24 April 2011

robot marx, part 6

Robotech®, Patriarchy, and Kids' Culture:
A Conflict Theory Perspective

In her essay "Producing Girls: Rethinking the Study of Female Youth Culture," Mary Celeste Kearney examines the role female teens and young women have played and continue to play in consuming, shaping and creating media. From solicited contributions in corporate, commercial magazines to anti-corporate, do-it-yourself (DIY) zines, Kearney tracks the history of the compromises and conflicts between "for girls" and "by girls" in the context of "producing girls," i.e. girls as "cultural producers" (286). Similarly throughout its history, "corporate" ROBOTECH has coexisted and occasionally come into conflict with "DIY" ROBOTECH; and, through it all, "producing girls" have been active participants.

An example of solicited contributions in a corporate, commercial publication is that of ROBOTECH: ART 2. ART 2 was the second in a series of three ROBOTECH art books released in the 1980s by boutique publisher Starblaze/The Donning Company. Whereas ART 1 was a "series bible" of sorts (episode guide, character profiles, behind-the-scenes production notes), ART 2 was a high-end collection of professional and amateur artworks. Of the 19 artists featured, six (32%) were women; notably, of the 78 artworks included, 49 (63%) were created by female artists. ART 2 is considered by many ROBOTECH fans as one of the series' finest merchandise items ever released -- an item that would not have existed were it not for the female artists (professional and amateur alike) who contributed to its contents.

The late 1980s into and throughout the 1990s saw, at first, a renaissance in "old school" fanzines (Kearney 299) focused on ROBOTECH, followed by -- as the internet entered the mainstream -- an explosion in ROBOTECH-specific fan websites (fansites). This was an era that found ROBOTECH's corporate owners, Harmony Gold, legally passive in regards to their ROBOTECH brand; fans were able to create -- unchecked -- DIY fan-fictions, fan-artworks and fan-communities. In the case of both fanzine and fansite contributions, many female fans generously contributed their writings and artworks. An interesting note regarding female ROBOTECH fans: They seemed to be primarily responsible for website "shrines" that focused on specific series' characters and couples (two sites that The Author recalls dealt with "The Masters"' character Musica and the "New Generation" couple Scott and Marlene). Kearney explains why this might be: "[Much] of this (sub)cultural activity on the part of today's youth is not entirely independent from the mainstream media and popular culture upon which it must rely not only for publicity and promotion, but also for source material..." (298).

The year 2000 saw Harmony Gold actively reasserting control over its ROBOTECH brand. Through to the present, Harmony Gold's legal department has occasionally targeted fanzines and fansites with a "cease and desist" letter; the result, sadly, is that many of the fan produced relics of the previous decades -- many by "producing girls" -- have been abandoned or altogether lost. Harmony Gold has tried to make amends by establishing a "Fan Art & Fiction" section on their official ROBOTECH website for the program's fans, but (in The Author's opinion) the creative works lack a certain genuineness and integrity inherent in Harmony Gold's defaulted legal submission filter.

Despite these recent challenges, the heritage of ROBOTECH's fandom is positively felt to this very day -- especially in regards to female fans moving beyond being "producing fangirls" to become independent "cultural producers." As Kearney says: "In numbers now too big to ignore, female adolescents are increasingly involved in the production of films and videos, the recording of music, the publication of literature, and the manufacturing of clothing and fashion accessories" (289).

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Kearney, Mary Celeste. "Producing Girls: Rethinking the Study of Female Youth Culture." Unknown. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 285-309. Print.

"Lonely Soldier Boy." ColleenDoran.com. Colleen Doran, 2011. Web. 2010. http://colleendoran.com/2010/04/01/04012010/.

Reynolds, Kay, ed. Robotech: Art 2. Norfolk, Virginia: Donning Company/Publishers, 1987. Print.

Robotech.com. Harmony Gold USA, Inc., 2007. Web. 2010. http://robotech.com/.

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ROBOTECH ® and all associated concepts, names, designs, and images are trademark and copyright Harmony Gold USA, Inc. 1985-2011. Application of such for the ROBOT MARX project by Evan Harrison Cass is based on the U.S. Copyright principle of Fair Use for not-for-profit "criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research." No infringement of Harmony Gold USA, Inc.'s or associated companies' and individuals' rights is intended.