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24 May 2008

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Comments

mrG
1.

Dare I draw any analogy to modern jazz? No, best not go there.

As for me, I do enjoy the odd panty shot. Sorry, it's not that I'm bad, I'm just drawn that way, but I do enjoy it, y'know, Diz flashin' some bit of Bunny Berrigan or whatever, makes me giggle, but you're right, probably loses the Average Fan.

Mafoo
2.

I stopped reading The Wire after I realized that I could never have known the answer to more than four tunes from the listening quiz feature. I fantasized myself in a cold room, being played tracks by Lydia Lunch and Einstürzende Neubauten and drawing blanks, to the smirking ire of experimental fanboys around the world.

That, and the writing often makes Pitchfork seem reserved.

M. Ryan Taylor
3.

I've felt this way for some time, but the way you put it adds a humorous edge to the argument. I'll have to remember this analogy for future discussions with my peers.

andrea
4.

I'm not sure I understand where the fanservice line gets drawn musically. My mom doesn't like hardcore metal, but is that because it's self-referential fanservice music or because she just doesn't like it? I mean, couldn't you chalk up any taste preferences to fanservice?

medrawt
5.

andrew -

in this analogy, why your mom doesn't like metal is neither here nor there w/regards to the fanservice issue. It's that the metal was (for the sake of argument) made in part because it wouldn't appeal to your mom and is enjoyed by fans because it doesn't appeal to your mom, that makes it fanservice. By my understanding of the analogy. In other words, if you like (I dunno) David S. Ware because you like it, good on you; if you like David S. Ware because you enjoy knowing that someone like my dad would turn it off after two minutes, then you're kind of a dick. And the same analysis goes into the motives behind making the music.

DJA
6.

Hi Andrea,

That's a fair question, and I actually disagree with medrawt on this. Enjoying a genre of music because your parents/friends/colleagues hate it isn't prima facie evidence of fanservice. Instead, fanservice is a "signifier" that serves no legitimate aesthetic purpose (or, at its worst, actually undermines the aesthetic purpose) but is put in there purely so that the hardcore fans can congratulate themselves on having caught the reference.

I'll list some specific examples of this in a follow-up post -- stay tuned.

medrawt
7.

My apologies to andrea for calling her andrew, and to DJA for misunderstanding his own concept of how "fanservice" is getting applied to music.

I think my confusion is because previously I understood fanservice to be, as DJA says in his most recent comment, some sort of identifiable signifier serving no aesthetic purpose. To bring it back into the realm of comics or what have you, it could be an eroticized image of a character in her underwear or it could be a fourth wall-breaking wink at the audience. But much of this post, and its comics-focused update, focuses on something that I wouldn't have necessarily termed fanservice. The impenetrability of the Marvel comics narrative to an outsider* might have acquired a self-congratulatory "only the insiders can understand" veneer, but I don't think the impenetrability is initially *intended* to be that way, it's just the unfortunate byproduct of what happens when a comic has been running for forty years. It's not a necessary phenomenon, but I don't think it's without aesthetic purpose either. The musical analogies similarly call up an exclusionary attitude, but I don't think of them as aesthetically purposeless; i.e., whether or not Evan Parker intentionally plays in a manner designed to be unappealing to the general, so that only a few self-designated cognoscenti can dig it, will tell us whether his music was designed to be exclusionary, but that doesn't mean that his playing is fanservice in the way I previously understood it - it's still a part of his aesthetic, and would he be Evan Parker without it. (I'm not familiar with Parker's music so that's another area in which I'm on pretty uncertain ground here.)

* Somewhere online I read someone say that essentially the "ideal" reader of Iron Man or Spiderman has ready every issue of the comic, has read all crossover issues with different titles, recalls all of them, and has the additional capacity to spontaneously forget those issues whose continuity would render the current issue unintelligible, until such time as some future writer chose to reference them in some way.

DJA
8.

Hi Medrawt,

No need to apologize... I was being deliberately vague in my first post, thinking that approach might spark some "what is and isn't fanservice"-type discussion.

But this?

Somewhere online I read someone say that essentially the "ideal" reader of Iron Man or Spiderman has ready every issue of the comic, has read all crossover issues with different titles, recalls all of them, and has the additional capacity to spontaneously forget those issues whose continuity would render the current issue unintelligible, until such time as some future writer chose to reference them in some way.

This is awesome. The parallels to even more absurd beliefs many people have about the "ideal listener" are too juicy to ignore.

medrawt
9.

Hey, home from work and time to Google. It was actually a lengthy discussion of an issue of New Avengers that dealt with Skrulls, good reading, bad reading, and lots of issues that might come up when considering comics. The relevant quote was:

"In many ways, to be an ideal reader of a Marvel comic book is to be totally aware of every comic book story ever, while simultaneously being able to forget about any individual issue that doesn't correspond to the current direction of the Grand Marvel Narrative. What a weird way to tell a story!"

And you're right, it is awesome, because it's impossible; as one of the writers goes on to point out, he's as close to an ideal reader as the creators of the issue in question could hope for and he still can't figure out what the last few pages are trying to communicate. The ideal reader of either the Great Marvel Continuity or the Great DC Continuity doesn't exist, whereas we can plausibly come up with an ideal reader for, say, Blood Meridian or The Nanny Diaries or even the latest installment in Robert Jordan's endless Wheel of Time series.

I have to think about how this relates to expectations about "the ideal listener" and how they might vary from idiom to idiom.

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