(silence between them for 10 seconds)
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March/April 2015 editorial: “The Difference That Made Them”
From the March/April issue: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s HBAS 2014 keynote speech “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers”
Reviews of the Week:
Out of the Box:
A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.
Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between February 27 and March 6 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to lbraun2000 on Twitter.
Throwback Thursday, Fun Friday, a combination of both–going out on a limb here to try something new and fun/silly on the Leaky News page. Bustle recently posted a hilarious list of “25 Harry Potter Characters, Ranked by Dateability.” You can read the list on their sight, here, and peruse their pros and cons of each character–Dolores Umbridge ranks below even Lord Voldemort, holding the glorified 25th position on the list. At Leaky, we would like to know who would be on your list (the goodies and the baddies) and your hilarious reasons why. We will compile a list of the most recurring characters as well as the accompanying reasonings behind each choice! Get your Quick-Quotes Quills and godspeed!Add a Comment
Sound like an interesting book title? Maybe to the more science-oriented fans in this fandom, or those of us particularly interested in genetics. Professors at Rutgers University have turned towards using Harry Potter as an introductory level example of behavioral genetics to answer the famous question: what drives our personal characteristics and actions, nature or nurture? Harry looks like his father (except he has his mother’s eyes, we know, we know–pretending that young Lily’s brown eyes in the movie match Harry’s blue ones–we know). According to Professor Snape, Harry acts like his father; and, as Hermione pointed out for us in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry’s amazing Quidditch skills are not surprising because James Potter was an award-winning Seeker. Harry never grew up with his parents, so did nature play a bigger role in the formation of his character than nurture? (Of course, denying the fact that Harry is a fictional character, as alive as he seems to us, whose formation only comes for the pen of J.K. Rowling). However, Rutger students prefer to look at the Black family and their pure-blood relatives for their experiments. Rutgers reports:
For the past several years, first-year Rutgers students – mostly science majors and all Harry Potter fans — have been learning from Yu and the popular J.K. Rowling novels about the scientific approaches used for studying behavioral genetics.
“Because of the richness of the characters and the many families in the Harry Potter books, there are so many examples of physical resemblances and behavior similarities among family members,” Yu said. “The scientific question that we look at is whether these behavioral characteristics are due to genetic inheritance or because they live under the same roof. It’s the age-old question: ‘is it nature or nurture?’”
Yu says studying behavioral genetics through the tales of Harry Potter books is providing students with an introduction to college-level science and giving them a better understanding of how scientists think and apply scientific approaches to their research.
“They are taught how to spot certain patterns in behaviors that allow them to come up with a hypothesis as to whether the behavioral characteristics are genetically influenced,” said Yu. “They also have to ask themselves whether it is the environment because these characters are living under the same roof.”
At the beginning of the course, Yu explains what behavioral characteristics are, and asks students to pick a parent-child pair from the seven Potter novels and identify a behavior the parent-child pair share that might be genetic. The students engage in animated discussions about their chosen example, in order to come up with a class-consensus example. This semester they had to decide if it would be the athleticism of the Potters or the compulsive behavior of the Blacks – the family of pure-blood wizards.
The Blacks won out, as many students in this year’s class are deeply intrigued by the family’s compulsiveness of carrying things to extreme, even though various members of the family displayed this compulsion in vastly different ways — from the maternal patriarch’s distain of anyone NOT of ‘pure blood’, to Sirius Black’s devotion to Harry Potter’s wellbeing. The next step was to design an experiment that would support or refute the hypothesis that the Blacks’ compulsive behavior was genetically based. Last year’s class — which selected the Potter family’s athleticism to study — decided to use mice for determining the heritability of athleticism. Students, guided by Yu during class discussion, designed an experiment to first train the mice to run straight on a track and not to run back and forth, as mice are prone to do. Then mice would be bred selectively for differences in running speed, and the results would be analyzed to establish whether the behavior was genetic.
For this year’s experiment, the students have just begun to define the research design, which Yu said he will help guide during the rest of the semester. Students are full of enthusiasm and ideas. Megan Coakley suggested using mice of different colors for easy tracking of their parentage – “black, white and something in between” – and offer food to these mice to see if some show compulsive eating. Naweed Karimi recommended breeding mice for their compulsiveness tendencies.
