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  My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
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lollady
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My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« on: March 31, 2006, 04:10:59 am »
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Hello!

Some of you might still remember this book project:
http://always.ejwsites.net/YaBBSE/index.php?board=25;action=display;threadid=23914
The link to the actual project doesn’t work any longer, sorry, but it is about my private research and writing project on fanship of male actors (not only Elijah Wood) that I’m doing on my free time. I’m no professional neither in writing nor in any science. I’m doing this as a very interesting hobby and I wish to get something published during this life time of mine.

It’s been one and a half year since I made the questionnaire and received 76 answers from fans, thank you very much! Isn’t it time to tell what I have found out about male star fandom – if you are interested in reading, that is?

Warning: I’m not a native English speaker and that’s why telling about the results of my work will be very hard for me and will some times be very painful for you to read. But I thought we could try if you are ready to ignore all my linguistic errors and try to get the actual message. If this simply doesn’t work then the Moderators or Tech Admin will certainly be kind enough to roar me “shut up, ma-am!”      and I’ll be gone, lol!

So, here is something for you and I hope there will be things you can relate to. It’s no print ready text, it’s just a compilation of a longer chapter. All comments are more than welcome! Rewrite it, question it, what’s good, what’s bad, and so on.

And if I put this in a wrong section feel free to move it..


What does Elijah symbolize to his fans?

To answer that question fully I should analyze his movie roles but I haven’t done that and I’m not going to do that, either. It would be too complicated because I’m not familiar enough with the American culture and society. Instead I’ll tell what fans themselves think about their star Elijah Wood.

Late 2004 I received 50 answers from Elijah Wood fans. From those answers I have found out ten different groups of meanings of the star image of Elijah Wood. I'll describe the largest groups first and the less significant ones last.

The symbolism of Elijah forms a net of different things that are connected to each other and one could very well make a perfectly different kind of analysis from his meanings. The interpretation I’m giving here is only one among several possibilities to describe his star image.

The symbolism of a star and the star image are ever changing. Descriptions of them are outdated as soon as they get written. Such descriptions show us meanings of a star as they were in a certain period in the past.


1. Teacher of human life (21 % of the comments)

First of all Elijah Wood is like every other star an example of how we should be human beings in a positive way. Elijah teaches us right kind of living and humanity. This is the basic meaning of all stars and every one of them teaches a little bit different things. Fans often start their sentences with such words as "He has shown me that.." or "Because of him I understood that.." Stars show and teach us something. They open our eyes to see something.

Stars serve as examples in good and bad. Fans think that Elijah has got exceptional properties such as perfection, happiness, intelligence, self confidence, friendliness and harmony. His symbols can be also universal and non personal like individualism, true love and first love in a philosophical meaning. These ideals become sort of spiritual goals for his fans.

This meaning of Elijah and any other star is rather difficult for fans to grasp and explain. We try to list Elijah’s positive traits of character, give him all kinds of epithets and desperately try to construct an over-all picture of him but never actually succeed in it. This group of meanings has got to do with identification, development of fan’s own identity, mirroring and reflecting one’s Self against the star image. Elijah can be like the ideal self of a fan.

The experience of being a fan is often described with such words as “opening and understanding”. Fanship can feel like enlightenment. It means getting in touch with one’s own feelings and finding the lost spark in life. Star images have got power to show us clearly our own past, all the faults in our present life and positive possibilities in the future. Fandom can be compared with envisioning of one’s life and setting good goals for one self.

Being a fan can mean deep going changes in a fan’s personality, values, understanding of Self and the way of relating to other people. For this group of meanings there is no one word and that’s why fans call it “love” and want to “thank” Elijah. The feeling is described as true love or universal and oceanic kind of love and it is the basic source of gratitude.


2. A close person, relative, friend or partner (17 %)

The other basic meaning of Elijah Wood’s star image to his fans is an ideal relationship. He is ideal in a given role that can be either a friend, big brother, boy friend, future partner or a prototype of a young man.

Stars can be the dearest soul mates for their fans. Fanship is a star-fan relationship and it is very personal and private from the fan's point of view but impersonal and public from the star's point of view. A few fans mentioned that Elijah is sort of a substitute for a close and ideal person who is missing from their life.

The theme of friendship is connected with the loyal friendship between Frodo and the members of the Fellowship of the Ring and especially between Sam and Frodo. The idea of friendship is enforced by the special friendship between the actors in real life and by Elijah’s closeness with his own family.

Fans experience their fanship very personally. I doubt any of us is aware of “making popular culture” when writing on a fan forum or dreaming over star pictures. In many cases fans and scientists see fandom from a very different point of view. Scientists seem to resist the idea of “romance” or “star-fan-relationship” because it may associate with the old and deeply hated stereotype of a screaming fan-girl.

