Next month, I'm presenting at a conference at Liverpool Hope University called Theorising the Popular. The line-up has lots of interesting projects from all kinds of different disciplines, including Martin Barker, whose book with Kate Brooks on the Stallone Judge Dredd movie is one of the things that got me excited about research. (He also co-edited the definitive book on the media violence debate and has done a lot of work on censorship.) So, I'm proper excited and having fun dissecting my work to try to fit it into a twenty-minute talk. The talk I'm giving is called 'Serb Your Enthusiasm: Anti-fan Discourses and A Serbian Film'. (I'm very proud of that cringey pun.) In a nutshell, it's about people who hate A Serbian Film and how they talk about both the film and the people who might enjoy it.
There's been a huge push on studies of media fans since the 1990s to try and legitimize fandom in the face of lazy journalism and harsh stereotypes. It's interesting stuff, but the same amount of attention hasn't been paid to people who don't run out and write fan fiction and dress up as their favourite characters. Looking at people who hate things is a decent step in redressing that unbalance and there's been a fair bit of really interesting work on it already by people like Bethan Jones and Jonathan Gray. Twilight has been an absolute godsend for people studying these "anti-fans". I've got a big bunch of data in my back pocket on Michael Bay's Transformers series about this issue which I'd love to work on if I could find the time. That might be a tough read, though, as I'm a huge fan of Mr Bay, which I realise is quite an unpopular opinion.
So, that's what I'm up to, designing a talk on A Serbian Film and trying not to panic over speaking in front of people. I'm giving the same talk at a couple of internal events before then - very different crowds, so an interesting experience! - and I'm hoping I can beat the nervousness out of me. Exposure therapy, I suppose. I've only done maybe a half-dozen presentations in the last year, so I struggle with things like remembering to breathe and taking my hands out my pockets. I'm assured that doesn't really go away for most people, which is something of a comfort. It means I'm not doing it wrong, at least. I looked into joining a public speaking group, but the fees were nowhere near do-able. I could always go and beat-box on the streets of Newcastle like DJ Spider-man.
I'm sure it seems like I'm always doing some audience research or other, between the Serbian Film and Transformers stuff, but this is the big show. This is my PhD project over at Northumbria University. The Exorcist is my all-time favourite horror movie and my supervisors are Dr Sarah Ralph, who worked on a fantastic book about Alien, and Professor Peter Hutchings, who is widely recognised as the authority on the horror genre. So, basically, we're in dream job territory here.
The project is half audience study, half history project. If you're interested in taking part, have a look at my swanky website (which is absolutely not just a Tumblr in disguise): theexorcistproject.com. I'm also doing updates on the project and blog posts on the film itself there and on Twitter: @exorcistproject.
Hailing from deepest, darkest Wales, I'm a PhD researcher at Northumbria University, Newcastle. I also self-publish comic books, write fiction and love dinosaurs.