Celebrity/Stardom – Antenna http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu Responses to Media and Culture Thu, 30 Mar 2017 23:48:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 A National Icon Deficit: What the Ghomeshi Scandal Illustrates About the State of CBC Radio One http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/10/31/a-national-icon-deficit-what-the-ghomeshi-scandal-illustrates-about-the-state-of-cbc-radio-one/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/10/31/a-national-icon-deficit-what-the-ghomeshi-scandal-illustrates-about-the-state-of-cbc-radio-one/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:31:53 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=24878 QimageGlobe & Mail television critic John Doyle makes some incisive observations about the Ghomeshi scandal in a recent column. He writes that the episode illustrates “how much CBC Radio and its personalities matter. Whether the anti-CBC factions like it or not, CBC Radio personalities become iconic, representative figures. A portion of the public invests heavily in them.” This is the problem that the Ghomeshi situation lays bare: CBC Radio lacks compelling personalities with broad inter-generational and international appeal. Too few of its current personalities have evolved into ‘iconic, representative figures.’ Thus, in the context of the CBC’s myriad recent difficulties, the public downfall of one the few prominent individuals associated with the cherished information radio service has occasioned a tremendous amount of grief and anxiety.

In fact, a closer look reveals the broader problem: once-innovative formats now seem tired as their defining personalities have moved on and the medium has evolved. CBC has long been a leader in the public service information radio genre and its personalities have always been significant part of that. CBC Radio contributed much to the development of the phone-out, information magazine, and audio documentary program formats, but listeners valued its most popular programs primarily for their personalities.

Internal documents reveal that administrators recognized their importance as far back as the ’60s, when the onset of television and FM radio necessitated the renovation of the radio service. Personalities were the anchoring force that unified the disparate elements of the long-form program formats that would come to define the national information service. Longtime morning host Peter Gzowski’s popularity was such that he came to known as “Mr. Canada,” while Barbara Frum’s hard-hitting and irreverent interviewing style defined As It Happens’ most successful period. The host of Frum’s program, Alan ‘Fireside Al’ Maitland, was an avuncular presence for a devoted audience base. In more recent decades, individuals like Shelagh Rogers and Mary Lou Findlay continued the tradition of skillful interviewing and insightful commentary.

But while daily stalwarts like As It Happens (1968-) and Ideas (1965-) march on, their formats have come to seem tired and their most cherished personalities have moved on. Ghomeshi was one of the few contemporary CBC radio personalities with the ability to appeal to a large, inter-generational audience comprised of both the CBC’s established boomer audience and their offspring. After some early hosting gigs for CBC TV and radio, he moved to the afternoon to stabilize things in the wake of the disastrous Freestyle experiment (2005-2007). Q debuted there and enjoyed some success before moving to the crucial national late morning slot vacated by the conclusion of Rogers’ Sounds Like Canada program (2002-2008). In this morning slot, the program has established itself as a premier popular arts and culture program with a broad reach in Canada and internationally (roughly 180 stations carry the program). With the former indie musician Ghomeshi as its anchoring force, the program executed a partial pivot away from higher-brow arts and literature and towards the popular arts (especially indie rock) and culture. It also moved towards more of a modular approach to content production with a mix of shorter and longer features. This positioned the program to do an exemplary job of establishing a digital, on-demand presence through its website and YouTube channel. In its modification of the now-classic magazine program format and its digital endeavors, Ghomeshi’s Q established itself as both a valuable property and a bridge between CBC Radio’s still all-too-present past and its uncertain future.

All of this made Ghomeshi into one of CBC Radio’s few contemporary icons. And now, little more than a week after he delivered an audio essay about the recent events in Ottawa, he has been scrubbed from the CBC’s website and headquarters. As information emerges, the CBC’s decision looks increasingly wise and conscientious. And the show goes on with several capable interim hosts including CBC veteran Brent Bambury. But these are difficult times for the CBC. The television service is reeling from the loss of hockey and the Radio Two recently began to air commercials for the first time in more than three decades. Radio One lumbers on with reduced budgets and many repeats in the schedule.

The Ghomeshi incident lays bare the need for a bigger stable of core radio personalities with broad appeal, further modifications to the long-form magazine format, and more stability within the radio service. The CBC must do more to develop personalities if it is to retain its audience and its influence. They’re out there – or perhaps they’re already inside the building. I suspect that the CBC has an abundance of talented hosts and producers working at its regional outposts who could do a great deal to rejuvenate the broadcaster on a national level. How much more talent is there in the more peripheral parts of the country and the institution? Similarly, how many producers are there in the ranks with innovative program ideas waiting to be developed?

CBC Radio’s history tells us that personalities and formats make one another in a reciprocal manner just as they did with Q. My hope is that Ghomeshi’s departure serves as a wake-up call to CBC Radio to focus more attention on the development of more national radio talent both on the mic and behind the glass. This would position the CBC to play a larger role in shaping radio’s future as it evolves beyond the formats of national public radio’s heyday to meet the challenges posed by the digital convergence era.


http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/10/31/a-national-icon-deficit-what-the-ghomeshi-scandal-illustrates-about-the-state-of-cbc-radio-one/feed/ 1
Kollecting Kim K. Skills: Kardashianized Celebrity in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/07/25/kollecting-kim-k-skills-kardashianized-celebrity-in-kim-kardashian-hollywood/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/07/25/kollecting-kim-k-skills-kardashianized-celebrity-in-kim-kardashian-hollywood/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:30:38 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=24299 Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, the celebrity legitimizes her image while also propagating her brand by redefining fame as an accumulation of skills.]]> “In order to win at life, you need some Kim K skills, period.” – Kanye West

In a recent GQ interview, Kanye West attributes new wife Kim Kardashian with teaching him to better manage his celebrity. However, analogous with popular discourses defining the couple as shallow and fame-obsessed, West’s verbiage ultimately doesn’t say anything. West never defines “Kim K. skills” as more than some kind of intangible communication skills, but expects that the interviewer, and subsequently the general public, will know exactly what he means. Though only mentioned peripherally by West, Kim K. skills are, however, delineated in the new mobile game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Through the game, Kardashian legitimizes her celebrity while also propagating her brand by redefining fame in her image – as the accumulation of “Kim K. skills.”

