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The Dissertation On This Web Site, ON This Web Site!

The Cult of the Mohicans: American Fans on

the Electronic Frontier


... Michael Williams

In 1999, while searching the Internet for an electronic version of the text of The Last of the Mohicans (LOTM), I discovered by accident a fan-operated site on the World Wide Web called On the Trail of the Last of the Mohicans (hereafter, TOLOTM), dedicated to Michael Mann’s 1992 adaptation.1 The impressively large and elaborate website is operated by a self-proclaimed ‘‘mom and pop operation’’ called Mohican Press, proprietors North Carolina residents Elaine and Rich Federici. The website, it turns out, is a lively center of activity for an extensive community, a seemingly large number of devotees of The Last of the Mohicans (1992), some local but many not, a number of whom operate their own fan websites. The fan community, or ‘‘fandom,’’ that has formed on the Internet around the 1992 film has much in common with other more familiar fandoms, including annual conventions, or ‘‘Gatherings’’, but there are important differences. To begin with, it marks an entirely new intersection of readers and viewers with the already extensive Mohicans media tradition, and an intriguing mode of audience interaction with popular texts in general.

My central argument here has two main points: first, that this development is the result of a convergence of forces, or interest groups, in popular culture; moreover, this convergence is technologically determined, and could only have come about under certain conditions, at a specific moment in technological history—i.e., in the mid 1990s. Second, and more importantly, it can only be understood as a new stage in the conversation about American national identity, taking place on new ground and with new participants. Its cyberspace nature as a ‘‘virtual community’’ is the quintessential example of the kind of ‘‘imagined community’’ that Benedict Anderson articulated in his landmark work on nationalism.

Two separate areas of scholarly work are relevant here, neither of which quite addresses the curious phenomenon of the Mohicans fandom. First, a substantial body of Popular Culture scholarship is available now on fandoms, including influential ethnographic work such as Constance Penley’s on segments of the Star Trek fandom and Janice Radway’s on the readers of modern romance literature. Work has also been carried out on fandoms in general, the most interesting of which for my purposes is John Fiske’s, particularly his 1991 essay ‘‘The Cultural Economy of Fandom,’’ which builds on the work of Pierre Bourdieu. Also useful here is a rare book-length study of fandoms, Henry Jenkins’ 1992 volume, Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture.

A growing body of equally relevant work on cyberspace exists under the broad rubric of Cyberculture Studies. This scholarship emerges from a variety of disciplines including Computer and Technology Studies, Communications, Sociology, Cultural and Media Studies, and disciplines that, to my knowledge, have yet to be named. Major pioneering works in this vein that are of interest here include Howard Rheingold’s controversial 1993 treatise on community formation on the Internet, The Virtual Community, re-issued and updated in 2000. The 1997 collection edited by David Porter, Internet Culture, includes a number of relevant and useful essays, particularly by David Healy and Joseph Lockard. A number of excellent cyberculture ‘‘readers’’ now exist as well, including collections such as Reading Digital Culture (2001), edited by David Trend, and The Cybercultures Reader (2000), edited by David Bell and Barbara M. Kennedy.

While both of these major threads of scholarship are important here (fan studies and cyberculture studies), both have limitations when considering the fan community that has evolved around the 1992 Last of the Mohicans. One shortcoming is the general problem of technological currency. Granted, by current (2004) standards TOLOTM is not a particularly sophisticated undertaking technologically, compared with more exotic modes of virtual community interaction such as chat rooms, multi-user domains (MUDs), Web-cam girlfriends, and so forth. It is nonetheless a different kind of discursive space from those in which either the Internet communities of the sort described by Rheingold, or the kind of fandoms that are the focus in Popular Culture studies, evolved. TOLOTM only came into existence with the widespread accessibility of the Web, a distinction with real consequences. Another shortcoming is that while Cyberculture Studies has indeed become a rich field, with deep theoretical grounding, a significant strain of exploration of the nature of virtual human relationships and interaction, and considerable development of Rheingold’s initial work on community formation, the field hardly addresses ‘‘virtual’’ fan culture at all, or at least not in any direct way. Furthermore, the Mohicans fandom itself differs in a number of respects from those groups analyzed in either of the fields above.

Fiske writes that ‘‘[p]opular culture is produced by the people out of the products of the cultural industries: it must be understood, therefore, in terms of productivity, not of reception.’’ I think that Fiske’s frankly polarized approach tips the scales of analysis rather too far in the direction of productivity as a defining characteristic of fandom. It may have been the case all along, but on the Web, reception and production are inextricably intertwined. This poses significant consequences for a critical understanding of the mechanisms by which conceptions and narratives of national identity are circulated, contested, and negotiated. Further elaboration will entail a fuller description of ‘‘MohicanLand,’’ as the cyberspace neighborhood TOLOTM is referred to by its hosts. For now, although I again find grounds for qualified acceptance, Fiske’s definition of fandoms is a good starting point:

Fandom is a common feature of popular culture in industrial societies. It selects from the repertoire of mass-produced and mass distributed entertainment certain performers, narratives or genres and takes them into the culture of a self-selected fraction of the people. They are then reworked into an intensely pleasurable, intensely signifying popular culture that is both similar to, yet significantly different from, the culture of more ‘‘normal’’ popular audiences. (30)

At the outset, let me acknowledge my outsider status and the limited extent of my personal contact with the TOLOTM fandom. Although I have studied the website closely, and its denizens to some extent, it has been virtual study, conducted from a distance. I am not a ‘‘member’’ in any way and have had practically no interaction with the website or its participants per se. I have had some half-dozen helpful email exchanges with Rich Federici, during the course of academic tasks such as inquiring about sources. And I was pleased to receive an email invitation to the 2002 ‘‘Gathering,’’ which I assume was the result of my email address being on a mailing list. It was an invitationI did not act on, although I may do so at some future Gathering, both to satisfy my personal curiosity and for research purposes.

The Federicis’ website—started in April 1997, and billed in a banner on their home page as a ‘‘Comprehensive website; Photographic Guidebook; Ezine and Virtual Community’’—has its origin in a print-based self-publishing venture, which has a great deal to do with its distinctive characteristics.2 Originally from New York State, the Federicis had become local history buffs there, with a strong interest in French – Indian and Revolutionary War era history and in the area’s indigenous Indian culture and history. In 1991, the Federicis happened to move to the Asheville, North Carolina area, where Mohicans was, at the time, in production. They describe exploring and discovering the natural beauty of the area, and, after seeing the film when it was released in 1992, being quite moved by it, discovering in their experience a sense of familiarity. Rich Federici describes a kind of a game that developed, of finding all the original locations where the film was shot. He eventually succeeded, and subsequently organized his material into a book, On The Trail of The Last of the Mohicans: An Explorer’s Guide to the Film’s Sites. The book is in some ways a conventional travel guide to the North Carolina area, particularly its spectacular wilderness scenery, but it focuses exclusively on the actual locations of this one film. The book, or booklet (expanded Second Edition released January, 2004), was apparently not of interest to mainstream publishers. The alternative offered by the Web as a viable self-publication channel led to the establishment of TOLOTM, and among its now many functions, it still serves as a marketing channel.3 In the site’s own self-description, it is:

Well over 300 Internet pages worth; over 1500 images; dozens of sound clips & videos; thousands of bulletin board messages; contributions, some on-going, from many, including quite a few folks involved in the filming; a virtual reality, known as MohicanLand, with its central meeting place being a tavern called Bumppo’s; a two year partnership with one of the film’s stars; 4 Great Mohican Gatherings—a real-life come-to-life of our Mohican Board; 2 Director’s Cut Drives that helped push for the release of the Expanded Edition of LOTM on DVD; conflict with the BIA, Mohican Tribe, porn rings, fan clubs, and French chefs . . . oh, what a ride!’4

As a marketing channel, it should be noted, the site goes beyond offering the Federicis’ own publication for sale. The site includes a virtual gift shop (t-shirts, coffee mugs, even a custom-designed and manufactured action figure playset, currently out of stock) and a ‘‘book shop’’ with various books, videotapes, and DVDs available. The TOLOTM site itself is a work in progress, undergoing steady revision, updating, and expansion.

