When the Pet Shop Boys were “imperial”: Fans’ self-aging and the neoliberal life course of “successful” text-aging

Matthew Hills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


I follow Harrington and Bielby’s (2018) call for more work on ‘texistence’ ‐ how fans’ self-ageing and the text-ageing of pop-cultural texts become intertwined. I focus on the British pop duo Pet Shop Boys (PSB), formed in 1981. Lead singer Neil Tennant coined the term ‘imperial phase’ (2001) to describe the success of their album Actually (1987), and this terminology has been embraced by PSB fandom; enduring fans consider their fandom in relation to imperial/post-imperial phases. I consider how PSB fans desire a return of the ‘imperial’, refuting any text-ageing ‘narrative of decline’, as well as counterfactually reimagining the duo’s career success. Fannish interpretive community is based on celebrating the commercial authenticity of PSB’s music, articulating both text-ageing and fans’ self-ageing with neoliberalized concepts of the ‘successful’ life course (Clack and Paule 2019) and ‘uniqueness’ in marketized contexts (Nealon 2018). I thus argue that neoliberalism needs to be integrated into analyses of the contemporary fannish life course, even when fan objects (such as PSB) have been explicitly anti-neoliberal across their careers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-167
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Fandom Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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