Sunday, March 15, 2009

Twilight and Levels of Fandom in Society

Chapter 32 of McQuail’s Reader in Mass Communication Theory explains that “what is assumed to be true of fans – that they are potentially deviant, as loners or as members of a mob – can be connected with deeper, and more diffuse, assumptions of modern life” (346). McQuail also states that there are two types of fans, those being the “obsessed individual and hysterical crowd” (343). Fandom has most certainly had a presence in the lives of all of us at some point. Whether we are surrounded by it or we take part in it, we have witnessed and are effected by its existence. I will be connecting the spectrum of fandom to the current topic of the movie Twilight. There are people who have become obsessed with the movie, dressing and acting as characters and convincing themselves they are on a personal level with them, and there are those who simply find entertainment and pleasure in going to the see the movie and watching the plot and the characters in it, often after having read the books as well. These are examples of fandom on completely different levels; some may define them as a stable and an unstable level on the spectrum of fandom as a whole. Do you feel that fandom can take place on levels which can be determined differently by theorists, or is all fandom a negative psychological result of obsession?
I know many girls who joke about being the girlfriend of Robert Pattinson or discuss how lucky Kristin Stewart was to play Bella, Pattinson’s love interest in the movie. However, there are certain people who have taken fandom to new levels by convincing themselves that they are in love with the vampire from the movie, which means that they are also convinced that Robert Pattinson is actually the character he plays. Stemming from this is an obsession with the actor. He explained in interviews following the release of Twilight that he had a stalker while filming in Spain, and that he finally just went out to dinner with her because she was relentless in her attempts. In the article, http://www.leaderpost.com/Entertainment/Mickey+would+take+gorilla+over+Courtney/1296644/story.html, he talks about obsessive fans, and he has often said that they become obsessed with the idea of his characters more than Robert himself. Do you think these fans are unstable, or have they been informed by the media in a way that drives them to become this obsessed?
These are two completely different levels of fandom, one being obsession and one being common interest. Chapter 9 of Baran & Davis states that “once people are aware and informed, or at least have formed strong images or impressions, they can be moved toward either a conscious decision or an unconscious prioritization or positioning” (261). In this article from People.com, http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20260882,00.html , Kristen Stewart, the actress who plays Bella, discusses her constantly rumored relationship with Robert Pattinson, claiming that nothing has “stopped the rumors of an off-screen fling.” Do you believe that these fans and/or writers are prioritizing and making up lies, or that they have been positioned to make a conscious decision to believe that the actor and actress are dating? Are studies of fandom over-analyzed, or is there a more psychological explanation for it?

12 comments:

  1. I thought this topic was a great relative example of fandom in today’s society. Having read the Twilight series, I suppose I would call myself a fan as well. I truly believe that there are two types of fans: the obsessed, and the entertained. I find myself purely entertained by the Twilight series, and do not fall in the trap as other young viewers sometimes do when they believe that the actors that portray these vampires actually act and live like their characters. So no, I do not believe that all fandom is a negative psychological result of obsession, and that fandom can and does take place on many levels, which should be open to further review and research.

    I believe that most fans would fall under the category of the entertainment theory described by Baran and Davis, “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” (256). So in answering the question of if I believe that fans are unstable versus the way they have been informed by the media, I think that the media has a great deal in influencing us as audience members. We have celebrity websites such as TMZ and Perez Hilton that updates us on every movement of the Twilight cast and we can even look up reviews for the movie before we go out to see it. It’s obvious by now through our discussions that the media has a huge influence over us as media consumers, and may just be the reason why fans can turn “obsessive” with the amount of outlets they can turn to in order to feed their habit.

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  2. I believe fandom can be negative and dangerous; however it depends on the extent to which the fan is willing to go. I am personally a fan of many shows and actors/actresses; so you could categorize me as the entertained fan. Even though I am a fan of their work and I like to read articles on the latest gossip on them, I do not go out of my way to see them or talk to them. Their life is of little concern to me. Yet people seem to engage in these lives as if they were their own. Fandom is described by Schickel in the McQuail’s Reader as an “attempt to live vicariously, through the perceived lives of the famous” (348). These individuals who are in the obsessed category live their lives as that of the actor. They dress up like them, talk like them, and behave like them. I think there is a more psychological explanation for this type of a fan because most people are categorized as an entertained fan. But we just have yet to find it.

