Local News

August 28, 2013

Geek almighty

Local professors’ book shows power of fandom

When news broke last Thursday that Ben Affleck is set to replace Christian Bale as the next Batman, social media erupted in a frenzy, condemning Warner Bros., the film studio that is overseeing a Superman-Batman crossover in a 2015 “Man of Steel” sequel.

As a result, some Warner Bros. executives are probably “resenting” the fans that collectively spend millions of dollars on their movies, said Dalton State College professor Jonathan Lampley.

Lampley, with Dalton communications professor Kris Barton, has co-edited an “academic book for non-academics” titled “Fan CULTure,” which explores the power and psychology of fans and their control over popular media.

The book, set for release on Dec. 7, includes essays by several professors from around the world, ranging from New Zealand to Canada, including an essay by Barton and an afterword by Lampley. The book is published through McFarland and Company Publishers (mcfarlandbooks.com). The list price is $40.

Much of the book talks about fan control, most recently seen in the Affleck outrage. Barton said several fans think they “own,” at least partially, the works they support with their dollars and devotion. Thanks to social media, the entertainment business has become a “free-for-all,” Barton said.

“One of the big questions we deal with is who owns these franchises. Who owns ‘Star Wars,’ or the ‘Harry Potter’ series?” Barton said.

Several might be quick to think their creators, George Lucas and J.K Rowling, respectively. Not necessarily, Barton said.

“Do I have a right to ‘Harry Potter’? Do the fans own it? Without the fans, J.K. Rowling would still be poor,” he said. “Some fans think they have a right to her characters. Without them, there is no Harry Potter. Without fans, there’s never another ‘Star Wars’ movie. Without fans, none of this stuff exists. So they feel entitled to have some ownership over these works, whether justly or not.”

It wasn’t always that way with fans, Lampley said, not until the information age of Facebook walls and constant tweets on Twitter.

“Nowadays you have more connection between the creator of popular media and their fans,” he said. “I think that fosters a love-hate relationship. Creators love that people are so devoted to their work, but they probably resent being told what to do with their own creation.”

In the case of Affleck’s casting, “people who take Batman very, very seriously aren’t happy,” Lampley said.

“People who are into Batman don’t want the movies to be bad,” he said. “They have a lot of emotional investment. They don’t want the character or story to be mistreated. The folks at Warner Bros. are probably shocked at the outrage. But it’s those devoted fans that support the projects long after most of us have forgotten about them.”

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