Researchers want to show fandoms and fanship as media culture or group behaviour of people. They like to call fanship a “media relationship” where the fan is neatly positioned as a person among the public enjoying media texts with affection or consuming commodities of the entertainment industry.

Of course it is true that the actual object of fanship and fan love is the mental image of the idol and that image is constructed by ourselves from the pieces of information given us by the media. That’s all we know about the idol. So the relation is actually between the fans and the media - but still it feels as if it really was there between two people. This is not the only big contradiction in fandom.


3. Anchor (10 %)

It was difficult to find a good title for this group of meanings: it could be anchor, or a fixed star, or a life belt or something like that. If you find a better one, please, tell me!

Elijah Wood, or actually his star image, serves as a safe harbour in a fan’s everyday life and life narration. He is a psychological anchor and a supporting character who gives his fans faith, hope, light, comfort and strength. When everything else around keeps shifting and changing the star image is relatively constant and secure. Of course it changes too but slowly and almost unnoticed so that one can easily hang on it.

This symbolism is parallel with the symbolism of Frodo due to many similarities in their contents, but the anchor symbol seems to be depending merely on Elijah’s own personality and not on the role of Frodo. No one mentioned Frodo in this context.

For fans of his own generation Elijah serves also as a “cultural anchor”. He lives in the same society and time, he has got very much the same tastes, views and experiences as other people of his generation. He is like a companion. He is part of our personal memories.


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uh, this is so long.. …  some more, maybe, or stop.. 
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lollady
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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2006, 11:45:13 am »
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..and the story continues..

I’d like to point out that those 50 comments I received from Elijah-fans do not tell all about the real star image of Elijah Wood. They tell more about those fifty fans themselves and what the actor represents for them. That is why I can give you only a very narrow picture about the actual subject. But anyway, here you are:


4. Muse (10 %)

The fourth group of meanings is connected with fans’ own goals. Elijah works as an awakener and “muse” who helps his fans see their own talents and inspires them to use their own creativity, to set new goals and succeed in achieving something meaningful in their lives, just like the star him self has done.

Love for an idol can be very empowering. It may sometimes resemble the feeling of omnipotence, i.e. feeling of being on the top of the world and being able to accomplish almost anything. The feeling suggests that one could make the American Dream come true and jump from a Nobody to Fame. The example of Elijah gives his fans a powerful push to try to succeed them selves.

Of course the goal doesn’t need to be something Big like becoming a famous actress. It is totally enough to discover one’s own creativity and develop it because it can be very useful in the future in another context. Being a fan of a star is never useless because it always brings new knowledge, new skills, broader understanding of one self and the world around and it brings new friends.


More than a half of all comments I received fall into these four categories of meanings: teacher of humanity, a close person, anchor and muse. Those are very general meanings and I believe that they apply to all young male actors. I have found basically the same themes in different variations in fan talk about Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt as well.

What is noteworthy is the fact that the original geek or nerd symbol of Elijah Wood, the image of an eccentric guy that has been widely discussed on fan forums, was totally absent in the answers. This meaning might by and by disappear from Elijah’s star image. It doesn’t suit so well to a respectable professional adult and a serious business man.

The monkey or spark plug symbolism was totally missing in the answers, too. In my opinion it is connected with his childhood photographs and funny stories about his younger years. He is no child actor any more but there is still something of a lively and disarming child in Elijah’s star image especially for his older fans.

The absence of comments about Elijah Wood’s geek and nerd symbolism and the image of a playful child and monkey is understandable in his fans’ answers to me. Those sides of Elijah are discussed on fan forums where special fan humour and carnival often prevail and those meanings serve extremely well when creating fan humour, smile and laugh. There is no point in repeating them when answering privately to a questionnaire. The four groups of meanings I have described are more private for fans but the geek and monkey images are better suited to group discussion. They have a social character.



5. Freedom (8 %)

The fifth group of meanings consists of day dreaming, escapism and need for freedom from stressing or even dreary everyday life. Elijah serves as an outlet for pent up negative feelings, as a channel of pouring out stress and pouring in good feelings. Fantasies and imagination about him serve as a way of resting and relaxing.

Fantasy is like a separate virtual space where fans enter into, leave their negative emotional baggage there and come out into real life full of new hope and strength. The star image is used both as a space where one can flee to and as an implement or a medium to get rid of negativity and dreariness. The star image is like a door to freedom or a refuge.



6. Aesthetic meaning (7 %)

Fans think that Elijah Wood is very good looking with his big blue eyes and perfect skin. They have become his trade marks. On fan forums Elijah has been compared with the statue of David by Michelangelo. Fans look at Elijah like a piece of art and looking at him brings pleasure. He is also an object of female gaze filled with desire and admiration.

