SARAH E. S. SINWELL
#Representation Matters: Mapping Gender, Race, and Sexuality on Twitter
My second book project entitled #Representation Matters: Mapping Gender, Race, and Sexuality on Twitter focuses on how audiences and fans of blockbuster films and franchises such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Black Panther, and Frozen use Twitter hashtags to create a space for alternative forms of representation in popular media. Pushing up against the whiteness and heteronormativity of corporate-sponsored media culture, these Twitter campaigns draw attention not only to the absence of people of color and LGBTQIA+ characters within contemporary media more generally, but, also to alternative possibilities for more inclusive media representation. At the same time, this project also maps out the ways in which social movements on Twitter function as a contradictory space for political and social advocacy: both facilitating online activism and cultivating online harassment and bullying. In an effort to create more racial and sexual visibility online, media fans have taken to Twitter with hashtags like #RepresentationMatters, #WeNeedLGBTQStories, #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, #LetAyoHaveAGirlfriend (referring to the character of Ayo from Black Panther), #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, and #MakeReyAsexual (referring to the character of Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens). While, at the same time, actors such as Ruby Rose and Kelly Marie Tran have been forced to exit Twitter and other social media amid a backlash over their casting as the first openly lesbian superhero and the first woman of color to have a lead in a Star Wars film. Mapping out these Twitter responses from fans and anti-fans draws attention to the interconnecting meanings of fandom and anti-fandom, as well as the fluidity of these seemingly disparate communities and practices. To this end, this project addresses such questions as: How can gendered, raced, and sexualized identities be articulated on Twitter? What kinds of language are used in these campaigns? How do fans and anti-fans use hashtags to create a space for their own identities? How do anti-fans reinforce whiteness and heteronormativity in campaigns such as #RecastBatwoman and #NotMyAriel? How does hashtag activism draw attention to the need for more representation of marginalized communities within popular media such as Marvel and Disney?
Art House Project
This project addresses the ways in which independent and art house theatres across the United States have responded to technological and industrial trends to help improve the quality and effectiveness of community-based art house cinemas in the digital age. Since 2016, I have conducted more than thirty interviews with media industry professionals at the Art House Convergence Conference in Midway, Utah and the Salt Lake Film Society. To date, the footage includes interviews with such film professionals as Ira Deutchman (Co-Founder and Managing partner of Emerging Pictures, a New York-based digital exhibition company) and James Schamus (co-founder of Good Machine and CEO of Focus Features), as well as programmers, development officers, executive directors, film bookers, and various other film professionals in the art house community. By examining art house audiences, marketing strategies, community-driven programming, alternative technologies, industrial practices, and content (such as pop concerts, opera broadcasts, sports events, and Broadway shows), this project studies how art house theatres have employed a variety of strategies for success as a means of both competing with and differentiating themselves from the multiplex. I have now completed a teaser based on this footage entitled American Art House which has been published in The Projector: A Journal on Film, Media, and Culture with the long-term goal of grant writing and fundraising for a future documentary series.