Have you ever been a fan of a show that was canceled abruptly or that killed off a beloved character unexpectedly? Or perhaps it was rebooted after a long absence and now you’re worried it won’t be as good as the original? Anyone who has ever followed entertainment closely knows firsthand that such transitions can be jarring.
Indeed, for truly loyal fans, the loss can feel very realeven throwing their own identity into question. Examining how fans respond to and cope with transitions, endings, or resurrections in everything from band breakups (R.E.M.) to show cancellations (Hannibal) to closing down popular amusement park rides, this collection brings together an eclectic mix of scholars to analyze the various ways fans respond to change. Essays explore practices such as fan discussion and creating alternative fan fictions, as well as cases where fans abandon their objects of interest completely and move on to new ones. Shedding light on how fans react, both individually and as a community, the contributors also trace the commonalities and differences present in fandoms across a range of media, and they pay close attention to the ways fandom operates across paratexts and transmedia forms including films, comics, and television.
This fascinating approach promises to make an important contribution to the fields of fan, media, and cultural studies, and should appeal widely to students, scholars, and anyone else with a genuine interest in understanding why these transitions can have such a deep impact on fans’ lives. Contributors: Stuart Bell, Anya Benson, Lucy Bennett, Paul Booth, Joseph Brennan, Kristina Busse, Melissa A. Click, Ruth Deller, Evelyn Deshane, Nichola Dobson, Simone Driessen, Emily Garside, Holly Willson Holladay, Bethan Jones, Nicolle Lamerichs, Kathleen Williams, Rebecca Williams
About the Author
Rebecca Williams is senior lecturer in communication, culture, and media studies at the University of South Wales in Cardiff, Wales. She is the author of Post-Object Fandom: Television, Identity and Self-narrative and editor of Torchwood Declassified: Investigating Mainstream Cult Television.
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Social Media, Memories, and Endings within Music Fandom
On September 21, 2011, American indie rock band R.E.M., after thirty-one years together and fifteen albums, announced on their official website that they were going to split and would not continue to make music or perform together. They stated:
A wise man once said —"the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave." We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it. I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way. (Michael Stipe, September 21, 2011, R.E.M.HQ)
At the same time, their fan club, which had been operating since 1984, announced its closure and stated that the forthcoming Christmas package with its customary gift for fans would be its last. Murmurs, the online community for R.E.M. fans, still continued to function and received outpourings of memories from members, including those who had resurfaced upon the news announcements, seemingly reuniting the community in the sharing of their stories and remembrances. However, in May 2014, Murmurs also announced its closure, with fans instead taking to social media, predominantly Facebook, to articulate their collective remembrances, through groups that share photographs, videos, and set-lists, such as the R.E.M. Timeline, R.E.M. Fans United, and the official R.E.M.HQ Facebook news page, which has remained extremely active since their split.
My previous work on R.E.M. fandom has examined the intricacies of this fan culture, exemplifying practices that work in an intentional effort to achieve a sense of the "ultimate first listen" surrounding the band's new releases (Bennett 2012), a prospect that drew on nostalgic understandings of music listening before the arrival of the internet. Here, I will revisit R.E.M. fandom and nostalgic approaches, but shall explore, through the lens of the "ending" of R.E.M., the dynamics of music fandom when the object of fandom ceases to function and produce new material. Through an examination of the posts made by the official R.E.M. Facebook news page (run by the band's team that previously managed their fan club) and fan responses to them, this study examines the complicated dynamics that can surface in the aftermath of such an announcement. In essence, it will interrogate how endings and finality surrounding the object of fandom can revolve within music fan cultures, in this instance that of R.E.M., centering on processes of collectivity and survival among fans, while the object of fandom itself, the reason for initial unification, is seemingly fractured. This chapter will unravel how music fans can "jointly remember" (Kaun and Stiernstedt 2012) through digital media, and how these shared memories can sustain their fandom, fixing fans in "space and time" (Silverstone 2009, 126). I argue that examining R.E.M. "post-object fandom" (Williams 2015) through the lens of social media will allow for new understandings to emerge surrounding the circulation and mediation of memories within music fan cultures, with this chapter demonstrating that the fusing of memories and social media can be strong enough to maintain fan identity, even if the object of fandom is fractured.
