Affect, Activism and Ambivalence: Anti-Fandom in relation to MTV’s The Valleys and Lostprophets, Bethan Jones

11-05-2016 at 5pm to 6.30pm

Location: ATRiuM, Boardroom (CA A419)

Audience: Public

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This paper explores responses to two high profile media events in Wales: the production of MTV’s reality show The Valleys, and Lostprophets’ singer Ian Watkins’ arrest and imprisonment for child sexual abuse. Each of these events resulted in mass media coverage across the UK, but each was framed differently by both the press and the audiences involved.

The Valleys received much criticism, with The Western Mail calling it exploitative and prominent Welsh celebrities, including Rachel Tresize, condemning the show for being “cynical, cheap, ignorant and by no means representative of the South Wales Valleys and people that I know and love.” Grassroots criticism of the show also arose, and a valleys-centric campaign ‘The Valleys Are Here’ took direct action.

When news of Watkins’ arrest broke many fans initially protested his innocence, but once the singer pled guilty and the group disbanded they were faced with questions on whether they could (and should) separate the man from the music; if they could continue to be fans of the band; whether their expressions of bereavement were appropriate (and if so where should they grieve); and how their previous fannish engagement with the band had been affected.

This paper draws on Jonathan Gray’s work on anti-fandom to complicate both the activism and ambivalence evidence by each of these audiences. In relation to The Valleys I argue that fan activism is not exclusive to people who consider themselves ‘fans’, and that notions of fan activism can be complicated by drawing anti-fans into the equation. In relation to Lostprophets I argue that fannish grappling with issues of morality and ethics complicates the fannish sense of self, post-object fandom and anti-fandom.

Bethan Jones is a PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University, researching cult TV, fandom, nostalgia and the X-Files and Twin Peaks revivals. She has written extensively on fandom, new media and gender and her work has been published in the journals Participations, Sexualities and Transformative Works and Cultures. Her co-edited collection, Crowdfunding the Future: Media Industries, Ethics, and Digital Society was published by Peter Lang in 2015. Bethan is on the board of the Fan Studies Network and is a member of the World Star Wars project primary research group.