This year’s Console-ing Passions conference was held at the University of Oregon, Eugene (April 22-24) and organized by Carole Stabile and Priscilla Peña Ovalle. For those of you who don’t know Console-ing Passions (CP), it’s a conference on television, audio, video, new media, and feminism that began in 1992—this year was the 13th conference. It’s a refreshing change from other conferences that hold only one or two panels on gender and sexuality or that sprinkle a limited number of talks on gender and sexuality throughout the conference offerings. At CP, you can expect scholarship on culture, identity, gender, and sexuality (as they relate to media) in every panel—and it’s great to mingle with so many brilliant feminist scholars!
One of the great aspects of this year’s CP (and there were many) was the fact that the organizers had arranged for campus wifi access for all registered participants–the access codes were tucked in our name badges. The result of this was an active Twitter backchannel, a welcome change from the lack of backchannel at this year’s SCMS due to no wifi in the conference hotel. Many expressed hope that our European colleagues who were unable to join us because of Iceland’s volcano Eyjafjallajokull (and many other folks elsewhere) could follow the progress of the conference from afar through Twitter.
The number of tweets at CP overtook the total number of tweets at SCMS on the first day. The healthy Twitter backchannel at CP raised some interesting issues that I think merit further discussion, but since that discussion’s already taking place elsewhere, I’ll focus here on the content of CP’s panels. Please know that my report says more about what I did at CP than the conference’s offerings as a whole—I really hope readers will share moments they enjoyed with comments below and in other online venues. You can also follow the CP tweets on Twitter using the CP hashtag #cpuo.
This year’s conference programmed four to five daily panel sessions of four concurrent panels each. My day on Thursday began with a panel on Twilight (on which I was a presenter). The crowd was respectable for 8:30 on the first day (thanks for coming!) and the panelists (including Jennifer Stevens Aubrey and Leslie A. Rill) and I enjoyed sharing our research on Twilight’s audiences and exploring the meanings fans and non-fans have made of the Young Adult book series and film franchise—and the way the franchise has marketed its young stars to stoke fans’ fires.
From there, I enjoyed an exciting panel entitled “Star Studies 2.0: From Disney to Bollywood.” The panelists (Lindsay H. Garrison, Sreya Mitra, and Anne Helen Peterson) discussed the media’s role in the creation of female celebrities (on and offline) and in the negative attention brought to women in the public eye. It was a great panel that explored celebrity from a range of perspectives.
Next, I headed to another terrific panel, “Reading Race in ‘Post-Racial’ Television and Popular Culture.” LeiLani Nishime, Mary Beltrán, and Ralina Joseph gave provocative talks about Kimora Lee Simmons, Ugly Betty and Glee, and Sonia Sotomayor. This was a particularly important panel because it explored the intersections of gender and race—and because I heard many attendees say that they wished race had been taken up in more of the panel’s presentations. I think as feminist scholars, it’s important to push ourselves to include intersectionality in our analyses and this panel was a great example of just how we could be doing just that.
The final panel I attended on Thursday was the first of two panels discussing Mad Men (many attendees joked that Mad Men is the new The Wire). The panelists, Mary Beth Haralovich, Michael Kackman, Mary Celeste Kearney, Joe Wlodarz, and Chris Gettings offered stimulating analyses of the program, focusing on the show’s representations of women in the business world, “quality” historical narrative, DVD extras, and ancillary publicity. It made me excited to see the sister panel the following day.
Friday morning began bright and early with a panel on “New Media and Fandom.” Panelists Anthony Hayt, Liz Ellcesor, Darlene Hampton, and Suzanne Scott gave great talks on Supernatural slashfiction, character blogs, the performative nature of online fans, and the fangirl spaces available at Comic-Con. All of the panelists encouraged a useful rethinking of fan activity on- and offline.
My next panel was the second panel to focus on Mad Men. In it, Kyra Glass Von der Osten, Mabel Rosenheck, and Marsha Cassidy gave fascinating papers on Don Draper’s mistresses, Betty Draper’s fashions, and the characters’ “corporeal breakdowns”—including Betty’s vomit. Together, both panels on Mad Men gave us plenty of food for thought (about the text and its extratexts) as we anxiously await the show’s 4th season.
The CP plenary was Friday’s anticipated event. The plenary, titled “Publishing What We Preach: Feminist Media Scholarship in a Multimodal Age,” included Bitch’s Andi Zeisler, the Queer Zine Archive Project’s Milo Miller, and scholars Michelle Habell-Pallan and Tara McPherson. While Zeisler discussed blogging’s utility in feminist activism, and Miller discussed the web’s utility for archiving “twilight media,” Habell-Pallan discussed the importance of new media in American Sabor, the first interpretive museum exhibition to tell the story of the influence and impact of Latinos in American popular music. All three speakers communicated important messages for feminists wishing to bridge activism and scholarship, but it was Tara McPherson’s polemic, “Remaking the Scholarly Imagination,” that captivated the audience and had conference Tweeters typing like crazy. McPherson challenged the CP audience to adjust to the changing nature of the humanities by engaging with “the materiality of digital machines,” namely code, systems, and networks.
Discussion about McPherson’s call to have us move out of our “field shaped boxes” continued at the conference’s next event (and on Twitter and various blogs), a reception at Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum. Sadly, this reception was my last CP event. The space was beautiful, the food and drink delicious, and the company delightful. It was nice to let down and socialize a bit.
Thank you so much to everyone at the University of Oregon for such a stimulating conference—I know I am one among many who truly enjoyed the experience. I hope you will share your experiences of Console-ing Passions 2010 (both on and offline), and help fill in the blanks for Saturday’s panels—I have no doubt they were as amazing as Thursday and Friday’s. I hated to miss them.
Next year’s conference will be held at the University of Adelaide, Australia, and organized by Jackie Cook. I can’t wait!