Fan-made Time: Power and Play in the Production Paratext of The Hobbit
Following the critical acclaim of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003) the forums of dedicated fan website, TheOneRing.net, buzzed with rumours of a new film, an adaptation of Tolkien’s original novel, The Hobbit. That which would eventually become a blockbuster trilogy started out as an uncertainty – a production marred by repeated delays, financial disasters and political interventions. Throughout this uncertainty, fans were left with the burning question of whether the long-awaited adaptation would ever see the light of day. This has given rise to the question of how fans engage with waiting for anticipated media texts. While lawsuits and union strikes hindered production of The Hobbit, this had little impact on the discussions taking place in the forums. On the contrary, the public attention the productions of these films received – in the media, through advertising, even in Parliament – together with the producers’ own inability to produce due to the repeated obstacles they faced, allowed for fans to shape their own time. I refer to this as Fan-made time, a block of time that fans create, shape and claim possession over. A product of its technology, fan-made time relies on new media technologies to facilitate timely, regular discussion and speculation around a text that had yet to see the light of day. This thesis, then, explores how fan-made time shapes and transforms the ways in which audiences engage with media products. Chapter One draws upon the Circuit of Culture to position fan-made time in relation to scholarly literature surrounding hype and marketing, fan identity, and fan / producer relations. Chapter Two seeks to contextualise the tumultuous production process of The Hobbit as a series of paratexts, contributing meaning to fans’ experience of the films. Fan-made time both draws upon, and unites, these paratexts through discussion, evaluation and interpretation. Chapter Three addresses questions of power and agency through examining the extent to which fan-made time empowers or disempowers participants. It suggests that, though fan behaviour is moderated, both explicitly and implicitly, the Hobbit’s pre-production process saw fans actively producing during a period where official production stalled. Chapter Four explores the different ways fans experience fan-made time, in terms of emotional attachment, ritualistic engagement and affective play. Chapter Five develops this idea of play through comparing how fans experience fan-made time to the playing of a video game. It argues that the tools of new media technologies push the boundaries of established rules and norms associated with traditional marketing practices. This thesis, therefore, contends that the experience of fan-made time can, and should, be considered separately from processes of hype and marketing.
Advisor: Thornley, Davinia; Fowler, Catherine
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Media, Film and Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: fan studies; paratexts; The Hobbit
Research Type: Thesis