I love Nicki Minaj. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time; longer than even her jaw-dropping feature in Kanye West’s “Monster”, which was mentioned in the Radiolab episode, “Straight Outta Chevy Chase”, which we listened to for Fandom this week. Consequently, I had the same reaction as her to Rosenberg’s comments that were cited in the podcast– who are you to question whether her tracks are hip hop enough?
It’s a question that pairs nicely with last week’s discussion on Authenticity, and one loaded with implications about class, race and gender as well. Radiolab directed its questions mostly about race, but I felt that gender was insufficiently addressed– Minaj herself questioned that in particular, and Rosenberg’s comments were often gendered unfairly. Pop music is often assumed to be the domain of teenage girls, and in Rosenberg’s complaints about “Starships”, the teenage girl became code for a lack of savviness about hip-hop. His comment, “I know there’s some chicks here waiting to sing ‘Starships’ later, I’m not talking to y’all right now, fuck that bullshit.” is an example of this.
Both Minaj and Rosenberg are outsiders in hiphop– Minaj for her gender and Rosenberg for his race and class– and they both get questioned about this. Who are they to present themselves as authorities on the subject? Don’t fans know better than them? This may be an example of Fandom Gone Wrong, our next subject for class. Our other reading this week handles more clear cut examples of this for Harry Potter. “Consumer Tribes: Harry Potter and the Fandom Menace” discusses a great many topics, chiefly the myth making of Harry Potter and how fandom has affected the publications of these books. In truth, I thought it was the worst reading we’ve done all class; it’s poorly written and overly obsessed with puns. It does bring up several good points, though.
Firstly, the Harry Potter creation myth that it spread through word of mouth is false– there was a concentrated marketing campaign in schools. Secondly, J.K. Rowling encouraged a sort of anti-marketing and fans were able to band together under the banner of being looked down upon by the mass media. Thirdly, fans are fans of the fan object, and not necessarily the fan object owner, and can and have turned on Rowling at any time. They criticize her work– I have myself, with her creations of international magical schools– and encourage poor writing in an effort to get new books as fast as possible. Editors are less willing to edit books that they know will be bestsellers anyways. It’s also tough when, as a writer, you must focus on fan management as well as your core duties of writing. Managing a fan object is a tough job, especially when it opens yourself up to criticism.
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