Not just another powerless elite? When media fans become subcultural celebrities

Matt Hills

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


John Tulloch and Henry Jenkins have described media fans as a 'powerless elite' (1995: 144) who are generally unable to directly influence the content of their favoured TV shows, but who nevertheless possess great expertise in terms of their knowledge of a series' history. This description usefully points to the potential contradictoriness of fan identities: fans may have the power to produce an aesthetic history of their beloved texts (1995: 145), yet they are not economically/industrially significant to media producers where they constitute only a very small percentage of the overall audience (see also Hills 2002: 37). However, Tulloch and Jenkins's rendering of fans as a 'powerless elite' tends to place all fans in a similar position of cultural (dis )empowerment relative to media producers and professionals, suggesting that fans can be thought of in clear opposition to media-professional celebrities. By way of starting to unravel this blanket characterization, I want to note that (purely coincidentally) Francesco Alberoni(1972: 75) actually uses the exact same term, 'powerless elite', to depict media celebrities, suggesting that their 'institutional power is very limited or non-existent' while their actions nevertheless 'arouse a considerable ... degree of interest' (1972: 75). Given that both celebrities and fans may, therefore, possess uneasy and ambiguous relationships to forms of cultural power, it may be rather unhelpful to view cultural power as being entirely housed or possessed by celebrities and concomitantly lacked by fans. As different versions of potentially 'powerless elites', the question here is how - and to what degree - fan and celebrity cultural identities can overlap and interact rather than belonging to wholly separable domains.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFraming Celebrity
Subtitle of host publicationNew Directions in Celebrity Culture
EditorsSu Holmes, Sean Redmond
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780203715406
ISBN (Print)9780415377102, 9780415377096
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2006
Externally publishedYes


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