with all this proliferation of media in every aspect of our lives,” Stever explained over the phone. “But when I went out to find fans to study in 1988 anyway, I sure didn’t have any trouble finding a ton of them.”
Prince fans similarly perceived both Prince and themselves to be deep and introspective. “They were relating to him on a deeper level, whether it was his creativity and his artistry and his introspection,” Stever said. “They think, this is someone who’s like me.”This still rings true today, said P. David Marshall, a professor in new media, communication, and cultural studies at Deakin University and the author of several books on celebrity and persona. One of his students recently finished research on Harry Styles fans. She found that her subjects were having difficulty determining their own relationships to other men and women, and considered Harry Styles to be open in terms of his sexuality and gender identity.
“I was like, why am I suddenly insanely in love with a television show?”
Zubernis has found that fan culture is a place where people can be themselves, express their passions without fear of criticism, and find ways to belong as their authentic selves. One study found that women in science fiction fandom were attracted to those communities because of the “nonjudgmental nature of fandom culture and the relationships that they formed.”
“All these people who were dressed head to toe in their team colors, or painting their faces. I mean, they’re basically cosplaying.”