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Dissertation: Fan subcultures and participatory authorship

By on June 3, 2016

Dissertation submitted as a requirement for the degree of BA Multimedia Journalism, London South Bank University, April 2016.

“Getting a Life” A study into the evolution of fan sub-cultures, from adoring audience to participatory authorship.

Almost every fan has heard the words “get a life,” and they didn’t disappoint. This thesis looks at fans of TV show, Shadowhunters, to see if they demonstrate how fans have evolved from just the ‘adoring audience’ into participating authors working independently or alongside producers of the texts they love.

This study will present all the ways in which fans, especially Shadowhunters fans, contribute to the communities they have built around their fandom. The thesis will explore the practices of fan fiction writers, fan art creators, jewellery and clothing designers, YouTubers, and cosplayers, but also regularly and equally as dedicated fans. To seek out if with the use of the Internet and online fandom, fans have challenged producers to portray the story they love. This will be explored in further detail in the upcoming chapters.

Moreover, the study explores the idea of fidelity and authenticity of ‘original material’ and ‘ownership’ in the world of online fandom, building up on the exploration of existing literature to support this further.

Keywords:

  • Fan/Producer Relationships
  • Copyright
  • Semiotic Democracy
  • Authorship
  • Authority
  • Authenticity
  • Convergence Culture
  • Online Fandom
  • Fans
  • Shadowhunters

Introduction 

“By the angel,” exclaimed Shadowhunter fans at the announcement of the upcoming TV show. They tweeted it, they texted it, they shouted it from the social media platform rooftops. Yet with caution, soon this anticipation turned from joy to a campaign. With a prior cinematically unsuccessful film grossing $90,565,421 after a budget of $60,000,000. (The numbers, Online) fans were adamant to ensure that their beloved texts were portrayed in a way that was true to the books that they have loved for years; rather than the unsuccessful portrayal that was originally scripted to be a blockbuster.

This then brings up the question, how much influence do fans and the fan sub- culture communities really have on media producers? In addition to this, how does that influence change the status of the fan from a loving audience member and into the position of authorship? The purpose of this thesis is to find out if the position of the fan has evolved from the cult loving audience member into more participatory authors of materials revolving around the fandom itself. This also includes working hand in hand with producers in producing and further promoting the works that they love.

No claims will be given on the originality of this idea as many have studied the fan sub-culture in all of its rich history. This has evolved from a focus on TV shows and then developed further with the rise in the Internet and social media. This being said, there is a lack of well-developed research on online fandom in particular and so this creates the need for such a topic to be researched.

Following in the footsteps of academics in the field, this study will be conducted on to the fans themselves. This will be done by drawing on the definitions used by these academics (as well as definitions used by fans). However, while I will be interested in their findings, I will focus more on the academics who gave more of their focus to online fandom but also the online fandoms in the age of social media.

Additionally, like many others, I offer my opinion of fans; fans are not “geeks/nerds,” nor do they belong to a “shadow culture industry.” (Fiske, 1992: 30) Moreover, some have labelled them to be “rakish misunderstood outsiders, engaged in the transgressive practice of textual poaching.” (Jenkins, 1992) However, all evidence shows the opposite as in reality they are evolved to be participating authors involved (whether knowingly or not) in the active construction of the texts they love. This study, will be aiming to exhibit the fact that fans are creating material, which gives them a status worthier than just that of an adoring fan.

Furthermore, the study will aim to add to the debate of how easy it is to join fandoms, which complicates the difference between devotees to the said fandoms, and a general audience. It will also explore the meaning of the paradigm of fandom, and its effects on the role and status of the fan that is being explored by this paper.

Consequently, Shadowhunters is the fandom that this question will be tested against. Shadowhunters is a television show based on the best-selling books in The Mortal Instruments series, written by Cassandra Clare. This group of fans is an ideal subject for research as they are a fairly recent fan sub-culture, born on the Internet. The Shadowhunter fandom will be a good contrast to previous studies pertaining to more predominate offline fandoms such as Star Trek.

They now use newer methods of communication than those used in the study of Xena: Warrior fans (Jones, 2004). In studying Shadowhunter fans, this thesis will be able to understand the fans who communicate and go about their various fan activities on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit and YouTube. Furthermore, by conducting interviews with fans who have created fan sites this paper could perhaps gain an understanding into how fan sites and their owners fit into the hierarchy of the fandom. This research study will also be an opportunity to explain the jargon used by these fans. Throughout the literature review chapter and in the discussion chapter, some of the words will be explained to allow readers the ability to enter the world of Shadowhunter fans.

The rationale behind this research stems from the belief in the importance of media audiences to those studying the arts of media. It has been suggested that fan-fiction is a form of public journalism. It is in its essence “mass literature.” (Vasilyeva, 2011: 78). She argues that it is an alternative journalism, “not the journalism of fact,” but rather the “journalism of opinion.” (Vasilyeva, 2011: 80) It has been suggested that journalism is changing from a “twentieth century mass-media structure to something profoundly more grassroots and democratic… which led to an expansion of storytelling.” (Gillmore, 2006: XXIII) Therefore, it is vital for this thesis to highlight the importance of keeping an eye on the many changes in the world of media and journalism, especially as to understand the media platform we need to also understand and follow the trends and changes that affect it.

This thesis will be broken up into chapters; the next section; the literature review, explores existing works in this particular field of study. A chapter will then follow the review on methodology, which explains the rationale, and choices made in the way research was conducted for this study. Thenceforth, will commence the chapter addressing the findings from my research and an analysis with a discussion of the results. Finally, the last chapter will conclude on whether this thesis answered the topic question the paper asked; and confirm if this study proved the original hypothesis to be true.

Literature Review

What is a fan? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “a person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular person or thing.” The word is said to originate from the 19th century and is an abbreviation of the word ‘fanatic.’ However, the father of fan sub-culture studies, Henry Jenkins, portrayed fans as “rakish, misunderstood outsiders engaged in the transgressive practice of textual poaching.” (Gwenllian Jones, 2003: 163) Moreover, he describes their standing in contemporary culture as “scandalous,” (Jenkins, 1992: 15) as it never really surpassed the situation of its political and cultural standing.

“The term ‘fan’ was originally evoked in a somewhat playful fashion and was often used sympathetically by sports writers, it never really escaped its earlier connotations of religious and political zealotry, false beliefs, orgiastic excess, possession, and madness, connotations that seem to be at the heart of many of the representations of fans in contemporary discourse.”

(Jenkins, 1992: 12)

With this in mind, a literature review into previous research in the studies of fans and fan sub-cultures would be crucial to this thesis, as “a researcher cannot perform significant research without first understanding the existing literature in the field.” (Boote and Beile, 2005: 3)

This literature review will be structured using Cooper’s Taxonomy of Literature Reviews table. Using this idea, the review will be written using six characteristics: focus, goal, perspective, coverage, organisation and audience. It will discuss the research hypothesis, methods, outcomes, theories, positions and rationale of the studies existing into fan sub-cultures. It will also identify central issues and draw upon the advantages and criticisms of those studies. Finally, it will ascertain how these studies benefit my own research and what similarities will be found and why.