Kim’s avatar demonstrates the first Kim K. skill in the game’s initial sequence: charm is the key to everything. She charms you into reopening a boutique so she may outfit herself for an upcoming event. Your only option is to help Kim, which is rewarded when she invites you to the event. As you progress through the game, charm becomes a form of currency. You cannot connect with new people outside your current celebrity rank unless you use your hard-to-come-by K Stars to charm them. Whenever you choose “charm” as an action, your relationship grows stronger, which increases your celebrity.

Charming people to like you underscores another Kim K. skill: perceived relationships are paramount in achieving fame. Charm gets you into Kim’s event, but it’s your association with Kim that makes the paparazzi care. As a result, Kim sets you up with a manager and a publicist to help you work towards A-List stardom. Your relationships with these intermediaries are static, but they give you opportunities to improve your public personae. Other in-game relationships, however, are necessary to level up. Bars and clubs are populated with people of varying celebrity rank who can increase your celebrity. Whether you choose to network with or date new contacts, relationships are only cultivated in professional capacities.

Kim K. - Dating Level Up

Your network can join you at personal appearances, and dates happen in public to be seen and subsequently tweeted about. The game allows players to integrate their real-life networks, as you can interact with your friends’ avatars.  Even negative relationships gain fame. When a celebutant expresses jealousy over your relationship with Kim, she sparks a feud that establishes your Twitter following.

In addition to social currencies, the way to celebrity is through accumulating stuff. Kardashian herself comes from wealth, and the association between money and fame is integral to game play. Though the game itself is free to download and play, it becomes quickly apparent that advancing is easier by investing real money. Various reviews have reported how easy it is to spend real money on the game. The types of currency are in-game dollars, energy points, and K Stars. You earn money from constant modeling gigs and paid appearances. Energy is needed to do anything, and is easily expended causing you to wait until it’s replenished or trade precious K Stars for more. K Stars only come from leveling up or from in-app purchases.

Kim K - K Star Store

The dollars one earns are inadequate to keep up with Kim. Players increase their celebrity status with new outfits, homes, cars, and buying gifts to improve relationships, but most lifestyle enhancers can only be purchased with K Stars.

Kim K - Kim K. Clothes Store

Although many items have high price tags, acquiring them creates momentary relief before anxiety sets in again about what else you need to augment your celebrity lifestyle. And, as mentioned, K Stars also act as social currency.

The most ubiquitous Kim K. skill throughout the game is the power of personal branding. Kardashian’s brand is everywhere: the revamped Hollywood sign; each Kardash boutique interior mimics its DASH counterpart; the K Stars.


Kim herself is the most important brand and celebrity signifier. She is your entry point into the celebrity game/game-play and her approval makes you worthy of attention. The game reinforces the celebrity system and Kim’s position in it, both of which depend on hierarchies to establish their value. Likewise, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood addresses the specific dichotomy informing reality TV celebrity personae: that stars need to be approachable and authentic to attract viewers, but ultimately need to remain separate to be special. Celebrity reinforces capitalism because celebrities constantly remind regular people of what they don’t have and should want. In the game, you need virtual and real money for the Tribeca loft and new Louboutins to project a celebrity lifestyle despite whether or not you can afford it.

Even when you get to the A-list, you still need to accumulate fans to increase your ranking. Curiously enough, Kim Kardashian is not a rankable celebrity. Players don’t compete with her, as she is above the celebrity system because her celebrity is established. Kardashian is the definitive arbiter of Kim K. skills, and ultimately unreachable in her version of celebrity.


http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/07/25/kollecting-kim-k-skills-kardashianized-celebrity-in-kim-kardashian-hollywood/feed/ 1
Casey Kasem Signs Off (1932-2014) http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/06/17/casey-kasem-signs-off-1932-2014/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/06/17/casey-kasem-signs-off-1932-2014/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=24167 Casey KasemIt is easy to get swept up in the lurid details of Casey Kasem’s contentious final months. News items circulated last fall and into the following spring about the ongoing feud between his children and wife, Jean, about visitation rights and conservatorship following his diagnosis with Lewy body dementia. Speculation accelerated a month ago when daughter Kerri Kasem filed a missing persons report for him before it was revealed that his wife checked him into a Washington state hospital. Following these developments, Kerri received the right to visit her father, intervene in medical decisions for him, and ultimately confirmed his passing in a Facebook post on Father’s Day.

It is also easy to read tragic irony into Kasem’s diagnosis, which took away his capacity to speak. Kasem’s smooth, imitable tenor brought him fame in 1970, when he began hosting the syndicated radio program, “American Top 40.” It ran until 1988 and tracked the shifting chart rankings of the upper echelon of Billboard‘s Hot 100 each week. As New York Times music critic Jon Pareles summarized in his obituary, the disc jockey:

didn’t invent Top 40 radio, the countdown show, the on-air dedication or the brief performer bio. But the weekly show he introduced on July 4, 1970—when the No. 1 song was ‘Mama Told Me (Not to Come),’ the Three Dog Night hit written by Randy Newman—brought those elements together in a design that was as much psychological as musical. Echoing the broad mass appeal of Top 40 hits, the show took pains to exclude no one.

Kasem’s program did not address the politics undergirding trade publications like Billboard and their influence to determine, codify, and redefine commercial musical genres. One might argue that Kasem’s show didn’t address anything; it simply plotted the American recording industry’s market fluctuations. His on-air persona eschewed controversy altogether. This gave electricity to recorded outtakes of the host contradicting his image with tirades against the show’s production process or specific recording artists. Sound collage outfit Negativland immortalized one such rant in their 1991 U2 EP, which poked fun at the Irish quartet’s earnest commercialism. They used a sample of Kasem saying “these guys are from England and who gives a shit?” This prompted litigation from U2’s label, Island Records.

As an indoor kid who came of age during the mid- to late 1990s in a rural suburb outside of Houston, I began taping Top 40 and Modern Rock radio programs, setting aside allowance money for my Rolling Stone subscription, and visiting the town and high school libraries to pore over back issues of RS, Spin, and Billboard. I also tuned in to 104.1 KRBE on Sundays to listen to Casey’s Top 40, a syndicated program that ran from 1989 to 1998 and relied upon charts from Radio & Records for its playlists. It was an important time for hip-hop—a genre that SoundScan and younger generations of musicians and producers helped make legible to the recording industry after years of omission, hesitation, and animosity.


On the air, Kasem treated the gradual inclusion of hip-hop artists on CT40 as a non-issue. Even though these songs were frequently edited for their lyrical content (though not targeted in isolation), they were never banned from the countdown. In addition, Kasem offered no justification for Warren G, Snoop Dogg, and Salt-N-Pepa, as well as hip-hop generation R&B acts like Tevin Campbell, Toni Braxton, and Zhané sharing a playlist with Madonna, the Gin Blossoms, and Richard Marx. Perhaps he was reporting the market back to itself. Perhaps as a first-generation American son of Lebanese and Druze immigrants who assimilated into radio with a stage name and non-regional dialect, he understood what it meant for the recording industry to include minority forms of cultural production. Either way, I wouldn’t realize the impact until much later.

Applying Jennifer Smith Maguire and Julian Matthews’ definition of cultural intermediaries, Kasem constructed value for media production and consumption by framing goods in particular contexts, demonstrating expertise of the recording industry and its output, and influencing music’s impact on consumers (2012). Before blogs, search engines, and social media, I needed resources to collect recording artists’ biographical anecdotes, understand the industry’s methods of quantitative analysis for itself, and situate my fan practices alongside the listeners whose dedications and letters Kasem read on the air. As a college radio deejay, I would renounce Kasem and his ilk, only to realize that he was part of why I made lists.

Pareles concludes his tribute by noting that the populist, omnivorous impulses of Kasem’s original program eventually gave way to niche marketing, narrowing demographics, and musical uniformity, claiming that it “started with a strong sense of ‘E pluribus unum.’ Since then, that messy, capricious but still culturally essential pluribus is what radio has been trying to tame.” Kasem’s career witnessed and was often complicit in this homogenization. Syndication was responsible for Kasem’s ascendance. It was a tool for regulation and deregulation. It also facilitates his reanimation.

Occasionally, I tune in to reruns of Top 40 on Magic 98 WMGN when I’m tending to weekend errands. I’m especially taken by those moments when Kasem frames selections from artists who charted on some random week in 1977 or 1982 or 1988 but eventually moved to the margins, footnotes, and clearance bins of pop music history. Kasem’s voice breaks introduce me to songs like Stephanie Mills’ 1979 post-disco hit “What Cha’ Gonna Do With My Lovin,'” which peaked at 22. They remind me of tracks that shade memory’s corners, like Swing Out Sister’s 1987 single, “Breakout.” They allow me to recognize the conversation (or competition) Tavares had with Hall & Oates in 1975, when “It Only Takes a Minute” cracked the top ten. Kasem helped put such commercial offerings in a context. In so doing, he provided a resource for listeners to recontextualize that music for themselves.


http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/06/17/casey-kasem-signs-off-1932-2014/feed/ 1
On Kale, Transmedia, and Winning GISHWHES http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/05/23/on-kale-transmedia-and-winning-gishwhes/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/05/23/on-kale-transmedia-and-winning-gishwhes/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 13:00:01 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=24080 Saturday_Viking_boat_25_smallerHave you ever had a life experience you never expected? One that makes you step back and ask: how did I get here? That was me, for basically the whole weekend of the winning team’s reward trip for GISHWHES: the Greatest Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. A few choice moments: rising up into the air in a sea plane with half of my teammates, or sitting around a waterside bonfire with our team plus Misha Collins and the other organizers of GISHWHES — these are now cherished memories that in part I can’t quite believe happened, and yet that I’m having a tough time coming back down from. It was made even better that I was there with a strange mix: my five month old son, my BFF, and a group of teammates who had never before met in person but who together had created innumerable strange things (like team uniforms made from kale) in the name of the scavenger hunt that brought us together.GISHWHES Item 137

GISHWHES is a dada-istic experience of creative mayhem coordinated by actor/genius Misha Collins and his very talented/visionary collaborators, including the mysterious Miss Jean Louis Alexander, who communicates to gishwhesian participants primarily in poetic email missives. You may know Collins as the actor who plays the angel Castiel in the CW series, Supernatural, or you may know him as his satiric Twitter persona, @mishacollins. I discovered Collins through Supernatural, and have followed his various online projects avidly (his twitter, the charity Random Acts, the web series Divine and Cooking Fast and Fresh With West, even Stonehenge Apocalypse), but it was with GISHWHES that I felt most clearly the invitation to participate and create.

I’ve participated in GISHWHES for all three years, for the last two with my now-winning team, Vatican Cameos. The team that wins GISHWHES each year is rewarded with a weekend trip and visit with Misha Collins. For the first year (in 2011), this meant eating pasta with Misha in Rome; the second winning team (2012) spent the night with Misha in a haunted castle; for our year/team (2013), we went to Vancouver, rode on a Viking boat, and flew on a sea plane to an island retreat where we held a séance/bonfire and conjured up some local car salesmen.

Long before I could have fathomed I might be on a GISHWHES winning team, I wrote that GISHWHES models the potential for “transmedia creative authorship” that “finds its engine in the collective coordination and agency of all involved.” I’ve also written about the sense of the intimate collective created by thoughtfully designed transmedia projects — a sense of community facilitated by interaction across coordinated yet open-ended digital fronts. GISHWHES sees the intimate collective and raises it an inappropriate public, in which individuals, families, and team members shed all sense of shame and go out and create silly, provocative, and/or insane public art, later to be shared across online networks. GISHWHES takes the fannish/digital ethos of playful creativity and experimentation and, importantly, awareness of community and our place in it and responsibility to it and enacts it in the world, resulting in images like the ones that pepper this post.