Memories, Splits, and Endings in Music Fandom
The subject of endings and fandom has mainly been explored via the lens of television and film series and the effects of cancellations upon fan communities and networks, such as Gatson and Zweerink's work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2004), and Natasha Whiteman and Joanne Metivier's examination of what they termed "zombie" fan communities, which are online spaces that give insight into how "decaying communities die or are killed off" (2013, 270) after a series has ended. Focusing on the examples of Angel and Harry Potter fan communities that had ended, Whiteman and Metivier concluded that endings should be understood in tandem with fandom "as ongoing, constant, and generative of subjectivity" (2013, 293). In other words, endings are an integral and inevitable factor within fandom. Thus, as in television fandom, with programs eventually reaching their resolution or being canceled, in music fandom the same disruption can occur, with band members passing away or groups splitting up. Scholarship has explored these areas surrounding grief: the study by Rebecca G. Adams and colleagues (2014) on Grateful Dead fans' responses to, and ways of coping with, lead guitarist Jerry Garcia's death, illustrated how the Deadheads worked together in an effort to ensure some form of continuity in the community and also to maintain their identities as fans, organizing regular events and celebrations. They observed that it was "through dependence on and further development of an already existing infrastructure and renewed efforts to achieve continuity by both the band and their fans that the Deadhead community has survived Jerry's death" (2014, 203). Sanderson and Cheong (2010) discovered similar coping practices within the Michael Jackson fan community, where "Michael Mondays" worked to help the grieving process and continue fan identities, as did Jennifer Otter Bickerdike (2014) in her study of Kurt Cobain and Ian Curtis fans. Mark Duffett, exploring the content of Elvis fan club magazine editorials, also witnessed "collective desire to raise the public profile of its hero in order to keep his fan base growing" (2012, 318).
However, what is missing from this literature, and what I shall explore further in this chapter, is the importance and meaning for memory when a fan community enters its post-object phase, and the role it can play in the cohesion and continuation of a fan community, identity, and culture, when it is combined with social media. Roger Silverstone's work in particular raised some relevant and insightful observations surrounding the importance of memory and how it can converge with media. He stressed the "centrality of memory for experience, both the experience of the individual and the experience of cultures [since it is] what we have, in private and public, to fix ourselves in space and especially in time" (1999, 126). This fixing, then, he concludes, occurs through the lens of media, which are "both by intention and default ... instruments for the articulation of memory. Memory which is public, popular, plausible, and therefore, both compelling and from time to time also compulsive" (2009, 126). Kaun and Stiernstedt's (2012) work also explores the power of media and memory, analyzing the former East German Youth Radio D64 and looking at how digital media technologies can be used by individuals to "jointly remember" and to significantly "construct and uphold their personal identity" (2012, 354). Thus, I will argue in this chapter that, for R.E.M. fans and their official news channel on Facebook, memory can have a significant placement in this manner, being a keystone element that fixes the fans in "space and time" and works as a compelling tool with which the community can try to ensure the consolidation and continuation of their identity.
Thus, this chapter underlines how an official news service on social media, alongside a fan community, can strongly and collectively respond to an ending in a manner that ensures and maintains its identity, securing the survival of the community. In other words, it demonstrates further understanding of how fan identity is affected by, and can be protected in, the aftermath of change and crisis.
This chapter will examine the output of the band's official Facebook page over the course of six months (September 21, 2014–March 21, 2015), in order to ascertain the topics and coverage that the band still issues and receives and how this may guide the fan community to jointly continue their fandom and acceptance of the discontinuation of the band. I analyzed all post updates created by the official page during this time period and coded these into content categories.
The Facebook page at the time of writing has almost 4,641,000 likes or followers who receive the updates in their newsfeed. In the six months examined, a total of 320 news updates were made by the page. Even though the R.E.M. official news page is public and visible to nonmembers and those not on Facebook, no identifying names are included here in order to preserve the identity of posters as much as possible. The sample focused specifically on the official R.E.M. Facebook news page posts and comments, with fans that are not online rendered absent and not accounted for. As a consequence, the findings of this survey and study do not claim to represent all R.E.M. fans, groups, or news channels.
"A Lifetime of Memories": Content in the R.E.M. News Coverage
Analyzing the posts from the official R.E.M. Facebook news page over the six-month sample period reveals that they fit into several predominant content categories: merchandise and memorabilia, news of solo projects, archive pictures, campaigns, nostalgia articles, postcards from band manager Bertis Downs, and archive videos.
First, merchandise and memorabilia make a strong appearance within posts, most prominently resting on nostalgia. For example, the REMTV DVD box set, which featured an array of documentaries, performances, interviews, and TV appearances from across their career, many of which were appearing on DVD for the first time, received a lot of attention on the news page and in the fan community. The set included a documentary about the band on MTV, which also had special international screenings that fans could attend to watch together — the closest event to an R.E.M. concert, for some, since the band had ceased performing as a collective. 7IN–83-88, a box set containing eleven vinyl seven-inch singles from across the band's IRS recordings, was also released in December 2014, and the band has contributed limited releases for the yearly Record Store Day celebrations. The reselling of original and re-created old designs of t-shirts was also popular, with fans able to purchase t-shirts from tours in the 1980s and 1990s that they might otherwise have been unable to get. On October 29, 2014, R.E.M.HQ posted an update concerning archive t-shirts, stating, "We are going to release some favorite old designs on new shirts, so any input on the questions of 'which ones?' from the band's FB friends would be most appreciated. Descriptions/tour/year are fine, but if you have photos, please just post them in the comments." This yielded 239 comments, with pictures from fans of their t-shirts, worn and unworn, with many recounting which concert they had bought it from, such as "Wore this to Madison Square Garden in 2003. 2 Brits in New York ... concert was awesome, memories forever."
Fans were also invited to share their memories on an officially created Tumblr hashtag #REMTVandMe, which was promoted to tie in with the release of the REMTV box set: "Use your #tumblr page to post photos of your REMTV-related memories & memorabilia — tour tickets, t-shirts, photos of the band, videos, concert experiences, etc. — from any of the shows you might have attended included in the REMTV box ... Looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with!" Selected content was then curated and reblogged on the official REM Tumblr page. In this sense, material objects in the form of memorabilia are an important facet of post-split R.E.M. fandom, being imbued with physical reminders of significant moments in, and thus memories of, people's fandom. However, there are also strong economic implications at play here, with the online presence of the band working also to encourage the purchase of these nostalgic music and memorabilia releases that have occurred since their split. Put simply, the maintenance of these updates also ensures that the band remains visible in the economic market, with fans nostalgically purchasing previously unreleased, or rereleased, material, and the band/record label also benefiting from these investments. After all, when a band ceases to produce new music or perform live concerts, there is nothing for fans to purchase other than these types of nostalgic releases, which, although functioning as meaningful and pleasurable texts for fans and maintaining the band's visibility and value in the musical landscape, also work to ensure the act continues to generate money for the members and record label even after the band has ended.
Second, updates and news on the band members' solo projects featured quite often in the updates. Although drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997 to become a farmer and does not take part in public music any longer, Mike Mills and Peter Buck have been active in their musical outputs since the split, with Buck releasing two solo albums and organizing the yearly Todos Santos music festival. Michael Stipe has appeared on a handful of occasions to perform music collaborations, but has focused more on design and art. The R.E.M. page regularly posts updates on anything the band engages in, including any solo shows or appearances. This emphasizes the notion to fans that although the band's members no longer work together collectively, their solo work and appearances can still be followed and supported. However, this also means that the news on the solo projects appears alongside posts showing archive videos and pictures of the band still as a collective, thereby resulting in the fractured being contrasted with the whole.
Third, archive pictures include promotional shots of the band, magazine covers, and tour posters. Alongside the memories from fans, some posts of pictures were from industry photographers who had shot photographs of the band, recounting the stories behind the photos and their experiences and memories. The tour posters in particular provoked many responses from fans, with them recounting their attendance at a show, if they were there. For example, on October 30, 2014, a poster from a 1986 REM concert in Memphis was featured, leading to fifty-six comments from fans discussing the poster, with some having it on their walls, and others sharing their memories of being there: "Great poster. I was there! And believe my college friend and date that night still has the poster I framed with her ticket taped onto the back. Here's my stub from that night." Other live photos of the band performing at concerts through their career provoked similar responses. On December 11, 2014, a photograph of the band supporting The Police at the JFK Stadium in 1983 received fan posts of memories such as "I was there. 103 degrees. Bought the 'Chronic Town' shirt which had broken dictionary definitions on the back. They played 'Harbor Coat' and were nothing short of brilliant. I'd started seeing them nearly a year before, when 'Chronic Town' had first come out. A lifetime of memories now." Another fan posted a ticket stub of the show, while others shared memories of the 103-degree heat during the show.
