How fandom shapes the world
And support is what brings in the big money, Lampley said.
The phenomenon of the midnight movie premiere — where droves of fans pack movie theaters to see their favorite films before the rest of the world (even though much of the world is also there) — is the best example, Barton said.
Movies with huge fandom, including the titles in “The Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” “Iron Man,” James Bond and “Batman” series, bring in billions in revenue at the box office and are cited by the Internet Movie Database as some of the highest-grossing films in the world.
“Fan culture, as we define it, is how people interact with the things they love and what kind of culture is created from that,” Barton said. “It doesn’t have to be just media like ‘Lord of the Rings.’
“There are Tim Tebow fans that ‘Tebow’ (bow and pray in a way the player is famous for doing during NFL games) and buy his jersey. There are huge LEGO fans who have all this influence on LEGO sets and spend money there. The biggest fans have so much influence they now have a direct pipeline to LEGO and give input on the next set.”
The television show “Lost” is famous for being shaped by fans, Barton said. The Emmy-winning show, which ran from 2006 to 2010, explored a mysterious island through the eyes of stranded airline passengers after their plane crashed.
Because of its heavily-involved plots — ranging from an amorphous monster made out of black smoke to time travel — fans created several online communities to discuss and share theories seeking to explain the show’s mysteries.
Though the show received criticism from entertainment critics for never fully explaining itself, Barton said the producers and writers paid close attention to the online chatter.
“The guys on ‘Lost’ were very active on things like Twitter and Facebook and podcasts (fan-made talk shows uploaded to iPods),” Barton said. “Fans of the show would say, ‘This story line isn’t good.’ So the writers would change the story lines to make fans happy. Fans had a lot of control over that show.”
The same goes for the AMC zombie apocalypse drama “The Walking Dead,” Barton said.
“Season two of that show was really slow,” he said. “There was lots of talking and exposition from the characters. Fans didn’t like it. So season three went back to what season one was: zombies every week, violence and mayhem. Which is what the fans said they wanted.”