In Henry Jenkins book, “Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture,” Jenkins presents the interesting metaphor of TV fans as textual poachers. In short, textual poaching is the action whereby aficionados become so versed and immersed in a text, that they proclaim themselves legitimate experts of the text and thereby create their own contextual meanings which supercede the meanings of the legitimate critics and original authors of the text. On some levels, the aficionados do possess specific knowledge about their texts, but these aficionados often socialize in isolated subcultures – fan clubs – which propagate mythical contextual meanings regarding the text which thus become fact, being accepted as true by the majority, within their own social circles; circles in which they perceive themselves to be the experts of the contextual meanings of their texts of interest. By this token, the elitism and hubris of the contextual precepts of the aficionados, thereby intrinsically make the aficionados textual poachers, whereas the legitimate critics are careful to delineate.
“Taste great. Less filling.” – Budweiser
I myself, a fan of many contexts that enjoy abundant fan subculture (i.e.: Star Trek), found the psychology of the fanatic quite fascinating. As a screenwriter, I often utilize the fan literature for show bibles and series trivia. The fan literature is definitely more detailed and accurate within the realms of information that is shared by the common media. Often the fan literature can offer history and connections between minor storylines and backstory, which could not be located in the legitimate media. The brevity of this information contributes to the guise, that this information is indeed superior to that of the original producers and authors of the text. Admittedly, this information is superior to that of the legitimate media in regards to what information has actually been presented to the audience. However, this information cannot account for existing backstory that has yet to be shared, or will ever be shared with the common audience. Therefore, in spite of the meticulous reporting of the fanatic literature, the aficionados could never actually provide a 100% accurate assessment of the contextual meanings of the characters, plots, and themes of the texts in question. True, the legitimate critics also operate under this handicap, however, generally speaking, the legitimate critics do not make quantum leaps in their assessments of the contextual meanings, proclaim critical superiority, nor try to refute the directions taken by the original producers and authors of the text. Only the original producers and authors of the text, privy to the complete unadulterated backstories, possess 100% knowledge and understanding of the contextual meanings of the characters, plots, and themes of a text. Anyone who proclaims to have superior insight to that of the original producers and authors of a text is, in fact, textually poaching.
“Nobody knows nothing.” – William Goldman
In all fairness, often the producers and writers of a text change, thereby the original creators, are no longer available for access or to protect the integrity and consistency of a text, henceforth, a text can become skewed or inconsistent with the original contextual meaning. Fanatics, keepers of what they believe as the true essence of the contextual meanings of a text, can often spot a derivation in what they deem to be the original vision. Keeping in mind that the fanatics have never been privy to the original show bible, nor are the fanatics privy to how often the producers and writers of a text may change, once again the fans cannot be sure that their perceived contextual meanings are 100% accurate. Furthermore, it is likely that the contextual meanings that the fanatics formed from the common media about their text are in fact based upon numerous deviations from the intended contextual meanings of the original producers and writers of the text. Although the original vision of a text can become skewed, to proclaim that one contextual meaning is more accurate than another without having full access to the intended contextual meanings of the original producers and writers of a text, is, in fact, textual poaching.
Only the original producers and writers of a text can know a text’s true contextual meaning. Arguably, legitimate critics and aficionados alike can pose the contextual meaning of a text in the past and present as it is relevant to society and the common media for the text. However, only the original producers and writers of a text can predict the textual meanings to come and what a text will mean as a whole in the future.