If it strikes your fancy, the rest of the article can be read here.Add a Comment
Mysteriously, the number 7 is featuring prominently on my project list this past year…(I had the urge just now to look it up). Anyhow, I’m working on a project that is part branding, part book design, part musical performance. Central to the theme is one of empathy and suffering. Here are two explorations at the final round here….I have questions about how graphic to be, how much detail to include, color saturation levels. Less is usually more, but it takes a chunk of time to find that balance.Add a Comment
Many of us tuned in to watch the Oscars last Sunday evening, and even though Harry Potter was not directly mentioned, Harry Potter affiliates tend to find their way into the mix. The leading Harry Potter alumni was Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort) in The Grand Budapest Hotel. As Leaky reported a couple of weeks ago, Ralph Fiennes new project took home five BAFTAs. We are proud to add that this remarkable film took home almost as many (four) Academy Awards. The Grand Budapest Hotel won oscars for Best Original Score (subsequently arranged by Alexandre Desplat, who arranged the soundtrack for Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2) Best Production Design, Best Makeup and Hair Styling, and Best Costume Design.
There were several other Oscars that included a few Harry Potter Alums. Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for Best Actor in The Theory of Everything, which also featured David Thewlis (Remus Lupin). The Phone Call, starring Jim Broadbent (Horace Slughorn), won for Best Live Action Short. Finally Eduardo Lima and Miraphora Mina, who contributed so much to pop design in the Harry Potter films, also won an Oscar for their prop work in The Imitation Game.
Emma Watson was touched by the attention given to gender equality at the Oscars. Ms. Watson praised, through her Twitter, Patricia Arquette for her energizing speech on gender inequality of pay grades between men and women, as women statistically earn less money working the same jobs as men.
@EmWatson Yes #PatriciaArquette . Yes. … Love you. http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/feb/22/patricia-arquette-oscars-speech-equal-pay-women
Emma also tweeted thank you notes to Steve Carell and Jake McDorman for wearing HeForShe cuff links to the Oscars, and openly supporting HeForShe. Ms. Watson’s notes can be seen here and here, as well as below. Steve Carell tweeted back at Emma that it was “an honor to support #HeForShe and gender equality.”
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As few of you may recall, Universal Studios reported a spike in revenue with the construction of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogsmeade several years ago. It appears that the new Diagon Alley addition of the theme park is proving to be as magically profitable. The Chicago Tribune tells of a 38% increase in Universal’s fourth quarter profits, arguably due to Diagon Alley opening in July. Profits rose to a solid $735 million in the fourth quarter, with cash flows (before depreciation, etc.) rose from $257 million to $352 million. The Chicago Tribune reports:
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“Investments in our theme parks are clearly generating strong returns as we drive increased attendance and per capita spending,” Chief Financial Officer Michael Angelakis said on a conference call. “We are transforming our parks into must-see destinations and are very enthusiastic about their potential.”
The results are part of a wave of amusement park investments that have lifted profits and attendance at operators including Walt Disney Co.
Comcast has an attraction based on Harry Potter, one of the most popular youth book and film franchises in history, scheduled to open at its Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in California next year.
Illustrated by: Devaki Neogi
Colors by: Neil Lalonde
Letters by: Colin Bell
Publisher: Boom Studios
The time period of Boom Studio’s limited series Curb Stomp is somewhat tough to pin down. The clothing styles vacillate from the 50s through the 70s, which of course form the template for the hot styles of today. The convenience stores have a modern look, as does the one television set I spotted (there’s nary a cell phone or a computer to be found). At least for now, it doesn’t really matter: Curb Stomp traffics in a genre defined by the pulp novels and exploitation films of those aforementioned eras, so it makes sense that the look of it is something of a review of these periods.
The story itself is also somewhat timeless: several marginalized neighborhoods surrounding a large city are defined by the gangs that rule them. Newport gang “The Wrath” runs guns and Bayside crew “The Five” runs drugs, leaving the working class people of Old Beach caught between the two. And that’s where the all-woman gang “The Fever” come in. Rather than junk or firearms, The Fever deal justice: with bats, fists and switchblades. “The cops don’t come to Old Beach,”
explains gang-leader Machete Betty,” our justice is D.I.Y.” Rounding out the crew are Violet Volt, Daisy Chain, Derby Girl and Bloody Mary. These ladies are fiercely loyal to each other, as much friends, pillaging each other’s collections for punk rock records, as they are a badass gang of broads who fight dirty.
