OTW Guest Post

OTW Guest Post: Sharon Marcus

From time to time, the OTW will be hosting guest posts on our OTW News accounts. These guests will be providing an outside perspective on the OTW or aspects of fandom where our projects may have a presence. The posts express each author’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of the OTW or constitute OTW policy. We welcome suggestions from fans for future guest posts, which can be left as a comment here or by contacting us directly.

Sharon Marcus is the Orlando Harriman Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, and editor in chief of Public Books. Today, Sharon talks about the book she published this year, The Drama of Celebrity, from Princeton University Press.

How did you first find out about fandom and fanworks?

I became a fan long before I knew what a fan was, and my initial experiences of fandom were very out of phase with those around me. When I was around six, in the early 1970s. I saw Errol Flynn on television in the movie Robin Hood (1938) and developed a crush on him. No-one else my age even knew who he was, and my parents mocked him, but I liked his insouciance, his bow and arrow, and the fact that he wore tights.

A few years later, I developed an interest in Vivien Leigh, who died in 1967, a year after I was born. None of my friends had heard of her, either. My earliest experiences of fandom were solitary, mediated, and nostalgic –- the celebrities I became obsessed with had long departed this world. Perhaps as a result, I never thought of myself as a fan, at least not the way my friends were fans of David Cassidy, Farrah Fawcett, or John Travolta. (I did, however, develop an opinion about Charlie’s Angels: Jaclyn Smith was my favorite.)

The first times I heard the word “fan” used, it was associated with violence. Irving Wallace’s novel The Fan Club became a best-seller in 1974: the plot focused on five male fans who kidnap an actress they’re obsessed with so that she’ll have sex with them. In 1980, Mark Chapman murdered John Lennon; in 1981, John Hinckley tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan to get Jodie Foster’s attention. Fandom seemed excessive, criminal, pathological.

In college and graduate school, I studied nineteenth-century literature and learned that fandom had a long and complex history. The young Charlotte Bronte wrote a fan letter to a favorite poet and asked him for advice about her writing. Charles Dickens’ readers felt a personal connection to him that he fostered by addressing them directly in prefaces to his novels and by giving live readings from his works.

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Banner by James Baxter with a calendar icon and the text This Week in Fandom on a white background

This Week in Fandom, Volume 100

Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening! Before we start, a huge thank you to everyone for helping this series reach 100 volumes. When TWIF was started, we had no idea whether we’d get this far. It’s been awesome to see the series grow and read all the comments from people who enjoy it. Here’s to many more volumes to come!


The big story in fandom continues to be the Tumblr Purge. Tumblr’s new community guidelines went into effect yesterday, banning all sexually explicit image and video content, including fan art. After all the backlash against these guidelines when they were first announced, Tumblr’s staff account posted an update to clarify some aspects of the changes. Warning: This post contains image examples of what Tumblr now considers acceptable depictions of nudity, which are probably NSFW. In an incredibly ironic turn of events, the post was then apparently flagged as a violation of the new community guidelines. So it would seem that things have a ways to go before they’re running smoothly again. Read More

This Week in Fandom

This Week in Fandom, Volume 99

Welcome to This Week in Fandom, the OTW’s roundup of things which are happening. Today is a bit of a special edition–we’ll be talking exclusively about the continuation of The Tumblr Purge.

Yesterday, Tumblr made an announcement that, as of December 17th, 2018, it would ban “adult content, including explicit sexual content and nudity.” Tumblr’s new community guidelines specify further that “Certain types of artistic, educational, newsworthy, or political content featuring nudity are fine,” but things like “female-presenting nipples” are not, which has inspired some satirical memes. Read More