American Behavioral Scientist Special Issue

American Behavioral Scientist Special Issue

Fan Controversies

Guest edited by Rebecca Williams and Lucy Bennett

Table of Contents

  1. Editorial: Fan Controversies – Rebecca Williams & Lucy Bennett
  2. Groupies, Fangirls, and Shippers: The Endurance of a Gender Stereotype – Ysabel Gerrard
  3. Campaign Problems: How Fans React to Taylor Swift’s Controversial Political Awakening – Simone Driessen
  4. Can the Celebrity Speak? Controversies and the Eulogistic Fandom of Shah Rukh Khan – Abir Misra
  5. Bigmouth Strikes Again: The Controversies of Morrissey and Cancel Culture – Simone Pereira de Sá & Thiago Pereira Alberto
  6. “The Fans of Michael Jackson v Wade Robson and James Safechuck”: Forensic Fandom and the Staging of a Media Tribunal – Philipp Dominik Keidl
  7. “Hey! Mr Prime Minister!”: The Simpsons Against the Liberal Party, Anti-fandom, and the ‘Politics of Against’ – Renee Barnes & Renee Middlemost
  8. Fans of Q: The Stakes of QAnon’s Functioning as Political Fandom – CarrieLynn Reinhard, David Stanley and Linda Howell

Call for Papers

CFP:  Nightmare Before Christmas (Key Films/Filmmakers in Animation series, Bloomsbury) 

This edited collection will consider Nightmare Before Christmas as a milestone in animation and film history as well as a key cultural object with lasting impact. The book will be inserted in Bloomsbury’s Key Film/Filmmakers in Animation series. 

In the thirty years since its release, Nightmare Before Christmas has drawn repeated academic attention. Many of these contributions have seen the film as an entry point to larger arguments about Tim Burton’s work, whether in terms of its animation (Cuthill 2017), representations of gender (Mitchell 2017), and use of fairy tales (Burger 2017). Less often, Nightmare Before Christmas has been considered in relation to other frameworks, such as its presence beyond the film industry, in theme parks (Williams 2020a, 2020b), and the way it negotiated changing cultural expectations of children’s media and horror (Antunes 2020). Though this literature has shed light on several aspects of the film’s significance, there is to date no sustained scholarly inquiry that brings these insights together and examines the historical and cultural significance specifically of Nightmare Before Christmas. This edited collection seeks to address this gap, considering the different layers of meanings and history of Nightmare Before Christmas from pre-production to the present day.  

Nightmare Before Christmas was released quietly in 1993 under Disney’s Touchstone banner and sold primarily on the art-house appeal of its animation technique, amid fears that a close association with child audiences would harm Disney’s reputation. But the film was an immediate success and has since been reclaimed by Disney as one of its most beloved family titles. Growing into a cult phenomenon, Nightmare Before Christmas still cultivates a dedicated fandom across the globe today with an array of merchandise, tie-in products, and other media. 

Nightmare Before Christmas marks an important moment of technological development in stop-motion animation, and the technique has continued to have a key presence in the industry, particularly associated with horror- and gothic-inspired narratives (Selick’s Coraline and ParaNoman, or Burton’s Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie), where it blurs questions of suitability for child audiences and continues to fuel debates about the art of animated films and its target audiences. Indeed, the specific combination of stop-motion and children’s horror in Nightmare Before Christmas is key to how the film has negotiated genre, suitability, and other cultural categories in its original and retrospective reception, questions which often become tangled with ideas of nostalgia. 

More recently, Nightmare Before Christmas continues to serve as a point of reference for negotiations of genre and of the boundaries between mainstream and niche cultures, both on screen and in spaces of fandom. Its many afterlives expand well beyond the film industry, occupying manga and comic books , board games, and other paraphernalia, as well as physical rooted localities through events such as the live-staged musical, theme parks, and in exhibits (Hicks 2013), as well as through the fan practices that the film has inspired, such as fan fashion (Cuthill 2017) and makeup, cosplay, textual production, and transcultural fandom. 

How can we best understand Nightmare Before Christmas and its significance in the history of film and animation? What is Nightmare Before Christmas’ legacy thirty years on, and how does it continue to challenge and delight audiences, scholars, and industry today?  

This book aims to collect diverse and original insights into the meanings and impacts of Nightmare Before Christmas from a range of disciplinary perspectives and methods. Some suggested topics include: 

  • Nightmare Before Christmas in animation and film history; 
  • animation and genre (musicals/fairy tales/horror/family/etc); 
  • narrative structure in Nightmare Before Christmas and the audience; 
  • stop-motion as animation technique and cultural object; 
  • animation and branding practices; 
  • Nightmare Before Christmas as seasonal media (Christmas/Halloween); 
  • suitability, animation, and young audiences; 
  • children’s horror animation before and after Nightmare Before Christmas;
  • animation and nostalgia; 
  • animation, technology, and art; 
  • the music of Nightmare Before Christmas (songs, covers, re-releases, etc.); 
  • the politics of representation in Nightmare Before Christmas
  • childhood in Nightmare Before Christmas and its associated texts and practices; 
  • authorship and associated debates (Burton/Selick/Elfman/Disney), including the links between Nightmare Before Christmas and other works; 
  • franchises and franchising relationships; 
  • live and experiential events linked to the film (live musicals, theme park attractions, the Beetle House restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, Tim Burton exhibitions, etc.); 
  • transmedia and merchandise (Funko figures, action figures, board games, clothing and make-up, cookbooks, etc.); 
  • transnational critical and audience/fan reception; 
  • fandom, subcultures (Goth/emo), and fan practices, including transformative works (fan animation, fanfiction, fan videos,…); 
  • cosplay and the body in Nightmare Before Christmas fandom. 