Though the moniker and set-up are firmly grounded in girl-gang pastiche, the racial make-up of the The Fever is a breath of fresh air. Though not explicitly stated, at least three of the group appear to be non-white: Bloody Mary is asian, Violet Volt is black and Machete Betty just might be latino if the cover art is representative. If it seems odd that I’m so unsure of their ethnicity, you just have to see the comic for yourself: Neil Lalonde has had a field day coloring it. His use of bright and contrasting hues gives the book a pop-punk look, an Andy Warhol sensibility. This really worked for me, especially during a scene in which a crooked city politician makes an alliance with the leaders of The Wrath and Five gangs. There, Lalonde’s use of sickly greens and yellows sets the perfect tone.
Speaking of the art, let’s talk about newcomer Devaki Neogi’s beautiful work on this issue. While we’ve seen some very lovely and modern main-stream comic styles from other Boom titles released this year, Neogi’s art reminded me powerfully of the work of seminal indie comic artists like Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes. The characterizations of the Fever members are sexy, but powerful. These ‘aint your silver-age pin-ups. The clothing and styles the individual Fever members sport seem authentic, if a little showy.
And what of the violence? With a title like Curb Stomp, I worried that it might be handled in an exploitative way — in-step with the exploitation films that lend the book it’s look. Not so. There’s an interesting (if a tad unrealistic) truce amongst the gangs that disallows the use of firearms on each other, leaving skirmishes to be settled with fists and bats rather than drive-by’s. The titular scene forms the spine of the tale: and leaves the perpetrator sick to their stomach. Ferrier plays his plan for the four issue series close to the chest, leaving this first installment to mostly introduce the characters and define the borders of the city and it’s denizens. In our recent interview with the series creator, Ferrier stated the series would have “real social issues and…a lot more messages in it.” The loose sketch of the story is interesting, and if the later issues match the intensity of the art it might be a very interesting series.
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A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.
This past Thursday, February 19 marked the beginning of the 2015 Chinese New Year. Also referred to as the Spring Festival and based on a lunar calendar, each New Year is associated with an animal of the Chinese zodiac. Due to different translations, 2015 is either represented as the year of the sheep, ram, or goat. Regardless of which animal they opted to go for, many libraries participated in this year's celebrations by offering a spectrum of community programs ranging from storytime for kids, activities and crafts for teens, author visits, and large-scale celebrations. Through collaborations with local businesses and organizations, some libraries and museums offered in-house festivities complete with dragon or lion dances, music, food, performers, artists, and red envelopes or oranges for good luck. Did your library host a Chinese New Year program or event this past week? What types of activities were offered and how did you get your teens involved? Share with us in the comments section below.
In addition to Chinese New Year celebrations, February has also brought with it some frosty weather that has us counting down the days until summer. While the photo-based nature of Instagram makes it a great platform for engaging patrons in conversation about shared weather experiences, it also doubles as a way to quickly and easily inform patrons about delayed openings or closures. What ways have you found to be most successful in disseminating weather-related information to your patrons? Read the captions below to see the catching ways that some libraries have informed patrons of changes to their hours of operation.
Have you come across a related Instagram post this week, or has your library posted something similar? Have a topic you'd like to see in the next installment of Instagram of the Week? Share it in the comments section of this post.Add a Comment
Warner Brother’s Leavesden Studio Tour has uploaded a couple of videos to its twitter, previewing the new Hogwarts Express exhibit. The Studio Tour announced its expansion last month, and it will be opening to the public March 19. The Studio’s twitter feed uploaded a twenty-second advertisement for the expansion, as well as a two minute video featuring Stuart Craig explaining the process of creating the Hogwarts Express. Both videos can be seen here, and here.Add a Comment
J.K. Rowling loves rugby. Anyone who has been following her twitter feed as of late is aware of this well known fact. Jo once mentioned that even wizards love the muggle sport of rugby. Given her generous nature, it appears that Jo has made a 5,000 pound donation to a children’s rugby charity campaign, called Wooden Spoon. The charity is a fundraising campaign of Irish player, Geoff Cross, who plays for Scotland–Jo’s team. The fundraiser is in support of Wooden Spoon, which strives to help disadvantaged and disabled children through the sport of rugby. Our friends at MuggleNet reported on the donation, saying:
I have been tempted in recent weeks to keep growing my beard but after a year’s growth and an increasing amount of pressure from my wife I have decided to shave off my now infamous beard in the name of charity.