GISHWES Item 20 Although GISHWHES is rooted in embodied as well as digital engagement, I wasn’t prepared for what it felt like to be united with my team and with the GISHWHES creators in person as we were taken on an extravagant and crazy journey through Vancouver. My past work has almost always at least indirectly argued that the relationships we build online can be substantive and nuanced, and every bit as “real” as in person relationships. I almost felt this belief challenged by the experience of meeting my full team and the GISHWHES crew in person. But if we were just a bunch of strangers who hadn’t had this past digital history, meeting together wouldn’t have had the power it did.GISHWHES Item 23

I’ve also always held that as scholars and fans, we congregate around the star “text” rather than the person, and I’ve stayed away from interviewing the figures I study. I’ve written an entire essay on Misha Collins, and at the time it would have felt anathema to me to consider interviewing him; that would have been for a different methodology, a different project. (Since then, I’d already begun to chip away at this assertion in my experience with a press pass at LeakyCon and the access that it gave to producers and actors of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.) I found this assumption of mine, too, challenged fundamentally by my experience in Vancouver. Misha seemed excited to talk to me about the thought processes behind his Twitter persona and his various transmedia endeavors, and I found myself very much wanting to have that conversation, to integrate his perspective on star texts and branding and the power of limits in digital creativity, to see how what he had to say, or better yet, our dialogue, would change the picture I had created.

Our experience of winning GISHWHES was a rare one and one that very few will be lucky enough to have. But it drove home to me something that I think is at the heart of GISHWHES as a whole and a reason for its growing success: GISHWHES unites our virtual and real worlds, our online and in person social networks, and overturns our assumptions about both. Now I feel the loss of seeing my team in person but look forward to the digital and embodied mayhem we will create this August, when we gish again.


http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/05/23/on-kale-transmedia-and-winning-gishwhes/feed/ 7
Colbert’s Move to the Late Show http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/04/11/colberts-move-to-the-late-show/ http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/04/11/colberts-move-to-the-late-show/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:23:12 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=23942 David Letterman, Stephen Colbert

For Colbert, the move to the Late Show on CBS is an obvious good one.  As Louis C.K. reminded us in a compelling three-episode story arc during season 3 of Louie, the seat currently occupied by Letterman is the apex (however daunting) of a particular career trajectory.  And of course, Colbert has long tried to keep pace with his best frenemy, Jimmy Fallon. They’ve fought over Emmy awards and ice cream flavors, so it only makes sense now that Fallon has moved to the Tonight Show, that Colbert really couldn’t stay on basic cable much longer.

For CBS, the strategy here is equally clear. Fallon is trying to reinvent the form of late-night chat for a 21st century audience, and Colbert certainly is a strong choice to lead a similar effort at CBS.  Les Moonves and crew are hoping Colbert will bring to the Late Show the same youthful audience he has on Comedy Central.  Research from the Pew Center identifies The Colbert Report audience the youngest among all news and public information programs, with 43% of the audience between the ages of 18-29, and fully 80% 49 or younger.  By contrast the late-night audience has, in general, gotten older each year, with the average age for Letterman’s Late Show climbing north of 58-years-old in 2013.  Colbert has also cultivated a highly committed fan base.  On the first episode of The Report, he proclaimed his audience to be the “Colbert Nation,” inviting his viewers to identify with him and, more importantly, one another.  Now CBS is hoping that the citizens of the Colbert Nation will immigrate to the vaster, but rapidly depopulating continent of network TV.

A key to that will be the extent to which Colbert’s Late Show will be able to exploit its host’s internet savvy.  Colbert has, over the years, offered numerous provocative performances, both on and beyond TV, that were designed, as Henry Jenkins and colleagues would put it, to be spreadable among horizontal, digital pathways of content exchange.  He also has routinely provided his audience opportunities to participate in the construction and circulation of satirical and parodic content.  If the network late-night chat show is to remain a relevant textual form, it will need to move in similar directions.  That will be one of Colbert’s challenges.

But the move is not without risk, either. Much of Colbert’s appeal has been his daring, from his subversion of the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2006 to the recent, and less-well received, resuscitation of his controversial character “Ching Chong Ding Dong” as a means of critiquing ethnic stereotypes. This experimental risk-taking has been enabled both by the looser institutional environment of cable TV, and by his enigmatic character. After all, because the Colbert who hosts The Report is a mask – a cartoon character of sorts – he is free to say and do things that could be quite dangerous for a real person.  Not even Jon Stewart enjoys the kind of discursive freedom Colbert does.  He’ll be far more exposed, though, when he transitions to network TV, leaving behind both the character and the snug confines of Comedy Central.

Undoubtedly, Colbert will be as sharp and witty on the Late Show as he is on The Report, and the form is flexible enough that he will have room in which to work.  One major question, though, is how much of his political edge he can retain.  Network TV has never been a place for edgy political commentary, let alone the kind of media criticism that The Colbert Report so often offers (and for which some of us loyal viewers tune in).  It’s never been much of a place either for exploration of the avant-garde.  But those forays into the unfamiliar have been what has made Colbert so thrilling to watch over the past eight-and-a-half years.  For this to work, he (and CBS) will need to strike a careful balance between the boundary-probing experimental work that defines The Report, and the mass market, consumer-friendly appeal that has long been the network late-night stock-and-trade.

The other major question this move leaves us with is who will fill Colbert’s shoes?  Comedy Central has plenty of talent to shift into the 11:30 time slot, but the wider landscape of American political media will be losing one of its most important voices.  For several years, Colbert has been doing what I’ve referred to as the “heavy lifting of the Fourth Estate.”  At this point, it is far from clear who will take on that role next.


http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/04/11/colberts-move-to-the-late-show/feed/ 3
Johnny Weir’s Divorce and the Burden of Representation http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2014/04/07/johnny-weirs-divorce-and-the-burden-of-representation/ Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=23930
Figure skater Johnny Weir and his husband Victor Voronov.

Figure skater Johnny Weir and his soon-to-be-ex-husband Victor Voronov.

Johnny Weir, the former Olympic figure skater and current NBC commentator, is going through a messy divorce. He and his husband of two years, Victor Voronov, have called it quits, and blame – including accusations of domestic violence – has been tossed back and forth, much to the despair of Weir fans and the delight of tabloid journalists.

