Wednesday, September 25, 2013

English Professor Takes Honors Class on the Shawshank Trail

Dr. Maura Grady with the Honors 390 class at the Ohio State Reformatory
By Erika Gallion, English and Creative Writing major
Props from The Shawshank Redemption

During the first section of Honors 390 this semester, Dr. Maura Grady introduced the class to the study of fan culture. The timing couldn’t have been better for this section: Mansfield and Ashland would soon be teeming with fans because of the Shawshank Trail’s 20th Reunion. The Shawshank Trail is an annual opportunity for fans of the film The Shawshank Redemption to gather in certain filming locations around Mansfield and Ashland. The trail was expected to be extremely busy this year because of its 20-year reunion, therefore inspiring Dr. Grady to conduct research on the basis of The Shawshank Redemption’s fan culture.
Touring the Reformatory

On the first day of the Shawshank Trail, I went with three other classmates to survey fans visiting the Ohio State Reformatory. The survey asked fans questions regarding their interests in visiting filming locations, their topmost desires for visiting Mansfield and/or Ashland, and how important the film was to the fan’s everyday life. During my research, I met a family from Illinois who were die-hard fans, locals who were simply interested in the prison itself, and a man who acted as an extra in the film (he had a folder full of pictures from the set—so cool!). The fans I met did not seem to be like one another; rather, Shawshank fans were widespread and unpredictable. This movie spoke to all kinds of fans, therefore attracting both genders, multiple age groups, and people from any profession.

Through this project, I discovered that fan culture is stereotyped way too often. The word fan has a connotation of being nerdy, introverted, and obsessive, but as I got to know Shawshank fans, I discovered the truth: fans are anyone who have a passion for a specific thing that has impacted their lives. I think it’s a good thing to be a fan- I know I’m a fan for a lot of things, The Shawshank Redemption being one of them!