By means of a qualitative analysis of Superfans, a five-part reality television series in which fans are followed in their daily activities, ranging from singing along at concerts to intimate camera confessions in a room dedicated to their idol, this article studies the representation of fandom in mainstream television and participants’ and TV-producers’ reflections upon it. Empirical content analysis and interviews reveal different aspects of fandom, as identified by Abercrombie and Longhurst, to dominate the representation: intense media use and fan productivity, strong hierarchical communities and a lack of critical interpretative skills. Fan–idol relationships are shown to be based on emotions and to go beyond mere identification to include parasocial relationships and neo-religiosity. Results thus confirm the theoretical paradox between the television industry’s promotion of celebrity to attract loyal audiences and the rejection of fandom through a carefully constructed representation hereof as ‘freaky business’.

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European Journal of Cultural Studies
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Van den Bulck, H. (Hilde), Claessens, N. (Nathalie), Mast, J. (Jelle), & Kuppens, A. (2016). Representation of fandom in mainstream media: Analysis of production and content of Flemish television’s Superfans. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 19(6), 513–528. doi:10.1177/1367549415597924