The Critical Fan Toolkit

About Cara Marta Messina

This image is the CFT ornate shield logo, except the words 'Cara Marta Messina' are in the middle.

Dr. Cara Marta Messina [she/her] receieved her PhD in English with a focus on Writing and Rhetoric from Northeastern University in Spring 2021. This project is her dissertation, titled "The Critical Fan Toolkit: Fanfiction Genres, Ideologies, and Pedagogies." Her focus is writing studies, feminist digital humanities, and fan studies, particularly fan genres and uptakes. Her research interests include — but are not limited to — fan studies, critical digital pedagogy, digital rhetoric, coding rhetoric, and representations of counternormative narratives.

I am is a white cisgender woman who grew up in Queens, New York. I have been participating in fandoms since she was young. I began by writing my own Inuyasha fanfiction in a large, black binder that I would pass around to my friends in theater club. I then discovered the wonders of fandoms on Quizilla, Fanfiction.net, and other digital spaces. In my early years on fandoms, I never thought deeply about the role of race, gender, sexuality, and disability in my own fandom participation. As I grew older, though, I learned about the importance of representational politics and power from my friends, online fandom networks, and dipping my toes into theory and fan studies.

Since then, I often reflect on why my fanfiction and fan activities so often revolved around the erasure of women and centering whiteness in my fanfics. Even though I was writing about animes and the characters were predominatenly Japanese, I still approached writing about these characters with an assumed whiteness. I hope this CFT provides a space for fans — especially fans invested in learning about and critiquing the complexities of positionalities, ideologies, and power — a place to reflect on the complexities of fandoms.

Outside of my work, I watch a bit too much Sailor Moon and Twitch streamers. I also bring my pup, Efi, everywhere. My hobbies revolve around reading, gaming, watching/streaming on Twitch (ItsLoyalPizza, for anyone interested), falling into coding holes, and imagining that I will someday make my own cosplays. I love my friends dearly and believes professional and academic settings should celebrate friendships and kinships.

Fandoms she currently or previously belonged to: Sailor Moon, The Legend of Korra, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Game of Thrones, Death Note, Yu Yu Hakusho, Buffy the Vampired Slayer, Angel, The Hunger Games, How to Get Away with Murder, Overwatch, and so many more.