However before I go any where near the clippers we need to raise £10,000.
He further stated that
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the money raised will go to the children’s charity Wooden Spoon, which is dedicated to transforming the lives of disadvantaged children and young people across the British Isles through the power of rugby. It will also support my former Edinburgh Rugby club mate, John Houston’s, fundraising efforts. He needs to raise £50,000 for the 2015 Wooden Spoon Arctic Rugby Challenge.
A short list of tweets from the past week of interest to teens and the library staff that work with them.
Do you have a favorite Tweet from the past week? If so add it in the comments for this post. Or, if you read a Twitter post between February 20 and February 26 that you think is a must for the next Tweets of the Week send a direct or @ message to amytthornley on Twitter.
Gung Hay Fat Choi! Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy Year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat!
So how are you celebrating? Here are some of my favourite children’s books for Chinese New Year:
The Year of … Continue reading ...Add a Comment
Photo by David La Spina
The talented team behind The New York Times Magazine has been hard at work for four months overhauling and redesigning the publication, and if you’re like me you love any chance to peel back the curtain on a project like that. Thankfully, there’s a great in-depth look at the relaunch, including information about new columns, typefaces, page designs in print and online, and a whole lot more.
We have used the hammer and the tongs but perhaps not the blowtorch; we sought to manufacture a magazine that would be unusual, surprising and original but not wholly unfamiliar. It would be a clear descendant of its line. This magazine is 119 years old; nearly four million people read it in print every weekend. It did not need to be dismantled, sawed into pieces or drilled full of holes. Instead, we have set out to honor the shape of the magazine as it has been, while creating something that will, we hope, strike you as a version you have never read before.
As I was drying my tears following the dramatic conclusion of this week’s episode of Agent Carter, ‘Snafu’, all I could think about was that I wanted more. More Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, whose range and presence eats up every frame of this small-screen show that plays like a big-screen adventure. More of the fabulous, smart dialogue and fantastic supporting cast; more of the beautiful costumes and period lighting — just more! More than just next week’s season finale. If you haven’t been watching Agent Carter yet, in the name of good comic-based television I implore you: read the recaps at ABC.com, binge watch episodes 3-7 and set your DVR to ABC next Tuesday at 9pm/8c.
When we last left Agent Carter she was handcuffed to a desk at SSR, on the receiving end of what was sure to be an impassioned interrogation at the hands of Agent Sousa (Enver Gjokaj). So it was a surprise when ‘Snafu’ opened instead on the show’s second flashback to Russia. While the last flashback showed us a young Dottie (Bridget Regan) snapping necks in 1937, this one takes place in 1943 and concerns the whereabouts of that other Russian mole: Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown). It seems during WWII, Ivchenko was already in full command of the Professor X-like mind control powers he used to push Agent Yauch to commit suicide in last week’s episode. Here he uses them as mental anesthesia on wounded soldier undergoing an amputation.It’s an odd bit of exposition that serves only to define the mechanism of Ivchenko’s powers, which are pretty clearly articulated in later scenes.
Thankfully, the episode quickly plugs us back into the Carter vs. the SSR interrogation scene we’ve all been waiting for and it does not disappoint. Agent Sousa seeks to pin nearly all of the SSR’s unsolved mysteries on Carter’s double-agent machinations: the Raymond/Brannis/Krzeminski murders, theft of the Nitramene bombs and connection to Stark’s weapons cache.
Chief Dooley (Shea Wigham) looks on from behind a one-way mirror with Ivchenko by his side, pulling Dooley’s strings with every twist of his gold hypno-ring. Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) comments on Dooley’s “unorthodox” choice to allow the Doctor to view the proceedings; thank goodness someone is looking on with a critical eye. Sousa, blinded by his heartbreak over Carter’s perceived betrayal, lays into Carter in the most brutal way possible: crediting her defection from SSR to Howard Stark’s ability to “get in deep” with her.