Numerous other Web-based fan communities exist today, but many of these, including the fandoms most familiar from scholarly research, either pre-date the Internet or took shape in the early Internet environment, and only later shifted to the hypertextual and link-based environment of the Web. In contrast, the Mohicans fan community was an Internet and a Web-based phenomenon in its genesis. This new environment makes for a number of significant differences. While many studies exist on ‘‘cyburbia’’ in general and in particular, scholarly work on fan culture to date has not addressed in any depth the kinds of developments that have taken place since the advent of the Web as a commonplace mode of interaction.

Fiske describes three types of fan productivity, two of which are of interest at this point.5 The first is enunciative productivity, which for Fiske arises in face-to-face or oral contexts. The product of this kind of fan interaction is ephemeral, and ‘‘can only occur within immediate social relationships.’’ The second, textual productivity, refers to material that fans ‘‘produce and circulate among themselves, texts which are often crafted with production values as high as any in the official culture’’ (Fiske 38 – 39). This material is traditional, in a sense, like the sometimes novel-length, fan-produced rewriting of Star Trek narratives engaged in by the subjects of Penley’s studies. Such productivity can extend to non-print ‘‘texts’’ as well, such as artwork, poetry, music, music videos, and film. While Fiske’s categories still make sense with regard to much fan productivity, they fail to account adequately for the types of texts one encounters on a website such as TOLOTM (and on the Web in general), and for the way they now circulate.

The circulation of texts among fans has changed considerably in the last two decades, in both the economic and the material sense. The classic early fan text, for example, the ‘‘fanzine,’’ evolved into an electronic equivalent of a self-published magazine, and now exists commonly as a website or Web-based document.6 Websites such as TOLOTM, which in a way are elaborate examples of the fanzine or ezine genre, still have certain material and economic constraints (hardware, Internet access, maintenance costs), but these are of an entirely different order from those encountered in the print environment and in pre-Web culture. By hosting a website, a fan community’s members make their pages freely available to a potential audience of millions, at the same time bypassing the physical constraints of distribution present in the ‘‘real’’ world. Thus, the Web both accelerates and democratizes the circulation of fan-produced texts.

The boundaries of ‘‘the text’’ itself are notably unstable in cyberspace. As do many websites, the Federicis’ includes a ‘‘Links’’ page, for example, which makes it easy for a reader to navigate to other related sites. This page includes links to a number of other, less elaborate fan sites devoted to the 1992 The Last of the Mohicans.7 Some of the more substantial (and stable, that is, less transient) of these websites are shown in Table 1. The TOLOTM links page is a much more extensive resource, though, than the Table 1 selections would indicate. In addition, TOLOTM includes links to a number of other types of websites that might be of interest to Mohicans fans: talent agencies, special effects companies, musical groups, etc., involved in the film production. The networking features of the Web also begin to destabilize conventional genre and fandom boundaries as well. The links also include historical and literary societies, tourist and promotional guide websites for many of the shooting locations, and fan websites for every major actor and a number of minor actors as well, both ‘‘official’’ (approved) websites and unofficial. Most of the smaller websites listed in Table 1 also include a Links page, but these are notnearly as extensive. They are generally limited to more directly related sites such as other LOTM fan sites and sites for individual stars; most of them also include a link back to TOLOTM, and frequently to each other.


The Last of the Mohicans on the World Wide Web

URL --- Description  On The Trail of The Last of the Mohicans; Mohican Press’s mother of all LOTM websites; Elaine and Rich Federici  Hinde Sight, the personal website of Australian Tony Hinde;includes review, stills, sound clips, link to for product sales  LOTM fan website, includes Cooper background & info, stills, full credits, soundtrack info and some clips, review, links; ‘‘a non-profit site meant for enjoyment and entertainment purposes for those who love The Last of the Mohicans  Marcia Meara’s ‘‘fan-of-the-film’’ site, includes substantial photo gallery (stills), guestbook [not available 6/28/2002]  Mohican Memories, Susan Houck’s website, includes a number of photos from shooting at Lake James, NC, and of the owners’ collection of LOTM memorabilia Site hosted by Medicine Lodge High School (KS) and designed by student Lucas Bell; Includes photos, description of locations and film landmarks  Lynns Costume Movie Themes; links to LOTM desktop themes, screensavers, etc.

One of the interesting practices of this fan community are its ‘‘Gatherings,’’ events that the TOLOTM website has initiated: a tradition of annual meetings of several days in length that have taken place since 1998, ‘‘on location’’ in North Carolina. The fact that Gatherings exist at all is an indicator of the fans’ dedication either to their object, or to their fandom, or both. In some ways, Gatherings are like the familiar Star Trek fan conventions. In size and scale, though, they are clearly of a different order, with attendance ranging from 30 or so in 1998 to around 100 at the 2001 Fourth Annual Great Mohican Gathering.8 TOLOTM dedicates many pages to the Gatherings, past and future, with photo galleries, notes, and memoirs from each previous one. Much of the activity on the website’s discussion Forum has to do with planning and organizing for upcoming Gatherings. The community, originally purely a virtual phenomenon, has thus acquired a significant ‘‘real-world’’ dimension—one whose history is recorded, and its future furthered, on the Internet. The physical and the virtual existences of the Mohicans fandom are thus mutually reinforcing.

The Federicis describe the genesis of these events, which amount to pilgrimages to the North Carolina area where the film was shot, in some cases involving travel of considerable distance:

A bunch of people, with a common interest, met on the Internet. Eventually the urge to actually meet one another in person became too strong . . . thus, a Great Mohican Gathering was born. It serves not only that function, but also allows fans of the film to visit the gorgeous places that served as the film’s setting. The idea arose almost spontaneously, after being innocently suggested by Eric Hurley (Soldier #2) on our Bulletin Board several months ago. The idea of a Mohican Gathering grew out of a love for the film, a desire to see the locations, and, probably most of all, a gnawing craving to meet one another.9

One thing that this statement makes clear is the central function that the landscape of the film plays in this community, constituting almost as strong a node of interest as in the film per se. Of course, Mohicans is not the only film ever to acquire a fan following with a particular interest in the film’s setting. I am grateful to the anonymous reviewer of this article for The Journal of Popular Culture who pointed out, for example, both Field of Dreams (1989) and Somewhere in Time (1980). These are perhaps two of the best examples, but comparisons only go so far. The only Internet presence centered on the location of Field of Dreams turns out to be fundamentally commercial (or promotional), being the website for the tourist attraction located at the actual field. Field of Dreams does have something of a fan following, but by all indications one that is mainly interested in baseball itself, with the film and its location being peripheral. Interestingly enough, both the Internet and the brick-and-mortar enterprises focused on the Dyersville, Iowa ‘‘field’’ location resemble nothing so much as Cooperstown, New York—perhaps better known as the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and a most commercial tourist destination, with a merely coincidental connection to its own landscape.

