'Wandering off into soapland': Gender, genre and 'shipping' The West Wing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous work on media audiences and fandom has emphasised how fans routinely engage in practices which enable them to read or 'poach' (Jenkins 1992) various meanings from texts, or use fan objects to perform identity work. This paper focuses on these issues through a case study of fans of the US political drama series The West Wing (NBC, 2000-2006) who support a specific onscreen romantic relationship. This focus on so-called Josh/Donna 'shippers' extends previous work on fan shipping (Felder 1999; Scodari 2003; Scodari and Felder 2000; Kalviknes-Bore and Williams 2010) by considering this fan activity within the genre of drama television. Furthermore, the paper also uniquely examines the responses of both shippers and non-shippers when the source text comes to an end - in this case, through the cancellation of The West Wing in 2006. Thus, whilst following previous work which has examined how shippers and non-shippers often clash over their opposing interpretations, the paper also seeks to contribute to existing studies of shippers by considering the impact of the cessation of the fan object on fan's discussions of identity, gender and genre.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 May 2011


  • audiences
  • fandom
  • television


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