    The media, I believe, plays a major role in fandom. They constantly feed the obsessed fans with more and more information on the actor’s lives. They allow the fans to get an inside look on the actor’s. However, when it comes to the question of, if fans make up lies about the actor’s, like if they are dating. I do not think they do. That is mainly the media simply trying to keep the attention of the audience. It is there way of creating a story.

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  3. jennifer gigliottiMarch 16, 2009 at 3:02 PM

    In response to the question, Do you feel that fandom can take place on levels which can be determined differently by theorists, or is all fandom a negative psychological result of obsession?, I think the answer is that fandom can take place on many different levels. In the McQuail reader, there are two different kinds of fans. There is the “obsessed loner fan” whose life is “dominated by an irrational fixation on a celebrity figure”. The other type is the “frenzied fan”, who is “vulnerable, but this time to irrational loyalties sparked by sports teams or celebrity figures.” Right away the first type of fan seems to be the crazier one but there is different levels of fandom in each of these categories. (146)
    With the example of Twilight, a fan of this could fit into either category, depending on how they are. The loner fan could feel that they have a relationship with one of the characters. They can be obsessed and make up stories in their head in their homes. Or that same loner fan can be on a higher level of fandom that would be stalking that character and trying to get to them in real life, and in the worst cases, hurting themselves or the celebrity because of it.
    When I think of the frenzied fan, I think of people obsessed with bands or hardcore sports fans. I don’t think a girl who is obsessed with a music band that goes to a concert wearing all their merchandise and screams when they come out is negative. It is entertainment for that person and they are passionate about their interests. This would be a lower level of fandom. When I think of a higher level frenzied fan, sports fans come to mind. There are fans who take their fandom to extreme levels, for example, soccer fans in Europe. Because of loyalty to a specific team, they often are violent towards the other team’s fans.
    But to categorize ALL fans into a few small categories I think is crazy. There are so many reasons why people do the things they do and act the way they act. It doesn’t necessarily even have to be psychological. In the cases where the fan is going to kill people and hurt people, it might be more than just fandom.

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  4. I think fandom depends entirely on the individual person. Each person is able to determine how interested he/she is in an actor or singer or celebrity and to what extent he will act on that interest. The majority of people rationally display their liking by seeing movies or buying merchandise or attending sporting events or the like. There's no disruption to anyone and the intent is enjoyment and entertainment. Problems arise when people, not very many though, go too far in showing their interest for a celebrity. These are the people who take the celebrity's role as a "role model" too seriously (McQuail 344). They may also not be able to distinguish reality from the fantasy that the character exists in (whether it's a movie or sports figure or otherwise).

    I feel there are many levels of fandom, not just one big negative psychological issue. The levels can range from casual to devoted to obsessive and over-the-top. Most people fall into the first two categories, which I would consider reasonable and not troublesome. These people enjoy those in the media but have other interests and priorities in their lives. The ones who fall into the obsessive category are usually unstable to some degree and have the capability of causing some kind of problem, either to themselves or to others. When these people band together, that's when mobs occur and inflict damage.

    Most fans are products of media outlets and the information they provide. Without the media, most of the public wouldn't know anything about celebrities. Very few people have direct interactions with those people that they are fans of. Since fans can't be on every single street in LA or private island getaway or whatnot to be involved in the lives of those they admire, they reach to the media that can.