Questions and informal discussion can be directed at any of the three co-editors: Filipa Antunes (, Brittany Eldridge (, and Rebecca Williams ( Formal proposals (under 300 words) and short bio should be emailed to Rebecca Williams by 3 May 2021. 

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SciScreen posts


I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to speak at a number of events for Cardiff sciSCREEN which is organised by the MRC Centre for Neuropsychiatric Genetics and Genomics (CNGG), ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen), and the Wales Gene Park.

My posts about the screenings I’ve presented at can be found on their website via the following link:

Warm Bodies

Strigoi: The Undead

Monstrosity and The Wolfman


Going Live: Eastenders and the TV anniversary


Last week saw the soap opera Eastenders celebrate its 30th anniversary with a week-long series of live episodes. Building on the success of a one-off live episode for the soap’s 25th birthday celebrations in 2010 (which attracted a total audience of 19.9million viewers), the show dedicated five episodes to the live elements of the show. Four of the episodes featured live inserts alongside previously filmed segments whilst the final episode of the week (aired on Friday 20th February) was entirely live. This offered audiences an entire ‘Live Week’ which solved the long-running mystery storyline of who killed the character Lucy Beale. Included alongside the live elements was a flashback episode which revealed Lucy’s killer, whilst the anniversary celebrations also involved spin-off shows such as BBC3’s countdown of the Eastenders character with the most dramatic cliffhangers at the end of the episodes and digital i-Player only shorts ‘Eastenders: Back To Ours’ which features the show’s actors commenting re-watching their classic scenes and commenting on these. The hype around the Live Week has been heavily promoted as the first of its kind in television history. The BBC’s own Eastenders website sees Charlotte Moore, Controller BBC One claimed that “BBC One will mark the 30th Anniversary of its flagship series with the most ambitious week of live television drama ever attempted,” whilst the show’s Executive Producers Dominic Treadwell-Collins promised that “As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, we have set ourselves an enormous challenge – a week of live scenes, a form-breaking flashback, a live episode, story twists that will leave a lump in the throat and a few moments that will elicit genuine gasps from our audience”.


The Eastenders: Live Week event has much to tell us about contemporary media. It feeds into a current preoccupation with archiving and remembering television’s own heritage and the celebration of anniversaries, whether this is the tenth anniversary of the end of the American sitcom Friends or the announcement of the return of mystery-drama series Twin Peaks in 2016, 25 years after it originally ended. Eastenders is not the only soap to have aired live episodes. The first was Coronation Street which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2000 in this way and its 50th in 2010, followed by the 40th anniversary of Emmerdale in 2012. As noted above, Live Week is not the first time Eastenders has offered live episodes; in addition to its 25th anniversary it also went live again in July 2012 as part of the London Olympics celebrations with the final seven minutes of an episode devoted to character Billy Mitchell carrying the Olympic Torch through London. The celebration of key soap anniversaries and events highlights television’s own desire to commemorate and mark special occasions. Soap opera is uniquely suited to this type of event since it is ongoing over long periods of time; its routines and schedules mirror the lives of the audiences and events such as Eastenders’ Live Week work to remind audiences of their own lifespans and allow them to reflect on their engagement with these types of serial narrative. BBC3’s companion show ‘Eastenders: 30 Years of Cliffhangers’ offers this type of pleasure by reminding viewers of 100 of the key characters from the soap’s history, allowing them to remember and reminisce about iconic moments from the programme.

However, Live Week also speaks to the importance of television as-it-happens, allowing audiences a sense of shared viewing and a collective experience that has often been thought of as lacking in the era of on-demand television and time-shifting of viewing. Live Week aimed to bring audiences together to watch the narratives of Eastenders unfold together. The promise of shocking revelations made by the production team encouraged viewers to commit to watching the show as it aired; to catch up later on i-Player or the Sunday omnibus exposed viewers to potentially being ‘spoiled’ and seeing information about the episodes before they could watch them, but it also threatened to remove them from the shared experience of viewing at the same time as other members of the audience. This imagined audience of fellow viewers offers the sense that Live Week was an important television event which had to be experienced alongside fellow viewers. Much like media events such as the London Olympics and the Royal Wedding, this shared collective viewing offers unique viewing opportunities and pleasures that the ordinary episodes of Eastenders do not. Live Week was marketed as unmissable, as ambitious and as a unique moment in television history. It is no coincidence that the official hashtag #EELIVE was heavily promoted to encourage viewers to Tweet their reactions as they watched., a strategy that appeared to succeed with the show breaking Twitter records during the reveal of Lucy’s killer.

However, Twitter had offered an ongoing connection throughout the Live Week, allowing viewers to discuss narrative twists and turns and, when actors made mistakes in the live sections of episodes, to comment on these in a humorous fashion. Perhaps most notable was the response to actress Jo Joyner’s slip of the tongue and her on-screen reference to Adam Woodyatt, the actor who plays Ian Beale, rather than the character himself. The #howsadam hashtag demonstrated playful online response to this live mistake:

Alongside the presence of i-Player-only para-texts such as ‘Back To Ours’, the emphasis on social media speaks to the importance of digital technologies in creating and promoting content for contemporary popular TV. It is no longer enough to try to attain high audience figures – and aiming to beat the 19.9 million viewers of Eastenders’ 25th anniversary – but, now, those audiences need to be discussing, reacting, crying and gasping along with one another online as well.



Flashback: Television horror and BBC1’s Ghostwatch (1992)

I blogged about this at On/Off Screen blog: