December 15, 2005
Green Lantern reader reception and hate crimes

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The authors contacted DC Comics and received several unpublished fan letters written in about the issues in question, examining how the gender issues were handled and the implications on readers not just from the issues but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?


On December 15, 2005 at 3:48 PM, Parmesh Shahani said:

How the audience processes and understands things... how I'd love to figure that one out. :-) Some insights in the context of another gay story out this week, Brokeback Mountain. This Slate article, called High School Homos makes another valid point.

Anyone who has heard a gang of teenagers erupt in a chorus of "EEEEEEWs" at the trailer for Brokeback Mountain will be surprised that gay characters are such an accepted mainstay of teen TV. But adolescents are the ultimate pack animals�proclaiming one set of attitudes when they're in a group and quite another when they're indulging in their favorite solo activity: watching television.

So, to add to Sam's statement, I'd say its not just about how the audience understands and processes things, its also about how they express these things - and public expression may vary wildly from private expression on bulletin boards.