Somewhere in Time is perhaps a more relevant example, with an extremely energetic, decades-long fan following and community with an intense interest in the film’s Mackinac Island, Michigan, location. The ‘‘S.I.T.’’ fandom, as it is known, which pre-dates the Internet and the Web, encompasses a formally organized fan club, ‘‘Somewhere In Time Weekends,’’ The International Network of Somewhere In Time Enthusiasts (INSITE; founded 1990), and its own long-running quarterly journal; it also enjoys an extremely well-developed visitor/tourist infrastructure on location. It is immediately clear, however, that this fandom—which on its primary website describes the film and its source novel as ‘‘The Most Romantic Love Story Ever Filmed’’—is also fundamentally different from TOLOTM. This fandom is squarely in the romance tradition of fan culture, in kind with the soap opera and romance novel fandoms studied by Janice Radway and others. As this article argues, as a fan cultural phenomenon TOLOTM is in a distinctly different category.

That the landscape of the film, The Last of the Mohicans, would attract special attention is entirely in keeping with the Mohicans tradition, particularly as landscape is manifested in representation, as an imaginative projection of frontier space. Cooper himself was a contemporary and close acquaintance of Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand, major artists of the Hudson River School, with whom he shared a strong interest in establishing distinctively American modes of representation, in both visual and literary arts. Cooper’s narrative works are frequently lauded for his strong descriptions of landscape, and scenes from Mohicans have inspired several of the major works of the Hudson River School. In this century, a famous edition of Mohicans was illustrated by N. C. Wyeth (Scribner’s, 1919). And Michael Mann, the director of the 1992 film, is well known as a distinctive visual stylist.

The TOLOTM Photo Gallery includes pages of stills from the film (typically images captured from VHS or, more recently, DVD sources) organized along category lines: landscape (scenery or locations), particular dramatic points in the film (e.g. battles, massacres), and so forth. Most of the smaller Mohicans websites also have photo galleries with favorite shots, frequently landscapes. These aspects of the websites, along with the Gathering locations (always the North Carolina area of the filming), demonstrate that the place interest of fans is primarily in the locations used in this particular film, rather than in the sites of the actual historical events. Clearly, this group of people imagines the events of The Last of the Mohicans, historical or otherwise, primarily through the filmic experience. The impulse to visit the actual locations of the film (in contrast, say, to the at least once-removed New York locations of the narrative) may signify a desire to enhance, reinforce, or extend into a new realm the experience of viewing the film; it may also indicate a desire for a kind of vicarious participation in the film by actually being there, on the very spots where the events of the film took place.10

Among the many fandom practices on display at Mohicans Gatherings, one can observe in the scheduled screening of the film one that Jenkins calls ‘‘ritual re-reading.’’ Many Mohicans website fans claim many repeated viewings of the film. The scheduled communal viewing of the film is one of the high points of Mohicans ‘‘Gatherings,’’ and TOLOTM has a number of references to audience interaction at screenings. The ‘‘fond memories’’ related about a screening at the 1998 Gathering, for example, indicate that at such events fans increasingly tend to interact with the film, verbalizing and the like. This is along the lines of what might be expected at a Star Trek convention or The Rocky Horror Picture Show, with viewers providing dialogue or commenting loudly on action at various points.11 Wes Studi (Magua), interestingly enough, who attended the 2001 Gathering and the communal viewing of the film, describes being a part of this experience:

‘‘That’s the first time I was actually able to sit and enjoy the film. Usually, I’m thinking I should have done this or done that differently. Or, I’m critiquing the other actors. Not this time!’’12

This common fan practice, communal re-viewing or re-reading of texts, is described in Textual Poachers, where Jenkins notes that the advent of the VCR has greatly facilitated the re-viewing process (69 – 75). Jenkins treats ritual re-reading as a particular mode of reception: viewing with close, undivided attention, a mix of emotional proximity and critical distance (277 – 78). Fiske might disagree with its classification as reception, particularly as the practice begins to involve fan interaction with and ‘‘overwriting’’ of the text, something familiar from screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As the ritual begins to involve this kind of activity more and more, it might better be defined as fans productively making new meaning out of the text, a combination of reception and what Fiske would call semiotic and enunciative productivity. The distinction between production and reception thus becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.

Other kinds of categories turn out to be unstable in MohicanLand as well. One thing hinted at variously on the website, including in Rich Federici’s statement explaining the fandom and its origins, and by the presence of actor Wes Studi at a Mohicans Gathering, is the important role played in the fandom by actors, both major and minor, who were in the film. Eric Hurley, Soldier #2 in the film, who offered the casual initial suggestion to gather in the real world, remains an active participant in the community; he has contributed many pages to TOLOTM, describing his experience in the making of the film, and is a regular and active attendee at the Gatherings. Hurley thus has a kind of dual status: although his role in Mohicans was not major, Hurley is nonetheless a part of the film that is the fandom’s central object; he is also an active member of the fan community based on the film, where he enjoys a special celebrity status.

Eric Schweig, who played Uncas in the film and is thus a ‘‘major’’ star, appears on the website in a similarly prominent role, but with some further significant differences. Schweig has attended the Gathering once, so far, with his family. [WEB SITE NOTE: Actually, it was Wes Studi who attended with his family, not Schweig.] Apparently, Schweig and the Federicis had a business relationship for a time, which seems to have been primarily for the marketing of Schweig’s artwork through the TOLOTM website. In addition to featuring Schweig in a number of Gathering photographs, the site includes an extensive and quite personal interview with the actor.13

Much of the energy of TOLOTM, and to a similar degree of the smaller sites, seems to be focused on stars, or on pairs of stars. One of the website’s prized ‘‘possessions’’ is the posted facsimile of a letter hand-written by Daniel Day Lewis: a thank-you note to the Federicis, actually, acknowledging the gift of a copy of the travel guide.14 This focus on actors is further evidence, if any was needed, that the star system is thriving in the late twentieth-century film industry. In this regard, the Mohicans fandom strongly resembles more conventional ones. TOLOTM has several pages in its ‘‘photo gallery’’ section, for example, that are devoted to individual or pairs of characters: Hawkeye and Cora on one page, Uncas and Alice on another.15 Often, on these pages, both the characters and the actors playing them are treated with similar levels of energy and enthusiasm, and are subject to similar kinds of discussion and analysis, thus making the character/actor distinction less significant. At first, these pages appear to be focused on the characters of the film, or at least the actors in these particular roles, but the surrounding discussion ranges quite freely, delving into their careers, previous and successive roles, personalities, and so forth. Some pages of TOLOTM begin to look more like fan material and websites based entirely on individual stars. Along with factual kinds of information, there is often extensive speculation about their personal lives, relationships with other cast members, and so forth. These pages usually include links to other fan sites that either include such material or are exclusively dedicated to a particular star. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the people involved in MohicanLand, and their productivity, cannot be understood as a traditional star-based fan phenomenon. As focused as their interests in this direction can be at times, Mohicans websites as a whole demonstrate that their interests are much more broad than that.

Among the most curious aspects of the Mohicans fandom, distinguishing it from other fandoms, is its object. Fan communities have developed mainly around textual, television, or film series; soap operas are an extremely popular fan object, for example, and science fiction or fantasy-based material are often popular objects, with the TV series Star Trek and the 1987 – 90 TV series Beauty and the Beast being classic examples. Even though the 1992 Mohicans is part of a long tradition of remakes and adaptations of an original narrative, including at least two separate serial adaptations of that narrative, this film is not part of any series per se, unless one considers the adaptation tradition itself as a kind of series. Nor is it part of or likely to generate any sequels, as with the various Star Wars or Star Trek film series, which have acquired substantial fan community followings. The Mohicans fan community, in contrast to most fan groups, has as its main focus a single work. This is not entirely without precedent; the Rocky Horror Picture Show fandom is in this sense similar, but it is also similarly exceptional. This brings up the central question, Why this film? What is it about this film that has inspired this kind of ‘‘reader response?’’

