In the fall of 2015, I took a course at my university about musical subcultures. It was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken, especially since I adore fandom and am active in many. I went for the obvious topic of study: one of my favorite musicians, Frank Turner.
This was an interesting topic, that I made a little over-complicated. To study his fandom I had to do a fair amount of autoethnography, and ethnography. I observed fans’ behavior online and at concerts in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and London. I interviewed many fans, and even Frank himself. I did my best to remain objective throughout it all, which was a challenge as not only am I a fan, I’m a friend, and I work with him – but I think I did okay.
My university thought I did as well, apparently, since they gave me an award! In the spring of 2016, the professor from that course wrote to me encouraging me to submit my paper to the Media Studies department. To my surprise and delight, I won the honor of Best Scholarly Essay of the 2015-2016 year. Not too shabby!
Due to the constraints of the semester I ran out of time with my research, and so a few areas I really wanted to explore were cut. Additionally, since I only had ten pages to work with for the paper, I couldn’t fit all I wanted to say even when I had the research. Hopefully one day soon I’m able to revisit this paper as a jumping off point, and pick back up where I left off. Frank Turner’s fandom is so rich, and our rituals are fascinating – I participate in them and don’t know why. I would like to know, though.
This paper was a big deal for me. It was the first time I officially dipped my toes in the water of fan studies in a scholarly way. It made my passion on the subject grow, and contributed to other papers I have written, or plan to write. I have been part of so many fandoms over the years, from a nameless punter to helping shape ideologies and practices. The way one silly little thing can unite thousands who otherwise have nothing in common blows my mind. Fandoms can be miserable and full of drama, but when they’re good – god damn – they are good.
Below is a video clip of some of my interview with Frank. You can read my paper in full here: ‘This Is My Culture, Man, This Is My Home’ – The Many Ways Frank Turner Moves His Fans