Date of Submission
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Joanne Randa Nucho
This ethnography will examine superfans of musical artists, specifically Lady Gaga and BTS (Bangtan Sonyeondan or “Beyond the Scene”), to explore the nature of superfandom and the evolution of the parasocial relationship. To unpack this, I explore the research questions: For superfans of musical artists, what meaning do they find in their fandom? What kinds of experiences and behaviors does it stimulate?
This paper determines superfandom to be self-proclaimed, but the title generally applies to fans who invest heavily (in time or financially) in a particular artist or group, engage with that artist in a routine way, and have strong positive feelings toward the artist and their music. Often theses relationships are considered parasocial.
To understand these parasocial relationships and explore the experience of superfans, this paper explores questions such as: What factors lead someone to superfandom? How do they practice it? Does superfandom include rituals or other aspects of religiosity? What is the nature of a parasocial relationship within superfandom? To dig deeper I examined the spaces in which superfandom is practiced and how superfans engage there. I attended concerts and fan events, conducted interviews with self-proclaimed superfans, and researched activity and behavior within online fan portals and message boards.
This paper argues that superfandom begins as a parasocial relationship between fan and artist, but through a combination of trauma experienced by the fan, music rituals practiced, and the internalization of artist messages, a spiritual subculture of superfandom is built. The driven superfan community then transcends the parasocial and develops an interactive and reciprocal relationship with the artist more closely resembling a ‘real’ relationship. This is significant as it demonstrates how this transformation of the parasocial relationship of fandom enables a culture of ‘giving back’ to the artist and their causes. The result is tangible action reaching far beyond what the artist could achieve alone. Post-pandemic, it gives insight into why superfandom is on the rise and what both the artist and the superfan stand to gain from the relationship.
Goldberg, Samuel, "Pop Spiritualism: The Experience of Superfandom" (2023). CMC Senior Theses. 3252.