John Fiske’s research focused on laying the foundations of the study of media audiences by defining the language used in the culture so his study is one of the semiotics of television culture. His goal was to link the readers to the texts in order “to make sense of the texts.” Fiske’s perspective was that television stands as “potentials of meaning rather than commodities.” (Fiske, 1987: 14) This consists of programmes that only become “texts” after audiences have interacted or activated the “meanings” that the programme could “provoke,” making “texts the products of their readers.” (Fiske, 1987: 14)

Fiske also highlighted the difference in the language used to describe audiences. He mainly focuses on the difference between using the words “viewer” and “reader” rather than just “audiences.” He believes the term “audience” recognises the heterogeneity and power relations of society, whereas the term “viewer/reader” are similar but with a difference in emphasis. The term “viewer” is engaged with the screen more variously/actively/selectively than a spectator. Yet, while viewing is specific to television, “reading” is more common to all texts, thus making a “reader” mean someone who is the “producer of texts [and] the maker of meanings.” (Fiske, 1987: 17)

Fiske’s struggle to define culture, (Fiske, 1987: 20) could be linked to the later hesitance seen by other scholars (Jenkins, 1992) to categorise fan sub-cultures as a community, given its difficult position in the social sciences. However, Fiske’s most important contribution to the study of fan sub-cultures was the fact that he effectively coined the term “semiotic democracy,” or “the opening up of disclusive practice to the viewer.” (Fiske, 1987: 239) Hitherto, the idea of semiotic democracy soon evolved to other terms such as Convergence Culture (Jenkins, 2006) and Fan/Producer Relationships (Zubernis and Larsen, 2012). While they all seem different, in their essence they describe the fact that the reader and the creator share a role in the texts they love, something that creates a democracy between both sides.

This democracy however, is what strikes up the debate of “author [vs.] authority,” between scholars in media audience studies and their critics. Fiske argues that the semiotic democracy allows no “singular authorial voice proposing a singular way of looking at the world. The author role is delegated to, or at least shared with, its viewers.” (Fiske, 1987: 236-237) However, this “mode of representation is made visible and thus, the relationship between the representation and the real is brought into question.” (Fiske, 1987: 238) This debate has been echoed again and again by most scholars in this field but mostly by Larsen and Zubernis in their study of fan/producer relationships. (Zubernis and Larsen, 2012)

After Fiske, the next significant research was conducted in the study of science fiction (sci-fi) fans, and in particular, the fans of Star Trek. (Bacon-Smith, 1992) From the start, Bacon-Smith disassociated herself from the people she was studying; in my opinion, this was a good thing as this allowed her to be objective but at the same time, this is very problematic as this set her so far apart from those that she was studying. She conducted an ethnographic study where she placed “herself as a mediator between us as readers and the arcane customs of the Star Trek community.” (Brooker, 2002:168). This doomed her, in the words of other scholars as an “outsider,” regardless of her many years of academic research. (Brooker, 2002: 168) This meant that her results were not to be expanded any further, or perhaps to not achieve any better results.

Since fans are often so misrepresented and slandered in the press, they are not likely to talk to someone who isn’t also a fan, as they feel they will be subjected to judgement and their point of view would be misunderstood. (Jenkins, 1992) She argued that prior to her investigation, she was aware that her findings would not be as conclusive due to the nature of the community she was researching. This was primarily due to the way in which she had presented herself to the group she was studying – she portrayed herself as a researcher, rather than a fellow fan.

Further research has shown the importance in the way researchers present themselves when they approach a subculture. This has shown to improve the results collected and give us a better image of what the topic of study was. (Hills 2002: 2)

Jenkins’ (1992) fans campaigned by writing letters, going on protests through the writing of fan fiction and fan art. He studied fans of Star Trek, the same way Bacon- Smith did, but gained a better position within the fandom due to his standing as a fellow fan. This would perhaps justify his reputation and standing as a leading scholar in study of fan sub-cultures. The relevance of Jenkins to this study is the fact that he covered fans in the pre-era of the Internet. He also studied how they were misunderstood, but using their methods of textual poaching, managed to get the things they wanted, if not by getting it through official methods, then by making their own versions and being happy with that. However, critics of Jenkins argue that there is a large focus on the convergence culture and role of fans. (Hay & Couldry, 2011)

This essay will group together the aforementioned three scholars, Fiske (1978), Bacon-Smith (1992), and Jenkins (1992). This group will be categorised as the early studies in fan subculture research. They are grouped together due to the fact that their research was conducted before the fans started utilising the Internet as their main source of communication. Compared to old methods of communication used by older generation fans. With the help of those three scholars, this paper will gain a better understanding of the fan subculture community, as their findings are key to attain the original nature of this community.

While early instances of fan studies saw academics focus on fan studies as a study of fan reception whereas the subsequent and later studies focused more around forms of fan cultural practices and creations. (Gwenllian-Jones: 2003) Accordingly, for the next group of scholars, fandom had moved online, or was at least starting to. Yet their coverage was limited to exploring early methods of communication used on the Internet, such as forums and messaging boards.

Many of these previous and early studies made a point to define what fans were, these following studies included a very important criticism of earlier works in fan subculture studies. As “For all their sympathy, early fan scholars who were outsiders to the fan communities they studied ultimately pulled back from their observations.” (Grey, Harrington and Sandvoss, 2007: 3)

Binding the previous three scholars into the age into the internet did not come without criticism from Matt Hills. His study is we can call a connective discussion to bind the current with mostly criticisms of previous studies. Hills describes his academic position as ‘suspensionist’ which he has reached by refusing to split fandom into the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’.” (Hills, 2002: xiii) Matt brings to light the idea between ‘scholar fans’ and the ‘fan scholars’ is the one “use academic theorising within their fan writing and within the construction of a scholarly fan identity” (Hill, 2002: 2) and whether this is an ethical and appropriate way to study fans and the fan sub-culture. Finally, he states that fellow academics in the debate of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (Hills, 2002: xiii) are effectively neglecting the “possibility that fan and academic identities can be hybridised or brought together not simply in the academy, but also outside of it.” (Hills, 2002: 15)

Furthermore, Hills highlights the issue of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in fan studies and how fan consumption affects this matter. In his study of fans, he aimed to “Place fans squarely within the processes and mechanisms of consumer culture.” (Hills, 2002: 27). It could be argued that he questions previous thinking that stated “Fans are not true cultists unless they pose their fandom as a resistant activity, one that keeps them one step ahead of those forces which would try and market their resistant taste back to them,” (Taylor, 1999: 161) or that fans are “Ideal consumers” (Cavicchi, 1998: 62). Hills suggests that the best option is to “Hope for a theoretical approach to fandom which can tolerate contradiction without seeking to close it down prematurely.” (Hills, 2002: 29)

Bringing to light the topic of fans, their consumption and their creation (Hills, 2002) prompted the interest of other scholars in the field to more pressing matters, fans were actively producing material, and that in itself wrought changes to fan studies, copyright was being enforced, fans were enraged and scholars investigated, many of them titling their subsequent works as ‘wars.’ (Gwenllian-Jones, 2003 and Jenkins, 2006)

