Local News

August 28, 2013

Geek almighty

Local professors’ book shows power of fandom


Is fandom hurting or helping?

There’s no clear answer, Barton said.

“George Lucas made the first ‘Star Wars’ in 1977 without fan input because there were no fans to begin with,” he said. “Some people think it’s the best one of the series. Who knows what would have happened if George Lucas had listened to fans? Who knows if it would have been better or worse?”

One thing is clear, Lampley said.

“If you do something to make fans upset, there is always fallout,” he said.

Whenever someone has a fan base they always “run the risk of making a lot of people unhappy” by any decision, Lampley said.

“A decision, like casting Ben Affleck, can cause backlash,” he said. “It happens. It happens fairly frequently.”

Which can create stress for anyone in the entertainment business constantly fearful of “laying an enormous egg,” Lampley added.

Barton said he would argue such dedication of fans, at times obsession, “enriches” the work.

“The TV show ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ is famous for accepting screenplays from fans,” he said. “If it was really good, it would be made into an episode.”

Some of the most famous episodes of the series were fan-written, Barton said.

There’s also the example of “Save Chuck,” Barton added.

Several fans of the NBC comedy “Chuck,” which told the story of an everyday guy who becomes a spy overnight by accidentally downloading state secrets to his brain, mounted a campaign to buy advertiser Subway’s sandwiches to show their support when the show was set to end in 2009.

Barton said he was one of those fans who, by “picking Subway over McDonald’s in the morning,” prompted the sandwich company to sponsor three more seasons of the show.

“I think that has helped me understand what I do and why I do it in a different light,” he said. “I realized my actions have an impact. It kind of made me more aware of the impact I can have.”

Perhaps one of the most famous fans, Stephen Sansweet, is the best example of how fandom helps more than it hurts, Barton said.

Sansweet, who wrote a foreword for “Fan CULTure,” was a Wall Street Journal reporter famous for his obsession with all things to do with the Force. Lucas was so impressed by Sansweet’s fandom that Lucas hired Sansweet to be his director of content management and head of fan relations.

“I’m super excited about his foreword,” Barton, who confessed to being a “Star Wars” fan himself, said. “In the world of fan culture, he is the main guy. He’s kind of the epitome of when a fan becomes a creator. He’s what every fan fantasizes about becoming.”

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