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  5. Twilight. If I had a dime for every time someone made a negative or joking comment about the books/film or “tween” fans I would be wealthy. Then again, if I had a nickel for every fan or admirer I met I would be wealthier. I consider myself a fan of both the books and film, but depending on who I am around I or they would determine my level of fandom. I believe that there certainly are levels of fandom. As Christine pointed out McQuail’s two levels of fandom, obsessed individual versus hysterical crowd (McQuail, 343), I could not help but think that there are many more levels.
    In my case, seasoned veterans would consider me a newcomer to the Twilight Saga because I just started reading the books in August of last summer. I have met all sorts of fans that enjoy the saga in their own way and whenever I engage in a conversation I cannot help but feel we may be sizing each other up to assess how big of fans we are. This mentality translates with anything. MTV had a television show called FANatic that ran when college students these days were between elementary and middle schools (http://www.retrojunk.com/details_tvshows/1368-mtvs-fanatic/). I believe that to us we saw that “top fan” spot as an achievement. It meant that you were the best and who doesn’t want to be the best? Fans expressed their fandom by being open about their obsession and revealing that it doesn’t take much to satisfy them. About 10 years prior to the creation of this show actress Rebecca Schaeffer was killed by an obsessed stalker (http://investigation.discovery.com/investigation/hollywood-crimes/schaeffer/rebecca-schaeffer.html). This fan was so deranged that it took taking her life to satisfy.
    The above is an extreme example, but being a celebrity also means dealing with fans. The Jonas Brothers know this very well. According to McQuail, another version of fan pathology is the “frenzied or hysterical member of a crowd…the screaming, weeping teen at the airport glimpsing at the rock star” (McQuail, 344). The Jonas Brothers are the biggest thing out there catering to the frenzied fans. Going from the most recent to the latest, this mentality occurred with the Backstreet Boys, New Kids on the Block, and most notably the Beatles. Why do we praise the time of the Beatles rather than criticize? The consensus is that the Beatles revolutionized music and the industry. Even so, it seems that over time becoming a major fan has its drawbacks and society isn’t always ready to accept them. According to Baron and Davis, audience activity is more habitual than consciously intended (B&D, 247). It has become a habit of these fans to love their celebrities whether anyone cares or not. In the end no one is going to stop them because they can’t even stop themselves.
    I will admit that I have been one to judge whether I think some fans are over the top. In the end, I believe in some way or another we have all been there. Since 1998 I have loved the Backstreet Boys. My obsession is nothing even close to what it was, but just as the JoBros’ fans are in their tweens so was I. I have grown up…and now I love Twilight. The beauty of it all is that obsessions like Twilight are generational and out there for anyone and everyone to love. Believe it or not we still grow up in the process.

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  6. There is a very fine lime between the fan and the fanatic. I consider a fan as someone who has a great appreciation for a particular form of media or person within the media. Whether it is an actor, actress, television show, movie, musician or band. Anyone with a prominent force in the media industry will gain fans and critics. However quite often some of these fans become what I would consider fanatics. Fanatics are those who are obsessive with a form of media or a celebrity. Fanatics, in the realm of fandom, are those who are completely infatuated, obsessive and fanatical. They often identify themselves in ways they are like the character or celebrity or strive to do anything possible in order to get close to that person. The example used in this blog about Twilight fanatics is a great example. Twilight is a huge phenomenon today with a very large fan base of all ages, mostly adolescent girls. But within this huge fan base there are those who are fans and those fanatics that give the term fandom the negative reputation that it has. As discussed in the McQuail Reader in Mass Communication, “in a media addicted age, celebrities function as role models for fans who engage in ‘artificial social relations’ with them. He discusses fans who pattern their lives after fantasy celebrity figure”(344). When posed with the question are studies of fandom over analyzed or is there ea more psychological explanation for it? I feel that studies of fandom are not over analyzed in fact I feel that in order to understand the phenomenon of fandom it is psychological aspects that must be examined. Speaking as someone who is a heavy media viewer I feel that it is often those who are heavy viewers of media without a balance of other outside socialization that often become the fanatics. In fact I feel the model of the obsessed loner becoming the pathological fan is the most likely form. I feel that those who have a healthy balance of media exposure in addition to real world socialization are less likely to become the pathological fan. However those whose only exposure to human interaction is on television will often see those characters or actors are their friends or begin to imagine romantic relationships with these characters.

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  7. Nick Sardone-

    fandom is real and furthermore crazed fandom is very real. In response to the question, Do you feel that fandom can take place on levels which can be determined differently by theorists, or is all fandom a negative psychological result of obsession? I feel that a person is able to be obsessed with whatever he or she likes. Yes, it can be unhealthy and it has lead to some scary situations, but there is no way to stop fandom and obsession. Media is a very powerful thing and these experiences in fandom prove it. I know myself that i feel that i know the cast of that 70's show. i have seen every episode and have followed the show since 1999. I grew up on these characters and feel that i know them as friends. It's a little strange, but whatever, it happens.
    It can be dangerous, in these cases the viewer becomes too obsessed with some fake character. These are the people who take the celebrity's role as a "role model" too seriously (McQuail 344). It is one thing to be obsessed with a show, but another to take it to that next level.
    I feel there are many levels of fandom, not just one big negative psychological issue. The levels can range from a normal devotion, which i feel i fit into when it comes to That 70's Show, to obsessive and over-the-top. It is not all negative. So you can be a fan, but dont cross over to that next level. It is a little scary when you become one of the “obsessed individual and hysterical crowd” (343).

