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MONDAY FEBRUARY 20, 2017

Fan studies: Looking beyond the crazy


BY GUINEVERE A. PAKAR

W
HAT is a fan?
For most people,
the first image
that comes to
mind would be a
ceiling or table fan but that is not
the type of ‘fan’ I’m talking about
here. A fan is an enthusiastic devo-
tee (as of a sport or a performing
art) usually as a spectator and/or
an ardent admirer or enthusiast
(as of a celebrity or a pursuit).
Fascinated by the writings of
Henry Jenkins through his book
‘Textual Poachers’ about the
ardent fans of the famous Star Trek
series, Dr Bertha Chin decided to
do an in-depth research on a topic
that is still relatively unknown to


scholars which is Fan Studies.
Sharing her journey of
researching fans, Chin took the
stage at Museum Cafe earlier this
month during the ‘Sharing My
Passion’ session. In her talk, she
explained how modern-day fans DR. Bertha Chin.
are fuelled by pop culture and
social media, and how being a fan
is essentially being a rebel against it. tive and would either write fictions
the norm. based on their favourite charac-
“Whenever I tell anyone I am
doing Fan Studies, I would get a
Fan Studies in a nutshell
Chin explained that fan stud-
ters, create art, or even create rep-
licas. Fans will share tips with one Whenever I tell anyone I am doing Fan
really perplexed look and I have ies wants to explore more on the another on where to get the best
to go into a lengthy explanation
about what a fan is,” Chin shared
love and emotional attachment of
a person to the icons of popular
materials for the best price.
“It is not about going out and
Studies, I would get a really perplexed look
about the reactions she would
often get when she told them she
culture instead of why they are a
fan of a certain thing. There are
spending money and buying
things. It’s also about sourcing all and I have to go into a lengthy explanation about
was doing Fan Studies. four major things that fan stud- this different materials and giving
Chin explained further by shed-
ding light on the way the public
ies scholars look into which are;
Social Belonging & Community,
them a sense of community. All
these things are linked together,”
what a fan is’
view fans. More often than not,
fans are often portrayed by the
Alternative Subculture, Production
& Consumption, and Social &
Chin said.
In the recent years, fans are get-
– Dr Bertha Chin
media as overly dramatic and Political Activism. ting more involved in social and
emotional people who have an “Fans find people who shares political activism. A lot of fans that
obsession over something to the the same interest as them and Chin and her colleague looked ism is The Harry Potter Alliance in the US in earlier this year. more to a fan than how they are
point of dressing up as the charac- formed a community among into were young people and what that came about in 2005 by a group Thus, Chin concluded that usually portrayed,” she elaborated.
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ters, wastes too much time attend- themselves. The media often they discovered was that the best of Harry Potter fans and is now a there were more things that meet Chin wanted to promote fan
ing conventions, and daydreaming depict fans as socially awkward way to get them engaged and talk well-known charity organisation. the eye when it comes to fans. studies as a legitimate field of
about their favourite celebrities. people, which is actually not that about social issues and politics The alliance was created by the They are not just overly emotional research here in Asia because
Fans are weird, crazy, spend too far off from the truth,” she said. was by using pop culture which fans who would compare the cur- people but fans are also activists, there were still few people who
much time and money on things Once a community or fandom allowed them to access critical rent world situation with the Harry creative writers and also artists at took it up as of now because of the
which are inconsequential, some- is formed, naturally an alterna- thinking. Potter and asking themselves the same time. perception that the research was
thing people should grow out of tive subculture also appears. A The fans know what they love questions like, “How would Harry Besides sharing her passion a frivolous one. By sharing about
when they reach adulthood. subculture is usually a group of and don’t love, they know they Potter response to such situation?” and research, Chin explained that her research, she hopes that more
“We form these ideas because people that exist aside from the have problems with the repre- On their website, one of the values one of the reasons for her to share people will start to incorporate
this is how the media portrays main culture. For example; fans of sentations of characters, how the they listed down was ‘We know about fan studies was to make fan studies into their academic
them but at the same time, the Japanese animations will pepper LGBTQ community is represented fantasy is not only an escape from that field of research known to the research.
media also says that it is okay to their speech with Japanese words, in their favourite series. Fans our world, but an invitation to go public. Chin is currently teaching
be a sports fan. Media also tells us those into games have their own get very critical when it comes deeper into it.’ “When I first moved back interpersonal communication to
that people who collect records speech pattern and lingo. to these kind of representations Another example of fan activ- to Kuching, no one really did business students in Swinburne
are okay because it is more cul- When it comes to the produc- and that’s usually the first point ism was the usage of images of research on fans. There is a University of Technology Sarawak
tured.,” Chin explained. tion and consumption of fans, of access that they have to critical favourite inspiring characters in Fan Studies network which is a Campus. She is developing a
In other words, it is okay to be it goes beyond just purchasing thinking. They would write and rallies such as the image of Leia research network for fan studies social media studies major for
a fan of something as long as it is official merchandises and buying debate on issues that they don’t Organa, a famous character from scholars. I am part of the board Swinburne, and also co-organise
still within the cultural norm and tickets to watch their favourite film agree upon. the Star Wars series, which was and we want to promote on this the yearly fan studies conference
not going overly emotional about multiple times. Fans will get crea- One of the example of fan activ- used during the Women’s March research topic because there is in the UK.

FANS are often portrayed by the media as overly dramatic and emotional people who have an obsession over something AN image of Leia Organa, a character from the Star Wars series, being used during the Women’s March in the US earlier
to the point of dressing up as the characters and wastes too much time and money attending conventions. This photo this year which was shared by fellow actor Mark Hamill on his Twitter account. Fans are not only overly emotional
was taken at the Comic Fiesta 2016 in Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur on Dec 17, 2016. people, obsessed over fictional stories, but they are also activists, creative writers, and artists as well.

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