The Other Side of Fandom
Anti-Fans, Non-Fans, and the Hurts of History
Diane F. Alters
If a typical fan is someone who is immersed in a popular culture product, such as a television show, a movie, or even a book, and who might criticize the product from the perspective of one who wants only to make the product better, what about the viewer or reader who seems to offer nothing but active dislike? How might we understand the anti-fan who has plenty of opinions but dislikes a show so much that he or she seldom watches? And what about the non-fan who might watch only rarely but still finds the show or movie meaningful (Gray 2003: 73)?
This chapter suggests that we can learn much about a society by studying anti-fans and non-fans who are doing cultural work as they engage with, edit, or reject a variety of television programs, books, and other media in the context of the home. Using case studies based on ethnographic interviews of two sets of parents, this chapter argues that these particular anti-fans and non-fans created an ideal time-space nexus in their homes when they used media. Not only were they engaged in a process of identity formation, as Morley writes (Morley 2000) and as my colleagues and I have observed in other situations (Hoover, Clark, & Alters with Champ & Hood 2004), but they also engaged in “the indispensable dialogue with the past that accompanies any present” (Lipsitz 1990: 81) when they regarded mediated popular culture. The results recall Bahktin's chronotopic process of exchange (Bahktin 1981: 254), when history, the parents' experience, and cultural products were mingled and exchanged. In their dialogues with the past and their contemporary experiences, these parents created their own special chronotopes, or time-spaces, within the