Some of you no doubt remember what happened last year: One of my students tweeted Orlando Jones, he responded, epic hilarity ensued.
This year, I put readings by and about Mr. Jones on the syllabus: A Daily Dot piece from last fall about his interest in fic, an essay he wrote for HuffPo, and of course the Tumblr posts referenced above. I told them about his self-identification as a fangirl and linked them to the videos that Henry Jenkins posted in which Mr. Jones chatted with Henry about fandom and the future and visited one of Henry's graduate seminars. (And then in class one of my students asked me who Orlando Jones is. Pro tip for students: if you don't do the readings, please don't embarrass yourself by advertising that you didn't do the readings.)
Anyway! On Monday evening, one of this year's students tweeted him; once again, he responded. I tweeted to say that he should consider himself contacted and we'd love to talk to him during our Thusday afternoon class. There was some weirdness with DMs not going through; he asked me to email him, I did, I didn't hear anything for a couple of days... Until today, when I checked my email after my morning class finished up at noon and discovered that I had an email from Orlando Jones asking for my Skype address. WHY YES I WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEND THAT TO YOU. *dies* I emailed last year's students to invite them to join us, posted to Tumblr (which prompted this post--check the notes), and then staved off fangirl meltdown by grading papers for an hour.
I got to class early to reinstall Skype on the classroom computer and get the webcam set up; we balanced the webcam on a stack of student notebooks plus copies of Jameson's FIC and Jenkins' Textual Poachers. (SO META.) A few of last year's students showed up and waved at me from the back of the room. I was giving an overview of the plan for the day--I think I had just finished talking about final evaluations--when Skype pinged at us. (!!!) I had managed to screw up the sound settings in Skype, go figure; it's not like working with AV equipment is my hobby or anything. *facepalm* But we got it sorted, and then we Skyped with Orlando Jones for close to half an hour.
I'd heard from various people who've met him how nice he is, but you guys, there's hearing about it and then there's experiencing it. He's smart, obviously, and very funny, but also just so gracious and kind and so genuinely interested in talking to us, laughing with us, being goofy with us. He talked about his experiences in fandom and about what the term "fan" means to him, dodged a question about what Hogwarts house he'd be in (oh students, never change), offered some insights into the way that fan visibility is affecting the TV/film industry, articulated some key differences between the way that the money people at networks see fans and the way that he (and by extension other actors and the creative side of the industry) relates to fans, told us what he's fannish about right now (Orphan Black! Utopia!), broke my class by self-identifying as a Destiel shipper, and, at my request, told us a little bit about the book he's going to be working on.
Of course my students all wanted to take selfies with him, which he agreed to do on the condition that they tweet the selfies to him (which they have done, and he's been marking them as favorites--you guys, I can't even). We turned off the lights and I stood at the front of the classroom laughing in delight as my students all turned their backs to the projector screen and held up their glowing cell phones in the dark, a dense constellation of happy fans. Mr. Jones leaned in close to the camera and smiled hugely for them, and then I held up the webcam so they could all wave goodbye, and we signed off.
I will freely confess that the rest of class was not our most productive day ever, though we did manage to have some small-group conversations about what assignments I should keep and what I should do differently the next time I teach the course, and several of my students came up with really thoughtful suggestions that I need to figure out how to implement.
And that was the last day of class for Fan Cultures & Fan Creativity 2014.