Adventure Time, BMO and the Networked Self

This is a revised version of a paper that I originally wrote for a class on New Media and Culture, taught by Dr. Paul Booth at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. Since this was written, Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University has come on board as a co-author, and we are currently in the process of revising this paper with an eye towards publication. Additionally, we will be presenting a version of this paper at the upcoming CSCA annual conference scheduled to take place April 2 – 6, 2014 in Minneapolis, MN. We are interested in getting feedback on this paper, so we would appreciate any and all comments people might have to offer. However, because this paper is incomplete and not currently published in any journals, we would ask that if you want to quote it or cite it in any way, please contact us for permission first. Thank you.



With episodes like “Fionna and Cake” (Season 3, episode 9) or its follow-up “Bad Little Boy” (Season 5, episode 11), the cultish animated series Adventure Time (2010-current) tackles issues of gender head on; by swapping female characters for male characters and vice versa, the show highlights the fact that gender is not fixed, and serves to “underline the arbitrariness of gender and reveal its symbolic as opposed to its biological function” (Morse, 2001, p. 27). This, along with an emphasis on strong female characters like “Marceline and Princess Bubblegum helped make Adventure Time a hit with female viewers, giving girls two distinctive characters to connect with” (Sava, 2013, online). Indeed, “the series becomes something more when it begins to focus on Finn’s relationships with the women around him,” and it conveys lessons through “morality tales that avoid being overly preachy by teaching values in wildly ludicrous circumstances” (Sava, 2013, online). Thus, Adventure Time is able to transcend the notions of gender that are often coded into children’s programming, despite the fact that both of the central characters are male (Jake the dog and Finn the human). Furthermore, the series conforms to Matt Hills’ (2004) definition of cult television in a number of ways, and thus it is also able to cross generational lines as easily as it crosses gender lines.

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That time I curated a post for the Doctor Who Theme Week at In Media Res…

Today marks the first day of the Doctor Who Theme Week at In Media Res, a MediaCommons project, and the first post is co-curated by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn D. Reinhard of Dominican University. It is shortened version of the presentation we gave at MPCA titled “‘I AM the Doctor’: Polysemic Rhetorical Flexibility and Non-Traditional Audience Reception in Doctor Who,” but features a brand new video component that we conceived of and edited ourselves specifically for this post. You can check it out here, and we invite you to join in the discussion throughout the week. Be sure to tune in all week at IMR to see what other scholars and fans have to say about the cultural impact and legacy of The Doctor.

Fan Activism and Digital Protest

This is a revised and updated version of a short paper I wrote for Dr. Paul Booth‘s class on Fandom and Active Audiences that took place during the Autumn 2012 quarter at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.


According to Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport (2009), protest tactics have diffused across movement societies, and thus have become normalized as a way of addressing both political and non-political issues. They explain that traditional protest tactics and schemas have been used to address a variety of consumer-based and culturally-oriented claims, and that fans have adopted these tactics to address issues surrounding the properties that are the focus of their fandoms. This phenomenon is summed up by John L. Sullivan, who writes that “fans can be mobilized to press producers and media corporations for changes (or, as is more often the case, to prevent changes from coming about in a favorite media text)” (2013, p. 196).

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Polysemic rhetorical flexibility and non-traditional audience reception in Doctor Who

This is a paper I co-authored with Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. We presented it at the Midwest Popular Culture Association conference that took place from Oct 11-13 in St. Louis, MO. We are currently working on expanding the paper and revising it for publication. As always, we welcome any and all feedback on how to improve the paper.


Taking a methodological stance that combines political economic industry analysis, rhetorical text criticism and audience/reception analysis, this paper is an examination of the historical trajectory of the long-running BBC series Doctor Who focusing on the interplay between the rhetoric of the text and the nature of its audiences. The examination posits that this interplay results from the one influencing the other as the series strives to maintain rhetorical cohesion – retaining a core rhetorical, narrative and aesthetic identity — and sociocultural relevance – building and maintain a loyal viewership upon which its livelihood depends. This balancing act means that changes in the one will elicit changes in the other, with no perfect middle ground yet reached.

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