Thursday, April 21, 2011

PCA/ACA National Conference, Day 1

Day one of the PCA/ACA national conference dawned groggily, or maybe that was just me. I tend to forget how travel, nowadays stripped completely of any remaining glamour it once had, can just wear you out. Fortunately, the conference didn’t get rolling until 11:30, and I didn’t get rolling until 3:00 well after a big-ass omelet smothered in salsa and a nap.

The first panel for me was Critical Approaches to Mystery Science Theater 3000 I, a subject both Mockingbird and I are highly interested in, as we own every MST3K box set save three, and most of the stand-alone DVDs. Diving into the deep end, we were treated to examinations of MST3K as metafilm by Nathan Shank, as postmodern meditation on technophobia and technophilia by Kevin Donnelly, and as cinematic palimpsest a la Bakhtin’s theory of heteroglossia by Ben Wetherbee. All three of these scholars are young and if these presentations are any indicator, you can probably expect to hear more from them.

Net up it was homecoming with the Whedonites for Fans, Time, and History in Whedon. Alyson Buckman led off by examining the characters and Serenity herself through the lens of Bakhtin’s chronotope, where time, place, and genre interact to create the narrative flow, and especially the idea that we make our place and out place makes us. (I have a feeling I need to read Bakhtin.) Next up Susan Fanetti gave us a looking inside the Whedon community on the interwebs, via an examination of the community’s reaction’s to bloggers taking on either rewatches or first time viewings of Buffy and/or Angel, and the conversation between fans and the blogger(s). To finish up the panel, K. Dale Koontz went intertextual and showed how The X-Men inspired Whedon and eventually, through Kitty Pryde, helped give birth to Buffy Summers, and how Whedon, in turn paid homage to his past and the work of Chris Claremont in his run later on Astonishing X-Men. The audience, myself included, was completely enthralled (and I’m not just saying that because I’m lucky enough to be married to the woman. She had ‘em all hooked good.)

Finally (and to be honest, my notes for this panel are sketchy because Solomon was beginning to fade by this point), we took in another Whedon panel, this one on Power and Whedon where first, Mae Mendoza asked whether Firefly and Serenity actually portray a society in which the U. S. and China have merged politically and culturally, or is just a mash-up of Asian techno-culture as constructed by the West. Whedon doesn’t come out so good in this one. For all the random Mandarin phrases dropped into conversation, there just aren’t really any Asians in the ‘verse. Next, the incomparable Sherry Ginn took a look at aggression and violence in Firefly. Sherry always seems to be digging into the most interesting psychological spaces and this presentation was no different. Then came a truly exciting look at Whedon’s Dollhouse by Samira Nadkarni, who used the golem myth and its evolutions (think Frankenstein) to interpret Whedon’s “actives” who come to life only after being infused with the personality (spirit) needed for their current job. Wonderful!

After that, my brain being full of new ideas, and my body weary, it was time for a long, conversation and laughter filled dinner with Mock’ and old friends, and then to bed, so we can get back to it today.

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