A similar occurrence happened on February 5, 2015, with a post reflecting on a 1983 concert of the band at Davidson College and featuring a photograph of the show and the set list. One fan posted: "I was there. My junior year right before I went to Spain for spring term. I got there early, planted my palms on the stage and was front and center for the whole show!" Another then replied: "Wasn't I right next to you?" And another fan interjected: "I must have been next to you too at some point — got bruises on my knees that night from bumping against the stage!" Then the original fan replied: "Yes you were ... !! ... I was pretty sore the next day as well!" Thus, the posting of this picture and set-list from one concert provoked a collective remembrance among a group of fans, focusing on specific elements of the evening, such as the crush and their bruises from the crowd and stage. Others responded with their remembrances of being there, such as "I was there. Faked a scholarship interview at Sewanee so I could get out of school early and be at Davidson for the show," or at least what they thought were memories of the show: "when my sister and I drove hard back from the nc coast to catch the show it was 60 degrees both ways but when we came out of the concert there was about 4 inches of snow and what a night ensued. Or am I remembering something earlier and more murky ... Either way they were rich times." Thus, this setting of comments and responses evokes Roger Silverstone's observations that within memory "the experiences of others are harmonized to each other and to our own in the continuities of their mediation and reproduction, and the lines between the public and private, self and other, present and past, truth and falsehood are, as a result, neither singular nor clear" (2009, 132). This analysis demonstrates that social media in particular are a keystone tool and element of memory, and strongly evident here, being skillfully used within a fan community, and by an R.E.M. news page, to harmonize and fuse together their memories.
Excerpted from "Everybody Hurts"
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Starting at the End Rebecca Williams 1
Part 1 Exploring Music Fandom
1 Remembering R.E.M.: Social Media, Memories, and Endings within Music Fandom Lucy Bennett 19
2 "T'll Never Break Your Heart": The Perpetual Fandom of the Backstreet Boys Simone Driessen 31
3 "My Music Was on Shuffle, One of Their Songs Came On, and I Had to Hit Next…": Navigating Grief and Disgust in Lostprophets Fandom Bethan Jones 43
Part 2 Televisual Anniversaries, Endings, And Fan/Producer Relationships
4 Breaking Up with Breaking Bad: Relational Dissolution and the Critically Acclaimed AMC Series Melissa A. Click Holly Willson Holladay 61
5 Fan Euthanasia: A Thin Line between Love and Hate Paul Booth 75
6 Endings in Soap Opera: Fan Anticipation, Speculation, and Reaction to East Enders' 30th Anniversary Storyline Stuart Bell Ruth A. Deller 87
7 "Is This What You Call a Breakup?" The Cancellation of Merlin, Perceived Producer Disloyalty, and "Television-as-Lover" Fandom Joseph Brennan 101
8 Hannibal's Refrigerator: Bryan Fuller's Response to Fans' (Critical) Rage Evelyn Deshane 113
Part 3 Fan Works, Adaptations, And Endings
9 The Repurposed Fantasy: Dojinshi and the Japanese Media Mix Anya Benson 127
10 When Production Is Over: Creating Narrative Closure in Fan Edits Nicolle Lamerichs 139
11 Creating Canon through Kickstarter: Star Trek Continues Nichola Dobson 151
Part 4 Fandom And The Loss Of Space And Place
12 Replacing Maelstrom: Theme Park Fandom, Place, and the Disney Brand Rebecca Williams 167
13 "The World's Turned Inside Out, and We Can Never Go Home Anymore": Punchdrunk's Site-Specific Theater and Fan Interaction Emily Garside 181
14 Internet Killed the Video Store: Video Stores, Cultural Memory, Nostalgia, and Fandom Kathleen Williams 195
Afterword: Fannish Affect and Its Aftermath Kristina Busse 209
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A fascinating look into the relationships fans hold with the objects of their affections, and how the ending of those relationships can lead to real psychological and emotional upheaval. The scholarly articles contained here cover a wide variety of fan-objects. While many people think of TV shows, musical groups, and sports teams when they think of fans, this book also looks at fan relationships to things like amusement park rides. From bands breaking up, the end of a TV show, an amusement ride closing, or a popular celebrity faced with criminal charges, this book explores the ways fans both express grief and employ psychological strategies to protect themselves from it. As both a scholar and a fan, Everybody Hurts shed light on fan behavior that has always stumped me and explained what has sometimes seemed like unreasonable attachment in my own life.