Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Communication

Major Professor

Janna Jones, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marcy Chvasta, Ph.D.

Keywords

Fans, Audience, Subculture, Star Wars, Costumes, Popular Culture

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the bonds that form between people as consumers of popular visual media and to discuss the relationship and impact of the resulting subcultures on the larger culture. Star Wars costumers offer a magnified glance at some of the ways in which people engage with images. As reflections of popular culture, costumers display their textual devotions and opinions; they embody spectatorship by reincarnating their favorite characters and contexts from text-bound sources. Moreover, they embrace modes of visual representation by performing the roles of both image consumer and image producer. I strive to understand the activities shared by audiences after the viewing experience is over; they are highly articulate interpreting media texts in a variety of interesting and unexpected ways. Whether they impart opinions or pursue alternative relationships with some aspect of the text, people do form communities and celebrate their connections to visual texts. As fans, individuals appropriate movie materials to fulfill personal goals and build social connections. While not all-encompassing, these smaller communities say a lot about the social impact of movies---the impact of images on individuals. This thesis combines an ethnographic study of Star Wars costumers within a theoretical framework of cultural studies and performance to investigate the ways in which media images impact individuals. In documenting events from the perspective of the costumer, I seek to understand the costumer as a member of a visual audience, a reflection of popular culture, and a participant in the dominant culture.

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