The question, ‘‘Why this film?’’ can only be answered by considering the related question, ‘‘Who are these people?’’ At a glance, the denizens of ‘‘MohicanLand’’ seem a more conservative bunch than the stereotypical fan collective: mixed ages and gender, ordinary looking. Notably, this last point is not entirely, nor always, true. A well-known, even stereotypical activity popular at some other fan conventions is dressing in costume as characters from the various series, a practice especially popular for fans oriented toward science fiction and fantasy. A close look at TOLOTM shows that this practice, too, is visible in the Mohicans fandom. Eric Hurley, for example, a.k.a. ‘‘Soldier #2,’’ appears in a number of photos from early Gatherings in the British soldier’s costume he wore in the film. Other people, apparently fans and not cast members, can be seen in occasional website Gathering photos in various period costumes.16

Appearances aside, the composition of this community is interesting. While it appears to be a diverse group, there are some visible commonalities, in addition to an appreciation for the film itself. There are actually several subcategories of fans, with overlapping interests that seem to pre-date the discovery of this film. Jenkins describes just this aspect of fandoms when he says they are characterized by ‘‘a discursive logic that knits together interests across textual and generic boundaries’’ (40). Some fans seem simply to be fans of the film itself, and others of one or another of the major stars. Geographical region is a factor as well; judging from the TOLOTM discussion forums, a significant portion of the regular participants in the community seem to be North Carolina locals, with interest either in region and landscape, or in the event of the film being made in their own backyards. Another subset of the community has strong interest in Native American history and culture. These various interest categories sometimes generate extensive ongoing discussions, i.e. textual production, in forms both self-published (Web pages) and interactive (discussion groups and forums).17

One relatively large subset of fans, however, is central in understanding the MohicanLand phenomenon as a whole. This subset is primarily interested in the French and Indian and Revolutionary War era history, with a majority especially interested in military and related aspects: muzzle-loading firearms, and weaponry of any kind (military or not, European or Indian); military strategies and campaigns; and, by extension, other material details of pioneer life, ‘‘woodcraft,’’ and so on.

The page on TOLOTM that serves as something of a Yellow Pages and a family album for the community, ‘‘The MohicanLand Masses’’ page (subtitled ‘‘We Are A Breed Apart . . . And Make No Sense’’), includes photos and links to a number of TOLOTM members’ own diverse Web pages, a survey of which illustrates the range of interests of this group of fans.18

Many fans, it turns out, come to MohicanLand as (or perhaps later become) participants in ‘‘reenacting,’’ a recreational activity that involves reenacting battles from historical wars, with more or less authentic period costumes, weaponry, and the like.19 The most well known reenactment organizations are those with an interest in the Civil War, but there are also well-established and organized groups focused on the French and Indian and the Revolutionary Wars.

A significant portion of TOLOTM is space allotted to Mark A. Baker, ‘‘a black powder expert, writer, and history buff,’’ who served as both a consultant in the filmmaking and an extra. Baker is an authority on muzzle-loading firearms, having had ‘‘the distinct honor of teaching DDL [Daniel Day Lewis] the use of the musket,’’ and apparently on the specifics of daily frontier life in the eighteenth century as well.20 One section of the site, ‘‘On The Trail With . . . Mark A. Baker,’’ features Baker’s extensive (some 15,000 words) memoirs of his experiences during the filming of The Last of the Mohicans. Baker describes an initial contact, the laborious process of making a home video demonstrating the physical task of loading a muzzle-loading weapon at a full run, sending the video to Mann’s pre-production company, and then providing, again voluntarily, a lengthy written evaluation of the screenplay for ‘‘historical accuracy’’:

I locked myself in my office and spent the day reading the script and writing a 15 page, single spaced response to the various scenes which I felt had some historical inaccuracies. I tried to be as polite as I could and always supplied evidence for my comments. I remember three scenes in particular: I explained that Joseph Brant was only five years old or so in 1757 and would not be yet a ‘‘chief,’’ that bearskin mitre caps for the grenadiers did not become fashionable until 1766 (according to a letter written by the English trader George Morgan who was trying to trade for as many bearskins as possible that year—due to the king’s recent order for such a fashion statement. The king’s whim had driven up the prices of bearskins throughout North America. It’s amazing the rippling effect of a king’s idle wishes), and finally, I tried to explain how easily water ruins black powder. I offered suggestions that if it wasn’t fantastic enough that Hawkeye could jump the falls and survive, let alone still have his rifle in one place, his powder would certainly be ruined. I offered several primary source materials which explained the habit of the hunters to cache extra powder and shot and shirts and etc., in various hollow trees or in rock overhangs in order to have supplies to fall back upon in case of ambush or disaster. With scores of suggestions, I sent off the lengthy response, but I kept the script, and figured I would hear nothing more. I figured that if anything, I had probably over-stepped my bounds. But Michael Waxman [Michael Mann’s First Assistant Director] called me the next day, and expressed his gratitude for such a detailed and thoughtful response to his request.21

Another section of TOLOTM, ‘‘The Script and the Matter of Historical Accuracy,’’ features some 20 pages of Baker’s written feedback on an early script draft, in a scene-by-scene table. Table 2 shows a sample of this material, as it appears on the website. As the table demonstrates, a number of his suggestions were incorporated into the film.22

As with Eric Hurley, Baker’s multiple status—as a kind of historical authority, as someone who played a role in the production, i.e. the shaping, of the film, and as an apparent fan—opens up two interesting areas of consideration: (1) the production/reception dynamics of the relationship between fans and their object (either work or star), and by extension, between fans and popular culture itself—or to put the matter somewhat differently, the tendency in fandom for readers to become writers; and (2) the relationship between fans, whom Fiske classifies as members of subordinate rather than dominant groups, and the institutions and objects of official cultural capital.

The documentation of Baker’s extensive input on the film’s production puts both these sets of questions into play. On the face of it, Baker’s work is simply a critique of an existing text (the screenplay draft), an activity that fans engage in freely. Baker’s material, though, which is based on clearly defined criteria (historical accuracy), closely approximates the aesthetic and critical values of official culture. Undoubtedly, a factor is that Baker is an academic; the ‘‘office’’ into which he describes locking himself is in a college where he teaches. Baker’s approach to the text is thus somewhat different from the typical fan’s, whose constraints Fiske acknowledges implicitly when he says that fandom ‘‘selects from the repertoire of mass-produced and mass distributed entertainment certain performers, narratives or genres’’ (30). It is nonetheless part of a continuum of fan reception/response/ productivity and fan approaches to the work. It also has a clear, if limited, influence on the ‘‘final’’ work as well. Of course, film production has always been a collaborative business, an undertaking where the category ‘‘author’’ itself has permeable boundaries.


Mark Baker’s Script Comments

Page #’s --- The Script --- Mark’s Suggestions --- The Film

Page 3; Scene 24A - Cameron appears [in the doorway] warily, musket in hand -  At night Cameron would not stand in the doorway, for he would become too easy of a target. His form would silhouette against the interior light. Cameron should slip out the door and stand against the cabin wall. Or better yet, slip out the door and squat against the wall. Either way, musket should be ready in both hands. - By the time Cameron enters the doorway, it is apparent he knows who has come. Rifle is, however, ready. Mann seems to have compromised.

