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Abstract: Aca-Fan Service: Strategies of Scholarly Seduction in Ghost it the Shell: SAC and Ergo Pro

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Aug. 2nd, 2013 | 12:25 pm
mood: productiveproductive

Aaah, summer! For the first time in years I finally had a vacation, a real 3-week vacation away from the internet and course prep and manuscripts and everything. But now it's time to gear back up, and that means conference proposals. Here's my accepted proposal for this year's Mechademia/SGMS conference in Minneapolis. Feedback very welcome, especially from aca-fan types!


Fan service is commonly understood as a glimpse of something that allures fans viewers, be it a flash of panties or a passing reference to otaku trivia. In this paper, I will address two anime series, Ghost in the Shell: SAC and Ergo Proxy, that use a similar strategy of seduction I call “aca-fan service”: gratuitous references to authors and texts canonized as “High Theory,” such as Jacques Derrida and Julia Kristeva. While screenwriters may not be cackling “I’ll give those academics something to talk about!” with every keystroke, the nature of their allusions suggests that they are targeting an intellectual sub-segment of their fanbase consistent with Matt Hills’ “aca-fan,” a fan who uses scholarly references and theoretical discourses to interpret texts.

Aca-fan service in these programs, I argue, draws on both the knowledge communities and the (sometimes troubling) gender politics of more general anime fan service. It engages fans who recognize “theory trivia,” creating opportunities for bonding and competition around specialized knowledge. At the same time, it relies on the fetishization of figures such as Lacan, whose theories of sexuality serve as “proxies” for embodied experience that allow academics to discuss gender and eroticism in abstracted, schematized ways. In this paper, I will address the intersection of academia and fandom as a site of knowledge production and ask: how do theory allusions allow aca-fans to connect? What kinds of discussions do they allow that regular “fan trivia” doesn’t? And what kinds of discussions do they foreclose?

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Реактивный микрокиборг / Wingless Angel

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from: corneredangel
date: Aug. 2nd, 2013 07:48 pm (UTC)
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A very critical question would be whether these references are indeed "gratuitous" - or are actually valid and meaningful citations. The (related) example that always comes to mind for me are the references in Gainax anime to very specific terms from Western science fiction - but yeah, does the Instrumentality Project in Eva mean the same thing that it does in Cordwainer Smith, and is it even meant to evoke Smith...

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Sandra Annett

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from: merin_chan
date: Aug. 3rd, 2013 01:23 pm (UTC)
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Great point! I was thinking of Eva as a counter example too! One of the threads I really want to tease out is the difference between purposeful, repeated allusions that arguably build something into a series -like the systematic use of religious and spiritual imagery in Eva-- and cases where theory quotations or authors' names just crop up as in-jokes or shout-outs, like the Tachikoma reading Deleuze and Guattari in one of the "Tachikoma Days" segments of GitS:SAC.

Directors and screenwriters in Japan often give the excuse that they just pick Western names or words because they "sound cool." But I think there's a middle ground between structured, systematic allusion and random cool-sounding words. That's where aca-fan service comes in!

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