More interesting than the current wave of TMZ coverage and tell-all Access Hollywood interviews, though, was the absence thereof before the official divorce announcement on March 19th. On February 11th, Voronov tweeted a photograph of the temporary restraining order he had filed against his husband, which detailed the night Weir allegedly assaulted Voronov and was subsequently arrested. Though the tweet was later deleted, it remained uploaded long enough for fans to save and repost it on various forums. And yet, the celebrity media, usually eager to sniff out scandal (especially scandal backed up by legal documents) remained silent.

On the surface, this may be unsurprising. The mainstream media has a long history of turning a blind eye to accusations of domestic violence leveled at male athletes; this may, actually, be the most masculine-coded role Weir has ever played in a media narrative. But the all-pervasiveness of the media silence is notable, and more likely stems from the fact that, at the time of the aforementioned tweet, Weir was in Sochi, Russia, covering the Olympic figure skating events for NBC alongside fellow former Olympian Tara Lipinski. Weir and Lipinski were the media darlings of the Sochi Olympics, lauded for their flamboyant outfits and keen commentary alike; in the aftermath of the Games, NBC even gave them a spot covering fashion at the Academy Awards. NBC had an obvious financial stake in not letting its star commentator fall from grace in the middle of its Olympics coverage.

Weir with Tara Lipinski in Sochi.

Johnny Weir with Tara Lipinski in Sochi.

But the American media also had a political stake in not letting Weir, an openly gay former U.S. Olympian, become the face of same-sex domestic violence. Russia’s recent anti-gay legislation had become one of the biggest media talking points of the Sochi Games, and much of the moral high ground the U.S. held came from the recent Supreme Court dismantling of the Defense of Marriage Act and the country’s overall better track record on LGBT issues. The last thing anyone wanted to give Russia was evidence that the most visible gay man at the Games was in a same-sex marriage that wasn’t working.

Ironically, Weir himself, a known Russophile, had already found himself embroiled in controversy when he expressed his support for the U.S. presence at the Sochi Games and decried the anti-Russia protests organized by various LGBT organizations. In an article for the Falls Church News-Press, Weir wrote, “Many activists also believe that change starts with a revolution, a term that terrifies me. I am not against activism in any way, but I don’t have the strength of character to not only revolutionize my life on a daily basis but also the lives of others.” This desire to distance himself from LGBT activism is consistent with past statements Weir has made – he has no interest in being a role model, and has always seemed much more comfortable with his media image as skating’s “wild child.”

Yet the burden of representation remains. Weir and Voronov’s marriage had already been framed as a success story on the road to full LGBT equality. Now that the divorce announcement is official and the Olympics are over, the media has seized on the story as Weir and Voronov engage in one of the most high-profile same-sex divorces in American legal history. Voronov’s crisis manager, Wendy Feldman, has made this unprecedented quality explicit: “This case is really a true test of equal rights — in marriage and now divorce,” she said, in a statement released soon after the divorce announcement. And Voronov, Weir, and the media alike aren’t keen to let anyone forget that this is a gay divorce. From Voronov’s claims that Weir “forced him out of the closet” and only married him because a “Georgetown-educated lawyer” would make for a useful character on his (now-defunct) reality show, to the debate about whether or not Voronov should have worked during their marriage (rather than letting Weir alone bring home the bacon), discursive constructions of heterosexual and homosexual gender roles have become integral to the media narrative surrounding the divorce.

The domestic violence accusations bring in another level of ugliness, especially after Weir’s no-holds-barred account of what “really” happened the night he was arrested, which includes implications of attempted rape on Voronov’s part. The divorce raises questions about the power dynamics of money, fame, perceived femininity, and domestic abuse, even as the more shallow media coverage focuses on Weir’s collections of furs and Birkin bags and Voronov’s demand that Weir return the family dog.

How Weir and the media handle the rest of the divorce proceedings will be telling. Weir’s star text, as a media personality and as one of a small number of openly gay American athletes, is at stake, but so is, despite Weir’s protestations, the popular image of gay marriage and divorce in America. Weir may not want to be anyone’s hero, but he likely doesn’t want to be anyone’s villain, either – and in the black-and-white world of media narrative, he may not get to choose.


Inspiring Fans at LeakyCon Portland http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/08/07/inspiring-fans-at-leakycon-portland/ Wed, 07 Aug 2013 11:00:39 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=21079 LeakyConPortland Multipost TagThis is the fifth of a seven-part series about the 4th LeakyCon convention held in Portland Oregon June 27-30, 2013.

LBD Cast and Plushies

Much of our writing about our LeakyCon experience so far has explored a perceived blurring of previously assumed cultural categories at play in LeakyCon, including a destabilization of identity categories, a merging of fan, geek, and nerd in a general celebration of “awesomeness,” and a conflation of niche and mainstream, subcultural, and pop cultural. In my previous post, I spoke specifically about a blurring between celebrity and fan that permeated many of my LeakyCon experiences. I focused primarily on the ways in which stars positioned themselves as fans by demonstrating their fannish cred.

But performing fannishness was not the only ways stars blurred the line between fan and celebrity and destabilized the fan/celebrity relationship. They also frequently expressed their love for and awe of fan creativity and fan investment. They described fan creativity as similar to their own experience as budding artists, and talked about the way in which fan work has inspired and influenced their current creative endeavors. At a panel for press questions, I was able to ask the cast of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries about their responses to the fan creativity elicted by the web series. The cast’s replies emphasized the way in which the creative work of fan production felt humbling and awe-inspiring to the actors, and also reflected their own experiences as aspiring cultural participants and artists. Ashley Clements, who plays the series’ title character, talked about how she was herself inspired by the creative inspiration fans drew from the web series: “I mean it was always incredible when our show inspired people to make anything, from fan art to fan fiction to videos and to all the dolls and anything. It was just inspiring that we inspired them to make something.”

In a similar vein, Daniel Vincent Gordh (William Darcy in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) talked about the impetus behind fan work as akin in spirit to the type of creative calling that inspired the cast members to be artists.

We all have things like that, art (that)… inspired us at some point during our development… in such an impactful, deep way… that it inspired our creativity, and I think is the reason that we’re doing this… I think that this is part of the general nature of art and how it operates in our society. But there was the part of awe that *we* were the ones doing this, it’s … a kind of a coming of age, almost, for me as an artist at least to be like “oh, and now I’ve gotten to a place where we’re able to release this and it’s continuing the cycle.”

