Inspired by my excellent colleague Karra, I’m going to try blogging about my next research project/conference paper while it’s in progress. It’ll help me think through things, I think. And bonus, doing so gives me an excuse not to be haunted by my dissertation for a few minutes, which is always a relief.
So! My next project is about fan production, seduction, and Misha Collins.
Hardship, y’all. I tell you.
Here’s what I’m working towards presenting at the national PCA/ACA conference in April (and yes, what follows is the conference abstract. Hence its alternately ham-handed and semi-awkward phrasing):
Title: I’m Gonna Need You To Unbuckle Your Belt: Screening for Seduction in Misha Collins’ TSA America
From his first appearance, the character of the angel Castiel—and, by extension, Misha Collins, the actor who portrays him—has been a favorite among many fans of TV’s Supernatural, in part because of Castiel’s intimate, awkward friendship with Dean Winchester, one of the show’s leads. Although Supernatural does not portray their relationship as romantic, fans have made this slash pairing—often referred to as “Destiel”—the focus of intense creative production, something that Collins has often acknowledged with open amusement.
However, in May 2014, Collins debuted TSA America, a series of three short, satiric films about the Transportation Security Administration that he co-wrote, directed, and stars in. In one of the shorts, titled “Just Relax,” Collins-as-TSA-agent hustles a plaid-wearing ladies’ man away for a private security screening—one that quickly becomes a seduction. Through sensual touches and lingering glances, Collins’ character beguiles a man whose physical appearance and tragic backstory mirror Dean Winchester’s; in this way, the short not only acknowledges the Destiel narrative, but revises and re-circulates it in a space ostensibly removed from the Supernatural mythos.
In this paper, I will argue that TSA America serves as a site of mutual seduction between what Lyotard calls the “addressor” and the “addressee”—Collins and his fans—a coupling that has both productive and practical implications for discussions of “the power of participation” (Lyotard 84; Jenkins 268). The short points to the self-reinforcing nature of Collins’ relationship with his fans: just as his film provides new content for Destiel fans to transform through their creative works, fans’ positive reaction to the project has Collins already vowing to “create more content like this!” Ultimately, I will suggest that TSA America acts as both a constitutive performance of, and a contribution to, the practices of participatory fandom—one that seems to leave both parties satisfied.
By the way, the panel I’ll be presenting this on? Is called “Fans and Producers: Coming Together/ Coming Apart.”
This project was inspired by my experiences at last year’s Feminist Porn Conference (FPC) and at Supernatural‘s convention in Washington, DC. In both spaces, I had the opportunity to sit in a room of like-minded people and watch porn: ok, actual porn at the FPC, and the TSA America short, “Just Relax,” at DCCon. The energy in both rooms was remarkably similar—everyone tuned in and focused on taking pleasure in the same media at the same time.
Honestly, the ballroom at DCCon was bawdier and rowdier than at the FPC. Indeed, among the audience for “Just Relax”—all of whom were in on, if not fans of, the concept of Destiel—there was lots of, uh, simultaneous vocalization. I mean, come on!
It was fucking fantastic. And so much fun.
My accidentally out-loud observation at the time, though, was: “This is a gift.”
And I know I say this aloud because the person in the next seat turned to me and said, wide-eyed: “Yes. It is a gift.”
Certainly, the immediate creative reaction to the short—which was streamed online at the same time we saw it at the con—on tumblr bore this idea out. There was fan art, like this one by the lovely deadpai:
Instant photo manips, like this one by tiptoe39, posted less than an hour after the short was shown:
And there were gifs of key moments in the short—like Misha’s character on his knees, natch—right away, too. Although the gifs were crap in quality (because the gifers didn’t have access to a clean copy of the short), the savvy among us threaded them with gifs of scenes from Supernatural. Now, Dean was the one being felt up and seriously turned on by Collins/Cas-as-TSA-agent.
In time, those gifs were refined, so now we get gorgeous shit like this:
The lightbulb moment for me, though, came from a fellow tumblr user. She’s a Wincest shipper—which means she likes to think about Dean having sex with his brother, Sam. Hell yes. The point, sorry, the point is that she is NOT a fan of Destiel. So when she reblogged one of the many, many TSA America/Supernatural gif sets that I’d reblogged and said to me: “I’ve never been turned on by Destiel before”—hellllllooooo!
Well, hell, Misha Collins. Mission accomplished.
In this project, then, I’ll be exploring this immediate and beautiful symbiosis—what I’m calling a mutual creative seduction—between Collins and the Destiel fandom (on tumblr, anyway) around “Just Relax.” Looking forward to seeing where this one goes.
And not just for pervy reasons. But those sure as hell don’t hurt.