Page 32; Scene 157 -  Cora’s eyes are anxious, but there’s no terror there. Nathaniel’s impressed with her cool. He hands her  a pistol. -  Where did Hawkeye get a pistol in order to hand it to Cora? A woodsman had no use for a pistol. I have not come across many instances where a frontiersman had one. And such men were not of the character of our hero. If he picked it up off the battlefield, then a scene should show that necessary foreshadowing. - Filmed is a scene of Cora, herself, picking up the pistol. Hawkeye supplies the powder.

Baker’s critical stance toward the film is not unique; his is not the only writing on TOLOTM to approach the work in this way. A number of threads in the Forum discussions, for example, are devoted to the film’s representation of period history, politics, and the various cultures represented. These discussions are often elaborate, specific, and detailed, vigorously challenging the work, each other, and official cultural authority. This aspect of the Mohicans fan community is consistent with one of the main features that both Jenkins and Fiske argue is characteristic of fan culture: that credibility in this domain is based substantially on the degree to which fans construct themselves as having a special, extensive authority on the subject of their texts. In fact, in a number of ways, fan productivity on sites like TOLOTM poses an alternative or challenge to conventional channels of scholarship and authority over matters traditionally reserved as the territory of academia.

I suspect that ‘‘scholarship’’ is a more intensive area of fan activity in the Mohicans fandom than in many other fandoms. The work at the center of this fandom, already established in the literary and popular canon as an ‘‘American Classic,’’ is at least doubly historical: an adaptation of an adaptation of a 175-year-old novel whose subject is a period 70 years in its own past. Authority and expertise on display range beyond the limits of the work itself, and encompass all kinds of historical, political, and cultural issues. The website self-consciously fills a role as a historical authority and reference source, a role that goes well beyond simply reprinting Baker’s material. TOLOTM includes much material on historical accuracy, and on the historical context for the diegetic narrative and for Cooper’s moment as well.23 Granted, the style of the writing is not necessarily academic. There is little resembling a scholarly apparatus, with only basic attention paid to referencing, and it lacks somewhat in historical and critical self-awareness. Nonetheless, this fan production rivals in quality many such discussions found in literary and historical journals. Nor is the scholarship limited to strictly historical subjects. A deconstruction of Twain’s famous critique of Cooper, for example, applies Twain’s approach to Twain’s own work.24 This essay is as incisive, well written, and analytical as any number of works of academic literary criticism. The site also includes a detailed study of the music from the film, contributed by ‘‘Mohicanite’’ Sarah Melcher.25 Here again, the style of writing is quite coherent by academic standards, and although I am hardly a music scholar, the analysis seems solid.

Clearly, this site is an example of the fact that on the Internet, movements such as the Mohicans fan community can pose a serious alternative, if not a direct challenge, to the academy’s elite, monopolistic authority over matters of culture, history, and aesthetics. Cultural critic Th. Metzger [sic] makes a similar point in a report on a Civil War reenacting event, when he observes that ‘‘[u]nlike Hollywood movie-makers, which [sic] have tromped all over historical accuracy, reenactors are thoroughly committed to authenticity’’ (12). The very scholarly concern with high standards of accuracy and authenticity in critical/fan efforts such as Baker’s analysis of the early screenplay parallels Michael Mann’s well-known extreme attention to detail in the filmmaking process (Ansen; Galbraith). Historical accuracy is also a basic commonality between the MohicanLand fan community and the reenacting movement. Metzger points out that one of the strengths of the latter is that ‘‘There’s a different, and much more democratic, agenda here than in academic institutions or government-funded museums. If you’ve done your research and are willing to stand up and express your view it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a PhD. This is a place where everyone can be a historian, no matter how unpopular the views’’ (12).

That reenactors might also become dedicated fans of a film like Mohicans is perhaps understandable. Describing the Civil War reenactment at Valentown, a historical museum near Victor, NY, Metzger puts his finger on just this point when he describes the experienceas ‘‘in some ways very close to film: actors, props, storyline, background music, souvenirs, and an entry fee. The only thing missing is air conditioning’’; being present at a reenactment is in many ways ‘‘like a movie, only with real smells and sunburn.’’

At Valentown, during the Rebel attacks, a bagpiper in full Scottish rig was marching around playing old warhorse tunes. While there were numerous Scots and Irish fighting in the Confederate army, and while there may have been occasional bagpipers in Civil War battles, the effect at Valentown was that of a soundtrack. It filled gaps in the action, sewed the spectacle together, and kept the audience focused. During the times when the pipes were silent, the spectators’ attention wandered noticeably. (12)

These parallels in the experiences of reenacting and film viewing suggest that the existence of this fandom, surprising as it is in some ways, is the predictable result of a convergence of two major trends in popular culture—fandoms and historical interest groups—at a certain moment in technological history. Of course, these groups were not necessarily exclusive in the first place. It is also easy to see how, for those involved in popular historical movements such as reenacting and muzzle-loading activities, the cinematic release of a major production of a classic American narrative set in exactly that period would be a major event.

This marriage of history buffs and media fans—or, perhaps, the transformation of the one into the other, and vice versa—was really only possible in the historical moment of the mid to late 1990s. The fandom arose in a social environment where such media-centered fascination is no longer considered strange by definition, and has achieved a degree of acceptance and popularity such that fans are much less likely to be treated as the kind of ‘‘get a life’’ fringe movement that characterizes Jenkins’ early experiences (9 – 36).26 More importantly, I think, the technological aspects of 1990s American culture offer widespread access to a mode of immediate, semi-unmediated interaction and, at the same time, to an accessible and relatively affordable self-publishing channel. The Web has provided fertile ground, at an opportune moment, for the development of this kind of hybrid popular cultural community.

It should be acknowledged, at this point, that some contention exists over the use of the term ‘‘community’’ to describe what happens within and between groups of people in cyberspace. This use of the term derived, perhaps originally, from Howard Rheingold’s 1993 The Virtual Community. Rheingold, an early member of the early online ‘‘computer conferencing system,’’ the WELL (Whole Earth Lectronic Link), wrote at length about the ways in which members made use of the technology, and the kinds of relationships that developed between them. Writing on the cusp of the advent of the World Wide Web, Rheingold acknowledges the close parallels between virtual interaction and IRL (‘‘in real life’’), and the presence in cyberspace of the full spectrum of human behavior, including the negative and unsavory elements (although his work tends to focus more on the positive side) (xvi). Rheingold describes people connecting on the WELL in deep ways: sharing, sometimes in real time, the development of relationships that sometimes produced actual marriages, experiences of giving birth, struggles with illness, terminal illness, terminal illness of children, trauma and loss of all kinds, and death. With every point in this list, Rheingold describes examples of the experience actually unfolding online, even online participants composing at the keyboard while in the process of dying, witnessed vicariously or participated in ‘‘fully’’ by other members, in real time (1 – 24; 325 – 30).