Incredibly, the temperature is turned up still higher on the proceedings as the interrogation drags on. There’s some smart direction in cross-cutting the scenes of Sousa, Thompson and Dooley all taking their turns grilling Carter. It builds the tension so that when Carter unleashes her thus-far concealed opinions on their opinions of her it feels like a revelation. Rather than take umbrage at being seen as a “stray kitten” left at Dooley’s doorstep, a “secretary turned damsel-in-distress” to Thompson or Sousa’s “girl on a pedestal transformed into some daft whore,” Carter remains calm and stands firm. “You’re behaving like children,” she tells them, “what’s worse, what’s far worse, is that this is just shoddy police work!”
And this is the appeal of Agent Carter in a nutshell: using the rampant sexism of the 1940s as a cloak of invisibility for women who serve as double agents on both sides of the emerging Cold War conflict. This being a Captain America spin-off, Agent Carter is clearly the white hat: empowered by the integration of women into the war effort, now struggling to maintain her position. Dottie shows us the other side of the same coin: empowered by integration as a child into a super-spy program, she relishes in her amoral, powerful position post-war.
Jarvis (James D’Arcy) arrives with a half-baked plan to spring Carter from her interrogation with a faked Stark-confession, but only succeeds in throwing suspicion off of Carter long enough to buy them some time to try and figure out Leviathan’s endgame. Ivchenko continues his campaign of brainwashing the Chief. By acting as a mental marriage counselor to Dooley, whose marriage seems to have suffered from to his devotion to SSR, he hopes to gain his trust — and access to Stark’s weapons store. Carter soon realizes the only way out is through, and finally divulges the truth of her double-life to the SSR team. Sousa and Thompson both believe her confession, and that’s enough for Dooley to send the boys off on Dottie’s trail.
What follows is one of the best action sequences to date. Dottie smiles as each SSR Agent underestimates her: hesitating to attack as she disarms or kills them, one after the other. Her prowess leaves even Sousa speechless: as she escapes he watches her execute a controlled fall through the center of a ten-story staircase as effortlessly as if it were a jungle-gym. Meanwhile, Dooley clears the SSR lab of it’s staff with Ivchenko by his side, shopping for Stark technology. Ivchenko makes off with “Item 17″ in just in time for Dottie to appear driving the getaway car. But before they can truly get away, says Ivchenko, they must test item 17 to ensure it “still works.”
Unfortunately, before he left, the bad doctor talked the Chief into strapping on a glowing prototype vest of Stark design. Jarvis, apparently the wikipedia of bad baby technologies, explains it was intended as a heat source for troops in cold conditions. Like nearly all of the Stark bad babies, though, there’s a dangerous flaw: the self-sustaining battery invariably overheats when activated, eventually becoming an explosive device. Warning the team that Ivchenko got inside his head, the vest nears it’s boiling point and Dooley says goodbye to SSR. Wigham, Murray and Atwell play the scene for all it’s worth: wringing every bit of heartbreak from Dooley’s parting lines to both Thompson; “Tell my wife I’m sorry I missed dinner” and Carter: “Promise me you’ll get the son of a bitch that did this!” It’s a nice touch that he leaves the avenging in the hands of Carter, who knows a thing or two about Avengers. Dooley spares Carter a parting: “atta-girl!” before bravely taking a swan-dive through the office windows just in time, exploding in mid-air.
The remaining SSR team mourns the loss of Dooley before discovering that Ivchenko stole item 17 — one of the few bad babies Jarvis can’t identify. Dottie, however, knows exactly what item 17 can do as she wheels it into a movie theater concealed in a baby carriage. A twist of the knob and the device begins to emit gas. She abandons the carriage and locks the theater doors behind her as the gas begins to take effect on the unsuspecting theatergoers. They cough, then get angry and begin to fighting each other like wild animals. They scream and tear at each other, sparing no one and leaving behind a pile of bloody corpses. It seems we finally have our answer to the mystery of Finow! Ernst Mueller (Jack Conley) may have been a creepy Nazi but he wasn’t lying when he claimed the Russian soldiers had “already been torn apart” before he and his soldiers arrived on the scene. Whatever item 17 contains, it made those unlucky Russians and movie patrons tear each other apart.
