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Jessica Pruett

Jessica Pruett is a PhD student in Culture and Theory at the University of California, Irvine. Her research interests include transnational feminist theory, pop music fandom, identity formation, and queer composition. More specifically, her work examines lesbian fandom of boy bands with an interest in how this fandom complicates widely accepted narratives about and dismissals of the boy band and its fanbase.

“‘Reality Ruined My Life’: Lesbian One Direction Fandom and Disruptive Desires”
While UK-based boy band One Direction has enjoyed levels of critical and commercial success previously unrealized by many of their progenitors, their fans (usually assumed to be young, white, heterosexual girls) have been received in popular media with a tone that is almost unilaterally one of mocking, perhaps predictably so. Overwhelmed with adolescent desire for the comically well-groomed and over-rehearsed objects of their affection, One Direction fans are most frequently portrayed as an emotional, unstable mass of tears and high-pitched screams. Wald (2002) describes this popular interpretation of girls’ relationship to contemporary pop music, in which their consumption practices are presumed to reflect a pattern of same sex identification and other sex desire that preempts “possibilities that blur the boundaries of gender and sexuality.”

It is precisely this heteronormative pattern of identification and desire that I would like to trouble, and which methodologically robust queer and feminist studies of boy bands and fandom are able to question and disturb through their critical inquiry into the construction of the heterosexual girl-fan. Furthermore, my interest lies not only in identifying texts which work to affirm the patterns of same sex identification and other sex desire commonly associated with girls’ boy band fandom, but also in documenting lesbian fans’ emotional reactions to these heteronormative texts and the production of counternarratives that takes place within lesbian fandom. Through an analysis of lesbian One Direction fans’ posts on the blogging platform Tumblr, I will examine how queer identifications and desires find a voice in this particular subset of boy band fandom. My reading of this archive will argue that these counternarratives constitute political responses to the depoliticized and heteronormative depictions of boy band fandom that are produced and reproduced in boy bands’ performances and through popular media.

“Digital Prosumers Vocalize Identity”
This panel is interested in how digital media and mobile technologies have enabled musicians and fans to navigate the restrictions of social location.  Against the liberal humanism that presumes music a universal mode of expression, the three presentations of this panel take queer of color and women of color feminist analytics to illuminate the racialized and sexualized scripts underwriting popular music performances, genres, and spaces.  Working in the varied and often embattled genres of pop, indie rock, and R&B, the papers of this panel acknowledge that digital technologies have enabled consumers to act also as cultural producers, and argue that this shift has invited modes of silencing and expression that are simultaneously novel and preexisting.  Collectively, we ask: How has 21st century digital prosumption enabled those at the margins of the musical marketplace to negotiate racial and sexual identifications and desires?  Jessica Pruett begins by examining how lesbian-identified One Direction fans’ posts on the blogging platform Tumblr challenge monolithic images of the white, heterosexual girl-fan.  Douglas Ishii continues this inquiry by interrogating the philic and phobic relations between whiteness, Blackness, and Asian American identity in Daniel Destin Cretton’s film about the decaying indie rock scene, I Am Not a Hipster (2012).  Elaine Andres concludes by analyzing Jhene Aiko’s line, “He gotta eat the booty like groceries,” and its reception in radio and social media, as an articulation of race-based sexual politics based on Aiko’s multiracial Black/Asian body.  This session will be moderated by Seattle-based musician and director Christopher PaperSon Woon, whose independent documentaries on hip-hop engage the same issues of digital media, difference, and community that this panel aims to engage.

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