Week Ten | When Fandom Goes Wrong

This week’s reading and podcast focused on the negative sides of fandom and what can go wrong in very different situations.

In Consumer Tribes, Steven Brown documents the darker side of Harry Potter Fandom and the situational times where the Fandom has dictated the direction of the Harry Potter book and film enterprises. It’s interesting that a fan text that is so well known has such a rabid fanbase and the degree of violence is variant, yet present.

The author mentioned that marketing was not a focus in the beginning of the launch and that simple word of mount had the book’s popularity spread across the world fairly quickly. It is interesting that there was little to no marketing, considering the amount of marketing that has been pushed via Warner Brothers for the film enterprise. But with book deals and film rights, some things do need to adjust over time.

In the Harry Poterism the fandom has created countless fan fiction, parodies of languages, and fansites where the iTribes have taken over and at times have spread the word faster than a marketing agency could do. I especially like the AOL mystery of the chat room showing up in the early 2000s that may have made it a national epidemic due to FOMO primarily.

Even J.K. Rowling isn’t a fan of the widespread fandom and had troubles continuing the story after the widespread popularity and at times rabid demand from the Fandom itself. The expectations that fans have for the creators is a bit absurd, yet flattering if you look at it in several angles. It’s an amazing thing, the power that fans have over the success/failures of a particular fan object/ fan text.

In Radio Lab’s Straight Outta Chevy Chase, the hosts interview Peter Rosenberg of Hot 97, who defends his stance on ‘gate-keeping’ the rap/hip-hop fandom. The argument here is that culturally and racially, hip hop has been predominantly a black art form and a white man from the suburbs doesn’t have the credentials to determine what is and what is not ‘hip hop’.

Stigmas play a huge role here, where gender and race are apparently determining factors in Rosenberg’s comments about Nicki Minaj, who he live $hit talks (streaming and on stage) during a festival. This was at a time when ‘Starships’ was blowing up and he basically said she wasn’t real hip hop/rap. Nicki immediately cancels the show and the Twitter storm that followed made his career the ‘defender of the realness’.

Nicki created a deal that involved several artists and over the span of a few months, Rosenberg created outsider status in the fan community of rap/hip-hop by putting her down. The play of race and gender argument was incredibly insulting and revealing of another debate that was not being discussed. Real hip-hop is more masculine and aggressive, where pop is more feminine.

A year into the feud, Nicki Minaj decides to settle with Rosenberg, who apologizes yet Nicki pokes at Rosenberg’s resume and tells him that she finds him annoying and doesn’t believe he has the credentials to dis her the way she had and to determine what is true hip hop and that men have created blocks for her in her career and didn’t like the overall feel of the comments made by Rosenberg and that it just felt wrong.

An alternative argument that has some merit, yet very difficult to measure is having experience that qualifies the gatekeeper is in the heart and not necessarily the background/race/experience of the person. I think this is very true in our own expressions, but unsure how this could be produced in the world where feelings are hurt often. It is very true, however in our own ways of interpreting our worlds around us.