At the annual
Want to dress up as a Stormtrooper? Suit yourself. Want to buy a bobblehead doll of your favorite movie character? Go for it. Want to stand in line for hours for the chance to be in the same room as the stars of your most cherished TV series? Right this way. Want to stand outside the San Diego Convention Center holding a sign that says "Kneel Before Zod"? Knock yourself out.
At this year's Comic-Con, though, there was something new, a particular place where fans could gather to essentially pay tribute to themselves: the first-ever mtvU Fandom Awards, held at
Categories were designed to reflect the way fans engage with their favorite movies and shows, and celebrities on hand, including
You can call it pandering (or "fan-dering") if you like. But in many ways the Fandom Awards — and the entire circus of salesmanship Comic-Con has become over the years — represent the logical evolution of film and television creators' increasingly sophisticated, and increasingly urgent, efforts to capture audiences' enthusiasm.
In this digital age, fans are easier to reach than ever — and yet more fragmented and fickle than ever. With all of us awash in a vast and ever-expanding sea of entertainment options, most available at the click of a button or the swipe of a finger, it's little wonder Hollywood is looking for new and innovative ways to court, or supplicate itself to, every potential ticket buyer or binge-watcher it can.
Fans, of course, are more than happy to be treated like royalty. As the late film critic
"A lot of fans are basically fans of fandom itself," Ebert wrote. "It's all about them. They have mastered the '
On the face of it, Hollywood's exaltation of fandom seems like a positive thing, a democratizing force that puts pop culture's creators and its consumers on a level playing field. But it has its ugly side as well. There can be a thin line between obsession and aggression, and, under the Internet's veil of anonymity, particularly rabid fans can sometimes turn into petulant, pedantic bullies.
Consider the tsunami of Twitter hate actor
Despite all of its efforts, it's unclear whether Hollywood will ever figure out how to harness fan enthusiasm —be it through social media, Comic-Con, or any other avenues — in a way that consistently translates into profits. "Veronica Mars" fans may have brought the long-canceled show to the big screen with their Kickstarter donations, but, despite all the talk of the revolutionary power of crowd-funding, the movie ultimately proved a box office dud, grossing just over $3 million.
As former Variety editor-in-chief
Nevertheless, this much is certain: As long as there are people so devoted to their favorite films and TV series that they will make a pilgrimage to San Diego and stand in endless lines in 80-degree heat, the creators and stars of those movies and shows will be there to meet them with bells on. Or maybe even Stormtrooper costumes.