Following the Fan is a blog created by five students for Comm 270: Theories of Mediated Communications, a class at Northwestern University.
In the past, openly admitting your part in the fandom surrounding cult hits like The Big Lebowski or Star Trek would have been akin to pinning a scarlet F on your chest. And though some fan cultures are much cooler than others, expressions of love for weird films and television has—in general—been considered a marginal and eccentric past time, just look at this classic hate from a blogger from Jokey Smurf on SmurfYourself.blogspot.com:
I HATE Trekkies. Look at them. We’ll start with the one on the left, whom I consider to be the most tragic case in this photo, solely because he looks like he could actually have a chance at a life. But no, there he is, dressed like the other freaks and sporting a tiny plastic toy gun. Or phaser if you will. The next three make me wonder whether some sort of gravity ray is on them. Or maybe they forgot to drink their V8 today. Most likely, though, is that the Klingon guy smells very, very, egregiously bad. To the woman: Intergalactic Ordinance #570034-87 clearly states: “If you are older than my mom, you don’t go out in public in a short dress and whoreboots. Klingon guy, I hope you get your mother’s gold blouse back in her closet before she notices it’s missing. And I hope you go back into yours. The world doesn’t need you.
Our contention, however, lends itself to a more accepting view of fandom and fan cultures. Experts say that fan culture for television and movies is more pervasive than ever. Thanks to the internet, previously closeted fans can network with their counterparts around the world, building strong communities unafraid to celebrate their shared loves from the privacy of their own homes. “Twenty years ago the cliché was that fans lived in their parents’ basement,” says Henry Jenkins, a leading authority on fan cultures and the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Comparative Media Studies Program. Now, he argues, “fandom has become so pervasive in our culture that there are relatively few people who at one time or another in the course of their lives don’t engage in fandom community practices.”
With this ethos in mind, our blog seeks to explicate and illustrate a variety of fan cultures with the intent of revealing to our audience their secret nerdiness. We hope our users will come to the realization (if they have not already) that at some point they have participated in this previously marginal and bizarre past time. The blog as a platform for this message is a perfect medium since, according to Jenkins, the advent of the internet is really what propelled fandom as a relevant object into the forefront of media studies. In addition, compared to other formats like video or presentations, the blog is a more interactive format. Readers can comment and discuss the posts; they can even talk to one another. We have a unique opportunity here to build the groundwork for a community—a community of fans following the fans.