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'I've found my people': Why being a fan can be transformative

From Whovians to Swifties, pop culture fandoms can have a dubious reputation, but social psychology shows that being part of a group can be immensely enriching, says Michael Bond

By Michael Bond

10 May 2023

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Michelle D’urbano

EVER since the early days of popular culture, fans have been saddled with a dubious reputation. Condemned as irrational or aberrant, their behaviour is often considered a threat to the social order or a kind of mental illness. The New Statesman‘s assessment of Beatles fans in 1964 as “the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures” has been levelled in various forms at young pop fans many times since. We seem to find it difficult to trust fans, particularly when they vent their passions together.

But this depiction doesn’t tally with social psychologists‘ perspective on fan culture. Viewed from the …

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