"The Nerds Are in Charge Here...:" The Fan Convention Celebrity Encounter
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Communication and Journalism
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This paper is an ethnographic examination of the fan-celebrity dynamic at a particular fan convention, Wizard World New Orleans (2018). Although fan motivations for attending a convention may vary, one of the main draws is the potential for face-to-face interactions with celebrities. The celebrity encounter comes with a price, however. Fans are not merely required to pay a fee, but they often must sacrifice a significant amount of their fan convention experience, or “con experience,” waiting in line. Through an insider approach to ethnography, I will argue that fans justify their sacrifice of time and money in two distinct ways. First, fans justify the sacrifice by expressing the extraordinariness and rarity of the celebrity encounter. Secondly, participants rationalize this decision by characterizing the norms of a fan convention as proper fan etiquette, often describing the desire to acquire a celebrity encounter outside the convention setting as inappropriate and disrespectful. In doing this, participants work to distinguish themselves from the stigma of the fan as fanatical. This paper also discusses the potential for fan exploitation.