Gordh’s words cast fans and actors as similarly artistic and creative minded but perhaps at different stages in their realization of (or professionalization of) this creativity. While this might suggest an erasure of the differences between professionalized creative labor and fandom’s logics of the gift economy, wherein fan artists don’t necessarily strive to become professional artists, I did not sense an overriding assumption that all fans want to be professional artists or are only at the beginning of their path to do so. Rather, fan creativity and professional creativity seemed to be recognized as concurrent and complementary modes of cultural expression in contemporary popular culture.

The most memorable story I heard over the whole Con was in Mary Kate Wiles’ response to my question about fan work. (Wiles played Lydia in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; I’ve written about Wiles’ web series work and relationship with fans here.) She described an instance in which a particular work of fan creativity directly influenced her own performance choices in a key episode in LBD:

My favorite experience, along with seeing fans talk to the characters on twitter or whatever, was that on the morning that we were to shoot the episodes when Lydia finds out about the sex tape and is recovering from that, I found a fan fiction that was about Lydia and Wickham’s relationship. And I read it that morning, and it was so much like what I had pictured in my head, and in it Wickham gives her a necklace. And because I had read it that morning and was going to shoot that afternoon, I ended up picking a necklace that was to be from him. And that was such a crazy thing for me to experience, having made work that made someone else make something that then inspired me… how cool is that? That you’re getting to interact with your audience in a way that contributes to your own storytelling. I think it’s just so beautiful, and it’s something that you don’t really get to do, ever. You don’t get to do that on a movie or TV show. It’s wonderful that we’ve gotten to experience that.

I find myself quite compelled by this story, most especially by the notion that a piece of fan fiction could directly influence a small but significant detail in a source text. We all know of stories of fan fiction premises that have surfaced in official productions, both with and without the consent of the fan authors. But this instance, the way it was framed by Wiles, seems much more a personal response to a piece of fan artwork, in turn embedding a personal detail into a larger production in a way that isn’t even necessarily meant to translate to viewers. This anecdote offers a landscape that personalizes fans and actors as creative interpreters working together to weave popular culture, one web series/plot interpretation/wardrobe detail at a time.

For more on LeakyCon 2013, read:

– Part one (“Where the Fangirls Are“)
– Part two (“On Wearing Two Badges“)
– Part three (“Fans and Stars and Starkids“)
– Part four (“From LGBT to GSM: Gender and Sexual Identity among LeakyCon’s Queer Youth“)
– Part six (“Redefining the Performance of Masculinity“)
– Part seven (“Embracing Fan Creativity in Transmedia Storytelling“)


Fans and Stars and Starkids (LeakyCon Portland) http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/08/02/fans-and-stars-and-starkids-leakycon-portland/ Fri, 02 Aug 2013 15:25:22 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=21026 LeakyConPortland Multipost TagThis is the third of a seven-part series about the 4th LeakyCon convention held in Portland Oregon June 27-30, 2013.


What perhaps struck me most about LeakyCon was the fluid approach to celebrity on display throughout. I first noticed celebrity as a theme in an early session on millennials and religion. In this session, led by Reverend Heather Godsey, the mostly millennial-age audience discussed the motivating inspiration they find in the “Starkids” theater troupe, made famous for their musical theater adaptation of Harry Potter into A Very Potter Musical (AVPM). AVPM (and its two sequels, the last of which debuted at LeakyCon, 2012) are lynchpins of the Con, and the large Starkids cast may very well be the con’s most beloved stars. Fans expressed admiration for the Starkids troupe, but not a distanced idolization. Fans conveyed a sense of intimate recognition; they saw the Starkids as modeling an accessible way of being (creative) in contemporary digital culture. In Reverand Godsey’s words:

It’s funny, in corporate fandom, like Doctor Who or Glee, there’s this sense that these are my idols; they’re on a pedestal; they’re up there. There’s a sense that Starkid is not on a pedestal. That the fandom looks at them, and says, “You are me. And I am you.”

The fifty or so young adults gathered in the room were eager to respond to this perspective. One audience member commented on the fan terminology “Starkid” itself, which encompasses both the theater troupe and their fans: “I kind of think that’s the reason why Starkid fandom just calls themselves Starkids.” This comment marks a difference between the Starkids fan self-conception and the majority of fan terminology in which terms for a fandom (Whovian, Gleeks, Sherlockians) do not automatically encompass the producers of the source text. So Starkids (fans and troupe together) have co-created a shared network and, arguably, community.

The conversation among congoers in this session did not uncritically celebrate or accept as “authentic” this sense of likeness between Starkid Troupe members and fans.. While they agreed that they admire the Starkids and take pleasure in being part of the shared category, they emphasized the fact that this seeming accessibility masks more complex differentials. They described how as LeakyCon goers they must navigate a tricky terrain. They must figure out how to express admiration without erasing boundaries in such a seemingly intimate sphere. As another audience member put it:

In a way, that almost makes the fandom harder to navigate, though. Where it’s like: I admire you a lot, and I feel like I know you but I don’t know you, and so it’s like awkward sometimes to try to figure out how that works.

These blurred lines of celebrity/microcelebirty (or perhaps we need a more fluid term to describe visibility in this age of self branding where it seems everyone has the potential of being a star) were on display throughout the Con in a range of different ways. Sure there was some sort of more traditional hierarchy of stardom at play, with categories determined in part by media (Harry Potter film stars, BTVS television stars, Anthony Rapp of Rent fame), reach in millennial culture (Hank Green), and centrality to fannishly popular media texts (the Starkids and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries). But at the same time, there was a palpable sense that the most beloved stars across these categories were those closest in spirit to their fans.

We often heard the question at panels, from fans directed to the actors or producers: “What are you a fan of?” These questions (also somewhat familiar from Comic-Con and the like) always seemed to me purposefully designed to erase the divide between the stage (with the panelists and microphones) and the audiences sitting on folding chairs in front of/below them. Those actors and producers that answered the most easily with robust details were clearly met with audience joy (for example Daniel Vincent Gordh, who plays The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ Darcy, not only said he’d be an academic if he couldn’t be an artist, but also rather adeptly, at least to this non-gamer, showed his cred as a gamer). Some did not even need to assert their identities as fans and geeks; it was simply a known and contributing factor to their celebrity. The Starkids gained their fame through creating what amounts to a work of musical theater Harry Potter fan fiction, and likewise The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is understood by many as a work of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction as much as it is an adaptation.