Fans seem to think that it is superficial to admire good looks. The statement can be used among fans to make a difference between true fans and trend fans. Stars represent popular culture which most people see as something cheap and lower in taste. A person who evaluates products of popular culture and mass media in terms of aesthetic pleasure is often said to have bad taste. Remembering this can make fans feel embarrassed and hide their “worse” taste in order to feel better accepted by their fellow fans and other people.

However, enjoying beauty is very important to all people. Anything beautiful elevates our souls and makes us feel better. Beauty automatically associates with goodness and divinity. That is why in the sentence “You admire him only because of his looks” the word “only” is actually a paradox because goodness and divinity cannot be described as “only”.





..so far this time..


BTW, it feels so strange to write these here because i have no idea at all how you feel about them.   
At the same time i wish to be useful and share what i have learned about fandom even if it is nothing professional and very original.

If even one or two of you or the lurkers can relate to something in these texts and gets an "ah-ha!" experience then i think my efforts have served their purpose and i'm happy.   
« Last Edit: April 01, 2006, 12:01:55 pm by lollady » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2006, 06:01:55 pm »
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That is all very interesting, and very accurate too.  All of the things you mentioned are EXACTLY what Elijah symbolizes to me - you really hit the nail on the head.

Very cool hobby you have - keep up the good work    And your English is good, so don't worry about that 
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lollady
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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2006, 11:46:55 am »
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Oh, Thanks Joanna for your encouragement and comments! Very kind of you.

It's so nice to know that the results of my strange hobby might after all be interesting and useful for someone. But, please, don't take the texts very seriously because i'm just an amateur in this.

I must admit that since I am no hard core LOTR fan and have not done any research on LOTR I feel rather insecure when writing the following lines. They are my personal ideas because fans actually didn’t analyze Frodo so much to me in their answers. I expect LOTR experts on this board to correct me if I’m offending any “official LOTR science”. So, the next Frodo section will be sort of private fan talk.


7. Frodo (6 % of the fans' comments)

We find Frodo on the seventh place in fans comments, not earlier. Frodo can very well be called the symbol number one of Elijah Wood to the bigger audience, not only to his fans. Why then does Frodo come here on the seventh place?

Maybe the Frodo symbolism is taken for granted and most Elijah fans don’t want to mention it separately any longer. The media may well take care of that. For fans Elijah Wood as a person and his films and roles all together mean more than just LOTR and Frodo.

Many fans have followed Elijah’s life since his first movies. They have grown up together with his films. Elijah as an actor has got a history. The widely known history of the movie character of Frodo started in 2001 and it was planted and cultivated everywhere in the media.

Frodo’s character is very beloved by Elijah fans but it might give a one sided picture of the actor. It seems to me that in their answers to me fans either knowingly or unknowingly wanted to ignore the Frodo symbolism of Elijah and emphasize his other meanings.

If we think about stars, their movie roles and star images as media texts that can be “read” we can say that “Frodo” is the dominant way of reading the star image of Elijah Wood. It seems to be the number one definition of the actor in almost every article and interview with him.

Many fans want to reject such one sided interpretation and want to “read” Elijah against the grain. They separate themselves from the big audience and the media by reading Elijah’s image in a different way. It doesn’t mean that fans negate the Frodo meaning. It means that for many fans Elijah is much more than just Frodo.

Because of this difference in ways of reading the star images actors symbolize different things to the big audience and to their fans. Fans are experts and their needs and tastes are much more refined and specific. Fans see and know more because they are affective and active.

I think that Frodo’s character in it self is a very rich symbol.
Firstly, Frodo is small and his size brings an association of an innocent child, a weak or powerless person who needs protection and love. Frodo appeals to our parental instincts.

Secondly, Frodo is a Hobbit and the basic values of the Hobbit community were peaceful life, good food and drink, idyllic little villages inhabited by good hearted fellow Hobbits. There was no evil around. Frodo symbolizes a peaceful, good, simple, and careless way of life.

Thirdly, Frodo, Sam and the members of the Fellowship symbolize ideal kind of friendship and loyalty that lead to strength and victory. Their story gives fans hope that those ideals are still alive in the world and they are worth striving for.

Fourthly, Frodo is a hero who together with his friends saved Middle-Earth from the Evil. This image gives a lot of hope to those people who feel themselves small and powerless like a Hobbit or a child in a big bad world. They also can become heroes of their own lives on a symbolic level.

Fifthly, Frodo became a martyr because he got a never healing wound in his body and soul. Frodo symbolizes a wound that never heals. He also symbolizes strength of character because he carried his wound bravely. Frodo suffered for the Middle-Earth and for us and we get strength from his example.

Sixthly, Frodo was allowed to go to the Undying Lands. He got a reward for his sufferings. Saving the good nations of the Middle-Earth, getting and carrying a wound and getting "place in the Undying Lands" may bring strong religious associations to Christian fans.

