseudonymity, although I am not obsessive about my own separation between identities. I say this not to pathologize those who are, but rather to acknowledge my privilege — I have the great fortune to work, for the time being, in a situation where I would not immediately be fired for my political views or fan status, and I have the probably rarer fortune of relative freedom from fear within my personal life.
That said, I believe that pseudonymity has value aside from merely protecting ourselves from the nefarious actions of others. In my context, at least the adornofangirl context, I believe that my pseudonym makes an implicit argument in the sphere to which I belong, obviously not as significant as historical portmanteaus, like my man’s Kulturindustrie, of course, but still, one that I think merits explication here. I truly believe that one can only understand Adorno by fangirling him, and that the methodology of the fangirl is Adornian. Both the fangirl and the theorist are seen by many as being peripheral to my major field of study, which is 20th Century American Literature and Popular Culture. The fangirl is seen at best affectionately, if always condescendingly; professors lament in xtranormal videos about young female students “over-identifying” with the texts at hand, and, well, I suppose it is a problem to over-value the assessments on American life of a German anti-fan of it. But it’s precisely because of their shared peripheral status, charged oppositionally, with regard to this field, that I want to imagine their commonalities. Just as we can best understand heterosexuality via its disavowal of queerness, so we can best understand what I’ll abbreviate to the American Media Landscape by looking to those not on the invite list.
To be clear, a primary reason the fangirl as I understand her is not on the invite list is that she never RSVPs — my ideal fangirl sees the value in fandom as a discrete space, not one hidden from the PTB, just one that isn’t actively craving or cultivating their interest. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with, shall I say, embedded media criticism, but that such already has its allotted space within the American Media Landscape, in a way that the fangirl does not, and would not want to. The reason Adorno is not on the invite list is that he is, perhaps appropriately, seen as having been too far removed from the intended audience of mid-century American Media Culture to be able to apprehend it in the proper spirit. While today, the academy has made space for some counter-hegemonic reading practices, these tend to foreground a very different model of intersecting identities and power imbalances than that offered by Adorno, which can sound a whole lot like Dead White Philosophy to the non-fan. In any case, it’s important to note that the silenced fangirl is so silenced because of her lack of power and excess positivity, while Adorno is quietly shooed out of the discussion because of his excessive discursive power and excess criticality/negativity.
By associating myself with excesses in the emotional extremes of both love and hate, I am refusing the mythical neutral perspective hoped for by the “strictly academic” sphere. As far as I can tell, popular culture, whether a niche web series, an opus of art television, or a mass-market paperback, is there to activate something we hadn’t thought of before — this might take place between episodes, seasons, or even within words, but the hope is that what is activated will not be instantly translated into what we expected it would be, anyway. I knew that I would love The Social Network, for example, but I thought it would be because I would marvel at the complex laying bare of the logic of venture capitalism, rather than because I would end up falling in love with the Mark/Eduardo subtext. I went in looking to understand exactly how repulsive the appropriation of people’s addiction to digital self-fashioning could be, and I left looking desperately for fic. I went in an Adornian and left a fangirl, that is to say, but just as often, it happens in reverse. Occasionally, I just leave an academic: here I’m thinking about Dexter and Deadwood. Which I guess is where the third part of my Twitter profile comes in handy: “PhD student in English Lit.” Because I have to write a dissertation about something, you know, to reproduce the socially necessary conditions for the reproduction of my current status.