More favorite moments (there were so many!):
Thanks again to all who braved the snowy weather to be part of the 2015 Midwinter Meetings, as well as those who chose to participate virtually with the board and other activities. It was a busy January, and I'm thrilled with all the work that members and the YALSA Board accomplished. Here's a peek at what I've been doing:
BBC One’s mini-series adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy is coming to the United States in April. According to MovieWeb, HBO has confirmed it’s premier dates of the mini-series. All three parts of the mini-series will be played back to back over two days. Parts one and two will be on Wednesday, April 29 from 8:00-10:00 pm ET/PT; part three will follow on Thursday night, April 30 from 8:00-9:00 ET/PT.Add a Comment
Starting a Comix club this Friday, ages 9 - 13. I’m thrilled to have teaching back in my life. Hit me up if you wanna be a guest presentor/speaker!Add a Comment
This is not recent, but I forgot to repost after website overhaul until now. Very Poe-inspired, of course.Add a Comment
The next story-based educational game from MidSchoolMath…under development…aims to take students on a merchant trading adventure amid 1600’s-era high seas. I designed a few initial concepts plus these avatars which students personalize by uploading their own photo portraits in the center space.Add a Comment
Now that I’m teaching comics, I’ll be sketching & posting more progress on my graphic novel (gotta walk the talk) & would welcome any feedback. Paneled formats of any kind usually pose a kind of compositional-hellishness for preventing visual chaos. Or it’s a healthy challenge, if you prefer to think of it that way.Add a Comment
When people talk about saving John Constantine, usually it’s a hopeless task, as the scouser magician’s soul has long been consigned to hell for his many sins on earth. But another campaign to save Constantine is under way—and this time it’s fans attempting to keep his TV show going past a 13 episode commitment despite middling ratings.
Arrested Development has plans for a fifth season on Netflix, Twin Peaks will see you on Showtime twenty-five years from the 1991 series finale, and Yahoo Screen will bring Community closer to its promise of #sixseasonsandamovie, airing new episodes this spring. It’s a golden age of fan campaigns with the ability to resurrect dead and mostly-dead shows with measurably vocal fan bases. It’s a golden age fans of NBC’s Constantine are counting on, as the last of the series’ 13 episode initial run airs this Friday, February 13 at 10pm. The network has halted any further production on the show, prompting fans to organize on Twitter and Facebook under the hashtag #saveconstantine in support of its renewal — whether on NBC or another network entirely.
Fan campaigns to save television shows are nothing new, with the late sixties fan campaign to save the Star Trek original series largely credited as the first of its kind. Still, there does seem to be a trend in the growing power of fan campaigns to have an impact on programming, even those who represent much smaller audience shares than the high-profile efforts of yesteryear, prompting fledgling networks to pick up where network and even cable channels have left off.
So what does all this mean for fans of Constantine, starring Matt Ryan as trench-coated demon hunter John Constantine? Do they feel a campaign to save the show, based on the long-running DC/Vertigo series Hellblazer, has a better chance of being saved now than it would have 10 years ago? “They definitely are more successful — especially with social networking being the way it is,” said Breanna Conklin, who has been active in the campaign to #saveconstatine since NBC confirmed in late November they would stop production on the series. “I am in a few nerd groups on facebook. You’re able to spread the word to like minded folks and your friends within a few seconds. Social media gives awareness that wasn’t available to us ten years ago.”
The #saveconstantine effort began to gain momentum when a slick-looking website, saveconstantine.com, went up in December. In addition to links to the petition and fan communities, saveconstantine.com offers a detailed description of the importance of the recently introduced Twitter TV ratings model from newly-formed group, Nielsen Social. An off-shoot of the more traditional Nielsen ratings, Nielsen Social “identifies, captures and analyzes conversation on Twitter in real time for every program aired across over 250 of the most popular U.S. television networks, including Spanish language networks, as well as over 1,500 brands” according to the company website.
The challenge for Constantine fans is to ensure that their awareness of the need to campaign for the continued life of the series is leveraged in a way that speaks both to NBC and their advertisers. It’s not enough to simply prove there’s interest in Constantine from the hallowed 18-49 age demographic; advertisers need to ensure that ad placements can actually have an impact on that demographic. As television consumption proliferates on an increasingly diverse group of content platforms, strong same-day viewing ratings don’t necessarily show advertisers that their ads will be seen instead of fast-forwarded on a DVR viewing post-broadcast.
