In the December 2005 edition of The Journal of American Culture, Oakland University Department of Communications' Valerie Palmer-Mehta and Kellie Hay have an intriguing look at the comic book Green Lantern and its handling of a story of a hate crime against a featured gay character from an important perspective--the fans.
The authors contacted DC Comics and received several unpublished fan letters written in about the issues in question, examining how the gender issues were handled and the implications on readers not just from the issues but primarily from the response of the Green Lantern fan community.
The authors found several responses, including praise for bringing current issues into public view, criticism for allowing homosexuality to creep into comic books, and concern about the use of vigilante justice to be used in response to a hate crime. The latter group is especially important, as they expressed concern that the Green Lantern's actions in these issues went against the moral integrity of the character and urged the writers to make changes, encouraging a collaborative model between producers and consumers.
What is refreshing to me, though, is the way that the piece is then turned from more than just a political discussion or a discussion of GLBT issues but becomes a focus on how readers have appropriated this content for their own purposes. The piece is well worth a look for anyone interested in seeing how studying fan cultures through qualitative research can have an impact on understanding an audience and understanding how that audience processes and understands things.
What do you all think?