In ‘Web Wars: Resistance, Online Fandom and Studio Censorship,’ Gwenllian Jones suggests that the very act of being a fan is seen as resistance due to the power struggles of corporations to take back the rights to whatever it is that the fans follow. She continues to liken fans to Robin Hood as they work at “snatching back ‘our’ popular cultural texts,” (Gwenllian, 2002:163) and I feel that it is an appropriate description after the extent to which people have taken it upon themselves to rewrite their own versions of their favourite story. With this, the politics of the research in this field suggests that scholars see “fandoms and fan practices are binary opposites,” (Gwenllian, 2002:163) and that the two cannot be consolidated all, which then makes the study of fandoms very difficult. Whilst scholarly research attempts to make sense of the rise of fan cultures, ultimately they are a “species of resistant folk culture,”(Gwenllian, 2002:164) which then makes the creators of such fan cultures active members of society who can critique the ups and downs of that which they are watching/reading. This then makes it quite apt that fans prefer to see themselves as “renegades,” as opposed to the stigma attached to fans as simply being “Nerds, losers and potential stalkers.”(Gwenllian, 2002:164)

Gwenllian Jones’ research then moves on to analyse how this has all developed with the rise and the accessibility of the Internet and social media. She suggests that online, “It is easy to find countless instances where fans debate issues of identity and otherness or integrate them into fan fiction and cultural criticism.” (Gwenllian, 2002:168) This suggests that they aid in the development of weaker characters and raising questions on what their favourite character may do when faced with a moral dilemma. Than develops from being a mere observer to one of a politically active person who can critique what they see. “Fandom’s move onto the web has effected a massive increase in the numbers of avid viewers actively engaged in fan culture as producers, distributors and consumers of tertiary texts,” (Gwenllian, 2002:168) thus suggesting that the relationship between wider corporations and the fans are not as distinctly different as scholars previously suggested they were.

This leads on to her understanding of the way in which the role of these fan cultures are limited by these corporations as all the activities of these fans are dependent on the “Tolerance of the studios,” (Gwenllian, 2002:175) and other such mainstream corporate media outlets. As such, she concludes her argument by eluding to the fact that despite all of this, these organisations should “Nurture rather than to eradicate a thriving fan culture,” (Gwenllian, 2002:176) and that it’s high time we considered the work of fans as taking ownership over public property rather than the theft of copyrighted material.

Of course, one must come back to Jenkins again as while he is known for his contribution over the years in different areas of fan studies. This study highlights contributions made by Jenkins in his study of convergence cultures (Jenkins, 2006). In particular that in which he discusses the fan product and the search for ownership in fandom, which is one of the main aims and questions posed in this study. Most noted would be his study of Harry Potter fans in which he brings up the topic of copyright, creativity and the battle of ownership between the two. (Alexander, 2008)

In return, do authors take inspiration from fan fiction and other participatory fan activities? Going back to the Harry Potter universe, it is worth noting that critics of the latest installment Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, has been labelled as a fan fiction addition to the main series. With many dubbing The Cursed Child as something they all dreamed up in their fan fictions after the series ended many years ago. So, how do fans then claim credibility in the materials they create if they are unofficial. Moreover, do they deserve the credibility? The next group of scholars also studied fans in the age of the internet, however they, unlike the group before them, did not just study internet fans, they studied internet fans in the age and popularity of social media.

Twitter is an immensely important tool as it allows users to utilise it as a “back channel to television and other streaming audio-visual media, enabling users to offer their own running commentary as the event unfolds live.” (Highfield, Harrington and Bruns, 2013: 315) This idea was drawn from Twitter’s own statistics released in 2011. The writers suggest that Twitter and other such forms of social media are an “important new medium facilitating connection the communion of fans.”(Highfield, Harrington and Bruns, 2013:315) The problem with this is that it disturbs the research and becomes very difficult to draw fully informed research from studying social media accounts as it “only focuses on the actions of a small, highly committed group with in entire fan community, rather than examining broader, meta-level patterns of social media user interaction.” (Highfield, Harrington and Bruns, 2013:318)

With this, social media is an essential asset when it comes to attempting to understand the way in which fans interact with their fandom as fan communities “may exhibit considerably higher patterns of followership, may tweet out and retweet one another more frequently with other members of their community membership more often in their tweets than mere audience members.” (Highfield, Harrington and Bruns, 2013:335).

Similarly, Chin and Hills (2008) suggest the same in their journal, ‘Restricted confessions? Blogging, subcultural celebrity and the management of producer fan proximity.’ In this, they suggest that “new media technologies have led to a scenario where audiences are not merely consumers, but are also producers at the same time.” (Chin and Hills, 2008: 225) This allows us to see that in actively using social media and other such technologies, the fans are no longer mere receivers of the show or book but rather, they are the actual makers of the fan-made products, be it from fiction, merchandise, or any other kinds of media.

Methodology

The literature review noted that many scholars who have studied fan culture over the years, took a purposeful stance in either identifying themselves as a fan studying fans, or making it clear that they were not fans but rather academics looking into a certain culture. These academic fan scholars or aca-fans (Cristofari and Guitton, 2016) is something that has been in endless debate by these critics of media audience studies over the years, (Hills, 2002) even though these critics have yet to find a way to study fans and their culture from a standoff and academic perspective without participating in the fan activities and culture they are studying.

“Indeed aca-fans are the major source of academic research on fandom and fandom communities and therefore represent an operative link between a large part of the consumer population and decision makers, while being, from a marketing point of view, part of the demographic they are studying.”

– (Cristofari and Guitton, 2016: 3)

Consequently, in pursuing the topic of this study, I must also disclose that I am a fan. More than that, I am a fan of being a fan. Not being the only person to identify themselves as a fan while studying the fan subculture. “I accept the word ‘fan,’ where others would reject it, but apply it to those cultural texts most central to my identity.” (Pearson, 2007: 102) Moreover, being part of the Shadowhunter fandom gave opportunity, for this study to gain an insight into the changing role of the fan and gave way to witness advances in the fan-producer relationship.

Ideally, the best research method this thesis could have used for this study was ethnography and participant observation, yet it presented difficulties in my research. I have been part of the Shadowhunters fandom for the better part of two years and like other fans in this fandom, also campaigned alongside them, attended the same events, and participated in the same fan activities. This could have been a good position to start ethnographic research from, but there were ethical and problematic issues standing in the way. Henceforth, the bulk of the research for this thesis was conducted using qualitative interviewing and surveys rather than ethnography as, while “ethnography usually involves a substantial amount of interviewing… it is the flexibility of the interview that makes it so attractive. Since ethnography entrails an extended period of participant observation, which is very disruptive for researchers.” (Bryman, 2015: 466)

Furthermore, it is harder to conduct ethnography for long periods of time, especially since the bulk of this study was about online fandom rather than the offline fandom where its participants go to conventions and signing events to participate in various fan activities. While yes, there were some events to go to, most of the Shadowhunters fan communication happens on social networking sites on the Internet. Though there is online ethnography that can be conducted, a lot of emphasis should be placed on the fact that there is “a growing tendency and need for online ethnographers to take into account offline worlds because even the most committed Internet user has a life beyond the computer.” (Bryman, 2015: 447) With this in mind, in the survey, questions were posed to see if the respondent’s offline fan activities existed or matched their online activities, in order to understand if this differed in any way and to understand the impact of the Internet on their love of the fandom itself.

