I kind of wonder if anyone notices when I don’t update my blog. Most of my readers see it through the Facebook feed version, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t even had a chance to go see a movie to review in the last couple weeks. If you follow me on twitter (@chrismaverick) or see the Facebook syncs from there, you likely know why. For some reason I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to do three academic conferences in a row. Like literally three weekends in a row. I’m glad I did it. I had a good time doing all three of them. But this was not a good idea… so very very not… I’m getting too old for this shit!!! But I wanted to have a recap of it on my blog as well, maybe for other people, but also just so I have a record for myself (if only to remind myself never to do it again!) So I figured I’d write this up really quickly now that I’m done.
From the top…
The first conference was the Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association(PCA/ACA) national conference, where I presented in the Comics and Comic Studies area. I go to this one pretty much every year, because it is more or less everything that is perfect about academia for me… an opportunity to apply complex literary theory to funny books. This one was in Indianapolis, so I drove there. My talk this year was titled “In Defense of a Thundering Dumbass: Marvel’s Self-Conscious Critique of White Masculinity in Iron Fist and The Defenders” and was about what you can probably guess it was about. Basically, I looked at the the Netflix version of Iron Fist, in comparison to the 1970s original comic version and used Edward Said’s Orientalism theories in conjunction with some Judith Butler gender performativity concepts to argue that the character of Iron Fist can only exist, in any medium — film or comics — as an exploration of the place of whiteness and masculinity in an transforming multicultural landscape and a response to white male anxieties of the specific era the story is taking place in. See… I told you… complex literary theory applied to funny books. Anyway, the short of it was that the TV show Iron Fist may not be the greatest thing ever, but it doesn’t really “suck” so much as it is an exploration of whiteness and masculinity in the “woke” era… and that’s sort of important but not for everyone. Along the way, I also made jokes about Tarzan, Manimal, and Kung-Fu Panda… I swear it all made sense at the time.
At the same conference… in fact, just a couple hours after I gave the Iron Fist talk, I was delighted to win the “Lent Award for Excellence in Graduate Comics Studies” for my paper that I did at the same conference last year, “Oracle of the Invisible: Sexual Assault and Rape in The Killing Joke” which was a super depressing deconstruction of how rape and sexual violence work in that book to build both Joker and Batman’s relationship in a hypermasculine economy based on violence and sex where Barbara (and Jim Gordon) effectively serve as necessary, but passive currency. That one was super technical and… well, obviously dark. So dark that I kind of didn’t think anyone actually liked it, so I was really surprised to win the award for it. But happy… for a brief shining moment it was almost like this whole pop culture academic criticism thing isn’t a complete and utter waste of time. ? And hey, I apparently get a trophy or plaque or something mailed to me, which is awesome. Because, after all, with my win of the Lent, I am now one step closer to completing my run at the fabled LEGOT, a feat that I don’t think anyone else has ever accomplished and yet, I’m on my way. I just need a Tony, Oscar, Grammy and Emmy and I’m done. Yeah, yeah, yeah… Fuck you! I’m closer than Philip Michael Thomas!
The next weekend I flew out to the Southern Sociological Society(SSS)‘s annual conference. This was a first for me. The conference was held in New Orleans this year, with a sub-theme of “Racial Theory, Analysis, and Politics in Trump America.” The same weekend, New Orleans also happened to be hosting Wrestlemania. So it seemed obvious to a few of us in the Professional Wrestling Studies Association (yes, that’s actually a thing, dammit!) that there should be a panel or two devoted to an analysis of Trump’s connection to the wrestling world and how it relates to the current sociopolitical landscape. Because, of course we did. I ended up giving a paper I called “Heel to the Chief: Donald Trump and the New World Order of Politics” which was a look at the rhetoric and semiotics of Trump speeches in comparison to professional wrestling promos and an analysis of how and why this was able to use hypermasculine performance to appeal to the working class American voter… by comparing him to other great wrestling promo givers: Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, The Undertaker, The Ultimate Warrior and Abraham Lincoln (yes, he was a wrestler… LOOK IT UP!). This seemed to go over pretty well, and after it was over I got interviewed by a New Orleans paper about my talk, research and my past as a professional wrestler. This does not get me any closer to my LEGOT. But I’m still closer than Philip Michael Thomas… and I’m pretty sure I’ve now been interviewed more recently.
Finally, this last weekend, I went the Northeast Modern Language Association(NeMLA… and yes I know how unfortunate an acronym that is)’s annual conference, which at the very least was here in Pittsburgh, so I didn’t have to travel. There I presented a paper that I called “Captain Falcon vs. Captain Hydra: Marvel’s Struggles to Address Multiculturalism and Identity Politics in Trump’s America.” This was about what I call “identity commodification” or the packaging of cultural identity, be it race, gender, sexuality, religion, politics or other aspects into a product that can be marketed in a world that privileges identity over character or narrative. That is, in the current identity politic driven, SJW wokeness vs alt-right conservatism, acronymerific (LGBTQIA+POCMRAKKK — and I swear to HOVA there’s got to be at least one person in this world who that accurately describes), Trumpian world, identity has become paramount over anything else, even in our funny books. This is maybe unsurprising; superheroes are sort of emblematic of ideology. That’s sort of the point. And since corporations are profit driven, even if the identity focused audience is ideology focused, capitalism essentially demands that there be a way to commodify that in order to monetize a product. So yay! We’re all part of the machine. Sadly, I did not win an award or get interviewed or anything after NeMLA… probably for the best… it’ll keep me from getting a big(ger) head. And Philip Michael Thomas didn’t even get to present, so I’m still WAY ahead there.
Running around the country doing these things totally fucked up my sleep schedule and I’ve literally been exhausted to the point that I sometimes forget where I am for the last week or so. And all during this, I also started and recorded the first three episodes of my new podcast, the first two of which are now up and available for listening. It’s called VoxPopcast and basically, it’s a combination of all of these academic thingamajigs I do PLUS the kinds of stuff I do on my blogs and the kinds of conversations one might have in a comic book store or bar. Pop culture academia and bullshitting all mixed together, with a floating roundtable of participants in the discussion from all walks of life (academic and non). So please, if you like the kind of stuff I do, follow the blog (http://voxpopcast.com), subscribe to the twitter (@voxpopcast) or the Facebook group, subscribe to it on on iTunes or Sticher or whatever it is you use, and leave us comments, suggest topics, volunteer to be a guest and write us podcast reviews and whatever it is that 1) gives us something to talk about 2) makes me famous so that I can earn a living and somehow get considered for the other four awards that will complete my LEGOT before that bitch Philip Michael Thomas passes me.