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Photography of British Sci-fi fans at home dressed in character.
July 14, 2008 4:07 AM   Subscribe

Land of the Free, home of the geek. Steven Schofield takes photos of british sci-fi fans, dressed in character in their homes. He treats it as 'found' photography, which seems to illustrate the subjects vulnerability. The title of the work is Land of the Free - and illustrates how American culture infiltrates, with the ironic edge of questioning the idea of the freedom of choosing to copy the look of these fictional characters. via kottke
posted by filmgeek (36 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I find that it leaves the subjects looking very vulnerable...and as I find it doubly ironic about how british culture infiltrates - a number of popular british shows incur into american media (like the Office or Life on Mars.) Regardless, the pictures are cool...and a bit haunting.
posted by filmgeek at 4:08 AM on July 14, 2008


Some of those are very endearing. Personal favourites include Chewbacca asking how many sugars in your tea, and the mini-me Darth.

I guess the important thing is they seem happy.
posted by nudar at 4:20 AM on July 14, 2008


I think some of these people look pretty cool. Not vulnerable at all -- unless you count as vulnerability the risk of superciliousness from even bigger geeks. Why is someone who dresses up as a cowboy or a Star Trek character more ridiculous than someone who walks around in a simulacrum of their favorite sports star's jersey? Why is a white man dressed like an American Indian supposed to be an object of our condescension while a white man dressed in hip hop clothing is supposed to be cool? We all dress up as something.
posted by Faze at 4:21 AM on July 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


Sad. The subjects' very vulnerability (or lack of ease, or self-seriousness) makes it seem cruel to snark.
posted by paulsc at 4:21 AM on July 14, 2008


What's with all the brits dressed as cowboys and/or Indians, and how does that fit the SF fan theme?
posted by sotonohito at 4:28 AM on July 14, 2008


So where is the companion series of a bunch of good old boys from the American south dressed as the various incarnations of Doctor Who?
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 4:29 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not sure that I accept the premise here. By virtue of a shared history and language, there is obviously to some degree a common media culture across the anglosphere. Good entertainment - and that's what this is about - will work everywhere it can be understood. And so these movies and shows lose their Americanness. They're not even made exclusively by Americans in the first place.

Those guys dressed up as Star Trek characters aren't doing it because they like the idea of themselves as Americans; rather it's because they like the idea of themselves as Star Trek characters.

(Did anyone else find it ironic that a British person dressing up like the British actor Patrick Stewart was being presented as evidence of American cultural imperialism?)

I really don't understand what point is being made with the "cowboys and indians" photographs either. Britain had direct cultural interaction with Native Americans. When I was in primary school (in Britain) I learned about wigwams and totem poles, and all the rest, but in an entirely Canadian context.

Small boys in Britain have played cowboys and indians since the 18th century. What's more, today's kids have very little interest in those games. As evidence of American cultural infiltration of Britain, this fails on every point.

I guess I'm kind of rambling here. My point is that it's silly to point to the fact that a particular entertainment is popular in more than one country and use that as evidence of cultural infliltration by whichever place that entertainment happened to be made. If that were true, you'd have to explain why Britain was infiltrating America - think Winnie the Pooh, James Bond, The Office - just as fast as the other way around. And so is Canada and Australia and the rest of the English-speaking world. The truth is less complex. There is a shared cultural heritage, and none of us own it.
posted by standbythree at 4:36 AM on July 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


...with the ironic edge of questioning the idea of the freedom of choosing to copy the look of these fictional characters.

"Free" doesn't mean "unique". It means "free". As in "free to dress how I want even if you think I look stupid".
posted by DU at 4:41 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Some of these are lovely. It's the details that make many of these work, like the feet in this one, or the cat in this one. "Hello? Yeah, turns out those weren't the droids we were looking for after all." can you come pick us up?
posted by biscotti at 4:48 AM on July 14, 2008


Those guys dressed up as Star Trek characters aren't doing it because they like the idea of themselves as Americans; rather it's because they like the idea of themselves as Star Trek characters.