It’s a challenge the organizers of the #saveconstantine effort hope to meet by being better educated on the increasingly complex world of network tv ad buys. “It’s a big group effort,” said Allison Gennaro, one of the campaigns many organizers. A fan of the Hellblazer comics, Gennaro became involved in the campaign upon hearing “NBC had capped the airing to just 13 [episodes],” which she took to mean the show was “in trouble” but also that the “ratings might not be meeting the NBC demo of choice.” Hoping to convince NBC not to cancel the series, the #saveconstantine organizers publicized a petition for the show to get a second season across social media platforms in late November. The petition cites a “38% bump in the ratings and an 87% viewer retention rating (after Grimm) with the introduction of The Spectre” as evidence of the viability of the series which currently boasts over 20,000 signatures.
The description on saveconstantine.com explains the impact live tweeting Constantine episodes can have on the Twitter TV ratings. The site believes the live tweets “denote that a show has a consistent and loyal audience,” and may show advertisers they “are being rewarded for their investment in the network…so if you want to save Constantine, please watch, tell your friends, and tweet.” Gennaro cultivated a group of Constantine fans through a mailing list to help push the #saveconstantine hashtag and live tweet campaign. “We even threw Friday night twitter parties before the show to trend and gain attention,” she said.
Fan campaigns of the past relied on letter writing, placing ads in trade magazines like Variety, even buying billboards to plead for their respective shows. While Constantine fans have also employed letter writing and email to NBC executives in this campaign, their informed approach in targeting advertisers and leveraging their consumer power is in step with more recently successful ‘save our show’ campaigns. In 2009, Wendy Farrington began a campaign to save another NBC series with supernatural overtones: Chuck. Her game-changing approach acknowledged the fact that the show enjoyed better ratings on off-network viewing platforms and galvanized fans of the series to support a major advertiser of the show, Subway.
According to a 2014 article by Christina Savage for Transformative Works and Cultures, which examined fan-run ‘save our show’ campaigns, on the day of Chuck’s season finale hundreds of fans went to their local Subway and bought a $5 foot-long sandwich featured on the series via product placement. They then left behind comment cards explaining their purchase was in support of Chuck. Savage explained that by “focusing on Chuck as a business transaction, fans used their knowledge of the industry” to support their effort. Shortly thereafter, NBC ordered 13 more episodes of the series. Savage wrote: “co-chairman of NBC Ben Silverman said that this campaign was one of the most creative he had seen, and as a result, Subway would increase its presence within the show.”
John Constantine may not eat at Subway, but fans of the demon exorcist are invoking similar brand marketing powers with their #saveconstantine efforts. Only this time, the fans themselves are the product. By targeting Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings specifically, Constantine fans “become valuable social ambassadors for programmers and advertisers alike as they amplify content and messaging through their social spheres,” Nielsen Social wrote in a an article posted in September. But will it be enough to push NBC to order another season of Constantine? Could it make the show attractive enough to warrant a rumored move to sister-network Syfy, which has released several high-profile interviews with network executives seeking to return the channel to it’s Sci-fi/fantasy genre roots? NBC president Jennifer Salke told IGN in January that “we wish the show [Constantine] had done better live. It has a big viewership after [it airs] in all kinds of ways and it has a younger audience, but the live number is challenging.”
We spoke with Dr. Balaka Basu, a professor specializing in pop culture and fan studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte about the viability of the type of campaign #saveconstantine is waging. “Campaigns helped to save Chuck and Roswell, and gave Firefly fans closure in the less-than-successful Serenity,” she said. “ I think the key was demonstrating an understanding of how television economy works. With Chuck, for instance, fans literally gave their monetary support to the chain sandwich shop Subway…this demonstrates a comprehension of the relationship between advertisers and television producers.”
Fans like Miguel Gonzalez Cabañas, who lives in Madrid, show the global reach of the #saveconstantine fan efforts. He calls Constantine “the best series with a paranormal plot” on television. He, along with Allison, Breanna and the thousands of other fans who make up the campaign to #saveconstantine will be redoubling their efforts tonight: tweeting their support for the show before, during and after the season finale. But beyond the comic book fanbase, beyond charismatic lead Matt Ryan or the show’s arcane mythology: what is it about Constantine, or any other fan-campaigned series, that produces this kind of fan advocacy? “Whether it’s a show like Constantine, where many fans came into the show already in love with the character,” says Dr. Basu, “or shows like Buffy and Angel, where they were allowed to fall in love over the duration of the show, it’s really when the characters feel like real people that you don’t want your relationship with them to end, ever. And that’s been true since the days of Star Trek.”
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