How Fandoms are Transforming Pop Culture as We Know It

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Fandoms. We’ve all heard about them, and chances are, most of us are a part of at least one. My fandom? Well, there have been a few over the years, but I’m a huge Swiftie — just ask anyone I know. I practically turned into a detective trying to snag tickets for Taylor Swift‘s Eras Tour when she hit Down Under, and let’s just say I didn’t worry too much about the price tag at the time. I have a countdown on until her next album drops, and you better believe I dissect every lyric for hidden meanings. Currently in my #TTPD era (IYKYK). Being a Swiftie feels like a full-time job sometimes, but you know what? I’m not alone.

There are millions of Swifties out there doing the exact same thing as me. Why do you think her Eras Tour sold out in minutes? Why were so many people left devastated that they missed out? It’s because her fandom, in particular, is so powerful.

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@popsugarau Sabrina Carpenter joins Taylor Swift onstage to perform a mashup of “White Horse” and “Coney Island”, the second surprise songs of the night. Sabrina’s opening set was cancelled for night 1 due to delays from the weather 💔 #erastour #taylorswift ♬ original sound – POPSUGAR Australia

What Is Fangirl Economy?

We might’ve heard about fangirl economy before, but what actually does it mean? In the vast expanse of the digital world, where trends come and go, a remarkable shift has emerged. Say hello to the fangirl economy: a subtle yet mighty influence that’s revolutionising our perspective on culture and commerce. Here, passion takes the throne, and tight-knit communities wield unprecedented influence in ways we never could have imagined.

Let’s take Taylor Swift for instance, the ultimate example of how fandoms can wield some serious power (I did warn you I was an unapologetic Swiftie). I mean, when her Eras Tour hit Sydney and Melbourne in February, it was like a tornado of Swifties descending upon the stadiums. With seven sold-out shows across Melbourne’s MCG and Sydney’s Accor Stadium, Taylor had fans from all corners of Australia scrambling for tickets like it was the hottest sale of the year — ’cause, let’s be real, it was.

But snagging a ticket to her concert was only the beginning of how far fans would go. Swifties from all corners of Australia eagerly booked flights or hopped into cars, not to mention the costs of accommodation, dining out, and all the little extras that make the trip memorable. We’re talking thousands of dollars just to watch one human being sing for three hours.

These weren’t just concerts; they were spectacles of fandom, complete with their own dress codes and communal rituals. You had Swifties decked out in sequins and colours straight out of Taylor’s album eras, and let’s not even get started on the friendship bracelets.

In essence, the fangirl economy isn’t just about consumption; it’s about immersion. It’s about embracing every aspect of fandom culture and turning a simple concert into an unforgettable journey filled with passion, camaraderie, and endless excitement.

The Ripple Effect

Now, let’s talk about the economic side of things. Taylor’s tour didn’t just make headlines — it made a significant impact on the Australian economy. According to research from RMIT University, her tour alone generated a staggering half-billion-dollar boost. Associate Professor Angel Zhong highlights the ripple effect, showing how Taylor’s influence transcends mere entertainment to become a true economic powerhouse.

“The extensive media coverage and publicity surrounding Swift’s concerts in Australia can enhance the country’s global visibility as a tourist destination. This increased exposure can attract not only concert-goers but also other travellers interested in exploring Australia’s diverse offerings,” Zhong told Forbes Australia.

From scouring the ends of the earth for feather boas fit for Harry Styles’ tour to meticulously planning my Taylor Swift Eras Tour outfits down to the last sequin, I’ve been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt (literally). But, it’s not just about worshipping our favourite artists from afar. It’s not merely about idolising an artist; it’s about forging connections with like-minded individuals who understand the depth of that devotion.

What’s the Deal With Fandoms?

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So, what’s behind this fierce loyalty and emotional attachment that fans feel towards their favourite celebrities? According to experts, it’s a complex mix of psychological and social factors.

“Fans’ loyalty and emotional attachment to their favourite characters or celebrities result from a complex interplay of psychological and social factors, driven by emotional connections, identification, and the desire for community and belonging,” We Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno explained.

