Cult cinema and the ‘mainstreaming’ discourse of technological change: revisiting subcultural capital in liquid modernity

Math Erthygl
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This paper considers how generational ‘nostalgia’ for older technologies of cult cinema – especially the ‘inaccessibility’ of midnight movies or video nasties vs. the accessibility of online material – facilitates a kind of ‘retro’ subcultural capital. Decrying the presumed ‘death’ of cult cinema due to online video, scholar-fans and critics have produced what I analyse here as a ‘mainstreaming’ discourse. Alongside adopting a Bourdieusian approach, I address the shifting status of cult cinema in relation to Zygmunt Bauman's ‘liquid modernity’. Bauman's work enables me to argue that the ‘mainstreaming’ discourse of cult represents a resistance to technological and social ‘accelerations’ of media consumption. Cultist tastes and identities rooted in the past thus allow fans and scholar-fans to ground their personal self-narratives in an era of rapid technological and (consumerist) cultural change. As such, I conclude that a distinction-based approach to cult's ‘subcultural ideology’ can be productively extended by applying Bauman's work

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