Since 1993, Rheingold has been taken to task by a number of critics on various points; Porter’s 1997 collection of essays is an excellent cross-section of critical approaches, many of which either refine or directly challenge Rheingold’s work. The so-called democratic and political potential of Internet communications has been a key point of interest.27 The most flatly contested issue, however, has been whether the kind of virtual relations Rheingold describes, which, supposedly, in no way depend on and essentially exclude IRL contact, can be called ‘‘community’’ at all. In this area, a kind of Luddite divide becomes visible, with Joseph Lockard’s ‘‘scathing critique’’ articulating perhaps the most cutting argument against Rheingold’s work:

That cyberspace can even be mistaken for ‘‘community’’ testifies to the attenuated sense of community that prevails in too many quarters of American society. Where ‘‘community’’ means driving to a mall miles distant for a loaf of bread instead of walking to a corner store, ersatz substitutes hold sway. [ . . . ] Cyberspace software commonly imitates ‘‘community’’ in order to further a nonexistent verisimilitude. What the software addresses is desire for community rather than the difficult-to-achieve, sweated-over reality of community. (224)28

In a chapter added to the 2000 edition of Virtual Community, Rheingold acknowledges and responds to much of the criticism he inspired, and makes the interesting suggestion that this problem could have been avoided altogether simply by using another term. Building on the work of sociologist Barry Wellman, Rheingold writes, ‘‘[i]f I had encountered sociologist Barry Wellman and learned about social network analysis when I first wrote about cyberspace cultures, I could have saved us all a decade of debate by calling them ‘‘online social networks’’ instead of ‘‘virtual communities.’’ Wellman argues that ‘‘community does not equal neighborhood,’’ and Rheingold points out that all communities, or social networks, have historically relied on technologies that mediate geographic distance in some way, including paper letter-writing.29

As Lockard notes, though, even Rheingold, perhaps the world’s most eloquent advocate for the community-building potential of electronic communications, ‘‘returns again and again to comparisons of an electronic persona with the physicality he encounters at WELL get-togethers. The gravity of the material world pulls him back repeatedly to address an on-the-ground community’’ (225) (for example, see Rheingold xvi). That this is true of Rheingold’s thinking is indicative of the extent to which the WELL, perhaps one of the best examples of online community, is a mixture of online and real-world contact, a virtual community with an inescapable concrete referent.

MohicanLand is a community that arose virtually and eventually developed a real-world existence as well. While it in no way corresponds in size to the kind of fan communities that have made Star Trek and The Rocky Horror Picture Show so widely familiar, its roots as a cultural phenomenon lie substantially in those traditions. More important things can be said about it, however, when we appreciate a point implicit in both Rheingold’s and Wellman’s work: that virtual communities, whether one refers to them with that term or some other, are the quintessential example of ‘‘imagined community.’’ There is a powerful affinity between this community, formed around a narrative object that has always been a ‘‘marked text’’ in the evolving discourse of American national identity, and the mechanisms of nationalist ideology that Benedict Anderson calls attention to in Imagined Communities, based on narrative tropes of remembering and forgetting, with a nation as the object. The functions of the political speechmaking Anderson describes can be seen operating today in a different form at the level of mass culture, in the repetition of similar tropes on cinema and television screens. Major productions of mythic narratives such as The Last of the Mohicans, which attain through recycling a totemic existence in popular culture, should, I think, take a position alongside the institutionsAnderson refers to in his chapter, ‘‘Census, Map, Museum’’ (163 – 85)

It should not be overlooked that this fandom is the synergistic combination of several other ‘‘fan’’ groups, each with an interest in a fundamental aspect of American national identity: the sublime experience of landscape; militarism, and the derivative fetishism of military equipment and paraphernalia in the context of an interest in ‘‘historical authenticity’’; and the cult-like fascination with stars, which in all cases bears traces of the structural awareness that in some genres, stars are the expected spokespersons for the purest expressions of nationalism. The frontier is an underlying mythic imaginative space in each of these areas. Each of these modes of participation in culture and daily life amounts to a kind of projection into that mythic space. There is an affinity here too, between these areas of popular culture and the metaphoric construction of cyberspace as a frontier. In ‘‘Cyberspace and Place: The Internet as Middle Landscape on the Electronic Frontier,’’ David Healy discusses the extension of the frontier metaphor into cyberspace, and the idea of a ‘‘middle ground’’ as an ambivalent space where people can at the same time maintain distance and a ‘‘just enough’’ kind of connectedness. As Healy points out, ‘‘Bumppo had his Chingachgook, Huck his Jim, Thoreau his neighbors.’’ He describes the Internet as:

... a kind of ‘‘middle landscape’’ that allows individuals to exercise their impulses for both separation and connectedness. We are still latter-day Huck Finns and Daniel Boones, lighting out for the territories in an endless quest for elbow room, and the infinite reaches of cyberspace beckon enticingly, just a few magic keystrokes away. But we long for place as well as space. [ . . . ]We are heirs not only of the primitivist philosopher Daniel Boone [. . . but] also the empire building Boone [. . .].We long for that amorphous and elusive realm inhabited by Cooper’s Natty Bumppo. (66)

We long for it so strongly, it seems, that we construct imagined spaces like MohicanLand, an equally amorphous, if not so elusive realm, and, in the company of those we meet there, seek in the material world both companionship and points of correspondence.

One such point of correspondence, so to speak, where the virtual MohicanLand with its variety of fan productivity intersects with the real world, is the work itself. Of course, TOLOTM and other Mohicans fan websites include considerable discussion of the film. Such discussions are not limited to interpretation and analysis of the work as received, but often range into speculation about the process of production, the shape of the final work, creative decision-making, omitted and included material, and so forth. One interesting example is the matter of ‘‘the missing love scene.’’

Early in the history of TOLOTM, fans obtained copies of a mid-production draft of the screenplay and posted it on the website.30 Presumably triggered by familiarity with the screenplay, fans promptly noted that it included a fairly explicit love scene between the doomed couple, Alice and Uncas, toward the end of the waterfall-cave scene, which most clearly did not appear in the film (D2, scene 446 – 48: 95). In the hothouse environment of fan culture this could not escape notice, and when communications between the fandom and Eric Schweig developed, the subject inevitably came up. Schweig has twice confirmed (without providing much detail) that the scene was indeed shot, which only increased speculation, and some dissatisfaction, among fans.31 Eventually, much of the discussion of the missing scene in TOLOTM forums focused on the possibility of it being included in a future re-release of the ‘‘Director’s Cut’’ type, possibly on DVD. For a range of reasons, including this one, fans subsequently organized through the website two separate petition drives for such an edition, a central point of which was the inclusion of the missing love scene.

The intensity of interest in this particular scene may reflect general audience interest in the ‘‘requirement’’ for the formation of heterosexual couples that has entirely structured mainstream film production for three quarters of a century. Notably, though, fan interest was not limited to the film romances. Both the forums in general and the petition drives in particular also address other kinds of narrative questions, including the film’s representation of its political situation (the French problem and the colonials/British subplot).32

This kind of activist fan input to industry—petition drives and the like—is one way that fans are productive, albeit indirectly, and blurs the distinction between reader and writer, or audience and producer. In a symbiotic relationship, fans assert more and more vigorously a role in the creative process—and with some effect; the industry takes advantage of this feedback, and to some extent responds. This real-world effectiveness is not commonly seen in online communities. Healy notes that, historically, with occasional exceptions—the Clipper chip controversy, for instance—‘‘for the most part Net culture does not produce collective real-world behaviors’’ (63).33 It is, however, a kind of activism for which fans are well known, and a mode of fan behavior known to be effective.

These two drives (November 1997 and November 1998) included organized letter-writing campaigns and lobbying contacts through Mann’s agents, his production company, and through the distributor, 20th Century Fox, intended to exert a very specific kind of pressure on a process that may have been inevitable anyway. The result, they claim, is the January 2001 release of the ‘‘Director’s Expanded Edition’’ of the film on DVD—a new version of the 1992 version of the film.34 It would seem that the Internet and the World Wide Web have also accelerated change in the relationship between fans and their objects, or readers and texts.