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  8. John Devlin
    Responding to what Christine Florio said, fandom definitely comes in levels. The Jensen article acknowledged that fandom is conceived as a negative phenomenon, but Joli Jensen summed up her article by stating that fandom can be a positive thing, it is not always negative. Theorists can look at fandom with a level of severity. Take baseball and the Boston Red sox for example. Before 2004, there was nowhere near as many fans before the win as there was after. As soon as the red sox won, Boston magically turned into a ‘Red Sox nation’. Now there are different levels of fandom, you can tell by looking at how the fans act. There are those who occasionally watch games on television, or happen to stumble upon a game on the radio when driving, then there are the fans who go to many games, wear Red Sox apparel, go to friends houses and to bars with friends to watch games, and then there are the fans that go to every single game both home and away, fans that get Red Sox tattoos on their bodies, fans that yell and scream at the top of their lungs for hours at a time when they are not even there, fans that are willing to get in fights and get the crap kicked out of them. Obviously there are many levels of fandom. Really, it comes back to the individual, and obviously there are individuals that are heavily dedicated fans, and there are individuals who could really care less. For those heavily dedicated fans, joli Jensen looks at them as possessing a, “Form of psychological compensation, an attempt to make up for all that modern life lacks.” (McQual’s Reader pg. 347). These heavily over-dedicated fans are compensating for something missing in their life, psychologically they find that need with fandom. Whether it is musical artists, actors, athletes, even politicians, Jensen believes it is a psychological relationship that the crazed fan creates and builds overtime. This relationship becomes very important to them, and really, becomes part of their daily lives. As Christine stated in her example that Robert Pattinson had fans become obsessed with his character, and he even took one out to dinner because of her relentless attempts to meet him, this shows just how far fans will take it. Christine asked, “Do you think these fans are unstable, or have they been informed by the media in a way that drives them to become this obsessed?” I think both statements are true. I think some fans are definitely unstable, and these false relationships that they create consume them. I also believe that the extensive media coverage could really just be fuel to the fire; unlimited access to the information these people claim. Really, the amount of info they can find through the media is endless. But, I do not think you can solely blame the media, rather, the person crazed with fandom is sick, and the media absolutely does not help them, it makes it worse. But, you cannot blame the media, it is the individuals who create this fandom, it is the individuals who become obsessed. I believe that helping these people realize that their fandom is an illusion is the only help to the fandom issue. So, lastly as Christine asked, “Are studies of fandom over-analyzed, or is there a more psychological explanation for it?” Studies of fandom are basically factual events that happened; those studies are not really over-analyzed because fans actually do these things that we believe to be crazy, like fall in love with a character on a show. I believe there is a more psychological explanation for it, but that information simply needs to be studied more, but both are true.

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  9. I believe that "fandom" gets a bad reputation sometimes, which is not completely fair. In the section, "characterizing the fan," Jensen states, "The fan is understood to be, at least implicity, a result of the celebrity--the fan is defined as a response to the star system...he or she is seen as being brought into existence by the modern celebrity system, via the mass media (343)." Therefore, it is not always a negative psychological result of obsession. Fandom can be mutually beneficial, for both the individual and the media. Being enthralled by a certain individual, movie, television show, book, or sports team sometimes gives people purpose. It helps them get through a tough week, or be comforted when they are sad. Likewise, where would media, much like Twilight be, without "obsessive" fans? They are now going to make two sequels. Robert Pattinson has been catapulted into stardom. The books have been selling like hotcakes, have possibly gotten people to read more. I don't see much negative to any of this.

    Fandom also gets a bad reputation because of the few extremists who take it a bit too far. It is one thing to have your walls covered in pictures of Robert Pattinson or Paula Abdul, it is another to follow them around and stalk them. It is my opinion that being a fanatic fan is fine as long as you dont hurt yourself or anyone else. I dont care if you think you are a vampire and can only come out at night. Do what you want, be who you are, as long as it is safe.

    I also think that studies of "fandom" are sometimes over analyzed. As Joli Jensen says on page 343, "the literature on fandom as a social and cultural phenomenon is relatively sparse." Therefore, the information that is out there is stretched thin and adjusted to support individuals views, even if the message was not the original intent of the study.

