Fandoms Before Twitter

Before technology, fandoms for TV shows, bands, musicians, books, etc. were very different than they are today. Fandom’s have always been a part of our culture. From the Beatles to Sherlock Holmes to Harry Potter to The Walking Dead to One Direction, people simply enjoy sharing common interests. One of the easiest ways to do that is to connect through social media. Tweeting or reblogging pictures on tumblr is one of the most common ways to get involved with fandoms today. But, before the internet, fandoms existed and fans interacted with each other, so how?

In the late 1960s, Star Trek fans, “Trekkies,” started to pave the way for fandoms as we know them today. Joan Marie Verba wrote a book titled Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History 1967-1987, where she outlines the events the fandom experienced together. She details several ‘fanzines’ that the most dedicated fans wrote and sold to other fans. As Star Trek became more popular, fanzines became professionally printed and several authors contributed to the articles. Verba described how as soon as one fanzine decided to stop publishing, another would start up, almost as if it were filling the void.

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Ruth Berman’s popular fanzine T-Negative from May 1973

Following the ideas from the 1930s of David Kyle and Frederik Pohl, the sci-fi Trekkies decided to start hosting conventions in 1972. With the first being in New York City, fans from all over came together to talk about their shared love for Star Trek. In the final issue of one of the popular fanzines called “Deck 6,” author Carol Pruitt wrote about the 1972 convention saying, “That ST does indeed have quite a following was amply demonstrated by what became known to fannish history as he first annual Star Trek con. The 3,000 attendance makes the STCon the largest convention ever held.”   From 1972 on, Star Trek conventions became an annual ordeal throughout the US. Fans paid admission fees to be able to discuss their common passion. Fanzines continued to be published and several became extremely popular and successful. As the movies were created, conventions started hosting actors and directors and writers to increase the popularity of the Star Trek fandom.

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A Poster advertising the first Star Trek convention in New York City in 1972

Another very popular time for fandoms was during Beatlemania. The Beatles fans were the first to score a term from the media for their intense admiration. The stereotypical Beatles fan is thought of as a screaming teenage girl because of the extreme attention the media placed on this craze. Similar to today’s boyband fans, teenage girls were mocked and viewed in a negative manner. Similar to the Star Trek fandom, in 1996 there was a Beatles fan convention in Liverpool where the male to female ratio was almost 1:1. Ages and nationalities varied, yet screaming teenage girls were strongly associated with the band.

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Soviet fans showing their love for The Beatles

In 1964 in an essay in the New Statesman, Paul Johnson wrote,

“Those who flock ‘round the Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, whose vacant faces flicker over the TV screen, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures.”

All throughout the media Beatles fans were being slammed for their dedication. It became a norm to sit outside hotels and music venues to wait to catch a glimpse, yet these fans were being torn apart for their dedication. Fans gathered to chat about their ‘favorite’ or the latest album or TV performance. They connected with each other through this band, but once they left the hotel or venue, they rarely saw one another again.

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Fans screaming and waiting outside the Delmonico Hotel hoping to catch a glimpse of the Beatles

The Beatles fans were not the only ones who were represented as primarily screaming teenage girls. I came across a quote from Daniel Cavicchi, who is a music scholar and a member of the Bruce Springsteen fandom, who said in his book Tramps Like Us: Music and Meaning Among Springsteen Fans:

“I am concerned about views of music fandom promoted by media critics and cultural studies scholars which seem to have little to do with my own experience. Many media critics consider fans abnormal or dangerous; however, I have found that my fandom for various musical performers has instead gotten me through many tough times over the years and has been the source of many friendships, including my relationship with my wife” (Cavicchi 8).

The media played a role in the portrayal of fandoms to the rest of the world and often times ignored males’ role in fandoms. It was consistently about the crazed girls running around screaming. The media focused on the actions of the girls rather than what they got out of it – friendships and happiness.

 

Sources:
Astley, J. (2006). Why Don’t We Do it in The Road?: The Beatles Phenomenon. United Kingdom: The Company of Writers.
Beatles fans – World Museum, Liverpool museums. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/wml/exhibitions/thebeatgoeson/thebeatgoesonline/global/beatles/fans.aspx.
Cavicchi, D. (1998). Tramps Like Us: Music & Meaning Among Springsteen Fans. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lynskey, D. (2013, September 28). Beatlemania: ‘the screamers’ and other tales of fandom. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/sep/29/beatlemania-screamers-fandom-teenagers-hysteria.
 Pohl, F. (1979). The way the future was: A memoir. Ballantine Del Rey.
Verba, J. M. (1996). Boldly Writing: A Trekker Fan and Zine History 1967-1987 (Second ed.). Minnetonka, MN: FTL Publications. Retrieved from http://www.ftlpublications.com/bwebook.pdf
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