The New Era of Fandom
The famous San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone recently, with every ‘nerdy’ dream becoming a reality. It’s the place to be if you’re a fan of any type of genre of popular culture. Many fans around the world flocked to California in hope to see their favourite franchises and actors in the flesh. It is a 4 day event in which many would’ve dressed up as their favourite characters, met the cast of their favourite television shows and bought multiple pieces of merchandise. It was originally founded in 1970 where it was just called the ‘San Diego Comic Book Convention’, where it was much smaller and unknown. Since then it has grown in popularity, with many other conventions popping up around the world. Conventions have now become a main necessity to fan culture. The San Diego Comic-Con could be considered the biggest and most famous fan convention of recent years. The number of fans who hurry to San Diego every year appears to be increasing. The number of films, television and video game panels it features is going up and up due to the demand of fans. At Comic-Con, fans get many exciting exclusives, such as film and television trailers. But this can sometimes cause problems for a lot of writers, producers and even casts of popular films or television shows.
One thing that has come from Comic-Con 2013, is the fan uproar and divide of showing the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary trailer before it was released in Britain. The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary has been anticipated for months, with past Doctors and companions returning in a feature-length episode masterpiece. It is surely one of the BBC’s most sort after television shows of this year. Doctor Who fans, or ‘Whovians’, also expected the BBC to automatically upload the trailer as soon as it was screened at Comic-Con on the internet. But this didn’t happen. Most fans who didn’t go to Comic-Con thought this was unfair of the BBC and the Doctor Who producers. The 50th Anniversary is an episode many devoted fans are massively looking forward to. It is a British television show, the main argument was that surely British audiences should get the first look. It is one of the BBC’s most popular television shows and is a big part of British culture. Looking through the internet and many blogs, there were some angry fans who thought this was not a good move by the BBC or the Doctor Who producers. This caused fan divide and arguments within the Whovian world between those few who had seen the trailer and those who hadn’t. This appears to be a recurring problem from fan conventions. It brings up a new argument in what kind of control these kind of conventions now have over their fans.
This brings me onto the topic of the ultimate power of the many fan conventions we now see around the globe. Fan conventions can be marvelous things for fans to experience and to go to. Many conventions can also be good business settings for entertainment companies. American conventions can be good for British shows to be given their own panels due to it creating more popularity and interest and for them to grab more fan attention. Sherlock was another British show which had a panel at Comic-Con. There was even a clip from the much anticipated third series shown there. Most fans of Sherlock will be lucky if they get a glimpse of their favourite consulting detective in the new year on the BBC. Now British fans must wait to see a small clip of their favourite shows while many American fans are shown exclusive clips at conventions. Though conventions are good for exposure, they’re not good to seclude important storylines or spoilers from being released. The fans who view the exclusive clips are then sworn to secrecy to not let only spoilers get out beyond the convention walls. This has now become a main problem due to the increase in the use of the internet.
Spoilers have also become a nuisance and a big problem to television producers and writers. Through the power of the internet and fan conventions, it is often impossible to stop spoilers from films or television shows getting out onto mainstream media. As soon as one person on a blog writes a post with spoilers, it’s not long until it’s posted onto another one. This cycle then continues to newspapers and sometimes television until we are pretty much given the main storylines. The internet can be a positive and negative tool for many television shows. But due to the internet and fan conventions, we are sometimes spoilt for future episodes. The way we see spoilers is often through grainy, handheld footage from the back of a crowded room. Or on a quickly written blog post. These fans appear to be doing a service to their other fellow fans who can’t go to conventions. Though this can be seen as a good thing for the fans who are unable to go to these conventions, it’s not a good thing for the television companies who wanted to keep everyone else in the dark. Fans now have many ways to find out spoilers due to the internet. Big film and television companies now have the problems of the spoilers era to contend with as well as many other issues.
Fan culture has become a phenomenon in recent years. It is appearing to be more considered to be ‘cool’ if you are a ‘geek’ or a ‘nerd’. In past years this was seen as a negative thing. Fan culture has rocketed in popularity due to social media and websites like Twitter or Tumblr. We are now living in a new era of the fan and fandom. Fan conventions are a part of this new era. They have become something for fans to experience to be accepted and a place where many feel they belong and not like an outsider. Fan conventions will most likely evolve in the future and will cause more headaches for more producers, but it can’t be denied that they are a fantastic way for people to express their love for popular culture in both positive and negative ways.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
Least favorite part of all of this is purchasing the tickets. Virtually impossible if you are a fan or like myself independent creator looking to make connections. I’ve been twice in 2003 and 2006. I last tried in 2010, true story; booked my flight and hotel room, went to purchase advance tickets (7 months in advance mind you) and there were none. I was told I’d be put on a waiting list. Long story short, money was lost, and I learned a valuable lesson. Comic Con is about film and TV now. I haven’t even bothered looking into it the past few years.
The comic cons have changed enormously. But there are smaller conventions that have the same spirit of the good ol san diego once had. These are were all the love are. Let it continue to run by those who care about it most and who do it as a labor of love but not as their high paid job.
The conventions are just another example of a great piece of ‘underground’ culture sanitized and generalized for the almighty mainstream Hollywood. Very unfortunate.
Spoilers revealed at the comic-con can be used in a beneficial way for the producers, directors etc etc. They can give out little tidbits of information that draw the fans in more, making them more excited for the show/movie/game. Then the fans spread that spoiler and can get more people interested helping the show/movie/game get more viewers or players.
I’m writing a paper on the benefits of spoilers and you touched on one of my points. Even the production of the show gains benefits from spoilers. That’s why they themselves release them in the first place.
I think we do need to be wary of the amount of influence fans themselves can have on media culture. Comic-Con has become massively influential not just in how a film or show is perceived, but what films and shows even get the go-ahead. I’m convinced that the increase in superhero films is related to the rising power of the fan and conventions like SDCC. But you can only go so far in fandoms without it becoming repetitious. Films are becoming more like fan services and less like actual films for the broader public.
Great article! The power of fandom, like most things in the universe, can have profoundly positive and negative effect. I engage in fandom largely online and even that is frustrating- in the ever-connected world of online media, it’s near impossible to avoid spoilers (if I’m really bothered I just don’t go online for a few days). I love Lauren Brooks’ comment about films becoming a bit more fan-servicey; when art is not being created for arts sake, but for profit (something I think Khalid was getting at) it is an unfortunate inevitability that the creators will pander to the consumers.
The non-Comic Con conventions have such a wonderful energy. I’ve not been to SDCC, but I do feel like that’s just become about marketing and money, while the smaller ones are more about the love fans have for whatever it is.
It’s true that fandom has definitely become more widespread. Blogs like tumblr have become more than just blogs. They’ve become communities for fandom lovers to discuss their favorite shows and games, as well as a large pool of spoilers that are very hard to avoid if one hasn’t caught up on a show yet.
Also, it’s true that Comic Con has changed a lot in the past few years. It has blown up so much in popularity that you’re lucky if you even get passes to attend. Not to mention how long the lines are and how much shorter the panels have gotten. It’s definitely more worth it to attend smaller conventions that provide most of the same entertainment and news, and more importantly easier access to all there is to see at the conventions, because they aren’t over-populated.
Nice write-up. The one fear that I have as fandoms become more present and visible is when the fandom/fans ruin the actual narrative, comic, video game, etc. I worked in a record store for a long time and I would always hear things like ” I would never listen to that band because the fans are assholes”. I am seeing that same trend sneak into fandom as well. Hopefully the rise in visibility will be beneficial and allow people to connect.
Very real fears.