“It’s somebody who is obsessed with a particular star, celebrity, film, TV programme, band; somebody who can produce reams of information on the object of their fandom, can quote their favoured lines or lyrics, chapter and verse.” – Matthew Hills, 2002
I consider myself a fan of many different things. I love films, I obsess over TV shows, and I’m constantly online, finding new artists and talking to others about my main passion; music. I feel proud to be a fan of the music, films, books, television and all other media I consume, and I often show this buy purchasing merchandise and sporting t-shirts bought at concerts. However, there is one particular area of fandom mentioned in Hill’s definition above which I neither participate in, not can fathom why so many others do. This area is celebrities.
Magazines and tabloid newspapers are currently full of meaningless stories about Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Katie Price or Josie Cunningham’s new haircuts. With an average over 10 million Twitter followers between them, these four women are classic examples of celebrities who are ‘famous for being famous.’ Rather than relying on musical talent, acting skills or a love of writing, their looks and scandalous front page stories have been enough for them to achieve more fame and wealth than most of society, whilst seemingly putting in a fraction of the effort. However, they each seem to have a large number of devoted followers who view them in the same way I, and many others, view musicians, actors, directors and authors. This is something I can never see myself participating in.
Alongside many others, media theoriest Theodor Adorno views fans negatively and as acting as a homogeneous mass, consuming the ‘false needs’ expelled by the ‘culture industries.’ Similarly, in ‘Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture,’ Henry Jenkins lists several stereotypes of Trekkies (Star Trek fans) which could be applied to other fandoms. I believe that several of these can be applied to followers of celebrities. The one I felt was most applicable was that they ‘are brainless consumers who will buy anything associated with the programme or the cast.’ Of the four women I have mentioned, Josie Cunningham is the least well known, with only 108k Twitter followers. However, in July 2014 she was able to make £30k selling four tickets to the birth of her third child (which were refunded when she discovered she would be having a girl…) Although three of these tickets were sold to journalists, it shows how much that story would be worth to the readers of certain publications.
This example shows the lengths some people go to for celebrities which are further than most people would go for their favourite band. Although I view the fandoms I am a part of as communities of people who share interests, this shows that a single person with enough media hype surrounding them is enough to create fandoms just as dedicated.
Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M. (1944) Dialectic of Enlightenment, Germany
Hills, M. (2002) Fan Cultures, London & New York, Routledge
Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, New York, Routledge