Jenkins argues that he avoided using a traditional ‘ethnographic’ research method because he didn’t want to “read the audience from the text, but to read the text from the specific perspective of particular audiences,” as this creates a dialogue between the researcher, the text and the audience. (Jenkins, 2002: 173) This is the approach I took, as I find it hard to simply study the Shadowhunters text to see if it’s fans are answering my question about fans evolving to a role of participatory authorship. Furthermore, the only way to do this was to create a conversation with the fans, to make use of their experiences and to learn more about them.

It could be argued that this thesis is not conducting an ethnographic research study, but rather it is conducting a netography, which is ethnography conducted on online spaces. Netography is arguably the best method to use in the study of online communities as it “Entrails the researcher’s immersion in the online worlds… It relies considerably on observation, though often supported by forms of online interview.” (Bryman, 2015: 451)

To write this study the choice had to be made between many different research methods to use to conduct any and all the research surrounding the question this thesis has asked. This thesis finally used various qualitative research methods; qualitative interviewing research was the best option. This was in a semi-structured layout because I wanted to create a conversation between myself and the interviewee, as it would create new lines of inquiry. As a fan, they know more than the researcher, and I need to be able to conduct a flexible enough interview to ensure that I can hear everything that they can offer on the subject and to understand their thoughts and motivations in a better way.

In qualitative interviewing, the “rambling or going off at tangents is often encouraged [as] it gives insight into what the interviewee sees as relevant and important.” (Bryman, 2015: 466) This is different from the structured interview as the qualitative interviews reflect the researcher’s concerns, rather than just seeking out the interviewee’s opinions.

Though I have a specific list of topic questions, my interviewee gets great leeway in how to reply, as this would encourage new lines of inquiry, something that ultimately leads to the construction of the conversation I am trying to start. This serves as one of the advantages of having used this method in my research.

Moreover, having conducted my interviews online meant that I was able to talk to people who I could not have reached without the online platform to do so. Yet, no research method comes without disadvantages and I found that with the fact that some matters could have been taken for granted when I was interviewing these people, there are issues that I could have been aware of, had I been doing a participant observation such as that in an ethnographic study. Moreover, the need for secondary research methods presented itself in the form of qualitative surveys. I addressed the gaps in my research by creating a survey to circulate online, asking the questions that I had failed to get answered when interviewing my respondents. Despite this, I had to be cautious with the reliability of these results, as anyone could be dishonest while doing a survey.

I found that I had to use more than one research method as each complimented and aided the next and filled in the gaps the previous methods had in the research. As such, I used this particular research method to analyse specific questions within my thesis that needed to be addressed by a comparative content-based analysis. “content analysis is designed to produce an objective, measurable, and verifiable account of the manifest content of messages. It analyses the denotive order of signification.” (Fiske, 2010: 129)

My sampling approach for the survey consisted of targeting fans on all social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram. However, my semi- structured interviews were conducted by email, as that platform allows for more of an adequate response in the sense of word count and space, but it was also a great way to give my interviewees the opportunity for anonymity, ultimately putting my interviewees at ease but also as a respect of academic research conduct and a moral code of ethics.

Access was achieved and received in different ways on each platform. With Twitter and Instagram, I found respondents by approaching fan accounts who had a large following and requested that they take my survey, but also to share it with their followers. I also found respondents that I needed through Tweeting the same people who had posted Tweets during the early stages of production for the show; the latter was only possible by utilising the Hashtag feature on Twitter and Instagram to refine my search to what I needed, which was Shadowhunters fans. This was easy to use as the capabilities of doing so have been simplified due to the ease of using the website.

Whereas on Facebook, most fan groups were restricted to members only, which required permission to join. I was granted access in all cases, however as a sign of respect to my respondents, I messaged the owner of the groups with the information sheet for my study and then requested permission to post the link to my online survey. The very same thing was also carried out on the social media platform, Reddit.

I proceeded in informing my research respondents and interviewee’s by providing them with a study information sheet, (see appendix 2) which I adapted from the tips and skills, mentioned in social research methodology books. (Bryman, 2015: 132) This information debriefing form was given to all who participated in this study. Furthermore, all interviewees who participated in the research conducted in this study were also given a consent form, (see appendix 11) which outlined what they would be agreeing to when participating in this study.

Creating an interview schedule proved difficult as my interviewees were all over the world and the only methods of contact I had with them was online communication. The problem here was that none of them wanted to conduct a Skype call with me, and I would have preferred to have spoken to them on a more direct and open communication platform than that of an email. The biggest hindrance in the interview schedule was the time differences between my interviewees and myself, which meant that finding a suitable time was problematic.

On Reddit I encountered the problems of non- response from fans, but this was fine as it also served as a valuable finding, which highlights and proves the problems I had with the scholarship studies of fan sub-cultures in the early days of the Internet. Reddit is in its essence a messaging board, which meant that it was not as instant as social media and therefore an out dated method of communication.

Finally, the most important thing to address is the fact that most, if not all, of my research has been conducted online. Which brings up the question to me, like it has many before me, on the reliability and accuracy of my results. With my survey in particular I had concerns about Internet trolls, in this case I had one person who pointlessly filled in one survey entry, which included vulgar language. In this situation, I had to omit their responses from the survey, something which I am aware is a risk as that puts into question my honesty as a researcher if I was able to delete responses from a survey.

Analysis and Findings

The development of the world-wide web has wrought change to what it means to be a fan. It no longer simply involved enjoying one thing as it now enmeshes and encourages fans to do, buy, participate and effectively be more, both by creators of the media and by fellow fans.

The purpose of this research was to seek out how much influence fans and the fan sub-culture communities have on media producers? Additionally, how that influence changes the status of the fan from a loving audience member and into the position of authorship?

To test out this premise, a survey was constructed to ask fans different questions that would test out such a hypothesis. In response, one hundred and nighty-four respondents participated in the survey overall.

How old are you 1

The most popular age of respondents was the 17-20 age group.

Are you part of the fandom?

This question had to be entered into the survey to ensure that the data I was analysing was about Shadowhunters fans and not anyone else. So this question showed this study that 75% of my respondents are Shadowhunters fans.

Shadowhunter event attendance

One of the key things this study sought to highlight was that online fandom had progressed and evolved past the ‘old, webzine, comic con going’ fan activities. The study asked whether fans attended any Shadowhunters fan events. The survey unearthed that 147 or 78% of respondents have never attended a Shadowhunters fan event. Which implies that most Shadowhunters fans go about their fan activities online.