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  10. I think that fandom is a psychological result of obsession and that fandom can take place on levels which can be determined differently by theorists. However, even though I think the cause of fandom is psychological, I would not say that all fandom is negative. I think some fandom is fine and completely healthy. People who see the same movie multiple times in the theater, or see the same band in concert multiple times, or cover their rooms in posters and pictures of their favorite celebrity are not psychologically unstable. I would say that these fans are “obsessed,” but that their obsessions are healthy. The word “obsession” automatically elicits a negative connotation, but not all obsessions are negative. If the obsession is not hurting or putting anyone in danger, the person with the obsession is happy, and the obsession is not affecting the person’s day to day life (for example, they are going to and doing well in school, have a job, go out with friends, etc.), then it is completely fine. Who cares if someone saw one or all of the Harry Potter movies in the theater ten times? Or saw Dave Matthews Band in concert twenty times? Or covered their entire room in posters and pictures of characters from The Lord of the Rings (guilty as charged)?

    On the other hand, there is another level of fandom that is not healthy. A person who skips class and instead spends their entire day on Harry Potter websites, reading the Harry Potter books, and watching the Harry Potter movies over and over again, for example, has an unhealthy obsession. If the obsession takes up all of a person’s time and negatively affects other aspects of their life, such as their grades, job, or relationships with other people, then that person could be considered unstable, and are exhibiting the level of fandom that is not okay. Furthermore, a person who puts themselves or others in danger because of their obsession is certainly unstable as well. Jensen writes, “One model of the pathological fan is that of the obsessed loner, who (under the influence of the media) has entered into an intense relationship with a celebrity figure. These individuals achieve public notoriety by stalking or threatening or killing the celebrity” (Jensen 344). This type of obsession is definitely not healthy.

    Therefore, overall, I think that some fans are stable while others are unstable. I do not think the media drives people to become obsessed, but that the feelings a person has towards their life determines the extent of their obsession. Jensen writes, “Fandom, especially ‘excessive’ fandom, is defined as a form of psychological compensation, an attempt to make up for all that modern life lacks” (Jensen 347). I agree with this statement. I do think that people may become obsessed with a movie, band, celebrity, etc. to make up for the lack of excitement in their own lives. For example, in the regards to the rumors made up by fans and/or writers about Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart being in a relationship, I think that the fans and/or writers are indeed prioritizing and making up lies simply because it is exciting to think about the two main characters from Twilight dating in real life. I agree with what John Devlin said in his blog entry when he said that studies of fandom are not overanalyzed because the studies are based on real actions that fans take, and that there is a psychological explanation for fandom. Again, I believe that the psychological explanation, as described by Jensen, is that people want to make up for the lack of thrill in their own lives.

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  11. As many of my classmates have said in some of their blog responses, every single person goes through some sort of fandom during the course of their life (even males!). However, I find that girls go through it much more often than boys do especially during their teenage years. I think that Christine’s topic of Twilight is a perfect example of fandom. I was late to jump on the band wagon of Twilight. I read the first book over winter break and saw the movie in January after it had been in the theaters for a month and a half already. The reason why I decided to finally read the book was because of one of my closest friends from high school had been reading all of the books and had seen the movie three times already. I thought that she was a bit obsessed and couldn’t really understand why she was so obsessed with all of the characters and a story that isn’t even real. Soon enough, I found that I was just as obsessed as she was, maybe not quite as bad as she is but close enough. During winter break, I illegally would watch Twilight on my computer every single night before I went to bed. Most people fall asleep watching television or listening to music but I watched the same movie over and over and over again for about two weeks straight. I simply cant get enough of Twilight and will be waiting in line on Friday night at midnight for the release of the DVD!

    It is really interesting to look at how some people can get so obsessed with certain celebrities and characters. In the Baran and Davis text, they discuss how some people have no control whatsoever. They state this by saying, “Audience member 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 and Davis, 256). Unfortunately, some people who relate to some sort of fandom simply do not have any control and don’t know where the line is often crossed. These people are often the stalkers that you hear about. Such as, recently Paula Abdul had a stalker who ended up killing herself outside of Paula Abdul’s house. It was also mentioned in class about John Lennon’s stalker, Mark Chapman, who also went to extremes and ended up murdering John Lennon after being obsessed with him and also obsessed with killing him. However, this story was an interesting one because it was also tied together with the novel, The Catcher in the Rye because Chapman had bought it and had read it. Many believe that this was what drove him to murder John Lennon.

    -Marlaina Luciano <3

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  12. Do you know that your first link does not go anywhere?

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