Especially given the whole idea of the Federation in The Next Generation, where it acts as an interplanetary U.N.-like governing body, consciously avoiding the "cowboy diplomacy" mentality of both the Original Series (and the literal cowboys who are oddly lumped in with the Star Trek and Star Wars fans here).

The artist strikes me as a major fucking jackass; he's picking on geeks to market his own view about American cultural imperialism, rather than a more sympathetic soul who might actually ask the geeks, "Hey, why is it that you feel drawn towards Picard?" I have a feeling the limeys dressed like Starfleet officers here would happily give you an extensive list of reasons why they enjoy Star Trek, and most of those reasons would sound like a Kofi Annan wet dream.

Except for the Klingons; they're probably just some dudes who dig bloodwine and rakht.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:52 AM on July 14, 2008


The first cowboy I saw, I thought "Oh hey, a Firefly fan." I need help. I know.
posted by cmyk at 5:03 AM on July 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Here's his bio - (not just about these photos)
posted by filmgeek at 5:06 AM on July 14, 2008


Don't think much of the views, but I liked the pictures.
posted by Phanx at 5:15 AM on July 14, 2008


I'm shocked by the absence of Tom Baker scarves. Perserve your cultural heritage, people!
posted by orrnyereg at 5:21 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


>>> So where is the companion series of a bunch of good old boys from the American south dressed as the various incarnations of Doctor Who?

Oh, that's on Flickr. Here, here ... just take your pick.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:23 AM on July 14, 2008


I think the vulnerability is projected onto the subjects by the photographer. I see nothing sad about it, rather, something regal.
posted by liquorice at 5:50 AM on July 14, 2008


Wait, I thought all the stormtroopers were issued cellphones. Get me Logistics.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 5:50 AM on July 14, 2008


Someone should stage a costume exhibition where people are dressed as whiny, ineffectual photographers. Most of the discomfort I see in these photos is behind the lens.

This is an interesting follow-up to the Neal Stephenson lecture posted earlier. Science fiction fandom is populated by vastly more intelligent people than whatever insular postmodernist ghetto this guy is getting his ideas from. He's not protesting American cultural imperialism, he's just bitter that many people have fun dressing up as vulgar pop culture icons.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:50 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


To understand why Brits would copy US sci-fi all you need to do is watch some British sci-fi.
posted by srboisvert at 6:14 AM on July 14, 2008


All fashion is costume. All fashion is affectation. Maybe we just accept the costume of the board-room or the anti-costume of the dude mowing his lawn on a Saturday because bpth wearers seem productive?
posted by Navelgazer at 6:27 AM on July 14, 2008


Isn't steampunk kind of an Americans-dressing-up-as-Brits semi-SciFi-ish thingie?
posted by DU at 6:35 AM on July 14, 2008


Reminds me of Elena Dorfman, though I think her work is better.

Also, "deliberately posed in elaborate costumes" is pretty much the opposite of "found," isn't it?
posted by tyllwin at 6:40 AM on July 14, 2008


With a cast that includes Peter Cushing, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Alec Guinness and Christopher Lee, couldn't one argue that Star Wars is as much a British phenomenon as American?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:45 AM on July 14, 2008


orrnyereg: I think the absence of Dr Who costumes is due more to the political agenda of the artist than any lack of British sci-fi fans dressing up as such. It's clear he was deliberately seeking out only fans of U.S.-produced shows.

File this project under axe-grinding and an artist straining a little too hard to make a "statement" -- though some of the pictures are lovely nonetheless.

I wonder what the artist's reaction to many Americans' obsession with British royalty, Tolkien, or BBC costume dramas would be, how that would fit in with his (not very nuanced) feelings about hegemony and cultural domination. I think the photographer's project would be significantly more intelligent if it simply explored the boundary between everyday domestic life and media-inspired fantasy.