Fan activities in person

Moreover, to further prove that fans as a whole, tend to favour online fandom more than offline fandom this study sought to see how many people who have created bonds with fellow fans then go on to meeting them in real life. While 46% of fans have met their fellow fan friends in real life, but it remains that most people keep their friendship online and do not go further than that as 54% of Shadowhunters fans have never met their online friends in real life.

What is a fan?

Firstly, the literature review provided this study with different definitions and meanings to the word ‘fan’. Yet this study also sought out the meaning of ‘fans’ by asking fans themselves.

Within the survey created for study, the question ‘How do you define what it is like to be a fan?’ was put forward. Respondent 35 associated it with gaining friendships with others, while respondent 44 related it with unconditional love. Respondent 49 included the fact that it involves following major events on social media, whereas respondent 82 linked being a fan to a sense of community. Respondent 88 acknowledged that fans stick with their fandoms and support one another regardless of occasional disputes. Furthermore, respondent 159 claims that it willingly and lovingly involves spreading awareness of the ‘text’. Whereas, respondent 138 said it was like being able to pick your own family members. Yet respondent 131 saw it as an opportunity to socialise. Respondent 120 defined being a fan as a hobby. Finally, respondent 147 felt that being a fan was a kinship of people routing for the same thing.

Fan politics

Soon after the show got announced, three main character from the books got cast as non-white roles or POC (people of colour). The role of Simon Lewis and Isabelle Lightwood were cast to Alberto Rosende and Emeraude Toubia actors of Latino descent. Furthermore, the role of Luke Garroway was given to Isaiah Mustafa, an actor of African American decent. Some fans did not like this and voiced their opinion about how the characters should be represented as they are in the books. This argument caused a rift through the Shadowhunters fandom, with some calling others racist for their comments, despite them simply stating their preference based on their love of the text and through their genuine desire to make it a faithful representation of the text.

This is one of the biggest examples of ‘fan politics’ (Jenkins, 2002: 173) and where politics are involved there is always a governing body there has to be a leader. Yet, with so many people in the fandom, whom do the fans look for the last word?

Excerpt from Appendix six:

“If you have a problem with POC being cast in these roles, well, you’ll have to take it up elsewhere. I am up for it. I told the network that my fandom would be supportive; that they were diverse and awesome. I want you to live up to my description of you. Most of you already are. I believe the rest of you will”

– Cassandra Clare, author in a social media post to fans.

Appendix six presents us with a social media post that author Cassandra Clare shared with fans following the casting of her new TV cast members. Which brings up the question, is she mitigating between the fans, her ‘text’ and the producers, or is she asserting her authority as the owner of the text?

Is it the company adapting the ‘text’, their fellow fans or the author/creator of the original work (Cassandra Clare)? Who does hold the authority in fandom? While academics would debate the usefulness of finding an academic answer to that question, like some scholars (Jenkins, 2006) this study sought out the answer to this particular question directly from fans of Shadowhunters.

Who owns the text?

In response to the survey distributed to Shadowhunters fans, this study found that the majority of its respondents find that the author has the overall authority in the fandom rather than the producing company or the fans themselves. This could imply to the hypothesis of this study that there has been a shift in how fans respond to all authority asserted by the author compared to acts of authority from the production company or their fellow fans.

social media involvement

The questionnaire also presents this study with the idea that fans believe producers need them, and not the other way around, as they can be agents which help to enhance the meaning of the text and to create an accurate depiction of how it could be based on their dedication and interests in it, for non-profit reasons. The survey showed that 59% of Shadowhunters fans did participate in trending social media campaigns to help the producers in popularising the shows they love. Appendix 13 shows that on many occasions they have helped trend these campaigns around the world, which is one of the lead ways in which to engage and attract new fans.

Furthermore, this sense of loyalty and authority could mean the difference between the fan/producer relationship. (Zubernis and Larsen, 2012) However, this strikes up the debate of author vs. authority, especially in relation to the issue of ownership in fan sub-culture studies.

The second part of the chapter will be expecting fan practices in the Shadowhunter fandom; this chapter seeks to add insight to the study by investigating how fan practices could be demonstrating a topic of ‘fan resistance’. This topic includes issues of ownership, fidelity and copyright in the context of different fan practices. The interviews and content analysis conducted in this study will help seek out whether producers try to regain and maintain power in relation to fans/audience and how that affects the “symbolic hierarchy of the media frame.” (Couldry, 2000: 20)

Fan resistance

Do you own a fan blog?

To get a better grasp of ‘fan resistance’ this study conducted content based analysis on one of the leading fan websites. In an open letter from Fangirlish to Ed Decter (Appendix 7), the executive producer of the television show of Shadowhunters based on the novels of Cassandra Clare, the fan discusses her thoughts on his vision for the show. With this, she acknowledges their differences in opinions but that he needs to take heed of the fans as a lot of the thoughts and opinions that she has are supported by other fans. In her letter, she shows her own form of resistance by comparing her role to that of the CIA as she only needs rumours to direct her anger towards the failure in the series. With this, she takes her role as an observer, or more importantly, as a fan, very seriously that she feels she is entitled to be an active member in the making of the TV series, especially considering that the movie version of the same books was such a failure.

She takes this further in a statement (see Appendix 8) where she is openly critical of script plans that the directors and new writers had been making ahead of shooting the TV show. She states very clearly that as fans, sharing their opinions on the show was a given right and is all important as eventually, the adaptation was made for people like her, who would follow the show avidly and to be staunch supporters of the franchise. With this, she makes it clear that despite all that she had said, or what any other fan had said in the form of critique of their plans, no one ever had the intention of harming the fandom and that at the end of the day, they do not think the criticism of media is destructive or hurtful.

While you can argue that fans have always been writing letters to producers and that it is hardly been effective so what makes it different in this case, is that these fan blogs have a higher place in the hierarchy of fandom than just being a fan. They provide exclusive news, producers need them to keep the line of intrigue alive, which as such, means they get invited to exclusive screenings, or press events where they do sit down with producers and cast members and ask them questions and petition them (appendix 11)

With these, she exhibits the power of a member of a fandom and the way she, and others like her, can show resistance to developments in TV shows and the story lines. She displays the way in which she really can vocalise her opinions and count on them to be heard in the making of the story lines. This study finds it worth noting that after season one of the Shadowhunters TV show, Ed Decter has now quit his role as executive director of the show, and has left all Shadowhunters franchise alone and in the hands of new producers. (Appendix 12)

Fan participation

The survey provided the study with a small understanding as to what kinds of material fans make. While we can see that 69% of the respondents do not in fact create material, there is 31% who do, and they create all kinds of different material that helps them and other fans in encouraging their passion for their fandoms.

Fan materials

This thesis aimed to highlight the fact that fans are creating material, and how in that creation it changes the status of the fan. While the survey posed as a way to find these individuals, who volunteered to more in-depth personal interviews. These respondents then spoke more about how their personal fan activities help in creating their fan identity on a more professional level.

