Sunday, March 15, 2009

Harry Potter= Craze Fan?

This week we step away from the use and gratification theory and change our focus on the aspects of fandom. The McQuail readers mention there are two types of fan which are the “obsessed individual and hysterical crowd” (343). According to McQuail’s reader a person being a fan is consider to “suffer from psychological inadequacy, and are particularly vulnerable to media influence and crowd contagion” (349). I believe that fandom has been in every person life in one aspect are another. We as audience participator have all enjoy and been fans of a favorite TV show, movies, and celebrity. But does that make us an obsessed individual?

In the rise of moderate-effect theories Dolf Zillmann is credited with development of the contemporary entertainment theory. According to Baran &Davis entertainment theory is a way, “to understand what entertaining media content does to us—often without our awareness” (249). Most entertainment theorist believes that we as an audience members are not aware of the content that we assume. Entertainment theorists assume that we as audience members assume that “were just doing what feels good… its only entertainment” (249). An aspect of entertainment theory is the mood management theory which I believe relates to fandom. Mood management theory argues that individuals seek out media content that they expect to improve there mood. Millions of people do not become craze fans of movies like Twilight, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings for just enjoyment. I think it involves enjoyment plus has a positive effect on the individual’s mood. Why do you think Twilight, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings have such a huge fan base?

I want to pay particular attention to the fandom of the Harry Potter series. The Harry Potter series has an international fan base all around the world. The fandom works through the use of many different forms of media such as, web sites, fan fiction, podcasts, role playing, and fan art .In the CBS News article “Rowling Sues Potter Fan Site”. Here the website
Harry Potter creator is suing a fan Steve Vander Ark for trying to sell a book version of his popular website called “Harry Potter Lexicon”. Here is the link to the fan website The unauthorized Harry Potter guide was going to be an A-to-Z encyclopedia describing the people, magic spells, places and things of characters, and imaginary games featured in the Harry Potter novels, companion books and films. Much of the material in the unauthorized Lexicon guide book is available online. Did an enthusiastic fan of Harry Potter go too far? Was the fan trying to cash on the worldwide success of the Harry Potter franchise? Do you think Steve Vander Ark has the aspect of McQuail’s reader two types of fan which are the “obsessed individual and hysterical crowd”? Do you think that fans of popular shows and movie are obsessed individual (i.e. Grey’s Anatomy, American Idol, and Gossip Girl)? Do you think all fans according to McQuail’s reader “suffer from psychological inadequacy, and are particularly vulnerable to media influence”? Do believe that individuals can be a fan of media without being obsessed? What is your take on fandom?


  1. Posted on behalf of Tony Majersky:

    I personally do not believe in fandom and think that Twilight, Harry Potter, and LOTR are great examples to use. I have also never read or seen any of the books or movies other than the first Harry Potter movie. But these are all great science ficion, impossible to happen kinda of scenarios in which all people in their right mind know and understand that they are just forms of media, whether it be in a book or movie. They have such a large fan base because it is an escape from reality and thats why most people read or watch movies in the first place. Just because some of the consumers of these media dress up and go to conventions does not make them crazy and i feel that its ok to enjoy what you enjoy with a bunch of other people who enjoy the same thing. Some people go to sporting events like a baseball game and others go to comicon and dress up as their favorite character. If you are in the right situation you are looked at differently also. If a QU student was walking around the quad with a Harry Potter outfit on any other day besides halloween they would be stared at. If you go to a baseball game wearing a jersey no one would look twice. I disagree with the quote from McQuail about being "obsessed individual and hysterical crowd" but do agree that "In a media addicted age, celebrities function as role models for fans who engage in artificial social relations with them. (McQuail 344)" Some viewers, mostly younger, look up to people they see on the television and want to be them. Right now a huge craze is Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, and i would assume that many girls want to look, act, talk, dress, be her. But again, most people know that it is just media and are able to differentiate between what is real and what is not. Just because you watch a show and see the same people every week at the same time does not make you obsessed, it simply makes you a fan.

  2. In response to Aisha’s question, I wouldn’t say that all fans “suffer from psychological inadequacy, and are particularly vulnerable to media influence” (McQuail Ch. 32). Instead, I would argue that it is very possible to be a fan without being obsessed, but that this line can easily be crossed given the right set of circumstances. I think that people who cross the line from being a regular fan into being completely psychotically obsessed are definitely predisposed to having mental issues, but more importantly lack their own personal reality.

