Encomium on the Overlord | Torrey | Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion

Encomium on the Overlord

KT Torrey

As a new fan of the CW's paranormal series Supernatural, I paid little attention to actor Misha Collins outside the omnipresent trenchcoat of his character, Castiel—until a kairotic question from a fellow conference panelist pointed me in the direction of Collins' Twitter feed. I was struck by Collins’ 140-character shots of performative trolling, Tweets that sang to me in shades, gleeful rhetorical waves, of the sophists, particularly because of the actor's interest in, and unique definition of, social change.

Building on that sophistic seed, I argue here that Collins' construction of a megalomaniacal Twitter persona known as the Overlord has afforded him a particular kind of disruptive ethos, one he's used to persuade his fans to regard both "normalcy" as a social problem and acts of art and public performance as effective means of addressing that ill. Ultimately, I suggest that listening carefully to how Collins' fan community defines, enacts, and understands "social change"—rather than measuring their rhetoric against a fixed understanding of what such change can and should look like—may allow those of us outside of this community, and others like it, might add to our understand of the "new ways of thinking about citizenship and collaboration" at work within the many, varied, and beautiful spaces of fandom (Jenkins 257).

KT Torrey is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Writing at Virginia Tech. Her research wrestles with the interplay of rhetoric and identity performance online, while her fanfiction features a different sort of wrestling, shall we say. She favors good whiskey, bad Foreigner lyrics, and those moments, few and fleeting, when writing isn't quite so hard.