Report from Console-ing Passions 2010

April 25, 2010
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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!


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4 Responses to “ Report from Console-ing Passions 2010 ”

  1. Lindsay H. Garrison on April 25, 2010 at 5:04 PM

    THanks for this, Melissa! It was a great conference, for sure. Some of the panels I really enjoyed were Thursday’s on “Form, Genre, and Gender” (Erin Lee Mock, David Gurney, and Derek Johnson), talking about the varied viewers of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, how the online music video clip is expanding the musical genre, and how gendered discourses of franchises work to (de)legitimate Gossip Girl and LOST (respectively).

    I also really enjoyed Darcey West’s paper on intergenerational negotiations of motherhood and “feminine fulfillment” in Brothers & Sisters, as well as Amber Watts’ work on casual video gaming and domestic labor. (Nanny Mania looked cool, but totally wore me out after only one level!)

    The “Market in Girls” panel made for a great ending to the conference, with three great presentations from Lindsay Giggey (on Connie Stevens and cross-promotions for Warner Bros’ “Hawaiian Eye” as early teen girl market appeal), Morgan Blue (on Hannah Montana as post-feminist masquerade), and Tiina Vares (presenting some incredible audience work with 71 tween girls in New Zealand on their use of popular culture to negotiate the good/bad girl binary).

    There were so many great panels that I didn’t have a chance to attend. One thing, though, that I really loved about Console-ing Passions was the number of grad students presenting alongside faculty. It presents such a collaborative feel and welcome environment for aspiring scholars (like me). In addition, the “tweet up” on Friday night was really fun – I loved meeting so many new people, including those whom I recognized from their tiny avatars. Thanks, everyone, for such a great experience.

  2. […] Click authored a great wrap-up of the conference over at Antenna, and Amanda Ann Klein has a great piece on the uses and mis-uses (including several […]

  3. Darcey West on April 26, 2010 at 2:47 AM

    Good summation, Melissa! And while none of us will be able to stop talking about the role of Twitter at this (and future) conferences, I’m happy to read about some of the impressive scholarship presented. Especially of those panels I was unable to attend.

    It was my first Console-ing Passions, and I was happy to see such strong representations from those with media studies backgrounds and our feminist academic friends. As a media scholar, I felt inspired to take a closer look at the political implications of my own work and enjoyed hearing new takes on familiar subjects.

    There were many panels on the media industries, which I appreciated and was pleasantly surprised to see. Great branding panel with Erin Copple Smith & Courtney Brannon Donoghue on Friday. As well as the aforementioned Star Studies panel from Wednesday. Important scholarship and interesting to see it done from a feminist perspective as that is still so rare.

  4. Mary Beltrán on April 26, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Thanks for this summary and for sharing your impressions of the conference, Melissa. I also found it a really stimulating experience with respect to the excellent presentations, and inspiring by offering an opportunity to reflect on the place of feminism in media studies and in my own research and life. With respect to my life here at UW-Madison, it was particularly gratifying to see the influence of the long-term emphasis on feminist media studies here in the many presentations by alumni, now leaders in the field as faculty throughout the country, and by current graduate students (I’m really proud of you guys!). I would have liked to have seen a forum for discussing our reactions to the plenary presentations, as the place of feminism in media studies and publishing – the topic of the plenary – is an important topic and much was left undiscussed (the reason why the twitter backchannel became so busy, I would guess). But hey, that’s what’s the next conference is for…