This positioning of the Con’s stars (or “special guests” as they were officially called) was perhaps most dynamically rendered in the con opening ceremonies number, which we discussed in our opening post.

LBD Opening Ceremonies

This performance merges multiple fandoms and geekdom in a collective celebration of love of popular and audience culture. This number achieves its sense of multifannish queer multiplicity and collectivity through its casting of the con’s stars as different characters/fandoms, and specifically through their knowing performance of fandom (or their performance of knowing fandom). The lyrics transform the many subcultural references framing queer identity in Rent’s “La Vie Boheme” to fannish/geeky references, and ask that the various stars sing quickly in fannish slang, expressing fan emotion. My favorite line (and the line that drew the biggest laugh) offered the inspired rhyme of “cumberbitches catching snitches.”

I find this performance both moving and fascinating in part because the stars position themselves as members of the collective queer community of multifandom, seemingly erasing power differentials and embracing fannish mindsets, including a celebration of fannish creativity in what can be read as a larger cultural and social stance.

In my following posts I’ll talk more about that last point: the significance of the embrace of fannish production and transformation on the part of actors and producers within the context of Leakycon’s collective multifannish ethos.

A Lizzie Bennet Diaries cast video that accentuates these blurred lines between star and fan.

For more on LeakyCon 2013, read:

– Part one (“Where the Fangirls Are“)
– Part two (“On Wearing Two Badges“)
– Part four (“From LGBT to GSM: Gender and Sexual Identity among LeakyCon’s Queer Youth“)
– Part five (“Inspiring Fans at LeakyCon Portland“)
– Part six (“Redefining the Performance of Masculinity“)
– Part seven (“Embracing Fan Creativity in Transmedia Storytelling“)


On Wearing Two Badges: Indifference and Discomfort of a Scholar Fan (LeakyCon Portland) http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/07/31/on-wearing-two-badges-indifference-and-discomfort-of-a-scholar-fan-leakycon-portland/ Wed, 31 Jul 2013 13:00:48 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=21016 LeakyConPortland Multipost Tag

This is the second of a seven-part series about the 4th LeakyCon convention held in Portland Oregon June 27-30, 2013.  Part I and the rest of the series can be found here.


LeakyCon should have been a paradise for me.  As a Ph.D student interested in industry/consumer relationships, the chance to attend a convention unified by Harry Potter(!) that celebrates reading, writing, creation, and general enthusiasm for nerdy girl culture seemed like the perfect place to explore my own fandom and experiment with fan ethnographies.

lindsay_two_badges_leakycon_editedDespite the anticipation leading up to Portland, I found myself, initially, surprisingly indifferent about the experience.  As I attended panels and walked the exhibit room, I felt out of place.  LeakyCon created a world within the Oregon Convention Center that constantly went out of its way to remind me that loving nerdy things was awesome, being nerdy was awesome, I was awesome, everyone around me was awesome, and we would all become lifelong friends for sharing this awesome experience.  So why didn’t I feel awesome?

As part of this project, I acquired a press badge in addition to my attendee one.  In a space marked by collecting ribbons to exhibit one’s fan identities, I was marked as both a fan and an academic. At first, this seemed inconsequential.  Wearing these two badges articulated my identity at LeakyCon as much as wearing Hogwarts robes expressed the identities of con attendees.  Yet, I felt serious reservations about my place at LeakyCon because my academic interest and training made me an interloper and because I wasn’t a big enough fan.  The burdens of both badges made me feel that I wore neither of them well. Through my unease, epistemological questions plagued me: As an academic, can one accurately describe fans, fandoms, and conventions without being a fan?  As a fan, can one keep enough distance to provide an accurate assessment of other fans?  Does that type of academic work constitute an act of fandom or tarnish the worlds that fans create with one another?

The first day of the con, for example, consisted of a series of “meet-ups”.  In planning which of these to attend, I instinctively approached the schedule as a reporter, but methodological and ethical questions soon arose. Should I attend this con as a fan and try to experience it for myself?  Or should I collect information as an ethnographer to understand the world around me?  The easy solution seemed to be both.  However, bridging the gap between academic and fan, participant and observer proved difficult. By not being a true participant, how could I fully understand and communicate the fan experience? Moreover, I felt guilty for intruding on spaces intended for people with genuine commonalities, concerned that I could negatively affect their con experiences.

With these insecurities in mind, I decided to shift gears and try the con as fan.  However, I quickly felt inadequate. Although Harry Potter unifies LeakyCon, Rowling’s world also serves as a common space for creating more specific micro-communities based on other fandoms I did not share, such as Dr. Who, Sherlock, and the Starkids. Although my fannish love of Harry Potter and academic interests brought me to the conference, I was only really excited for the panels about my current obsession – The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD).

Lindsay Picture 1

In addition to not sharing most of these fandoms, I don’t share in many of the fan practices that would bring one to a convention in the first place.  Although I am interested in community as an extension of individual fandom, it’s not something I seek out myself:  I don’t know the acronyms, the references, or how to use Tumblr.  My fan love is largely isolated and off-line.  I don’t want fan-fictions that expand the world or to post gifs representing moments I love most.  The world of the text itself is enough for me.  However, it was not enough at LeakyCon.  My lack of extratextual currency made me feel ambivalent about the experience and I disliked feeling distanced from those around me.

Frustrated with my indifference, I decided to do something I have never cared to do otherwise: I bought an LBD poster and got in the autograph line.  Although this experience did not erase the divide completely removing my academic badge helped me enjoy more of the con as an attendee.  I felt part of the community because I did something fans did and connected with my own fandom and friend community.  However, my best experiences of the con are hard to document in academically worthwhile ways because they are far from academic; reconnecting with my childhood best friend who attended the con, chatting with Mary Kate Wiles (who plays Lyd-dee-ah in LBD), and the impromptu singing of the theme to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air along with half the cast of LBD, two Glee Warblers, and a Starkid on the train to the hotel.

