The Fourth Wall (essay by The Winter Otter)

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Title: Untitled
Creator: thewinterotter
Date(s): July 7, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom: mentions of Supernatural, Teen Wolf, Anne Rice
Topic: Fourth Wall
External Links: tumblr link[1]
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The Fourth Wall is an untitled post by thewinterotter responding to a question about why fans worry about the fourth wall disappearing.

The essay was posted around the time that many fans on Tumblr, including Teen Wolf fans, were debating over the ban on bringing Sterek material to conventions for the actors to sign. (See also the history of the Sterek Book).

Excerpts from the post are below. You can read the entire post here.

The Question

"I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged but while reading it I found myself unable to quite figure out /how/ it can be broken down. I feel like mainstream media talking about fandom in a respectful and truthful way might well be the best solution to that, but what can fandom do that it isn't doing already? We're talking about our stuff, presenting actors and creators with it, but what more is there we can do?"

Answer (Excerpts)

"I think that part of the reason why the 4th wall is still such a thing is because fandom is desperate to keep it up. Especially for those of us who are older and came up in a different sort of fandom on different platforms, there are a lot of unspoken rules about what you do and don’t discuss or socially allow."
"There are a lot of fans who will tell you that it’s not acceptable to talk about or ask about slash ships at a convention. We have to pretend they don’t exist. (Still vividly recalling the fan who got booed at a Supernatural convention for stating she was bisexual and wanting to ask if Jensen thought Dean might be. Seriously, the word “bisexual” was uttered and the crowd responded by loudly policing the topic. If you think all of fandom is a queer-friendly place, you’re very mistaken.) And if you accept that idea, then you’re accepting the idea that those pairings are lesser or somehow more explicit just by existing, simply because they’re same-sex."
"Anyway, basically what I’m saying is, we need to change our own culture. We all need to stop acting like slash is a dirty secret, for a start. We need to stop allowing a culture of shame around it like it’s something that needs hushing up. People have a million reasons to not talk about their fannish activities in connection with their daily lives, and that’s fine, but inside fannish spaces we really need to stop hushing each other up over topics that, in this day and age, are really not scandalous."

Reactions and Responses

The tumblr post was liked and reblogged over 240 times. A few fans added their comments:

[iwritesometimes]: "i love you, fandom, and i think this entire conversation is vitally important and i’m glad we’re having it in earnest, but fhew, i have never before read such excellent essays and come to the exact opposite conclusions from the authors’. destroying the fourth wall is just so intensely not the answer to this problem; if there were any way to re-erect it and then station jaegers around it to guard it from the kaiju outside, i would have it done. fandom has way WAY too much of its own shit to sort out before we can ever engage with the mainstream on any issue of import (lgbt+ media representation, feminist media criticism, representation of PoC and the differently-abled)... ...in short, 0/10 COURSE OF ACTION, WOULD NOT RECOMMEND."[2]
[thewinterotter]:"....as far as the fourth wall protecting us from exploitation, as @zjofierose already said, it’s no longer doing that anyway. All anybody — actor, “journalist,” talent management, whomever — has to do to find out what fandom is up to and what we’re passionate about and what we’re shipping is pull out their smartphone....Your Pacific Rim analogy is really apt, tbh, because that giant wall we’ve spent so much time and blood building? It’s not keeping out shit."[3]
[zjofierose]: "I know it’s corny, but there is truth in the idea that change comes from within, and that we teach people how to treat us. Obviously that’s not a full solution; but it’s a place to start. If we, collectively, begin to fully live into our own sexualities, our own passions, our own truths, it will start to affect the wider world, both inside and outside fandom. If, instead of being embarrassed by the things we’re excited about, we decide that we are not going to be ashamed of things that make us happy, it will make a difference."[4]
[juno-magic.]:"I’ve been thinking a lot about fanfic porn lately, especially the slashy side of it, about accusations of objectification and fetishization, and how that fits and feeds into the still prevalent system of oppressing and dismissing and ignoring female and queer sexuality. Dismissing slash fanfic as “dirty secrets” and homemade porn by straight women has two effects: on the one hand, straight and queer women are shut up for exploring their sexual fantasies, for owning their sexual identities, on the other hand queer sexualties and queer erotica are put firmly into an unsavoury corner."[5]
[ademska]: "this question asks what more fandom can do than it hasn’t already done, and it is absolutely vital that we internalize everything otter outlned, but i think the question itself has an inherent flaw:

it is not fandom’s responsibility to make things better.

the onus is and will always be ultimately on the creators that gave birth to the fandom to create an environment that lets it flourish. if the creative team, marketing arm, and publisher analogue are the acorn to fandom’s tree, how the hell can you expect it to flourish when the seed was bad to begin with?"[6]
[zjofierose]:"1) The fourth wall is already compromised, and not just a little bit. We can prop it up, in places, and as I said in my original post, some folks have entirely valid reasons for doing so. I am down with people who need to protect themselves taking the appropriate actions to do so. However, for fandom, the wall is simply keeping us in, while allowing those who want to make money off of or sensationalize us to have free access. If we start to tear it down, then it comes down on our terms, and we get to help control the discussion, rather than if we wait for those who would come after us. 2) “Fandom” doesn’t exist as an actual entity, and is thus never going to actually sort its shit out. There is no UN of Fandom, there’s no Geneva Convention. There are more and less widely accepted ways of behaving, sure, and working to change those from within is absolutely something we should be doing. But trying to put our fingers in the dike until we can get fandom all shiny and clean before going public is never going to work."[7]
[penguinsparade]: "I’d go even further and argue that the fourth wall probably never existed at all in regards to fandom. If it did it at all, it was a one way window that creators simply didn’t bother or have the means of looking through. Fans have always been engaged with the texts they loved and to a lesser extent with the people who created them. Until the internet and social media really took off that was largely limited to official newsletters, writing to authors and conventions. Even back in the wee wild days of the early interwebs, when all we had were bbs and crappy geoshities pages; some authors decided they wanted to pay attention. And that attention often was pretty painful. Anne Rice threw an epic hissy fit back in the 90s over people writing fanfiction based on her work (despite publishing erotic Sleeping Beauty bondage rape fantasy porn, but apparently that was legit).

Now with the saturation (and more importantly monetization) of social media, your engagement with media means you are being watched. ....They track most of the major fandom, character, and shipping tags to check in on what people watching the show are talking about. It might not influence how they make the show, but it probably impacts marketing decisions. Because this is a business, to them.

And regardless of how cohesive a community fandom is (and I agree with ziofierose, it’s not), the idea of seclusion and self segregation seems like a pretty terrible choice. Historically speaking, groups that have chosen to seclude themselves, or self-segregate, in order to sort their own shit out have pretty much never managed to do that. That’s just not how community cohesion and identity works. When a community does that, what’s far more likely to happen is factions getting expelled from the community to maintain the ‘purity’ of the group identity."[8]
[amezri]: "My problem is less talking about slash around actors and more the asking about slash in order to get validation for their ship. No matter how nice an actor says “it’s not my thing, but go on,” groups will get mad & it starts to feel belligerent.""[9]

References

  1. archive link.
  2. things i write about sometimes - I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged..., Archived version
  3. I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged..., Archived version
  4. The Final Frontier - I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged..., Archived version
  5. I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged..., Archived version
  6. TITS MCGEE., Archived version
  7. The Final Frontier - I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged..., Archived version
  8. I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged... - Penguins on Parade, Archived version
  9. comment ledt in I loved that essay on the 4th Wall you reblogged... - Penguins on Parade, Archived version