Ethan Kincaid, Casey Davoren and Isabella Habek are all fans of the Shadowhunters universe. They’ve never met, but are joined in something that binds them in one community. Habek and Davoren create fan art. Whereas, Kincaid creates customized ‘seraph’ blades and swords. Habek is female and twenty-eight years old compared to Davoren who is twenty-five but also female. Alternatively, Kincaid is 27 years old and male.

The first question focused on whether these fans used the internet and online fandoms to challenging producers to portray Shadowhunter. In response, Habek felt that she would never interfere with the creative process, but she would never fall shy from inputting her views on the final product. Whereas Kincaid stated that he generally doesn’t get involved in the way things are made, alternatively, Davoren found that she preferred not to meddle in the natural way things were made by producers as she’d rather leave the producing to the professionals and focus on her own creativity in non-official items.

When asked if they ever worried about the authenticity of their work compared to the original texts, Habek admitted that she’s not worried about the authenticity because she only draws and she doesn’t feel her creations are hindered by a sense of authenticity like fan fiction might be, whereas Kincaid acknowledged that he uses official guides in the books and merchandise to ensure he’s creating a unique version of what he imagined the items to be and Casey suggests that anything that embraces the work is a good thing, but she claims that all creations would draw inspiration from original work, but they don’t imitate the original material.

When asked if any of them had any concerns over copyright infringement while producing their work they all expressed different opinions. Habek stated that she has never thought that copyright might be an issue for her as she personally believes that promotional pictures are released for the sole purpose of generating interest and encouraging fan participation and that if what she was doing was a copyright infringement she would have already been told not to continue in her fan practices. On the other hand, copyright infringement is something that Kincaid is very much aware of, but he suggests that he keeps track of official merchandise, and that he does not create his blades in competition with the author or just financial gain. He says he has also done a complete how-to guide so technically other fans could participate in this fan activity, but he has the materials, skills and specialized tools that most people do not. Alternatively, Davoren feels that fan art is a parody and as such are not affected by copyright laws.

On being asked why they create materials around or about the Shadowhunter universe, it was found that Kincaid created his blades, because he saw a demand for blades for personal use, but in that demand saw the lack of existing fan made weapons, so with the equipment in supply, he worked out how to create his own, and shared his creation online and saw that other people wanted his products too. However, Habek creates her fan art because she finds it therapeutic but it’s also an opportunity to engage with other fans and create lasting bonds. Yet, Davoren created her fan art because it was a way in which she could bring to life scenes that were not part of the original texts but that she wished were true.

All three participants of the interview shared whether or not they believed their fan activities would help them in advancing their career? Davoren thinks her fan art helps build her social media following. Whereas Habek uses her fan art as a hobby, and doesn’t think of it as something she could have or want a career out of. However, Kincaid sees his fan activities as being something that helps him immensely in advancing his career, as a self-published author it is hard for him to come by publicity, but through his fan activities in this particular fandom, it has been a way for him to gain readers and also make money from his sales.

Of course, this study sought out to understand whether fans were utilizing social media to further their position as fans, so the next part of the interview. The respondents spoke about which social media platforms they use and why, it is also useful to see how these differ to the social media networks used by the respondents to the survey. Kincaid uses blogging website WordPress to sell and display his fan materials, but uses other social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest to publicize his works and share his ideas with other fans. On the other hand, Habek uses various social media but only engages with fellow fans on Twitter. Davoren uses social media networks Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, all of which are easy to use and allow her to share her fan art to her followers.

Finally, the interview asked the important question, how does social media allow them to disseminate their work to a result they could not have achieved in real life. Davoren uses social media to gain more followers and sharing her art with new people, Habek echoes this thought but also suggests that the Internet does not have the boundaries real life has and also allows you to be open. Hitherto, Kincaid explains how social media as helped him in way normal offline methods couldn’t have achieved, people are notified when he writes a new post on his website. His blades show up when people search for images of the weapons online. Whereas, he claims, in creating business cards he has gained no customers that way, but being online has seen customers from all over the world. Moreover, being a fan has given other fans a way to create a relationship of trust, as he is not “A faceless corporate entity making money off of ‘nerds’ but he is a fellow Shadowhunters fan.”

Moreover, the survey showed that in a typical day most fans are extremely likely to use social media websites. Which could show how much fan activity is conducted online compared to the offline kind.

social media usage

Also they used these social media networks as a popular method of communication.

which social media websites do you use

Other popular methods of communication that fans have accounts on are platforms such as Reddit, Whatsapp and Youtube. Which shows this study that there are many platforms that fans are now using to communicate, are all of the instantaneous kind, which could imply that these fans are talking and sharing their materials much faster.

Jenkins in his convergence culture studies spoke about the ‘Potter wars’ and how it is hard for fans to be creative while at the same time face the copyright laws and those that wish to enforce them. Kincaid concluded his interview with the following statement.

“Fanfiction, fan art and cosplay are our means of speaking back to the original creators and to each other (as fans). We share and expand on our collective dream. In conversation, we must take care with what we say and take responsibility for what we do. In fan-created works, similarly, we must take care to stay within the realm of ‘sharing and expanding’ upon the original creation, without crossing over into theft of intellectual property. This line is not always clear.”

– Extract from appendix five

To conclude, this study has presented all of its data from research conducted originally to prove the studies hypothesis. However, it is possible to see that the way in which the research was conducted let down the study as there were certain questions that should have been posed in the survey which would have provided this study with a more analysis to discuss and prove the hypothesis with. This was found when results were entered on SPSS for data analytics but in return did not provide a proper pattern to demonstrate how fans and fan sub-cultures are evolving from the adoring audience to those with a position of participatory authorship.

While the research in this study, especially the personal interviews and the content analysis provided the study with new lines of inquiry and also started (interviews) dialect with fans about how they were taking their fan activities to a career level. The content analysis presented the study with the evidence and in the case of appendix 6 gave us an example of fan/producer conflict and assertion of authority in the Shadowhunters fandom. Yet it also showed us a case of fan resistance, which shows us really how fans are evolving.

This being said, if this topic was to be studied in the future it would be more useful to the study to include media producers into the inquiry, as it would be fruitless to truly understand the power of fans and their evolving status from audience member to participatory authorship without finding out if the producers and creators of ‘texts’ do not acknowledge this in a study.

Conclusion

“Well he’s not blonde,” exclaimed fans when Dominic Sherwood was cast as lead character Jace Wayland in the TV show Shadowhunters. “Yeah well, I’m not half angel either, people” he replied. (Appendix ten)

Fans are dedicated, there is no doubt about that; they wouldn’t be called fans otherwise. This paper asked the question, how have fans evolved from just the ‘adoring audience’ to a role of participatory authorship. It sought to investigate how much, if any influence fans had on producers and to ultimately explore the fan/producer relationship in the paradigm of the fandom hierarchy. Moreover, this thesis sought to test the boundaries of Internet and online fandom, to address some of the pressing issue and problems they face but a lot to highlight the advantages and achievement of online fandom. The importance of conducting this research came down to the idea that to understand the media, we need to also understand its audience.

