Competing desires, competing interests: Opening the dialogue between Wentworth, fans and industry

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TV Transformations and Transgressive Women: From Prisoner: Cell Block H to Wentworth


TV consumption has changed dramatically since the premiere of Prisoner in 1979, with the rise of 'quality TV', and audience engagement via social media. These changing methods of engagement have also heightened the tension between fan and industry desires for fictional characters and texts. At the same time, traditional script development practices have been disrupted by the rise of online content and a 'bottom- up approach to development' (Christian 2018), whereby audiences have - conceivably - an increased sense of participation. This chapter will examine these new writing practices, drawing on screenwriting practice research alongside the ongoing stereotyping and policing behaviour of TV fans. Using a case study of Prisoner remake Wentworth (2013- 21), of one of its unruliest women - Karen 'Kaz' Proctor, this chapter considers how a balance between fan desires and industrial concerns might be negotiated. The portrayal of Proctor as a feminist vigilante/ Bea Smith 'groupie' resembles that of a stereotypical 'uncontrollable' female fan, and reflects an underlying tension within the Wentworth fan community that has seen anger targeted at fans of Joan 'The Freak' Ferguson. The attempted policing of Ferguson fans by the Wentworth fandom has centred around the 'appropriateness' of being a fan of a character committing heinous crimes. A further layer of tension is added when considering the power dynamics between an 'appropriate' level of fan interaction and ownership of the text in an industrial setting. While in the United States these power dynamics have been illustrated via fan- driven campaigns for remakes and reboots ( Jenkins 1992, 2013), Australian fans have been slower to mobilize themselves in such ways. Ultimately, then, this chapter aims to put fan studies into conversation with screenwriting practice research, with the goal of mapping the first steps towards a dialogue between competing interest groups in an Australian context.

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