Michael Jackson Fans on Trial? “Documenting” Emotivism and Fandom in Wacko About Jacko

Matt Hills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the representation of Michael Jackson fans in the UK documentary Wacko About Jacko (IWC Media, 2005). Although the documentary purportedly gave a mass-mediated voice to Michael Jackson fandom-enabling fans to defend themselves and their object of fandom at a critical point in Jackson's career-this article argues that the documentary's narrative and visual grammar nevertheless continued to negatively stereotype fans. Specific fans are depicted as "blindly" loyal to Jackson (or "emotivist"), and as mimetically seeking to appropriate Jackson's image. These depictions add to a long history of derogatory media portrayals of pop culture fans as lacking self-identity, and as excessively emotional. The article then combines textual analysis of Wacko About Jacko with the study of a specific Michael Jackson forum online, demonstrating that fans themselves critiqued and challenged some of the documentary's representational limits. Fan participants also elaborated on their decisions to take part in the programme's filming. Examining these fan discourses enables consideration of how this particular fan community responded ambivalently to its own partly "positive" mass-mediation and its negative stereotyping, as well as suggesting that fans' debates over representation deserve wider circulation and a voice within cultural analysis. Wacko About Jacko was neither entirely "positive" nor wholly "negative" about Michael Jackson fandom, yet through its very polysemy it enabled some fans to celebrate their moment in the spotlight, while still remaining open to highly stereotyped, derogatory readings of media fandom.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-477
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Semiotics
Issue number4
Early online date19 Nov 2007
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


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