When you think about fan culture you are immediately drawn to remember those peers you went to high school with. The one’s that dressed up as their favourite characters, collected all the books, DVD’s and what ever remaining merchandise that had their favourite characters emblazoned upon it. Having been at high school from the early half of the ‘naughties’, I remember the biggest trend that drew a tremendous amount of fanfare was the Harry Potter craze. Students and staff alike were not only engaging in talking about the series, it had almost become a part of our curriculum.
Just as the Harry Potter obsession raged through my school, the history of fan culture has a long and interesting story. In particular the early nineteen seventies ‘doowop’ rock and roll era. For those of you who are unaware of what a fanzine is, it is a publication put together by fans of a particular interest.
Prutner explains, that at the beginning of the 1970’s the fanzines were created “to meet the needs of the fans of music that were not being expressed by mainstream media” (1997, pg.11). “They created the magazines because the real story of rock and roll wasn’t being told” (1997, pg.11). Again in the early 90’s grunge era, fans were creating their own publications to tell their stories about the artists and bands they admired.
Fast-forward to today’s current fan culture and you will find the same publications with one exception. They are now digital, with content strewn throughout blogs, Facebook fan pages, aggregated story telling domains and devoted fan websites. If there are dedicated fans, you can be assured to find related content on the Internet.
Pearson states “The digital revolution has had a profound impact upon fandom, empowering and disempowering, blurring the lines between producers and consumers, creating symbiotic relationships between powerful corporations and individual fans, and giving rise to new forms of cultural production” (2010, pg.84).
However, what the Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away”.
Jenkins reminds us “The differences between the ways corporations and fans understand the value of grassroots creativity has never been clearer”. As always at the heart of the debate is the economic value of fan works. Should the incredibly talented authors/illustrators and lovers of a particular show/film/artists have to pay royalties to the creators of the original works? After all these are adaptations of story lines created by someone else. As Jenkins points out in the article above, most fan fiction is “a labour of love; they operate in a gift economy and are given freely to other fans who share their passion for these characters”.
Until media industries begin to see the real value of user generated content, the debate about copyright and fan fiction is sure to be a point of great interest through many eras One Direction, Miley Cirus to come.
Pearson, R 2010, ‘Fandom in the Digital Era, Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture, Summons Database, viewed 5 September 2013.
Pruter, R 1997, ‘A history of Doowop fanzines’, Popular Music & Society, 21, 1, p. 11, Humanities International Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 5 September 2013.
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing