Fan Communities and Fan Consumption
It has been continually pointed out to me that I easily become obsessed with bands, TV shows. There have been past instances where I will hear of a band for the first time but will then own four posters, six t-shirts, every CD and be a heavily involved member of their fan forum a week later. Similarly, I have gone from feeling apathetic towards a TV show one day, to sitting up on my laptop all night the next watching every episode and following all the actors and crew members involved on Twitter. I am then likely to drive every person I speak to for the next few months crazy as I regurgitate ‘fun facts’ I have learnt from my hours of reading every Wikipedia page related to my new obsession. The fact that my sisters still remind me of how I used to spend entire days watching, rewinding, and re-watching The Jungle Book video when I was young proves how little I have changed since I was three.
Although I do eventually lose interest, I am still a fan of everything I have ever gone through one of these obsessive phases over and still proudly wear any merchandise I acquired during that period. I can relate to several of the stereotypical characteristics laid out by Jenkins (1992) in his essay on Star Trek fans, ‘Get A Life! Fans, Poachers, Nomads.” One characteristic is ‘brainless consumers who buy anything associated,’ which, although I have so far resisted spending over £100 on a Harry Potter time-turner necklace, is something my extensive collection of band t-shirts proves I am guilty of. The only other of these characteristics I feel applies to me is that I ‘place inappropriate importance on devalued cultural material,’ but in my opinion, learning The Big Bang Theory theme tune on piano was a more productive use of time than revising for A Levels.
Joli Jensen (1992) identifies two types of fans: the obsessed loner and the frenzied, hysterical member of the crowd. Fortunately, I feel that the latter applies to me. I cannot attempt to argue that the amount of time I spend could not have been better spent reading a classic novel or learning another language, but I would also be wrong to suggest that it has led to no benefits. Upon being the single person from the 150 students in my school year group to move to Birmingham for University, I found that being part of fandoms and having a common interest on which I could start a conversation made the experience much less daunting. I would consider music to be my main interest, and becoming a fan of this has made me more open to and more appreciative of styles of music I wouldn’t normally have listened to. For this reason I agree with Anthony Giddens in ‘Modernity and Self Identity’ (1991) who states ‘A person’s identity is not to be found in behavious, nor in the reactions of others but in the capacity to keep a particular narrative going.’
Giddens, A. (2008) Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age, Cambridge, Polity.
Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, New York, Routledge.
Jensen, J. (1992) ‘Fandom as pathology: The consequences of characterisation’ in Lisa A. Lewis (ed.) The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, London, Routledge.