As of around January 2001, the script featured on the TOLOTM website has become even more intriguing. This version of the screenplay draft is now only based on a draft dated March 1991. When first posted, it was modified to bring it into correspondence with the film as released in 1992. This Web document now incorporates new material from the DVD, and says at the top, in bold red font: ‘‘PLEASE NOTE: All material in this script that appears in the DVD edition is written in RED! As in the theatrical release, some of the dialogue and action differ.’’ Although it lacks the academic trappings, the authors have nonetheless produced an impressive work of textual scholarship that is in many ways as rigorous as the scholarly editions produced by academics, and in this case more readable. As with Web texts, TOLOTM included, this page refuses to remain static. The page indicates that the hosts plan future improvements that will move further into the domain of literary criticism, when they announce that coming soon, ‘‘[e]very scene from the movie that has a corresponding scene in the novel will be linked to a page that contains Cooper’s text.’’35

What is clearest here is that the ‘‘conversation’’ about American national identity in which Cooper engaged, and in which every adaptation has been an entry, has changed—and yet it has not. It takes place in different spheres, under different terms, engaging more and different kinds of people than ever before. I think that one of the most important observations to make about the Mohicans fandom, however, is that its apparently democratic characteristics translate only to a very limited political efficacy. Despite its apparent diversity, this fan community seems to be a basically conservative phenomenon, fully in harmony with the dominant American culture, political winds, and ideology, and most effective as a channel for engaging the believers, for grass-roots mutual reinforcement.

I have attempted to provide here the beginnings of an analysis of this fandom that builds on recent scholarship on fan and popular culture and Internet studies. Clearly, further work could be undertaken that is beyond the scope of this essay. Intriguing directions for further research would include a full ethnography of the Mohicans fandom, for there are many unanswered questions about its members. More detailed information would help provide a fuller understanding of the issues raised here, beginning with their motives, responses, interest in the film, and how they make use of it (and the fandom) in their day-to-day lives.


1. On The Trail of The Last of the Mohicans, Mohican Press, Elaine and Rich Federici, operators. 18 Feb. 2004

Navigating TOLOTM can be somewhat difficult, partly as it is so extensive; for this reason, wherever possible, subsequent references will include in an endnote the precise URL of each page cited. Works Cited will indicate only the website as a whole. "Navigating This Site" 18 Feb. 2004

2. ‘‘From the Mohicans’ Land to MohicanLand,’’  18 Feb. 2004

3. ‘‘From the Mohicans’ Land to MohicanLand,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

4. ‘‘Which Way Does The Trail Go?’’ 18 Feb. 2004

5. The first kind of productivity that Fiske identifies, not mentioned here, is ‘‘semiotic’’—an interior process occurring within the individual fan’s consciousness, of making meaning out of the available ‘‘materials’’ that can at times be quite different from the intended meaning.

6. One of the key early modes of fan textual production, the term ‘‘fanzine’’ came into existence before the advent of the Internet, and referred to printed documents that were typically self-published, with circulation limited by material and economic constraints to relatively small, specifically defined communities, frequently by hand-to-hand distribution. ‘‘Ezines’’ came about in the 1980s, the early days of the Internet; the term originally described fanzines that circulated electronically, usually via mass emailing techniques (mailing lists, Listservs, etc.). It now refers to the same basic type of textual document, but one that has evolved into a Webbased form. Ezines are still electronic magazines, in their classic form self-published: discrete, newsletter-like documents, now published on the Web, and taking advantage of HTML document design tools, linking technology, and aspects of hypertext. Email distribution still exists, however, in the form of newsletters by subscription (at times like ‘‘e-brochures’’ or advertising flyers), informing recipients of new events, updates to the website, etc.

7. ‘‘Mohicanland Links . . . To Other Sites,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

8. These figures are my own estimates, based on descriptions and on group photographs, taken at these events, which appear in various places on the website.

9. ‘‘Mohican Press – Most Frequently Asked Questions,’’ 18 Feb. 2004 

‘‘The ‘Great Mohican Gathering’ Pages: Past, Present & Future?’’ 1 July 2002

10. The TOLOTM Photo Galleries include a page of images specifically of film shots of impressive scenery. For example, see ‘‘The Locations,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

11. ‘‘The Great Mohican Gathering of 1998,’’ 18 Feb. 2004  ; also, ‘‘The 2001 Great Mohican Gathering: A Mohicans Odyssey,’’ 18 Feb.2004

At the bottom of these pages are links to other pages for each of the Gatherings.

12. ‘‘Wes Studi: Meeting Magua Up Close!’’ 18 Feb. 2004

 13. For the interview, see ‘‘Eric Schweig: An Interview,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

For a page devoted solely to stills of Schweig and Jodhi May, who played Alice, see ‘‘Uncas and Alice,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

14. ‘‘A LETTER FROM DANIEL DAY-LEWIS . . . a Handwritten Note From Hawkeye Himself,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

15. For example: ‘‘Hawkeye and Cora,’’ 18 Feb. 2004; also, ‘‘Uncas and Alice,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

16. For example, see ‘‘The Great Mohican Gathering of 1998,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

17. ‘‘Mohican WWW Board . . . Bumppo’s Redux,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

The hosts have recently introduced a new forums section. There are several easy-to-locate sub-forums shown at the above URL on various special interests.

18. ‘‘The MohicanLand Masses: We Are A Breed Apart . . . And Make No Sense!’’ 18 Feb. 2004

Fiske identifies a gendered pattern in fandoms, ‘‘a slight but regular tendency for the more official or aesthetic criteria [of discrimination] to be used by older male fans rather than by younger, female ones. [. . .] Older fans, male fans, and more highly educated fans tend to use official criteria, whereas younger, female and the less educated ones tend towards popular criteria’’ (36 – 37). While Fiske finds this pattern relative to aesthetic discrimination and the accumulation of various kinds of cultural capital, it seems to apply here to other interest areas as well. At one end of the spectrum, the sites that are more star-oriented seem to have mainly female hosts, whereas those that demonstrate interest in various forms of military reenactment and the like, at the other, are predominantly organized by males.

19. There is a substantial body of literature on the subject, much of which is self-published or available through specialty magazines. See Will Dennison; Robert Lee Hadden; and the periodical, Camp Chase Gazette: The Voice of Civil War Reenacting, available in print and online; 18 Feb. 2004

20. TOLOTM notes with high praise an article Baker authored on his role in the production that appeared in MuzzleLoader Magazine (May/June 1992). This article is excerpted about 5 screens down at ‘‘And Even More Mohican Musings,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

21. ‘‘On The Trail With . . . Mark A. Baker,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

22. ‘‘The Script and the Matter of Historical Accuracy,’’ 25 Aug. 2002

23. An extensive history section includes substantial background material on events and biographies of major and minor figures, particularly those featured in the novel, from the French and Indian and Revolutionary War eras. This section also includes a photo gallery of shots of New York locations of historical events and of the novel: ‘‘History and The Last Of The Mohicans . . . Seeing Through the Distant Haze,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

24. ‘‘Mr. Twain’s Critiquing Offenses,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

 For interesting comparisons in literary criticism, see Craig Cotora (1983). Also, see Lance Schachterle and Kent Ljungquist (1988).