    When so much of someone’s time is occupied with entertainment, movie stars, etc., the overriding need of human nature to make connections with other people leads a person to make “connections” with a media figure, whether it’s a reality TV star or an actor that plays a fictional character. Jensen references this when she paints a picture of the hypothetical obsessed fan, “He or she is cut off from family, friends and community. His or her life becomes increasingly dominated by an irrational fixation on a celebrity figure, a perverse attachment that dominates his or her otherwise unrewarding existence” (McQuail 346-347).

    People whose fandom leads to passionate infatuation and even violence are clearly lacking something in their personal lives, in my opinion. Similar to what Jensen says, “the absence of stable identity and connection is seen as leaving the individual open to irrational appeals,” (McQuail, 346) someone who doesn’t have many friends, a supportive family, a job or other commitments, is far more likely to spend a great deal of time alone with only the company of media – the internet, television, or movies, for example. I think as long as people maintain some level of social “normalcy”, their chances for crossing the line from basic fandom to dangerous obsession are very slim.

  3. In McQuail’s Reader, Caughey describes how, “in a media addicted age, celebrities function as role models for fans who engage in ‘artificial social relations’ with them” (344). But what if those role models are artists like Marilyn Manson. Heavy metal music takes the blame for violence among young teens and an example of this is the Columbine shootings that connected Marilyn Manson for the behavior of these deranged teens.

    The article discusses the accusations of the 13 killed and 23 injured students and faculty at Columbine High School in 1999. People blamed Marilyn Manson specifically for these shootings and his gothic influential music. "Pundits and politicians, including Senator Joe Lieberman, attacked Manson, labeling the artist a “shock rocker” whose band was the “sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company.” Is Manson really the one to blame? How can one individual have so much power and influence to create a bloodbath? There are clearly other issues at hand such as childhood, friends, family, social settings that all factor towards what will make someone go mad. I don’t think it is fair or justified to blame just one media influence. The relationship between fans and celebrities goes both ways, “these individuals achieve public notoriety by stalking or threatening or killing the celebrity”(344). These individuals can be categorized as obsessed loners and in so act in deviant and destructive ways.

    I think that when it comes to the media and obsessive fans there is a line that is definitely crossed. People begin to distort reality and convince themselves that characters are real. In the case where fans become violent I personally think has more to do with other leading factors that lead up to their violent acts rather than the media they are consuming such like the 2 Columbine killers. Many are not affected by violence in the media so it is hard to point the blame.

  4. I believe that there are different types of fandom, ranging from the obsessed fan to the casual fan. It is true that many people do experience different levels of fandom throughout their lives however some people take things a bit too far.
    As Aisha stated in the blog, with the example of the Harry Potter Lexicon, that was the example of a fan going too far. It may just have been that this fan needed this guide to keep everything straight in the books (there are an awful lot of characters to keep straight) but at the same time, the idea of selling this to make a profit is really taking it too far. As for this person fitting in with the McQuail's reader definition of “obsessed individual and hysterical crowd”, I do not believe that he fits into either one of those categories. He seems to be more motivated by the idea of using his fandom to turn a profit.
    Saying that, I do not believe that fans “suffer from psychological inadequacy, and are particularly vulnerable to media influence”. People are allowed to become fans of whatever they like, an example is myself, some people may say that I am "obsessed" with the music that I listen too however there is nothing that I am doing that is dangerous to my mental state and it is not going to harm anyone I know. McQuail's reader states, "Fandom, especially 'excessive' fandom, is defined as a form of psychological compensation, an attempt to make up for all that modern life lacks" (347). I myself know that I am not making up for anything that my modern life lacks through my music, movies, books or television. I am content with the way my life is and I do not need anything to change in such an extravagant way.

  5. I have always wondered why things like Harry Potter, Twilight, and LOTR have such huge fan bases. It is almost as if you will never understand it until you are part of it. As an outsider to these "worlds," it is hard for me to see someone dressed up like a LOTR character, or see a line outside Barnes and Noble at midnight when a book comes out, without judging them or thinking they are crazy, even though some of my best friends and family are in this category. When they start talking about these topics, it seems as though they can go on forever and never get bored.

    The McQuail's reader brings up a good point on the different types of fans. When we see people with their face painted or wearing their teams colors at a sporting event, I don't really think twice about it. They have a passion for something. But is that really different from my other fan examples?

    Mcquail also discusses some perhaps not so safe fan bases. It states, "Metal fans are characterized, especially by concerned parents, as vulnerable youngsters who have become 'twisted' in response to the brutal and Satanic influence of the music" (344). I suppose then that we should be praising the fact that the "crazy fans" of today's generation are obsessed with books and movies, rather than music with "licentious lyrics."