(Of course, I say this as an (American) life-long science-fiction fan, so maybe I just don't see how threatened British and European folks are by Star Trek and Star Wars.)
posted by aught at 6:52 AM on July 14, 2008


With a cast that includes Peter Cushing, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Alec Guinness and Christopher Lee, couldn't one argue that Star Wars is as much a British phenomenon as American?

As I remember, the studio parts of the original three were all filmed in the UK with a mostly British film crew. Almost all of the non-staring actors were British too.
posted by octothorpe at 6:56 AM on July 14, 2008


Not that it matters, but I think there are actually more people dressing up as anime/manga characters than US SF ones these days.

And the people dressing as Native Americans would logically be protesting against contemporary US culture if anything, wouldn't they?
posted by Phanx at 7:33 AM on July 14, 2008


I really liked the picture of the Imperial Guard and the cat.
posted by drezdn at 8:03 AM on July 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm confused. It says "'SciFi", and then shows people dressed up as cowboys, indians and Star Trek characters.
posted by signal at 9:08 AM on July 14, 2008


Not that it matters, but I think there are actually more people dressing up as anime/manga characters than US SF ones these days.

And in turn, the cowboys and indians thing is big in Japan! I have some friends from Japan who moved to Santa Fe because they're way into bluegrass, country, Southwestern art, Pueblo art, etc... whereas most people who were born in the Southwest sort of take it for granted, if they care at all. I think it's sort of neat -- at least someone is still into this stuff.

At any rate, I like the photos, but agree with those who found this guy's agenda a bit tiring. If people are having fun, who cares where their fandom comes from? Bet this guy doesn't think that Englishmen who follow Brazil in the World Cup are funny...
posted by vorfeed at 9:11 AM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


We invented SciFi*, BTW, so it's all ours. Just so you know.

* French people can STFU.
posted by Artw at 9:59 AM on July 14, 2008


The first cowboy I saw, I thought "Oh hey, a Firefly fan."

You are not alone.
posted by flaterik at 12:57 PM on July 14, 2008


Those costumes are super awesome!

I love the shot of Boba Fett framed in the doorway to the parlor. That totally suggests to me that he is there waiting for someone while whoever answered the door goes and gets them. Maybe he is going to talk business...maybe he has his own business to conduct...

The Klingons look like they are waiting to go out and paint the town red. With the blood of their enemies, of course. And the Emperor in his bedroom, that's too funny. He' s like all, "What? So I like mayonnaise on my french fries."

The Cowboys and Indians, well, thats no more far fetched than Sci Fi. It's all good.
posted by Xoebe at 1:20 PM on July 14, 2008


The photography is very nice but for the sneaking feeling that Martin Parr got their first and did it better.

As for the "infiltration of American culture" ... I don't think so. The cultural barrier between the US and the UK is pretty permeable, and there's healthy exchange continually going on. Whovians and Blake's 7 fans in the USA aren't evidence of British infiltration of US culture. On a pop-cultural level, anyway. We have cosplayers and people who dress up like ABBA, and that's not healthy Brit volkisch cultural stock being tainted by Japanese or Swedish culture, either.

But that's letting a presentational quibble spoil the enjoyment of some very entertaining photos. Fantasy characters + banal settings = pleasant chuckling.
posted by WPW at 1:48 PM on July 14, 2008


I too loved the Imperial Guard and his (her?) cat. I just like the idea that after a long day of protecting the Emperor, Chris would come home, kick off the boots, sit back and play with Sarlacc the kitty?

"Who's a good little Ewok hunter? You are, that's right, now, I've got a big day tomorrow at the Star, so let's get you some din-din and get some sleep, ok?"

posted by quin at 2:35 PM on July 14, 2008


* French people can STFU.

French people cannot shut the fuck up. Asserting that is like saying an English person can make proper bread.
posted by srboisvert at 3:43 PM on July 14, 2008


Well they can voyage dans la lune then, for all I care.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on July 14, 2008


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