Semester of Graduation

Spring 2023


Master of Mass Communication (MMC)

Document Type



Passionate fandoms centered on popular film and television series can elicit large-scale positive fan activity. At the same time, however, negative consequences can arise as factions or subsets of members with varying opinions arise within fandoms. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is varied levels among fandom members of how prototypical they view themselves within the context of that fandom. Research on social groups, however, has historically looked exclusively at perceptions of others' prototypicality and not of the self. Drawing on theories of social identity (SIT) and self-categorization (SCT), this project serves to bridge this research gap by exploring to what extent a person's perception of their prototypicality in a fandom affects their enjoyment of the fan object and personal self-esteem. A study of 564 individuals, recruited from fandom-centric spaces across social media channels, who reported active membership in the Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and Doctor Who fandoms found varying support for the proposition that higher levels of perceived prototypicality predict higher enjoyment of the fan object and higher personal self-esteem. Higher levels of perceived prototypicality predicted higher levels of enjoyment both alone and when two different dimensions of social identification (connection and self-definition) acted as a moderator. Perceived prototypicality also predicted higher levels of self-esteem on its own, but social identification did not moderate this relationship. Additionally, higher levels of connection predicted higher levels of both enjoyment and self-esteem, but higher levels of self-definition predicted lower levels of both outcomes. Implications for these findings upon understanding fandom activity, fan identity, and consequences of fandom membership are discussed.



Committee Chair

Sanders, Meghan