Stereotyping Fans And Fandom

Fans and fandom have been subjected to moral surveillance, and a powerfully moralizing gaze, throughout film history. In common-sense terms, the fan audience (whether socially organized into fandom or not) has typically been represented as a bit weird, excessively emotional in relation to favored stars, too interested in the trivia of films' production and the miniscule details of close reading, or too obsessed with the world of film to live successfully in the real world. Film fans sometimes have to defend themselves against accusations that they are losers or maladjusted geeks. Even the notion that film is an art with its own visionary auteurs has not been enough to dispel the image of the pathological movie fan, and neither has the term cinephilia, with its high-cultural overtones. For example, the US documentary Cinemania (2002) portrays a group of self-professed cinephiles as variously dysfunctional: unable to hold down jobs or have sex lives, instead they obsessively devote their time to attending art-house cinemas in New York. Movie fandom is an object of ridicule in such media portrayals, however affectionate or highbrow they are. It is against this background of negative stereotyping of fans as losers and geeks that much scholarly work on fans and fandom has sought to positively reevaluate fandom as instead indicating participation in a like-minded community and involving healthy audience creativity.

The importance of stardom within film culture also has led to fans being morally devalued and stereotypically represented as hysterical obsessives. Analyzing the beginnings of movie fan culture from the 1910s onward, as regional variations in film exhibition were supplanted by a national popular culture through a wide range of films, books, plays, and popular songs from the early twentieth century, movie fans were depicted as celebrity-obsessed female daydreamers, the archetypal image of the fan being that of a hysterical, starstruck teenage girl (see Fuller, p. 116). This feminizing of film fans—including males—was powerfully reinforced by the film industry in the wake of the development of the star system. Once the star system began to take hold, and stars' names were promoted and publicized, it then became possible for fans to be represented as feminized, celebrity-obsessed consumers.

Academic work on movie fans has sometimes assumed that their fandom can be equated with being a fan of a specific celebrity. Jackie Stacey offers a sensitive study of female fans that challenges negative stereotypes surrounding the subject and argues that fans do not simply "identify" with film stars (that is, perceive stars as sharing qualities with themselves, or wish to ''be like them'') or desire them as idealized fantasy figures. Instead, the ways in which fans—and organized fan-doms—relate to film stars are far more complicated, involving a range of cinematic and extracinematic practices. Again, fans and fandom are linked to activities that go beyond just watching a star's movies. Stacey analyzes fans' feelings of devotion, worship, and even transcendence: appreciating a particular film star allows them to tune out everyday worries, disappointments, and stresses (p. 145). Stacey highlights a range of fan practices that occur outside the moment of film viewing, such as selfconsciously pretending to be a favorite star or otherwise imitating and copying them. These imitations do not mean that such fans have ''lost touch with reality,'' nor that they really want to be someone else; instead, their fandom is merely expressed and displayed through specific cultural activities (p. 171).

Other work on star-fan relationships has stressed the role of organized fandom in communally shaping audiences' reactions to, and appreciations of, movie stars. For example, Richard Dyer observes how Judy Garland became an icon for gay audiences, who interpreted her career and personal struggles as ''representing the situation and experience of being gay in a homophobic society'' (p. 153). It can be argued that Garland's star text

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