This study aimed to find out how easy it is to join fandoms, which complicates the difference between devotees and general audience, the literature review explored the paradigm of fandom, and its effects on the role and status of the fan. It also sought out criticisms of fan scholars or ‘aca-fans’. The literature review also provided this study with topics to investigate such as fan resistance, online fandom and censorship and copyright.

The research for this study also provided an opportunity to explain the Jargon used by these fans. Yet, it also provided the study with new definitions and meanings to the idea of ‘a fan’ to build on to previous definitions but out by other scholars such as Jenkins.

Moreover, this study sought to investigate how much influence fans have on media producers through creating materials and how that influence changed the status of the fan from the loving audience member to the position of authorship. However, in evaluating the research conducted for this study, it was found that the results and questions posed especially in the survey did not entirely prove useful to answering the hypothesis that was initially set out by this study. In conclusion, the findings of this study could suggest that Zubernis and Larsen’s concept of fan/producer relationships can provide a useful springboard for the investigation of the evolving role of the fan. Yet shortcomings in research for this study made it difficult to prove the original hypothesis to be true, as the right questions to ask were not included in the research.

This is not to say that the hypothesis is unprovable, with the right method of research and when the right questions are put forward, this study’s hypothesis could be proven. Moreover, in future attempts at this topic; media producers should be included in the dialogue it would be useful to future attempts at this study.

 

 

 

Bibliography

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–  Bacon-Smith, C. and Hall, S.A. (1992) Enterprising women: Television fandom and the creation of popular myth. 2nd edn. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press

–  Boote, D.N. and Beile, P. (2005) ‘Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the Dissertation literature review in research preparation’, Educational Researcher, 34(6), pp. 3–15. doi: 10.3102/0013189×034006003.

–  Bryman, A. (2015) Social research methods. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

–  Cavicchi, D. (1998) Tramps like us: Music and meaning among Springsteen fans. New York: Oxford University Press.

–  Chin, B. and Hills, M. (2008) ‘Restricted confessions? Blogging, subcultural celebrity and the management of producer–fan proximity’, Social Semiotics, 18(2), pp. 253–272. doi: 10.1080/10350330802002424.

–  Couldry, N. (2000) Inside culture: Re-imagining the method of cultural studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

–  Cristofari, C. and Guitton, M.J. (2016) ‘Aca-fans and fan communities: An operative framework’, Journal of Consumer Culture. doi: 10.1177/1469540515623608.

–  Fiske, J. (1987) Television culture. New York: Methuen young books.

–  Fiske, J. (1992) ‘The cultural economy of fandom’, in Lewis, L.A. (ed.) London: Taylor & Francis

–  Gillmor, D. (2006) We the media: Grassroots journalism by the people, for the people. United States: O’Reilly Media.

–  Gwenllian Jones, S. (2003) ‘Web wars: resistance, online fiction and studio censorship’, in Jancovich, M. and Lyons, J. (eds.) Quality popular television: Cult TV, the industry, and fans. London: British Film Institute, pp. 163–177.

–  Hay, J. and Couldry, N. (2011) ‘RETHINKING CONVERGENCE/CULTURE’, Cultural Studies, 25(4-5), pp. 473–486. doi: 10.1080/09502386.2011.600527.

–  Highfield, T., Harrington, S. and Bruns, A. (2013) ‘TWITTER AS A TECHNOLOGY FOR AUDIENCING AND FANDOM’, Information, Communication & Society, 16(3), pp. 315–339. doi: 10.1080/1369118x.2012.756053

–  Hills, M. (2002) Fan cultures (studies in culture and communication). London: Taylor & Francis.

–  Jenkins, H. (1992) Textual poachers: Television fans and participatory culture. New York: Routledge.

–  Jenkins, H. (2002) ‘“out of the closet and into the universe”’, in Brooker, W. and Jermyn, D. (eds.) The audience studies reader. New York: Taylor & Francis.

–  Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York, NY: New York University Press.

–  Pearson, R. (2007) ‘Bachies, Bardies, Trekkies, and Sherlockians.’, in Gray, J.A., Harrington, L.C., and Sandvoss, C. (eds.) Fandom: Identities and communities in a mediated world. New York: New York University Press, pp. 98–109.

–  Sandvoss, C. and Harrington, L.C. (2007) Fandom: Identities and communities in a mediated world. Edited by Jonathan Alan Gray. New York: New York University Press.

–  Taylor, G. (1999) Artists in the audience: Cults, camp, and American film criticism. Princeton, NJ, United States: Princeton University Press.

–  The-numbers.com. (2016). The Mortal Instruments: City of bones. [online] Available at: http://www.the-numbers.com/movie/Mortal-Instruments-City- of-Bones-The#tab=summary [Accessed 2 May 2016].

–  Vasilyeva, А. I. (2011) ‘Literary fanfiction as a kind of public journalism’, Сборник работ 67 научной конференции студентов и аспирантов Белорусского государственного университета. 17-20 мая 2010 г., Минск. В 3ч. Ч.3. 78-80. 978-985-476-913-4 http://elib.bsu.by/handle/123456789/95025

–  Zubernis, L.S. and Larsen, K. (2012) Fandom at the crossroads: Celebration, shame and fan/producer relationships. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

 

Appendix

Appendix one – Example survey

Survey example

Appendix two – Letter sent to respondents for interview participation

Dear Respondents,
Many thanks for considering to participate in this study. The purpose of this study is to gain some knowledge and insight into whether or not the position of a fan has evolved from a loving audience member into creators and authors of things revolving around the fandom that they love.

The information that you will be providing will be used for research purposes. it will now be used in a manner which would allow identification of your individual responses. You are encouraged to share your name in the research but if you would rather not do so, you are encouraged to create an alternative name by which you can be identified.

At the end of the research, responses will be used to further the topic of research and to understand more on your role in changing fandoms.

Kind regards,

Mariam
London South Bank University.

Appendix three – Email interview conducted with Casey Davoren

appendix three

Appendix four – Email interview with Isabella Habek

appendix four part one Appendix four part two

Appendix five – Email interview with Ethan Kincaid

Appendix five part one Appendix five part two

Appendix six – Social media post by Cassandra Clare on the POC casting of Shadowhunters cast.

Appendix six

 

Appendix seven – #TMITV: An Open Letter to Ed Decter

Dear Mr. Decter,

You don’t know me and I don’t know you. I know we only have one thing in common and that is The Mortal Instruments. However, what I have learned lately is that we have some big differences of opinions on what is good and what is not good for the television series.

I get it – you have a job to do. And the first question that you may be asking is how would I know anything at all? Well, for as big as Hollywood is, it’s pretty small. And over the past few weeks, as I have attended various events around town – people have talked to me about the show. And there are a lot of rumors that are surrounding this show.

I could list them all, but I won’t. The first thing that I have learned is that a lot of people underestimate a fandom – but fans are like the CIA. We’re an intricate network of people who know people, and people who are people. And though we have rumors – that’s all we have, we need to address them.

So, as Constantin and you stay quiet on the subject of the television show, I am left to address rumors of this fandom, in order to speak out, and hope that for once someone listens and we don’t end up with a repeat of the movie.

