As more and more fans rush online to share their thoughts on their favorite shows or video games, they might feel like the process of providing feedback is empowering. However, as fan studies scholar Mel Stanfill argues, these industry invitations for fan participation indicate not greater fan power but rather greater fan usefulness. Stanfill’s argument, controversial to some in the field, compares the “domestication of fandom” to the domestication of livestock, contending that, just as livestock are bred bigger and more docile as they are domesticated, so, too, are fans as the entertainment industry seeks to cultivate a fan base that is both more useful and more controllable. 

By bringing industry studies and fan studies into the conversation, Stanfill looks closely at just who exactly the industry considers “proper fans” in terms of race, gender, age, and sexuality, and interrogates how digital media have influenced consumption, ultimately finding that the invitation to participate is really an incitement to consume in circumscribed, industry-useful ways.

Exploiting Fandom is a long overdue book that brings together media and sports fandom studies under the lens of fan labor. It is mandatory for anyone working in the field, and its clear argument and extensive and interesting case studies make it accessible to more general audiences as well.”—Kristina Busse, author, Framing Fan Fiction: Literary and Social Practices in Fan Fiction Communities (Iowa, 2017)

“Stanfill writes with an impressively strong sense of theory, helping the reader to understand how fans are incited to particular identities and practices and what their potential exploitation by industry might actually mean. In this focus on the management of fandom, Stanfill both contributes to critical media industry studies and directs much needed attention to the politics of gender, sexuality, and race at these intersections.”—Derek Johnson, author, Media Franchising: Creative License and Collaboration in the Culture Industries

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