“One-sided relationships with idols reflect a broader psychological phenomenon known as parasocial interaction.”

Fandoms Beyond Artists

While celebrity fandoms make up a massive part of this movement, there’s also a whole world of creativity and commerce beyond the realm of artists and concerts. From fan fiction communities birthing best-selling authors to webtoons inspiring hit series on streaming platforms, fandoms have become incubators of creativity and commercial success. Anne Hathaway’s upcoming film, The Idea of You, and Netflix’s Heartstopper are prime examples of fan-driven content making its mark on mainstream media.

Platforms like BookTok have also emerged as cultural touchstones, where a single recommendation can ignite widespread interest in a book or artist.

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Prime Video

Book Adaptions

Case in point: Colleen Hoover’s bestselling novel It Ends With Us caused quite the stir when news broke in January 2023 that it would be adapted into a film starring none other than Blake Lively as the lead character, Lily Bloom. The announcement sent shockwaves through the literary community, with fans dying seeing their beloved book brought to life on the big screen. Paparazzi pictures of Lively on set started making the rounds on social media, feeding the frenzy even more.

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@itendswithusmovie This one is for you #BookTok 💕 Based on the global best-selling novel by #ColleenHoover, #ItEndsWithUsMovie is coming soon exclusively to movie theaters. #ItEndsWithUs #BlakeLively #JustinBaldoni ♬ original sound – It Ends With Us

FanFiction?

Bethany Reekles, author of the acclaimed Kissing Booth series, also highlights how fandom-driven literature on platforms like Wattpad can evolve into major film adaptations, underscoring the symbiotic relationship between creators and their fanbase.

“Fanfiction on a wider basis is having more commercial success, with stories adapted for publication or even giving those writers a platform and the confidence in their storytelling skills to pursue a career as an author,” Reekles told Bustle.

This brings us to Prime Video’s latest book adaptation, The Idea of You, featuring Nicholas Galitzine and Anne Hathaway. Based on Robinne Lee’s novel of the same name, originally published in 2017, this film caught fire a few years later. Fans were drawn to its romantic allure and globe-trotting adventure. However, there’s a twist. The book has often been described as Harry Styles fan fiction, given that one of the central characters is reminiscent of the musician, who happens to be part of a massively popular British boy band.

The Downside of Fandoms

Sure, being part of a fandom feels like being part of an exclusive club, but like all good things, there’s a flip side. According to Sokarno, intense fandom can sometimes lead to some not-so-great stuff.

“Intense fandom can sometimes lead to drawbacks or negative effects, especially if it crosses into the territory of obsession or unhealthy attachment,” Sokarno explained. She emphasised that while fandom itself isn’t inherently negative, it can become problematic when it interferes with an individual’s ability to maintain a balanced and healthy life.

@ariankatanyafentyknowles

I CANT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY HELP

♬ NAUR EXILE NAUR – Onika Maraj

Sokarno emphasised the dangers of overly identifying with a fandom, warning that it can lead to emotional dependency and a skewed sense of self-worth. Additionally, she points out how fans can blur the lines between reality and fantasy, becoming consumed by their obsession and exhibiting unhealthy behaviours like excessive social media checking or even stalking.

Thoughts on Fandoms?

While it’s true that fandoms can sometimes tread into murky waters, they also offer a vibrant sense of community and belonging. Whether it’s sharing theories about the latest episode of your favourite show or bonding over a shared love for a particular artist, fandoms provide a space where individuals can connect with like-minded peers. At their best, fandoms foster creativity, inspire passion, and create lifelong friendships.

At its core, the fangirl economy isn’t just about fleeting trends or viral moments. It’s about something deeper — about finding a sense of belonging and connection in a world that’s constantly changing. In a sea of fast-paced trends, the fangirl economy is like a cosy little harbour where authenticity and community reign supreme. So while it’s essential to be mindful of the potential pitfalls of intense fandom, let’s not forget the immense joy and fulfilment it can bring into our lives.

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