Cause my fear is that is what we are setting out to. I know that the pilot is out all over Hollywood and that is making the rumors fly!

Let’s start with rumor #1 – Simon is getting a new girlfriend, right from the beginning. I’m just curious – have you read the books? Have you noticed that it’s Simon being alone and the evolution of his character moving on from Clary that makes him able to be as strong as he is at certain points throughout the series? Have you not seen that it’s his relationship with Mia that is important? Simon doesn’t need a girlfriend, he needs to have the angst with Clary – not only for his growth but hers.

Rumor #2 – You have decided to age up the characters. I get that. I can to a certain point. BUT – if you have read the books, part of what drives them is their youth. So let me be frank with this – you can age up to a certain point, but at a certain point you need to actually pay attention to the books. Because it is Clary being young and her disdain, but LOVE for her mother that drives her to be more.

Rumor #3 – Shadowhunters are more like a division of the CIA. Ohhh… this is not Alias – and I get being a fan of the show – I would want it back too. But, Shadowhunters are not a secret government agency. Not even close.

Rumor #4 – You are moving the location to Los Angeles or San Francisco, versus it being set in NYC. Do we really need to discuss this? Because if we have to – I wonder why you would be running this show anyways.

Rumor #5 – The show is to be sexed up and made darker. First of all, these are kids – kids who are fighting to understand themselves. I get that sex happens, but every single sexual moment in the TMI series is carefully though out and calculated – so, please don’t make it something that it’s not. Darker? I can see this to a certain point, but I can also see how this won’t work. Make sure you remember this isn’t Game of Thrones – it’s The Mortal Instruments.

Rumor #6 – The title will be Shadowhunters. This, is the only positive thing so far.

There are quite a few more, but I will stop there. I understand that you have experience and you know a lot more than I do about a lot. But I will say it – I know a lot more about fandoms than most – and I FOR THE LIFE OF ME – can not understand what it is that makes Hollywood think that the road map that they are handed is something that they need not follow.

A book is a roadmap. It’s popular for a reason. IT’S ALL LAID OUT FOR YOU.

Shadowhunters meets the CIA set in another city, with Jace being creepy (WHEN HE’S SUPPOSED TO BE THE ASSHOLE WHO IS THE HERO), the adults not playing the role that they were meant to, and don’t even get me started on the rumors about the institute.

Look, I know that you have a vision. And for all I know the rumors may not be true, but right now – they are all we know. So you may not know me – hell you may not like me and the stuff that I put out here every week, but I am fine with that. I am not here to be anything but an advocate for this fandom. And I pray that you start listening. Cause right now, if all the rumors are true – I really don’t like your leadership on this project.

I have stuck with this fandom – regardless of the how the movie did. While other fansites were shutting down, we were ramping up. I know this series, and right now – from what I hear you’ve only gotten one thing right – THE NAME.

All the best, Fangirlish

Appendix seven

 

Appendix eight – A Statement from @Fangirlishness & @TMI_Source About Current Events in the #TMI Fandom

The events that have occurred over the past few days in The Mortal Instruments fandom are some of the hardest things that we have ever had to witness. It has been very hard and disturbing to watch.

We have remained silent because we could not think of what to do that would not make things worse.

It is true that we have been openly critical of the scripts for the Shadowhunters TV show and have even posted open letters to the show creators. This was a very controversial move in fandom, and we understand that there are many who feel that we should have kept our negativity to ourselves. We respect that opinion but believe that posting our opinions about what we had read was valuable to the fandom. After all, we are not the only fansites with scripts and sides, and we felt that this way fans who were interested would be able to access a variety of opinions.

We also believed we owed the fans honesty. We have never lied to this fandom. We have never said we read a script we did not read, and giving opinions on script drafts is not, as we have seen people suggest, “lying.” It is just giving opinions on early script drafts. There is no such thing as a final draft in television, changes will be made up until the last day of shooting, so there is no other way to be able to give opinions. Drafts are all that exist.

We have not ever or will never condone hate and violence. We did at one point link to a tumblr post about ourselves that was full of hate — we then realized it was a reblog, and apologized to the girl whose tumblr we referenced. We mended fences with her, and sincerely meant nothing against her – rather the hate in the post. And as we have said to the owner of that tumblr, we are sorry. We did not threaten her and if any of our followers did, we do not condone that. Unfortunately, due to the events of the past few days – we have blocked several people. That is not “bullying.” It is keeping ourselves safe. Sending threats and violence over twitter is not okay and we will not interact with that.

The entire fight that is currently happening seems to stem from one tumblr belonging to one person. We have read her posts about us. They are libel. There are no links, no screenshots, and no messages in existence that show us threatening anyone. We also cannot, as this person has suggested, pass along all of our criticism of the TV show scripts to the show runner personally, because we do not have his personal information. The suggestion that we could is ridiculous. It also undercuts our desire to be honest with fans, public and straightforward.

We have never had any intention of harming the fandom, or of harming the television show. Indeed, we retain a good relationship with the show’s staff on social media. We do not think criticism of media is destructive or hurtful. We think it is a necessary part of interacting with media, period. It is also what we consider responsible. When we saw what seemed to us to be sexual assault by a beloved character in a draft, we felt that to not call it out would not be responsible. And we know that it is partly because we did that it has been removed.

What saddens us the most is that demands by a small portion of the fandom that Cassandra Clare punish us publicly (despite the fact that when she interacts with fansites about issues, she has always done so privately) or shun us in public for things we did not do have driven her off of twitter. We hope that she will someday return, and that this debacle will not cost us the fanart, sneak peeks, and answers to questions that we once had. No television show — and that’s all this is about — is worth that.

We are happy to mend fences with anyone who feels hurt by us. That was never our intention. We really hope that this fandom can come together and move forward. We have all worked too hard and too long and supported this fandom, and we all deserve better.

We will continue to report on what we know, and to give opinions on what we see. We understand that there will always be people who disagree. We hope they will lift their voices up, rather than trying to silence ours.

This is the last time we will comment on this situation.

Appendix eight

Appendix Ten – Shadowhunters Super Fan Event with Cassandra Clare and Dominic – London

Appendix ten – video

Appendix eleven – Shadowhunters at NYCC – The Interview Where Ed Decter + I Finally Meet

Appendix eleven

Appendix twelve – Showrunner Ed Dector exits the show.

Appendix twelve

Appendix 12

Appendix thirteen – Hashtag analytics for the #Shadowhunters online sharing tool.

appendix thirteen

 

 

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Mariam Mansour
London

Mariam is a 23 year old Journalism graduate and mediocre Starbucks Barista. A self-described hippy and a certified fangirl and weirdo. When she's not fangirling or attending comic cons or crying at the theatre, you'll find her reading or wondering aimlessly around London. Her mission in life is to encourage everyone she meets in her path to experience the joy she has upon reading books; to her, this can only be done by Breaking paperback Spines.

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The unfeasibly heart-jolting shock once, as a tome fell heavily open at some much-visited page, divided itself neatly in two blocky halves along the spine — and you see, guiltily, that you’ve broken it.” – Richard K. Morgan
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