A -Phile By Any Other Name

Author(s): 
Llamas-Rodriguez, Juan

Last year I was at a graduate conference on cinephilia, where during the discussion on the last day of presentations, the question of what distinguishes a cinephile from a fan came up. Several theories were brought up, such as concerns over barriers to access, overprotection of canonical texts, and varying levels of taste value. One such attempt posited cinephiles as lovers of cinema, and therefore many of the great cinematic works - though not necessarily all, while a fan was defined by their adherence to one particular work (and, I would add, the world to which that work belongs). Jim Collins' talk this morning reminded me of these discussions, and I think his introduction of the transmediaphile and his (hesitant) use of the term fan may have helped clarify some of the confusion between the cinephile and the fan. I do, however, disagree with Collins in using fan to make the connection between the cinephile and the transmediaphile one of media knowledge and taste, precisely because I think the ties between these two types of philias go beyond these markers.

That is to say, I'd like to think of the cinephile and the transmediaphile as having an attachment not only to the work(s) and world(s), but also to the medium that enables them --medium here understood not only as the physical artifact but also the mediated experience resulting from it. Whether it is Godard and cineclubs or Tarantino and videotapes, the cinephile's relationship to the idea of cinema is ineluctably tied to their mediated experience (think, for instance, of all those self-professed cinephiles that are medium purists). Transmediaphiles are also distinguished by their connection to the medium through which they consume their preferred works, but in this case, the affinity is for the ease of movement across mediums. Both cinephiles and transmediaphiles, then, are defined by their knowledge of the media artifact, a certain level of taste, and their conscious exploration/appreciation of their mediated experience.

Using this basis of the -phile as attached to both the work and the mediated experience, then what distinguishes the cinephile from the fan is not only that the former need not be attached to particular texts, but that the latter's attachment to a particular text necessitates that they not be attached to (or conscious of) a particular medium. I would argue that transmediaphiles need not be fans at all -they could be voracious consumers of all sorts of works equally, but I would like to suggest that many fans are probably transmediaphiles - there is an appreciation of what the ease between media brings to the enjoyment of the work and world as a whole.

Comments

Very well said. Your post goes a long way towards clarifying this really intriguing talk. But I think we can push a little harder on this idea of the cinephile's love of "the idea of cinema" in contrast to the transmediaphile's love of "the idea of" ... what really? Their own curation?

I think medium, for cinephiles, refers to a complex ontology (which is why the can sometimes be insufferable): a Bazinian cinephile, for example, relishes the power of the medium to reveal both "the nature of cinema" and the world which cinema mediates. This is the Bertolucci-esque communality and consecration of movie watching (the transubstantiation of the cinematic body into the real body) that Collins seems to be referring to in his citation from The Dreamers. Thus, the cinephile is marked not by the love of a single text or group of texts (as you say), but by love for the entire Being of cinema that is revealed by all film texts and film cultures (though some texts and cultures reveal more along these lines, it seems, than others).

So, the cinephile, of course, fetishizes actual celluloid, but all the cinephiles I know are inveterate collectors of whatever cinema media they can get their hands on. Thus a transmediaphile is most likely also a cinephile--just with a different way of organizing their artefacts than previous generations of cinephiles.

Though I very much enjoyed Collins' talk, I was hoping he would take us into the transmediaphile community, or at least help us understand better what I take to be his own transmediaphilia. As it stands, I can't really see the difference between transmediaphilia and fandom: they are both fundamentally about the consumption of texts. And who is ever just a fan of one text? Even the idea of self-curation, of being one's own playlist, seems more like a concern with self-narrativizing to me than worldmaking along the lines of classic cinephiles. But this impression might just be a consequence of Collins' decision to focus on advertisements at the end of his talk.

Is the transmediaphile someone who really just loves rapidly shifting between media (movie, music, website, and back around)? Can anyone love that?

I'm not sure that the new tools (iPads, etc) of organizing that experience describe a new way of engagement or a new object of love. But they may help us understand the current mania for narrative (the centrepieces of transmedia practices tend to be shows like Mad Men and The Wire), and certainly help draw attention to the fact that cinephilia was never really about a fascination with narrative worlds ... the worldmaking happened differently.

Are you a transmediaphile, Juan? And if one loves not just movies, but music, painting, dance, and television shows, is that person a transmediaphile--or just someone who likes cultural products ... and maybe even art?

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