What happens when the mainstream makers do not deliver what fans want? Very simple: they do it themselves. The “do it yourself” (DIY) phenomenon is not only something related to crafts, but also a very deep trait of fandom. When a mainstream maker does not deliver what the audience wants, the audience will eventually create what they want.
One recent example of fans creating for fans is the unofficial “Loki movie” called “Loki, Brother of Thor”. Fans of Loki have been demanding a solo Loki movie for a long time now. Tired of waiting, some fans have decided to take action and create a solo Loki movie editing the existing Marvel movies, creating a version of the events using available material.
This not only happens with movies, it also happens with cosplay dresses, t-shirts, jewelry, shoes, and all sorts of different merchandising. Traditionally, fan fiction and fan art have been the realms of the “DIY” expression. Fans who wanted things to happen in the movies, but didn’t happen write down the alternate stories. Others, decide to create for themselves, as well as for others, goodies that would love to have bought from the mainstream makers.
Fans are not only consumers, they are also creators. They are contributors, collaborators who influence other people into joining or not a certain fandom. They decide. Mainstream media producers need to understand that fans are not simply powerless actors who will just consume what they are fed. They are active actors who have the power to decide not only which is their favorite(s) fandom(s), but also what they do consume; and that includes the stars themselves and all the merchandising attached to them.
The identity of a fan goes far beyond being a simple consumer of goods. They define their personalities through fandom and the stars they decide to “worship”. The bigger the community of fans, the broader their power is, not only in demanding, but also in creating if mainstream media makers ignore their requests.
Celebrities and the characters they play are role models for many fans. Fans adopt attributes of both the real celebrities and the characters as their own values and behaviors. In doing so, they express themselves and explain their identities to others. Fans use this as social currency, as a way to differentiate themselves from others. Some will consume what the mainstream media will feed them, and many will become consumers of both the mainstream and other fans who have also become creators. They are just expressing their identities when consuming and creating fan goods.
Another example of potential origin for fans creating fan merchandising is Gamora. Gamora, in spite of being an active member of Guardians of the Galaxy, has been absent from mainstream goods. Many T-shirts portray all the male characters of the movie, however she is missing. The #whereisgamora hashtag in Twitter shows up the disappointment of many fans in trying to purchase merchandising that is not there.
Gamora is a character many fans can identify with. They can decide to use here traits, along with those of Zoe Saldana, to express their identities, and to create social currency among other members of the fandom. That few mainstream merchandising is available right now can become a trigger for many fans start creating merchandising for themselves and other fans.
Situations like this one make the DIY boom. Fans will get disappointed, and many will decide to create, first for themselves, and then for other fans too, merchandising, fan movies, fan art and fan fiction that will fit their needs and demands.
Fans will always create while expressing their identity. They will create memes, edit entire movies, write fan fiction, create jewelry or T-shirts in order to express their identities and demand from franchises a change of direction.
- “Loki, Brother of Thor“. The Loki fan movie.
- “Loki film is here“. Loki’s Army.
- “Why is Gamora missing from ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ merchandise?” The Daily Dot.
- “Where is Gamora“. Movie Pilot.
- “Celebrity Culture,” by Ellis Cashmore.