  6. I would say that being a fan doesn’t necessarily make one an obsessed individual. Most rational people are able to control their level on fandoms. I consider myself to be a Harry Potter fan like a lot of people in my age group. However I would not describe myself as a huge Harry Potter fan that title I would reserve for people such as Steve Vander Ark, who is obviously a HUGE Harry Potter fan according to the article. Someone like him might be more of an obsessed individual. The text brings up an interesting point, “Audience members do voluntarily control their selection of entertainment content, but as in information-processing theory, there are many underlying psychological processes they don’t consciously control”(Baran 25). I think a good example of this is, I might choose to read a Harry Potter book, but not realize that I just spent four straight hours reading it.

    I think series like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Twilight have such big fan bases because they are all fantasy stories. I think a lot of people get tired of their lives at some point and want to read about something out of the ordinary. This could also be mood management theory cause if one is in a bad mood it could make them forget about it. For example I have a friend and once in a while as she’s trying to write a paper, she exclaims, “I wish I could just go to Hogwarts, I wouldn’t even mind doing the homework.” People like these series because they can escape.

    Not all fans are obsessed people, or suffer from psychological inadequacy. I think, however, there is a stigma along with being a fan of a television series, or a book series. People don’t like admitting to liking Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings because they don’t want to be thought of as a loser or weird. It is interesting though when it comes to more acceptable things like Sports, people are not ashamed at all of their fandom, and the lengths that they go.

  7. Fandom is a touchy subject to address and dicuss. I think that many people get defensive (myself included) and want to be able to address the fact that we are not obsessed, just highly involved. I think that there is a level when fandom reaches extremes-for examples when celebrities’ lives are being threatened by stalkers and incredibly obsessive and dangerous people. But I think it is completely healthy for fans to admire, respect and cheer on their favorite characters and celebrities. I, myself, will cmpletely admit that my junior high and high school bedrooms were completely covered in pop culture posters. I think that this is a completely appropiate level of fandom. I agree with Tony’s post above when he said that LOTR and Harry Potter are poor examples to use. I think his analogy by comparing these books to any baseball game or sports event was a great example of how bias the topic of fandom can be.
    McQuail (ch 32) said that fans are “suffer from psychological inadequacy, and are particularly vulnerable to media influence”. I disagree with this statement. Just because you tend to like a certain tv show, or delve into science fiction books, or dream of being married to the lead singer of a boy band one day doesn’t mean you suffer from psychological problems? I actually think it is the opposite. If you do not have something to focus your attention on; something that doesn’t ignite your passions, then what are you really living for? I think fandom, when safety isn’t sacrificed, is a perfectly healthy way to express interests in today’s society.

  8. Fandom is a touchy subject, like Heather said. The definition of fandom is “fans collectively, as of a motion-picture star or a professional game or sport”. Today, though, the word fandom garners a slightly negative connotation. People involved in fandom are often seen as the “obsessed individual” that McQuail mentions on page 343. However, like plenty of other people mentioned, there’s a lot of different levels of fandom.

    Harry Potter & Twilight are two perfect examples of fandom. I won’t lie, when Harry Potter first came out, I was pretty obsessed, as a lot of people were. I spent a lot of time on the internet on Harry Potter websites, playing games, reading “spoilers” about what people thought was going to happen in the future books, and browsing the message boards to see what people were talking about that day. I got tickets for the midnight showing on opening night for the first film. I did it all. But what I did, which might have seemed obsessive to some, was no where near the level of some other people. I’ll never forget the famous “Harry Potter towel girl” [,,20011608,00.html ], or the story Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe once told about a girl who pulled up next to his limo on a New York City street and tried to climb from her car to his window, while the cars were in motion. THAT is the highest level of fandom, in my opinion. These are the people who fit into McQuail’s “frenzied or hysterical member of a crowd…the screaming, weeping teen at the airport glimpsing at the rock star”. [348]

    I do not think that all fans “suffer from pyschological inadequacy”, but I do think that they are very “vulnerable to media influence”. People become obsessed with things because the media constantly shoves it in their face. Its kind of like having a song that you absolutely hate, but the radio stations play it so much that you grow to like it.

    I also believe that fandom depends on a lot of variables in order to fully bloom. Most people who are “obsessed” are of the younger age bracket. People tend to grow out of it as they get older. I still love Harry Potter, but I’m old enough now to realize that these characters are not real. It also depends a lot on what is being obsessed over. Magical type things like Harry Potter and Twilight tend to draw the bigger “obsessors”. I think it also depends a lot on the individual. I tend to have a very obsessive personality, so its only natural for me to join in on a fandom. I never read Twilight or saw the movie, because I’m not giving myself the chance to become attached.

    Fandom can be a negative think if you let it get that far, but I also think it can be a good thing for everyone to experience at some point.