“Fandom is a collective noun for a group of fans that share an interest” (The internet and the evolution of fandom, 2012). In film, fandom is exactly that but, with the shared interest being in a particular movie, whether it be the characters, actors or filmmakers. This essay will explore the evolution of fandom and how it has changed since the introduction of the internet. It will also look at what activities are involved with fandom and, how it ultimately effects the film industry.
Fandom has progressively changed over the years, particularly with the introduction of the internet. The internet has changed the scale of fans and how they communicate with one another. Before the internet, if fans were to talk to one another, it would have to be a physical encounter. Either that or, it was through letters, hardcopies, collages, audio cassettes newsletters or newspapers, which were all common materials for a fan to possess (Wiatrowski, n.d.). Since the internet, similar but more advanced modes of fandom have come into existence such as; online forums, fan groups, video blogs and online channels such as the ‘official’ online fan spaces; Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social networking sites. By ‘official’, I am referring to sites, pages or groups that were not established by fans but by the marketing team of a film or, the management team of a particular star (A.Deller, n.d.) for example. The display of these online modes enables fans to express their thoughts and opinions and, communicate almost instantly to a larger scale of people (Harris, n.d.). Despite the differences between offline and online fan communities, both share common functions; the creation, discussion, communication, sharing and speculation of texts (Jenkins, 1992). Furthermore, the internet has also caused fandom to not just be a community among fans but, to open up and be explored as a subject of academia (Harris, n.d.).
There are a variety of activities that fans can get involved in including; attending conventions, writing fan fiction, blogging, attending premieres, collecting merchandise, writing fan mail or even getting into film production of the films you are a fan of (Turner, 2013), plus many more. If one goes by the words of Jen Gunnels who believes that “any study of text shows some involvement or degree of fandom” (Gunnels, n.d.) then, many activities can be classed as “fandom”. From writing a review about a film or an article about a star, to even just reading one of those two suggests you are a fan to some extent. Is this true? If a critique writes a negative review on a film, how could one define them as a fan of that film? This is a fair question however, I support Gunnels’ quotation as, if one is able to put their time and effort into writing a film review, either positive or negative, they are clearly interested in the subject of their review enough to class them as a fan. Henry Jenkins supports this point with his definition of fandom: – “Fandom, after all, is born of a balance between fascination and frustration.” (Jenkins, 2006). This quotation suggests that the fascination part of fandom is what keeps the people interested, while the frustration part is what makes a fan speak up about their disappointments and ultimately suggest room for improvement, which could be considered as constructive criticism for filmmakers. Both fascination and frustration are needed to construct fandom, therefore, in a sense, those who write negative reviews are still part of the fan community. They might even still be aiding the filmmaking process with their critical feedback of a film they may not even particularly like.
It is common knowledge that films have an effect on their audiences, hence why film fandom and audience behaviour even exists but, it is important to realise that this effect is reciprocated, as fans also influence films (Turner, 2013). They are considered to be the most critical but important people to most key aspects of the film they are a fan of (crackinfilms, 2012), because of their passion towards it. By ‘most key aspects’, I am referring to the production, distribution and exhibition of a film as, fan response has a significant impact on all of these areas. For example, if a franchise is to be created, a significant fan base is needed from the first film so that filmmakers are aware that making another film will not be cash loss, as they already have set audience. In relation to marketing, of course advertising is a typical stage for any film but, the amount of merchandise that goes into it is dependent on how many people will actually buy what is being sold. Only fans will buy a Downton Abbey mug and, only fans will hang up a Harry Potter poster. Typical audience members will watch the film and leave it at that so, it is the engagement of the fan audience that influences the factors mentioned above. In result of the internet, filmmakers have been able to collect research carried out by scholars on fans and their reactions to films after they have been produced and screened. In result, this material, in addition to the research obtained from online fan communities, allows filmmakers to find ways of involving fans in the production of their texts before they are completed (Harris, n.d.). A prime example of how fan reaction influences the creation of a text is the fan base of ‘Sherlock Holmes’, which is considered to be the original fandom. In result of the length of time ‘Sherlock Holmes’ has been around for, its many adaptations among different mediums and, the amount of stars that have acted in the franchise, the fan base is so large. Additionally, they are very opinionated, so much to the point that when Conan Doyle killed Sherlock in one of his stories, the angry reaction of fans was so extreme, that Doyle was forced to resurrect the character (Den of Geek, n.d.). Since then, fans of the franchise have had a big influence on the decisions of its creators.
Overall, fandom has existed over a variety of mediums for many years. The introduction of the internet transformed fandom into a wide scale community with various and more advanced forms of fan culture, production and activism. Despite these changes, what has and will always remain the same is that both fans and filmmakers depend on each other and, have done so for many years.
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