I make no secret of the fact that I was born when the earth was flat and computers were gigantic things full of tubes that took up entire rooms or buildings. And nowhere has this become more apparent to me than engaging in fan culture. I’ve told you all that my personal tumblr (not the GGR tumblr) is pretty much the “All Tom Hiddleston All the Time” channel, which it still is. And the other night I was perusing the plethora of pictures of him, and thinking, “Wow, this is way easier than when I was a kid and had to wait for Tiger Beat, Bop or Cream to come out monthly.”
It is, and it lends an immediacy to fandom that didn’t exist 20 or even 10 years ago. Celebrities have blogs and Twitter accounts, and interact with fans they never would have encountered before. The instantaneous nature of digital communication, pictures, video, etc… means we find out things celebrities do that we never would have known about before, and we hear about it at the speed of a T1 line.
From the olden times of fandom, I have, in my possession, a zine of Dr. Who smutfic featuring the first 8 doctors, primarily Tom Baker, that a friend gave me back in the early 90s. I also have a zine of (not necessarily smut) fic based on and around all of the characters played by Michael Wincott, and one based around the old Beauty and the Beast tv show (I used to belong to a B&B LARP group, don’t judge me). But sites like An Archive of Our Own and Adult Fanfiction have removed the necessity of collecting stories by mail, re-typing them, and then mailing out hard copy zines of fan fiction and tributes bound at local print shops.
There used to be, when I first started going to conventions, zine dealers, who would buy zines from fans, and then sell them at conventions around the country, in order to broaden their audience. I’ve noticed in the last ten years or so that the zine dealer is a thing of the past. I mean, these people made money doing nothing but selling the various zines manufactured by fan culture. Now, you’re lucky if you can find a box or two under the table at a bookseller’s booth, because it’s all online now, on fanfiction and fanart sites, or tumblr.
It’s also affected the behavior of celebrities. Because back in the day, the only news outlet that remarked on celebrity scandals for anything less than outright murder, was the National Enquirer, and nearly no one believed what they printed anyway, because while some of it may have been true, a lot of it was unsubstantiated rumor. Now, everyone has a camera/video camera in their phone. As the Geek Husband What Rules says, “The day of doing blow off models’ stomachs at a disco is done, because every asshole out there has a way to record it and a means to distribute it.”
But the definition of scandal has changed as well. Many former leading men of Hollywood lived so deep in the closet they were on a first name basis with Aslan. Now, we have stars like Neil Patrick Harris and John Barrowman who live openly with their partners, and still have careers that DON’T have them typecast as hairdressers or clothing designers. It’s no longer a scandal if stars date and have sex without being married, some choose to eschew marriage entirely and no one cares. This, all of this is good, excellent, awesome. Granted, there’s still a huge double standard between how male stars and female stars are morally policed by culture, but that is another huge post in and of itself.
However, there’s one other way that the fan-celebrity relationship has changed. Many fans are a lot more… protective of their favorite celebrities’ privacy. If you look on tumblr, what you’ll see are photos and gif sets from interviews, press events, movie premieres, the films and TV shows favorite actors have appeared in. What you don’t see are a lot of paparazzi photos, maybe one or two.
And shortly after I allowed myself to be swept into the tsunami of Hiddleston pics on tumblr, someone hacked his Facebook account and publicized some private photos. I have never seen them. Neither has the majority of the Hiddlestoners I follow, because the minute people found out, they publicized the username of the person who did it, and warned everyone off of sites with those pictures on them. Because, given his relationship with the fans, they knew that if he’d wanted them to be public knowledge, he’d have put them out there himself. Which he does, constantly. For which we are all very grateful. In return, a large chunk of his fanbase actively wants to preserve his privacy.
When people on tumblr found out that there were, in fact, fans camping outside his hotel in Detroit, where he’s filming a vampire movie with Tilda Swinton (I may just explode when I see that), they were disgusted. It’s one thing to see a star out and about doing things, and tell them you enjoy their work, could we get an autograph. But it’s another to stalk people. And fandom is getting more and more aware of the line between those things.
This is not to say that the stalking, crowds of fans following celebrities does not happen, but in several of the fandoms I follow, it’s relatively rare.
I love the way new media allows fans to interact with celebrity. I love that it humanizes celebrity to an extent not possible before, and I love that it’s removed a lot of the old bullshit attitudes about celebrity behavior, granted it’s kind of added some more in different areas, but still. I love that you can tweet to your favorite author, actor or singer, and stand a pretty good chance of getting reply.* And I love that the younger (by younger, I mean 35 and below) stars are getting this and that it is important to keep that interaction going, and that when you’re good to the fans, they’ll forgive a lot.
I also love that if I’m having another killer bout of insomnia, I can get up in the middle of the night and see new pictures of my latest celebrity crush, read interviews, and catch clips of their films, all without putting on pants. That’s the best.
If you like the blog or the podcast, or if you would like to enable my unhealthy infatuation with Tom Hiddleston**, please, please, please donate to keep us going. Donations go to pay for the podcast hosting and website domain, primarily.
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*The first time this happened I nearly leapt out of my chair.
**Not that unhealthy, actually. And the GHWR totally doesn’t mind. Trust me.