My reaction to this book was fairly complex. There are parts that I liked a great deal and parts that I did not care for at all. And I'm baffled by the string of five-star reviews. I know there is a lot of room for disagreement about such things and perhaps I'm missing something. I certainly don't see it as being as funny as other reviewers are finding it.
I guess I have to start by explaining my own stance to "fandom." I currently have a somewhat disproportionate number of featured reviews for the shows I most care about, whether DVDs or books, for instance BUFFY, ANGEL, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, DEAD LIKE ME, WONDERFALLS, LOST, VERONICA MARS, THE OFFICE, HEROES, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, and their ilk. I also post on one private board (which was formed by invitation only when the old City of Angel board was overwhelmed by trolls and shippers when they shut down the old WB Angel official board) and one public one, the official BSG board on Scifi.com. But that is about all. I've never attended any event connected to any series, never been to any convention, never met anyone I've gotten to know through any Internet board, and apart from buying a beanie baby angel bear to support the Save Angel campaign, never engaged in the vast majority Save the Show activities described here. My reviewing on Amazon comprises almost all of my involvement with almost any show I could mention. So while I'm vaguely familiar with much of what Ms. Beatrice describes, it isn't my world, though I will pit my knowledge of BUFFY and FIREFLY and BSG against anyone. My involvement is--except for the one private board of which I am a member and on which I post 4 or 5 times a day--exclusively with the show and not with "fandom." Watching FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS or LOST is not, for me, a communal experience.
Still, much of what is contained in the book is distantly familiar. I know how trolls or shippers (people who focus exclusively on romances on a show rather than overarching themes or character development) can destroy a board. When she writes of Televisionwithoutpity.com's boards, I remember how totalitarian the moderators there can be, reprimanding posters for having written something on THIS thread when any minimally moral person knows that it should have been posted on THAT one (TVWOP does have funny summaries of shows, but it is the least fun board I've ever seen). And I enjoyed reading her when she wrote about boards and stuff. I honestly did. I didn't laugh like the other reviewers say they did. I found it more humorous than funny. But all in all I didn't find it as good as other reviewers found it nor did she describe a world I really wanted to be more involved with. I read an awful lot, watch a lot of TV (always either on DVD or "by appointment"--I haven't "channel surfed" in the past 20 years even once), and watch a lot of movies. Or spend time with real life friends going out to eat, out to get a drink, or out to see a movie. I simply don't have time to be a part of an online community.
I have to confess that the book started off on an extremely alienating note that might have colored the way that I responded to the rest of the book. She starts off her book with a diatribe against people who write academic papers on BUFFY. She writes, "I feel a sense of pity that these folks [the academic admirers of BUFFY] are still stuck in a continuous loop of BUFFY watchage through the show has been off the air for as many years as it was actually worth watching" (p. 3). Setting aside the question of whether the show was worth watching in Seasons 6 and 7 (and I believe it most definitely was, though I will grant it was not as consistently as good as it had been), there is a MASSIVE amount of projection going on here. She states later that the only BUFFY papers she likes reading are the ones about fandom. Those are precisely the ones that I don't like to read. Fandom bores me to tears. What interests me is textual analysis of shows. For a few decades about the only papers about TV shows that were ever written were either about fandom (e.g., endless papers about why people dress up like characters from STAR TREK) or the nature of the medium of television. You will look in vain for more than a small handful of academic papers analyzing concrete themes in a TV series prior to the early nineties. Only in the nineties did people stop writing about fans or what distinguishes TV from reading or movies and start writing about what the shows were about. So, I see her interest in articles about fandom to be incredibly regressive, a fleeing to an age of TV studies that "Thank God!" we had left behind. And if you look over an exhaustive bibliography of BUFFY you will find that the vast majority of articles analyze themes or characters on the show, instead of the audience.
But the main problem with her complaint about academics is the sheer projection. She moves from feeling that she can no longer engage in any kind of meaningful critique to insisting that any attempted such critique is "weird" (p. 2). Almost every paragraph in that chapter, "Everyday Apocalypses," is just stuffed with messy thinking. And I'll admit that some of this is reactive because I engage in such writing. I've published (not on BUFFY but other shows -- though I'm contemplating a paper on the similarities of Xena and Angel, who I think she resembles much more than Buffy) academic pieces on television and am currently working on a book on the rise of heroic women characters on television. Why? Because I'm "stuck in a continuous loop of BUFFY watching?" Well, no. I haven't in fact watched a single episode of BUFFY in two years and perhaps three. But because I am endlessly fascinated with how the portrayal of strong women on television has helped change the way our society thinks about the fundamental feminine virtues. As a single dad I was struck raising my daughter how passionately she reached out for characters she could identify with. For instance, after taking her to her first ever film in a theater, Disney's PETER PAN, she thought that Wendy was the hero of the film. But finding strong female characters for her was tough in the early nineties. There are just so many times you can watch THE JOURNEY OF NATTY GANN and WARRIORS OF THE WIND (the old gutted version of Miyazaki's NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND--which bowdlerized or not, contained an endlessly resourceful female as the film's hero).
My point is that people have a wide range of reasons for doing the things they do and I'm pretty confident that they aren't what Allyson Beatrice imagines that they are. So, she projects and sloughs over the myriad reasons that people might write an academic paper on BUFFY. But you simply can't take the reasons why YOU might not be comfortable being the author of such a piece and imagine that it valid analyzing why someone else actually wrote it.
So, this genuinely terrible first chapter really hurt the tone for the rest of the book. I did manage to enjoy much of it. But I never came to love it. I do want to warn potential readers that there is virtually no discussion about any television shows. If you haven't actually seen BUFFY you won't get much of a sense about what it is about from the book. The subtitle is accurate: the book is about fans of shows, not the shows themselves. That isn't to say that there aren't a lot of fun facts about figures attached to these shows. I enjoyed reading about her friendship with Tim Minear, who has been involved with a huge number of shows I love (or might have loved, in the case of DRIVE and THE INSIDE, both killed off way, way too early for my taste). Had she just started off the book by not confusing her subjective reaction to the activity of others with the objective nature of things, I might have liked it a lot more.