Each of the three hypotheses was supported for General Movie fans and Big Lebowski fans. For two of the three hypotheses, hypotheses two and three, both groups scored identical significance measures. These findings may be a bit surprising when combined with the fact that the General Movie fans scored themselves lower on the 100-point fan scale (81-68) and a majority, over 60 percent, of the responses by General Movie fans about “cult” movie fans were negative. This seems to suggest that while General Movie fans see other communities closely tied to a text as a definite “other,” they do not see themselves in that category. Perhaps because they are not tied to a specific text, but rather to a broader category of “fan,” the General movie fan may not see themselves as part of an equally broad community.
This suggests that names and specificity are important in defining fandom. Because “cult” movie fans have a specific text they are tied to, their community can be easier to define and study. Meanwhile, general fans, while not tied to a specific text, could seem to sense a larger community at work, but possibly cannot define it because the community has not been specifically named, or they have not identified themselves with that name. However, even if they do not specify a community or identity within which they operate, it seems that one exists.
While the line between general movie fans and “cult” movie fans may not be as distinct as previously thought, the areas of agreement and disagreement within the specific community and identity questions also may provide some insights. That general movie fans experience similar levels of identification when using lines in everyday conversation and community when discussing their favorite films with others seems to suggest similar communities that evolve in each study group. However, when it comes to actively seeking out new information or purchasing items (other than the movie itself) related to a favorite movie, general movie fans depart. This seems to suggest what Hills (2002) noted as the projection of the self into the movie text (p. 73), as well as Jenkins’ fifth level of fandom, the creation of an alternative community. Could it be as simple as saying “cult” fans are those who go beyond watching and purchasing the movie to seeking out new information and buying materials that will help them understand the object of their interest? This is highly doubtful, especially when considering that General movie fans scored similar levels as the other two groups when it came to imagining themselves as a character in their favorite movie. This imagination seems to imply a “projection of the self” that is normally applied to “cult” fans. Similarly, General fans have taken characters from their favorite movie and placed them in situations outside of the movie text. This ability to abstractly place fictional characters into other situations seems to imply a higher level of emotional commitment to a text than previously thought. These issues could be brought into clearer focus with further study.
The failure of the Rocky Horror model to support two of the three hypothesis seems to be interesting to note, particularly since the community surrounding many Rocky Horror groups is closely tied with individual participation. There may be several reasons for this. The first, and possibly most logical, would be that the numbers surrounding the Rocky Horror portion of the total survey were low. The Rocky Horror survey turned in the lowest number of the three, and there may not have been enough numbers to truly measure significance.
The Rocky Horror model that did support the hypothesis was the one tied to H2, which dealt with the more one feels a part of a community, the more one identifies with the movie. That this hypothesis was supported may signal a change in which we identify fandom. Traditionally, fandom is defined as something that surrounds a text foremost, with a community developing as an outcropping of that. In an unpublished ethnographic study dealing with Interchangeable Parts (2006), I found several of the cast members saying they were brought into Rocky Horror fandom through the efforts of someone already in the community. This echoes some of Cavicchi’s stories about how people became Bruce Springsteen fans (see p. 46-49, for example) and Brooker’s findings in his study of the Star Wars community (see, p. 221-237, for example). Therefore, it seems, the community of fandom is wider than the specific texts it purports to follow. That may fit into the model mentioned above when dealing with General movie participants. The community may be wider and the naming of specific communities may get in the way of finding that wider base.
The suggestions in the discussion session lead to several questions that could be studied further. For immediate purposes, however, this pilot study is limited by the low numbers of participants. Though it opens the door to some possible significant findings, those findings will remain limited until this pilot study can be conducted on a wider scale. Allowing for a longer collection period, creating a wider distribution network, and by combining online with face-to-face survey conduction, some of these issues could be resolved. Particularly trying the survey onto larger movie fan groups, such as Star Wars, Batman, Star Trek and other, “established” fan groups may provide a clearer focus. The survey instrument was purposely constructed to be specific enough to provide a picture of community and identification, yet generic enough that it can be applied to any identified fan group.
Other, possibly larger and theoretical areas of further study, however, include this idea of “naming” and fandom. By separating specific fan groups for study, researchers may be limiting themselves from finding broader, general theory answers, and also creating further “us/them” groups, effectively dividing fandom. There are plenty of fans out there that can be studied, but because they do not “belong” to specific, named groups, their value is limited. Only by trying to study general, nonspecific fans can we find the edges of the broader fan community. And, possibly, we may find that those “cult” fans that have been segregated so long, may not be so out of the ordinary after all.
Jone Arnst says
My husband and i came here since this particular journal had been tweeted by a female I had been following and am pleased I made it here.