These experiences led me to an epiphany.  One of the most striking aspects of LeakyCon was how, by virtue of their youth, the attendees defined the space as one of identity exploration. I realized that I had that in common with them, because the con represented an important moment in my own becoming, as someone who is currently negotiating my new identity as a scholar-fan.  In fact, struggling to bridge the gaps between the badges is what I have always done in my life. I’m the only academic in a blue-collar family, one of the few television students in my department, and the lone scholar at my industry internship.

Lindsay Picture 3

Upon further reflection, the distance I felt from the conference theme of celebrating one’s “authentic” identity as a result of my position between these two worlds was not, in fact, inauthentic at all.  I think I need to adjust my expectations and recognize that perhaps this discomfort in trying to resolve being a fan and academic doesn’t make me less of either.  I hope that acknowledging this divide for what it is will, instead,  make me a truer, dare I say more authentic researcher and fan, without compromising too much of what makes each of these identities so awesome.

For more on LeakyCon 2013, read:

– Part one (“Where the Fangirls Are“)
– Part three (“Fans and Stars and Starkids“)
– Part four (“From LGBT to GSM: Gender and Sexual Identity among LeakyCon’s Queer Youth“)
– Part five (“Inspiring Fans at LeakyCon Portland“)
– Part six (“Redefining the Performance of Masculinity“)
– Part seven (“Embracing Fan Creativity in Transmedia Storytelling“)


Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vices? http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/2013/06/07/paul-thomas-andersons-inherent-vices/ Fri, 07 Jun 2013 13:00:26 +0000 http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/?p=20109 cn_image.size.paul-thomas-anderson-master

Paul Thomas Anderson (from Vanity Fair)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s forthcoming film, an adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice (2009), is quickly stockpiling quite the all-star cast. Rumors of Sean Penn, who was originally slated for the part of Dean Trumbell (eventually played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) in Punch Drunk Love (2002), add to an already impressive line-up that includes lead Joaquin Phoenix, Benecio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jena Malone, Martin Short, Owen Wilson and Reese Witherspoon (originally attached to The Master [2012]). The anticipation is quickly building, and it seems as though—perhaps even inexplicably—Anderson’s authorship has finally reclaimed a certain industry viability that was lost in the indulgences of the Magnolia era (1999), as well as through the long pre-production histories of both There Will Be Blood (2007) and The Master. It’s an exciting time for fans of the director, but what final product will emerge out of this is still to be determined—especially as we see Anderson to some degree returning to his own inherent vices.

Having begun to develop a reputation as a more deliberate filmmaker (previously making only three films in thirteen years), the quick turnaround from 2012’s The Master is impressive—though unsurprising. Anderson worked on both scripts largely simultaneously. Committed to a somewhat different version of The Master with Jeremy Renner and Witherspoon, Anderson dropped that during rehearsals and went to Inherent Vice—at one time with Robert Downey, Jr., attached. Yet just as it appeared the latter project might gain traction, Anderson went back to The Master, finally completing the film we know today. It is thus understandable that production on Inherent Vice could move quickly—though its more surprising that he found funding so easily, especially with a major studio (Warner Bros.) backing the project.

Although Anderson is a critical darling, his movies have never made money. Boogie Nights (1997) did better on home video than in theatres. Magnolia and There Will Be Blood barely broke even, despite generally strong critical support. Indeed, partly why There Will Be Blood took five years to get made (Daniel Day-Lewis committed years before it went into production) was because the filmmakers couldn’t convince financiers it had any commercial viability—especially for what was, on paper, a pricey historical epic. Anderson only got the film made once his agent, John Lesher, took over as head of Paramount Vantage in 2006. So Warner Bros.’ support of such a commercially-suspect project—an Anderson adaptation of a Pynchon novel—is impressive, especially on the heels of The Master’s poor box office and mixed critical response.

phoenix on inherent vice

Joaquin Phoenix on the set of Inherent Vice

As with casting Magnolia on the heels of Boogie Nights, Anderson is taking advantage of the hype to grab numerous stars. Yet this itself should be a cautionary tale—part of why Magnolia became such a bloated epic (unlike the smaller, more intimate narrative originally envisioned) was because Anderson focused on writing parts for all his friends. Granted, Inherent Vice is a more straightforward genre project on paper, which shouldn’t lend itself to the scattered nature of an aimless epic. Yet, the first cut of Anderson’s debut, Hard Eight (1996)—also essentially a noir film—was a meandering two-and-a-half hour character epic, very different from the taut 90 minute genre exercise audiences know today.

However, the discipline of adaptation may prove to reign in the worst excesses and self-indulgence that marred the earliest parts of Anderson’s career. In the late 1990s, Anderson unsuccessfully attempted to adapt Russell Banks’ Rules of the Bone (1995) for director Jonathan Demme. By his own admission, Anderson struggled to work within the voice of another artist and finally gave up. Meanwhile, the screenwriter had an easier time a decade later working with Upton Sinclair’s Oil (1927) to produce There Will Be Blood. Yet, partly what made that generally loose adaptation remarkable was not only Day-Lewis’s iconic performance, but also Anderson’s recent tendency to strip his stories down to one or two central characters instead of the massive Altmanesque ensembles that structured his two late `90s films with New Line—Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Anderson’s most recent films wisely centered largely on a single (irrationally angry) protagonist—Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) in Punch-Drunk Love, Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, and Freddie Quells (Phoenix) in The Master.

So how will Anderson’s turn back to large ensembles ultimately pan out, especially coupled with his noted loyalty to actor-friends? It’s interesting that Anderson was quick to reunite with Phoenix, given that for a while he challenged himself to work with different actors, after largely reusing a lot of the same names in the 1990s (Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Melora Walters, Hoffman). Inherent Vice’s remarkable casting news could prove to be a double-edged sword. The book itself certainly fits Anderson’s thematic interests—from Magnolia to The Master—his films often deal with existential crises amidst the hollow prosperity of postwar American commodity culture. How it will translate to the screen, though, is anyone’s guess.