Frodo’s symbolism became Elijah’s symbolism as well. Fans know the word Frodlijah which means that Frodo’s symbolism became part of Elijah’s star image. Elijah gave face to Frodo and after the movie trilogy Frodo will always be like Elijah for many people. Frodo had an impact on Elijah’s image and Elijah had an impact on Frodo’s image, so the effect has been reciprocal.

The Frodo symbol gives a wide range of possibilities to identify with Frodo and Elijah.

The character of Frodo, loyalty and friendship among the Fellowship and the communities of different races in Middle-Earth as well as victory over the Evil give us a strong feeling of Utopia.

According to some scientists, media texts such as movies, tv-shows, soaps, star images, advertisements and so on have a utopian function or “utopian sensibility” because they make us feel that there exists something better than our everyday life. There exists “a world” where good will, hope, light, strength, joy and love, happiness, wealth and success truly are possible. This Utopia is a hidden promise in every media text.

The utopian feeling is very empowering. It helps us tick and strive forward and try to achieve our goals. It makes us love the stars because they show us the better world of hope. They show us how to live, how to be happy, how to be wealthy and successful, how to be popular, how to be beloved by all - star images contain several hidden utopian promises. Part of the Utopia can come true but only through a fan’s own activity and hard work. Utopian promises are never fulfilled by stars.

Other sources of wonderful utopian feelings are all those LOTR fan communities and fan forums of the LOTR actors which can be understood as some kind of virtual Hobbitons. They promise acceptance, caring and equality, they promise joy, friendship and comforting togetherness.

Internet in itself has been compared with Utopia and an ideal village and its cosy and happy life. Utopian sensibility of the LOTR media texts, utopian feeling of fan groups and Utopia of the global village in the Internet form together a very strong factor why there is such a huge following of these media texts and actors in the films.






References:

Abercrombie, Nicholas & Longhurst, Brian. 1998 / 2003. Audiences. A Sociological Theory of Performance and Imagination. London: Sage Publications.

Dyer, Richard. 1986/1993. Heavenly Bodies. Film Stars and Society. London: The MacMillan Press LTD.

Gledhill, Christine (Ed.) 1991. Stardom. Industry of Desire.  London: Routledge.

Grossberg, Lawrence. 1995. Mielihyvän kytkennät. Risteilyjä populaarikulttuurissa. Tampere: Vastapaino.

Jenkins, Henry. 1992. Textual Poachers. Television Fans & Participatoy Culture. NY: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc.

Lewis, Lisa A. (Ed.). 1992. Adoring Audience. Fan Culture and Popular Media. London: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, Inc.

Nikunen, Kaarina. 2005. Faniuden aika. Kolme tapausta tv-ohjelmien faniudesta vuosituhannen taitteen Suomessa. Tampere: Tampere University Press.

« Last Edit: April 11, 2006, 05:14:45 am by lollady » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2006, 12:10:01 pm »
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This is looking great    I love all the Frodo symbolism - especially the part about him appealing to our parental instincts.  Again, so true! 

Post more soon - I'm hooked 


Quote from: lollady on April 02, 2006, 11:46:55 am   

I must admit that since I am no hard core LOTR fan and have not done any research on LOTR I feel rather insecure when writing the following lines. They are my personal ideas because fans actually didn’t analyze Frodo so much to me in their answers. I expect LOTR experts on this board to correct me if I’m offending any “official LOTR science”.

Sixthly, Frodo was given immortality by the Elves and a chance to move overseas to a happier existence. He got a divine reward for his sufferings. Saving the good nations of the Middle-Earth, getting and carrying a wound and getting immortality may bring strong religious associations to Christian fans.
Just one little correction - Frodo was not given immortality by the Elves, although he was given special privileges by them - he was allowed to sail to the Undying Lands. 

On September 29, 3021, Frodo came to the Grey Havens accompanied by Sam. Merry and Pippin were there to meet them. Frodo said goodbye to his three friends and boarded a ship with Bilbo and the bearers of the Three Elven-rings: Gandalf, Galadriel and Elrond. The ship set sail to the Undying Lands.

The Undying Lands were across the Sea to the west of Middle-earth. The spirits called the Valar dwelled there as did many Elves. Mortals were not normally allowed to go to the Undying Lands, but because of the great burden they had borne, Frodo and Bilbo were given special permission. Galadriel had made a special prayer to the Valar that Frodo be allowed to pass into the West, and Arwen also asked Gandalf, as an emissary of the Valar, to intercede on Frodo's behalf.

Although Frodo's ultimate fate is not recorded, it is believed that he lived out the rest of his days on Tol Eressea - an island off the coast of the main continent of Aman where Valinor was located. There Frodo may have finally found the peace and healing he sought.