25. TOLOTM includes 27 pages of analysis of the film’s musical score: Sarah Melcher, ‘‘MohicanLand Musical Musings: The Music of The Last of the Mohicans,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

The link to this page, and credit given to Ms. Melcher, is on ‘‘Mohicanland Musical Musings . . . A Musical Interlude,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

26. Also, see Lisa Lewis’s ‘‘Introduction,’’ Lewis 1 – 6. Also, see Joli Jensen, ‘‘Fandom as Pathology: The Consequences of Characterization,’’ Lewis 9 – 29.

27. See the separate essays by Foster, Tepper, and Healy in the first section, ‘‘Virtual Communities’’; and by Poster, Lockard, and Tabbi in the final section, ‘‘Politics and the Public Sphere.’’

28. ‘‘Scathing critique’’ is Porter’s assessment of Lockard, from Porter’s introduction (xvii).

29. Wellman’s remark quoted here is from Barry Wellman, email communication with Howard Rheingold, 2000. Rheingold’s outstanding bibliography in the 2000 edition of Virtual Community lists a number of works by Wellman and by Wellman and co-authors. Perhaps the most pertinent to this discussion is the collection identified in the Works Cited.

30. At present, there are actually two different screenplay versions available on the site. I refer to the first as D2, ‘‘The Script: The Complete Collection of Scenes From the Film,’’ 1 July 2002

The other, D4, is of unclear origin, and is available on the website in downloadable PDF form, 18 Feb. 2004:

D2 is still on the website at the URL above, but it has been modified, as noted in the text following. D4 does not include the love scene; D2 does.

31. The first confirmation is in an interview from a 1992 edition of Trail Dust magazine, posted on TOLOTM in full: [Eric Schweig, Interview] 18 Feb. 2004

 also referenced at; the second is a TOLOTM interview with Schweig, ‘‘Eric Schweig: An Interview,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

 For an example of fan discontent on this point, see

32. See the drive information at the bottom of the page, ‘‘Director’s Expanded Edition Of The Last Of The Mohicans,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

33. Personal observation leads me to suggest that while online activism seems to produce email campaigns on a not infrequent basis, its ‘‘effects’’ are largely limited to the virtual realm. That such campaigns produce tangible results these days, in the early years of the twenty-first century, seems arguable, and one suspects that email is being treated by powerful interests more and more as junk mail. ‘‘The Clipper Chip is a cryptographic device purportedly intended to protect private communications while at the same time permitting government agents to obtain the ‘‘keys’’ upon presentation of what has been vaguely characterized as ‘‘legal authorization.’’ The ‘‘keys’’ are held by two government ‘‘escrow agents’’ and would enable the government to access the encrypted private communication. While Clipper would be used to encrypt voice transmissions, a similar chip known as Capstone would be used to encrypt data.’’ ‘‘The Clipper Chip,’’ Electronic Privacy Information Center, July 25, 2002

 34. ‘‘New Director’s Cut Drive Begins (7 Sept. 1998),’’ TOLOTM Forums, 18 Feb. 2004

‘‘An Open Letter to Michael Mann: A Call for a Director’s Cut Release of The Last of the Mohicans,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

 Much of the TOLOTM material on the Director’s Cut drives has been archived, but apparently is available via direct email contact with the Federicis. The two drives are documented, with a chronology and incorporated pages of text, about 11 screens down at ‘‘Director’s Expanded Edition of The Last of the Mohicans,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

35. ‘‘The Script . . . The Complete Collection of Scenes From the Film,’’ 18 Feb. 2004

As of this date, the prediction of future links to a version of the novel has not materialized, although it was made on the website at some point before June 1, 2001. [WEB SITE NOTE: Some of the pages were, in fact, done in the early stages of the site's creation and are linked to within the script. Alas, we never did finish that project.]

Works cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 1983. Rev. ed. London: Verso, 1991.

Ansen, David.‘‘Mann in the Wilderness.’’ Rev. of The Last of the Mohicans (1992), by Michael Mann. Newsweek 28 Sept. 1992: 48.

Bell, David, and Barbara M. Kennedy, eds. The Cybercultures Reader. London: Routledge, 2000.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Trans. Richard Nice Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1984.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans. 1826. Illustrated by N. C. Wyeth. New York: Scribner’s, 1919.

Cotora, Craig. ‘‘Mark Twain’s Literary Offenses; or the Revenge of Fenimore Cooper.’’ Mark Twain Journal 21.3 (Spring 1983): 19 – 20.

Dennison, Will. Springing to the Call: How to Get Started in Civil War Reenacting. self-published.

Federici, Richard, and Elaine Federici. On the Trail of the Last of the Mohicans 18 Feb. 2004

Federici, Rich. E-mail to the author. 9 Aug. 2001.

———. On The Trail of the Last of the Mohicans: An Explorer’s Guide to the Film’s Sites. Self-Published: 1993.

Field of Dreams Movie Site. 19 Feb. 2004

Fiske, John. ‘‘The Cultural Economy of Fandom.’’ Lewis: 30 – 49.

Galbraith, Jane. ‘‘Mann Supervises ‘Mohicans’ Production to Last Detail.’’ Los Angeles Times 21 May 1992, Home ed.: F2.

Hadden, Robert Lee. Reliving the Civil War: A Reenactor’s Handbook. 2nd ed. Mechanisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1999.

Healy, David. ‘‘Cyberspace and Place: The Internet as Middle Landscape on the Electronic Frontier.’’ Porter 55 – 68.

Jenkins, Henry. Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture. NY: Routledge, 1992.

Lewis, Lisa A. The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media. London: Routledge, 1992.

Lockard, Joseph. ‘‘Progressive Politics, Electronic Individualism and the Myth of Virtual Community.’’ Porter 219 – 31.

Mann, Michael. The Last of the Mohicans/Screenplay—Second Draft. 31 July 1990. Includes revisions 11/29/90, 2/13/91, 3/1/91, and 3/7/91. Ohio University Library. Also available from Script City, 8033 Sunset Blvd., Suite 1500, Hollywood, CA 90046. 1 June 2001

———. The Last of the Mohicans/Screenplay. Mohican Press. Est.Apr. 1992. 1 June 2001

Metzger, Th. ‘‘True Story: Reenacting the Civil War.’’ City Newspaper 30.45 1 – 7 Aug. 2001: 10 – 11.

Penley, Constance. ‘‘Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Study of Popular Culture.’’ Cultural Studies. Eds. Lawrence Grossberg, Cary

Nelson, and Paula A. Treichler. NY: Routledge, 1992. 479– 93.

———. NASA/Trek: Popular Science and Sex in America. New York: Verso, 1997.

Porter, David, ed. Internet Culture. NY: Routledge, 1997.

Radway, Janice A. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature 1984. Chapel Hill, NC: U of North Carolina P, 1991.

Rheingold, Howard. The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier 1993. Rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000.

Schachterle, Lance, and Kent Ljungquist. ‘‘Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Defenses: Twain and the Text of The Deerslayer.’’ Studies in the American Renaissance. Ed. Joel Myerson. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988. 401 – 17.

Somewhere In Time Official Website. 19 Feb. 2004

Trend David, ed. Reading Digital Culture. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001.

Wellman, Barry. Networks in the Global Village: Life in Contemporary Communities. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999.

Dr. Michael Williams received his PhD from the University of Rochester in 2002, and taught Management Communication at the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester until 2006. He has published and presented research on Faulkner, film adaptations, and communication technology. He currently works as a Political Communications consultant in Western New York.

The Journal of Popular Culture, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2007  ©2007, Copyright the Authors

Journal compilation ©2007, Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

Michael Williams speaks on this project at the showing of the film at the 2004 Gathering!
Mr. Williams does make it to a Gathering in 2004!


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