Week 6: Cult TV

2. What role does Hills (2004) suggest fans play in the construction of cult TV? How is new media now central to this? Discuss with examples.

Cult TV by its very nature is dependent on building itself a audience of hardcore fans who love the world of the show and therefore provide it with a guaranteed audience. However, because the show depends heavily on said fans for support, it is essential that its producers engage with their thoughts and opinions on how the show should develop, and where the future lies.

According to Hills (2004), “cult status arises, ultimately, from an audiences passion for a TV show.” They are only defined as cult because of the fervent following that they have built up over the course of the shows run time. These fans are its defenders and advocates, those who spread its popularity to the masses on behalf of the show and shield it from the oft times harsh criticism that they may face. They are not passive consumers of entertainment as most audiences are, but instead actively engage with the show and others in the community. Be it through online discussion forums, writing to the producers and directors themselves, or even attending events dedicated to the appreciation of their favorite cult tv show, the fans are striving to connect with the stories and others who share their passion for it. “This creates a communal fan distinctiveness” Hills (2004), as every interaction between the fans builds relationships and allows people to discuss their passions with other like-minded people. Events can become regular things for them to attend, so that they can catch up with new friends and explore the shows themes and characters together. Often, really dedicated fans will begin to produce pieces of fan fiction or artworks that are based on said stories, showing their interpretations of the show and its contents. Thanks to their constant exposure to the show, and their engagement with others that also love the show, these works can often be extremely in depth and accurate to characters and world-building within the show. “Fans will produce their own ancillary content, filling the gaps left by the producers in the stories.” Bourdaa, M., & Delmar, J. (2016).

New Media has impacted heavily on these communities of fans, providing them with more forums in which to communicate.  The online landscape has provided often geographically scattered groups with a means of communicating between each other instantly and easily. Barriers like oceans and mountains are easily bypassed, and tools can be used to allow those who don’t even share a language to communicate, enabling discussion of ideas about their shared passion for a tv show. The online environment has also allowed the communities of these shows to grow much faster, as those within the communities can congregate much faster and spread word about the great qualities of what they love to  much larger audience than they would otherwise, through traditional word of mouth. As soon as someone hears about a show, they can go and watch all the available episodes, often for free online, and then find those with whom to discuss things about the show with as soon as they finish, using the internet to connect with them extremely quickly. Websites such as http://www.fanfiction.net allow people to search for the stories written by others about their favorite shows, introducing them into the fandom easily and quickly. Thanks to new media, people are able to integrate easily with their chosen fandom.

 

Bourdaa, M., & Delmar, J. (2016). Contemporary participative TV audiences:
Identity, authorship and advertising practices
between fandom . Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies, Volume 13(Issue 2). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/

Hills, M. (2004). Defining cult TV; Texts, inter-texts and fan audiences, in R. C. Allen & A. Hill (eds) The Television Studies Reader. London and New York: Routledge.

Elizabeth Keen’s Blacklist. (2014). Retrieved August 25, 2019, from https://www.fanfiction.net/

 

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