Frodo was mortal and he remained so. He eventually died, though the year of his death is not recorded. Sam Gamgee, the last of the Ring-bearers, was allowed to sail to the Undying Lands in the year 61 of the Fourth Age, and it is hoped that these two great friends were reunited one last time before they died.


This information came from http://www.tuckborough.net/frodo.html
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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2006, 10:50:18 am »
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Thank You very much for correcting my error. That was actually a big one from me    I tried to edit the text in haste.

I'm sorry, but it seems that i won't be able to post the rest of the story due to a big trouble with my home modem device. It stopped working yesterday.

There was not much left anyway so you won't actually miss anything of top importance. The main point is already there.
Thanks for reading and commenting and thanks for all your e-mails! 

I wish success for A+F site and board, it's great. Everybody have a nice time!

Thanks Ham 
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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2006, 09:26:50 pm »
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That's so neat! If you need any help, be sure to ask. I wouldn't mind editing in the future. I edit a school and city newspaper, so it would be my pleasure to contrubute!
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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2006, 06:23:02 am »
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This is very interesting reading lollady. It's thoughtful and well written and your English is fine. I like the subject matter very much. This is a great hobby! Post more if you get the chance.
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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2006, 03:22:21 am »
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Aah it's so nice to know that people can actually get something from and relate to what i wrote. I suppose a little encouragement and feed back is all what i need. 

@blooming_wood: Thanks alot for your offer! If you wish, please, feel free to edit those chapters above as much as needed. I like the idea of someone editing the language and style before I post anything but isn't it a lot of extra work for you? 

But anyway, I'll drop a line here whenever there is something to share, ok?


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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2006, 04:12:49 am »
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Lollady: I enjoy you Fan Book very interesting reading there are som words I can understand but I have my dictionary I hope you wrote som  more thanks
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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2006, 03:49:38 am »
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Here is the rest of the story about Elijah's meanings to fans. I almost forgot to post it, too.
It's unedited and surely full of errors in language but I hope you are able to catch what I'm trying to say with it.
Corrections and comments welcome!




8. A celebrity versus a regular person (6 %)

The contradiction between being a celebrity and a regular person at the same time is a constant miracle for fans. Paradoxes are typical to all star images and this specific paradox is common for all celebrity images. When a big celebrity and the guy next door harmoniously merge in a star image it guarantees that the star image is authentic and not built up by spin doctors. Fans feel that the actor really is as wonderful in private as he is in public.

I think that Elijah Wood symbolizes also a regular young American guy who is modern, easy going and laid back. The symbol has got mostly to do with his style and tastes: his dressing style, hanging out with friends, standing in line for movies like any other person and attending rock concerts. His tastes in rock music show his fans that he is just like anyone else. He is one of “us”. At the same time he certainly is not "just like anyone else" because of his wide knowledge and wide range of likings in music. Elijah is also a fan himself and that is partly why fans find it easy to identify with him. Fans wish to see him more on this side of the velvet line and not as part of the Hollywood machine.



9. Object of good feelings (6 %)

For the wellbeing of a human being it is extremely important to have someone to love. Elijah Wood is a safe object for best feelings of fans. Best feelings towards Elijah Wood are respect, admiration, love and gratitude. Many fans say that they are happy to just have someone to respect, love, pray for and dream about.

When researching open internet letters to another celebrity I noticed that the letters were filled with gratitude. Fans are thankful for all those positive and wonderful feelings and experiences their star has brought them. Feelings are present in fans’ everyday lives and keep reminding of themselves at any moment. Being in love with someone makes you feel a better person. It is like a present from the star and well worth of gratitude.

Unfortunately, in fan love there is a trap involved. If the feeling is based on the traditional understanding of love between the sexes, i.e. it is goal oriented, mutual and demands physical presence, after a certain time it leads to loss of the empowering and inspiring effect of fanship. Empowerment in fanship and love can work against each other.

Empowerment is important in achieving one’s goals and developing one’s identity and if a fan loses it there will be only frustration and depression left. A problematic kind of fan love can rob the fan his or her psychological autonomy and give all the power away to the star image that is just a mental image and nothing real. It is just a channel that makes it possible to feel good feelings. You can reach the star but never the person behind it.

However, if fan love is understood as something universal, free, impersonal and oceanic it brings all the rewards to the fan. The universal idea of love is no less love than the so called “real” sexual love. There was a question in my query about this and most of the older female fans stated firmly that the special fan feeling is related with true love. I understood that they meant the feeling in its broadest and abstract meaning.



