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If you like any sort of entertainment medium then it’s guaranteed that there’s a fandom attached to it whether big or small. The definition of fandom is “the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture”, an example of that is the Marvel fandom, and within that fandom are subcultures like fandoms of certain superheroes. Now, you don’t have to join a fandom, you can simply just watch a show or movie for enjoyment but most people join fandoms to talk to other people about certain aspects of the show or movie. Many people theorize about what’s going to happen next or trade opinions about the plot or characters.

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Shipping and Fandom Culture

People enjoy fandoms because you can meet people who like the same things, gain friendships, share art and you simply have a community where you’re always welcomed. The most popular thing to do in those fan spaces is shipping two characters from a show or movie together. The definition of shipping is “the act or practice of discussing, writing about, or hoping for a romantic relationship between fictional characters, as in fan fiction, or between famous people, whether or not the romance actually exists in the book, show, etc., or in real life”, so no person or character is off-limits. Shipping has taken over fandoms in a major way where it’s unavoidable unless you don’t participate in fandom culture.

Shipping made me join fandom spaces because I loved the art and reading theories about how the two characters will end up together. When I was younger, I often joined fandoms because of shipping but stayed for the plot and the other characters. As I got older, I cared less about shipping because I got tired of the ‘will they or won’t they trope and started to focus more on the character arcs and the story progression. Now, seeing two characters I wanted together is just a bonus to a good show. I think it’s important as you get older to gain media literacy skills because you’ll be able to take a piece of media and understand it better in a certain context.

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Why Having Media Literacy Skills is Important

According to medialiteracynow.org, media literacy is “the ability to decode media messages, assess the influence of those messages on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and create media thoughtfully and conscientiously.” Also what it can do for us is expand the concept of literacy, as today’s messages come in many forms and literacy can no longer refer simply to the ability to read or write. 

Media literacy can also offer solutions to public health issues, such as body image issues and substance use, exacerbated by toxic media messages and finally it empowers all people to engage in a global media environment.” We’re usually taught media literacy skills when we’re younger by learning about the moral of the story but as we get older, we should be able to apply critical thinking to media messages. The media does shape how we as an audience view society and if we don’t have simple media literacy skills, messages will fly overheads of many individuals.

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A good example of a piece of media that shows an audience lacking media literacy skills is ‘Euphoria’ because the way the audience is interpreting the show is all over the place. The popular HBO show is now on season 2 and the character’s motivations and actions are being questioned. What makes ‘Euphoria’ different from other teen dramas is how it portrays drug addiction and trauma, therefore, these characters react similarly to how people behave in real life. Many people have reacted to ‘Euphoria’ characters as being unrealistic because of the way they talk and dress, however, the way they act in certain situations isn’t unrealistic.

The main character of the show Rue (Zendaya) is a struggling drug addict and she makes rash decisions that affect the other people in her life. Seeing how the audience reacts to her character and other characters like Elliot (Dominic Fike) and Jules (Hunter Schafer), is pretty telling of their media literacy skills, they often demonized the character especially Jules. What people don’t realize is that these are complex characters and not every show needs to have a good guy or bad guy. This show is showing how complex humans can be and it’s important for the audience to understand that they’re people like these characters in the real world. I think it’s important to always watch what you say online because if you’re tweeting about Rue being a terrible person because of her drug addiction, someone that you know in real life could be struggling like Rue and take your comments to heart.

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The Media Reflects Reality

I think it’s important to acknowledge that media does reflect reality and having media literacy skills helps the audience engage with the media in a healthy manner. Without media literacy skills people may have an unhealthy relationship with media content, this includes not being able to decipher fake news from the truth and engaging with creators in an unhealthy manner. With the rise of influencers, there has been a new wave of people forgetting that they’re human too. It’s so easy to hate someone online without knowing their whole character and fandoms often worship the content creators until they make a mistake.

It’s important for fandoms to recognize the depth in characters and content creators because it’s so easy to blend the two together. Yes, someone can be portraying a certain persona of themselves to the world but that’s not their true selves. Also, it’s so easy to join in on mob mentality to hate something just because it’s easy too. It’s important for the audience to use their own critical thinking skills, to engage with media content in a healthy manner because once they start looking beyond what the story is telling them, they’ll find more ways to enjoy the content. There are multiple ways to engage with media content so it’s important the audience learns media literacy skills so they’ll be able to enjoy media content on a deeper level.

By Ayana Hamilton

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV. media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.

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