Friday, September 19, 2008

Does Lassie Twitter, Too?

Fan fiction is nothing new. Wander around the web and you can find fan-generated versions of your favorite books, movies, and TV shows, especially if you like science fiction or anything with a supernatural element. Some fans take their creative impulses beyond the written word. YouTube is filled with home-made versions of reality shows: The Real World Perkiomanville, Survivor New Paltz, etc. Marketers setting up social networking sites to promote fictional products is somewhat new, but not unexpected; finding a MySpace page for a movie comes as no surprise. What is new, and altogether interesting, is the use of social networking sites for the creation of fan fiction, and the best example of this is the use of Twitter by some dedicated Mad Men fans.

Yes, Don Draper Twitters. So does Betty, Roger Sterling, Peggy Olsen, Pete Campbell. Not only does every major character on the show Twitter, the minor ones do, too, including the Drapers four year-old son Bobby. They post updates, tweet one another, and will even respond to those who tweet them. The whole thing is done entirely in character, to the point where, when I first discovered the Mad Men Twitterverse, I thought, "What brilliant marketing. I had no idea AMC was so with it!"

AMC isn't with it. The entire project is the work of We Are Sterling Cooper, whose avowed purpose is the creation of fan fiction through social networking. AMC, in fact, at first sent out a cease and desist, and for a while all the Sterling Cooper Twitter accounts were suspended. Someone in the AMC marketing department finally figured out that this is ultimately a good thing, allowing the characters to Twitter away. What was Peggy doing last night? She was home alone reading, of course. Roger and Don went out for drinks. It's 1962, with Blackberries.

I honestly don't see the point of micro-blogging. If I posted occasional updates that described my actual activities, I'd end up producing a string of "writing a press release" or "drinking coffee and reading," a string of banalities. I'd want to make my updates more interesting than that, because the point of social networking is to interact with others. I'd need to make myself more fascinating than I am. I'd need to be performative rather than merely descriptive. I'd need to turn my "self" into a persona.

In that sense, all of the selves presented on Twitter are works of fiction. The line between "Elucidator" and "Don Draper" is a thin one indeed. The possibilities that We Are Sterling Cooper's project raises are, in the end, not about fan fiction, but about fiction itself. I could easily set up multiple accounts, each belonging to a different character of my invention, and create a narrative through the tweets these characters send each other. What I'm waiting for, in other words, is a novel conceived and composed this way, a novel that unfolds 140 words at a time, a novel that is performed as it is composed. It's coming, if it isn't already here.

1 comment:

tunsie said...

Francois Rabelais-Gargantua and Pantegruel.........tunsie.tunsie....tunsie