10. Sexual object (2 %)

Elijah Wood is seen as hot and sexy. On fan forums this meaning is often linked to his geek image, eye glasses, his unique hair and careless style. He is young and especially teen aged girls might find Elijah’s outlooks safe and inviting. He is no threatening macho type. He is not very tall, he has got a perfect skin and he is beautiful which makes him look less threatening masculine than other good looking male stars. In 2001 when the film trilogy LOTR came out he had only stepped over the threshold from youth to adulthood. It is easy to think that in a young person his female and male sides are in a good balance with each other. In literature this balance is called androgyny and it is said to be especially fascinating to women because it gives more room for their erotic fantasies. In Elijah Wood's image this balance has vanished by and by during the last three or four years and he has become more masculine.



11. Example of a celebrity (3%) and entertainment (2 %)

Finally, there are always fans who either cannot or do not want to point out to any special meanings of the actor. For them Elijah Wood is an example of a good celebrity and a good worker in his profession. Actor’s or performer’s job is only to entertain and offer a nice way of spending free time. Some fans even deny that there would be any specific symbolism in Elijah Wood’s star image.

All these groups of meanings form a complex net where the meanings are clearly separate but related to one another. In fans’ practices they are a very mixed bag. Elijah Wood means many things simultaneously. The image of an ideal son can be an object of romantic feelings and the prototype of a young man can serve as a muse who inspires fans to create something of their own, be it fan fiction, fan art, music or acting. Even contradictory meanings can work well together.



THE END
« Last Edit: April 12, 2006, 04:01:33 am by lollady » Report to moderator   Logged

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Re:My Fan Book Project - Some Results about EW's Image
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2006, 04:49:03 am »
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I'm glad you were able to post the rest of the story lollady! It's interesting and I enjoyed reading it. 

I liked this in particular.

Quote from: lollady on April 12, 2006, 03:49:38 am   

9. Object of good feelings (6 %)
For the wellbeing of a human being it is extremely important to have someone to love. Elijah Wood is a safe object for best feelings of fans. Best feelings towards Elijah Wood are respect, admiration, love and gratitude. Many fans say that they are happy to just have someone to respect, love, pray for and dream about.
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Is it real love?
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2006, 07:56:47 am »
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I decided to revive this thread for a while and write about LOVE. Admit, you like the theme, don’t you? OK, it’s going to be all about fan love. What is it actually? What is the special fan feeling all about?

Warning again: it’s certainly going to be very ridiculous English but actually I don’t care because I just feel the need to write and I do it from my heart (and hopefully from my brain, too). *grins* So, take or leave.

And another thing: I needed to quote some of your answers here but I have done it without giving out any names, ages, countries or anything so that no one would recognize the writer. The quotes are useful when trying to clarify the subject it self. If you recognize your own text quoted and you don't like it at all please let me know immediately and I'll edit your lines away and say I'm sorry.

Ok, here it goes:


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FAN FEELINGS


The following information on fan feelings is based on 76 answers from fans of different male stars. I received 50 emails from Elijah Wood fans and 26 emails from fans of other stars such as Orlando Bloom (2), Johnny Depp (2), Seth Green (2), Viggo Mortensen (2), Christian Slater (2), Shawn Ashmore, Billy Boyd, Jeremy Brett, Russel Crowe, Tom Cruise, Hugh Jackman, Oskari Katajisto, James Marsters, Joe McIntyre, Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Philippe, Brad Pitt, Geoffrey Rush, Rufus Sewell, Will Smith and Hal Sparks.

Many people are fans of several stars and tv-shows at the same time. Almost all fans answered this question: Is it real love? meaning: do you love your star with real love? Fans answered this question blindly because no definition of “real love” was given in addition to the question. And this was the result:


Yes (27%)

No (66%)

Don’t know (7%)



The result means that more than every fourth fan thinks that fandom is all about real love. The mean age in this group is the second highest (24,3 years).

Most people say that the special fan feeling is not real love. 12% of fans in this group admit though that the feeling has got something to do with love although it cannot be described as “real”. It can be described as strong infatuation, crush or love in a very broad meaning. The mean age of these 12 % of fans is the highest (28 years).

Nine percent of fans state that fan feelings are about respect, admiration or appreciation. Four percent of fans describe their fan feelings with such words as liking, feeling attached to the star or feeling like soul mates with him. For them fan feelings are more like love between close friends. Less than one tenth of fans think that fan feelings are about lust. For some people lust is the same as real love.

Less than one tenth also think that there is no real love in fanship but there is an obsession. These fans are all under the age of seventeen (mean age 15 years). The word obsession seems to be used more often among the youngest fans. It means that there is a difference in the language code between the youngest group and older fans.

Fan feelings are a very mixed bag. They include fantasy of love, hope or expectation of love, a complex combination of liking, admiration, respect, wish to be like the star, hope to meet him one day, interest and loyalty. This bunch of affections as a whole somehow resembles love because it feels like having a soul mate and being strongly attached to him.

There seems to be no exact name for this combination of emotions unless we call it identification or recognizing oneself in the other person. Identification seems to be the most popular term among the scientists when they explain different fandoms. Identification includes both desire of having the object and desire of being like the object of affection.

However, I would like to discuss further the idea of “real love” that fans were asked about. The affection is a paradox because it is both “no” and “yes” at the same time, as it is in this quote:

“I dont know whats real love. I guess not, cause I will like to bealive that real love only exist when the other person loves you back. …  I love him, in some way, or at least, I´m not gonna love anyone else, never…”

What is psychologically most stressing in being a fan is certainly the duality and ambivalence of emotions. They are not love but they are love. How do people cope with this kind of a dilemma?

The ultimate answer to the question “Is it real love?” depends on what we mean with “real love”. Most of those who commented negatively gave good arguments which help us reconstruct the idea of “true love” that was probably used as a measure when thinking about the answer. Here are the arguments:

1. It cannot be love because fans don’t interact with the star personally and don’t know him face to face and the feeling is not mutual. Some fans state that they don’t even have the right to claim the feeling as love:

“I don't rightly have the pleasure of saying that I love him, seeing as how I don't know him personally and I've never met him.”

“no, because it not reciprocated and I dont know him personally and he doesnt know me”


2. The actor who is believed to be the object of fan feelings is not there. The object of feelings is either just a movie character (pretended) or a commodity (spun and sold). That is why the feeling cannot be love. There is confusion about the actual object of feelings.

“To have real love you have to know someone, and you can’t know a face on a screen, no matter how many interviews you read. Celebrity is spun, a package sold to us by agents and
marketing experts. You can’t love that. You can admire that, be interested in it, be loyal to it, and even get turned on by it, but you can’t love it.”


“…but I do not believe I love someone if I only see them when they are pretending to be someone else. Its a paradox of sorts. I love the real him that he is pretending to be. It just doesnt make sense.”

3. The feeling is not unique because many fans have felt the same with other celebrities, too, and the feeling has been temporary. That is why it is not real love.

“I'd like to think so, but I doubt it, as I've felt of the same thing with other actors but nothing really happened. I consider this as a phase.”

4. The feeling is based on information and pictures in the media and the information could be false. It is based on knowledge about the star and the knowledge feeds the feeling. Both information and feelings generated by it are mediated (come through the media).

“I wanted to think it was, but I really don't see how it could be when all I know about him has no guarentee to be true.”

5. The feeling is not love because many fans are way too young to know real love.

“since i'm 14, i'm guessing not.”

Those arguments give us understanding of what most fans might mean with “true love”. It is a feeling between two mature people who know each other in real life, there is physical closeness, sexual relationships, and the feeling leads to a mutual and lasting relationship. Sexuality adds a complicated ethical and moral aspect to the picture.

I would like to call this definition "the domineering definition" of love. Domineering here means that this definition is always the first one that comes to mind when talking about love, and it serves as the overall measure for the feeling. When talking about worshipping stars, non fans and fans automatically compare it with this kind of “real love” in the first place.

According to the domineering definition, love always needs a real object and if you don't know the actor personally he cannot be the object. You do love but not him. The only thing you know is the mental image of the actor you have depicted in your head. The image is the object of your love.

In this way fan love seems to challenge the definition of “real love”. Whenever a domineering concept or a cultural convention is being challenged the challenger will be pushed into the margin and her/his actions will be labelled as something embarrassing and crazy. Shame is a powerful means of punishing those who challenge any cultural codes. That is the first reason why worshipping stars feels embarrassing. It is an undervalued hobby and seen as something silly.

“Love” of sports teams, rock bands and tv-shows does not carry the moral and ethical baggage of “real love” between the sexes as does worshipping of individual stars. Impersonal forms of fandom such as ice hockey or movie fandom are seen as more acceptable because people never link them with the idea of “real love” in the first place. Those hobbies do not threaten any moral or ethical codes of the society and the culture.

The domineering concept of love is based on gender roles. According to the feminist theories, even in our days we seem to be first of all men and women and only after that, human beings. Our human value and the value of all our doings tend to be defined through the traditional roles of the two genders. The gender thinking favours heterosexual and masculine hegemony. Social and cultural hierarchies between individuals and all phenomena arise first of all from gender roles.

Women are lower in this hierarchy than men and the lowest position belongs to young girls and old women. According to the masculine hegemony, Masculine is the norm and Feminine is a deviation from it. Woman is the so called Other. Gender thinking hides deep in us and we learn it unknowingly together with the Western patriarchal culture all around us. It is in our basic social structures.

Anything women and especially young girls do is considered as a little bit silly because it is of less value according to the patriarchal social system. Fandom of stars is mostly a hobby of young girls and women and that is one of the reasons why fandom is seen as something rather foolish. Star fandoms have feminine identities. Masculine hobbies such as foot ball, ice hockey or heavy rock fandom are considered either valuable or normal because they are the norm. They have masculine identities.

Commercial enterprises and even some state organizations support sports and any hobbies to do with sports with huge sums of money every year. Have you ever heard about economical support given to star fandoms? I bet you haven’t. The cultural value and the economical value go hand in hand. It is easy to defend monetary investments saying that sports support health and raise the physical condition of citizens. Rock fandom is economically very profitable for many big enterprises and there is a huge money circulation around that business. Star fandom is also business but rather insignificant in terms of material gains.

Because of its sexual nature “real love” carries with it a heavy baggage of moral and ethical associations. Because of this linkage expressions of love are thought to belong to the private sphere, not to the public or semi-publicity of the Internet. People do not want to listen to or to see anything that is traditionally classified as private because it makes them feel embarrassed. One’s worshipping a star makes other people feel embarrassed. Breaking the line between private and public means breaking a cultural convention. This might be one of the reasons why people often try to “push fans down” and make them feel stupid and even guilty.

Here we have got several rules that are broken by fans from the cultural point of view. Firstly, fans love in the ‘wrong’ way and the ‘wrong’ object, and secondly, they bring into the public sphere something that belongs to the private sphere.

In this situation a fan has got two choices: either she denies her feelings that really exist and when doing this she acts against her self and causes a psychological dilemma for herself; or she expresses her affections using the usual definition of “real love” that really doesn’t give the right picture of her affection, and by doing this she becomes the feminine Other in the margin who breaks the line between the public and private. In this way she causes a cultural dilemma for herself.

Both choices seem to be bad. It's like the crow in the classical story. The crow had landed on wet clay and got its tail stuck in the mud. When getting the tail out of the mud the bill got stuck instead and then the sticking and getting rid went on and on. How to avoid this crow dilemma?

In addition to “real love”, there exist other sorts of love like parental and familial love, love for God, love for humanity, life, animals, love for nature, unconditional, unrequited and platonic love, love between friends and soul mates, love for beauty, art and other abstract ideas and ideals. I would like to call all of this "the broad definition" of love.
This definition allows lack of sexual relationships, lack of mutuality and even lack of clearly defined or physical object of feelings.

If only people and fans themselves would be able to identify fandom with this broader impersonal, universal and philosophical idea of love the contradiction between fan feelings and facts would cease to exist.

Firstly, the universal comprehension of love does not demand that there must be a physical object for the feeling. There is no contradiction any more between the feeling and its object.

Secondly, the universal idea of love conquers the masculine hegemony. When detaching fan love from the gender based understanding of love we detach it from all moral judgments and feelings of shame. In this way fan love gets back its value. The divinity of the feeling will not be tramped by prejudices of the feminine fan stereotype.

Thirdly, understanding fan love as something universal and philosophical would also help fans conquer the strict line between privacy and publicity. The line mostly ceases to exist. Understanding love in a broad way sweeps off most of the dilemmas connected with fan feelings and their perception by the society.

Personally I think that fan emotions mostly are about love but they fall into the philosophical category of the feeling. Here fan emotions can be called true love without feeling embarrassed, without breaking any cultural conventions, without getting labelled with the annoying fan stereotype and without breaking any codes of privacy. I would like to think that especially fans over their teens who called their feelings as true love were measuring their emotions against this broader definition.

One fan described her feeling with words “universe-ocean-timeless” and I think this chain of words says it all:

“i've never felt more love for anything. it's kind of a universe-ocean-timeless love. i know what love is because of him. i don't know if i love "elijah wood" but i definitely have a hella strong association with him and my deepest feelings.”

Why not love “your star” freely and openly? The only thing to remember is that the object is not the actor as a real person and most probably never will be. The object is the ideal of a human being, the ideal of your own Self, all the goodness in you and the wonderful spark of life. It is love for wonderful feelings themselves, nice experiences and like minded people who don’t bash you for what you feel and think.

A US scientist of Cultural Studies called Lawrence Grossberg, who has researched rock fandom, has given a special name to fan feelings. He calls them affect. But either I am very stupid or he fails to explain the term properly because I cannot fully relate to it. The word doesn’t seem to give much credit to deep emotions and experiences of an individual fan. It seems to include not only affections of fans but some of their practices, too, which is very confusing. At least to me the word has very little taste, it is dry and academic and it has lost the connection with the actual fan experience.

The most interesting partial definition of the term "affect" which I have seen in Grossberg’s texts is “feeling of life”. This is something I can relate to. Loving a star causes the feeling of new life. Actually many fans who answered my questionnaire said that they have got their life back or they have found new life. The same happens in human relations. When you are in love you feel alive again. So the affect (feeling of life) is actually caused by the feeling of love.


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Ok, that was it. It would be nice to hear your opinions, what do you think about the subject itself?
Can you relate to what I wrote? 
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lollady
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