Fans are members of a community that exists to self-perpetuate. What motivates them is engagement—engagement with one another, and engagement with the object of fannish passion, be it TV, film, anime, manga, comics, or games. I’m using a fairly strict, old-school, science fiction fandom–derived definition of “fan” here: a fan is someone who engages with others, thus creating a fandom. Lurkers, drive-by readers, and occasional posters to online forums may consider themselves fans, by which they mean to imply that they have more than a passing interest, but by the definition I’m using, acting in isolation doesn’t count. To be a fan, someone has to engage in a community, often by creating or commenting on fan artworks made for a specific fannish audience.
Entire genres of fan activity revolve around remix, including fan vids and fan fiction, not to mention their creation of endless double-tap Instagram bait in the form of manipulated artwork, slogan-y macros, and hilarious and/or adorable GIFs. Fans target this kind of engagement to a specific community to get a reaction: a like, a repost, a new follower. This circuit of creation and reaction turns into a loop, and by so doing, this fan engagement creates a fandom community that is based on these kinds of exchange.
It’s no secret that producers are keen to tap unpaid fan labor to promote their product. Viral marketing tries to drum up fan enthusiasm in hopes of engaging an entire community. Yet the impetus behind the creation of a fandom and the creation of an artwork (a film, say) that producers want to promote are fundamentally different: one is done to self-perpetuate, and the other is done for profit. This is true even if the promoted item nods to the fan remix ethos by itself being a remake, reboot, or remix. Producers have always created sequels, spin-offs, and mash-ups; their existence is not a nod to fans or fandoms. Fans and producers thus have completely different interests that compel their choices and behavior.
These components—self-perpetuation of a fandom loop on the part of fans, self-interest on the part of producers—need not be monolithically in opposition to one another, and explorations of their intersections and diversions may provide insight into message building for both. Some fans go on to become producers themselves (I’m thinking of Doctor Who fandom, or its obverse, the Phantom Edit), a desire sparked by fannish love. So one item that may link these two points of view is affective pleasure: fans are known to have it, and producers create texts so that they might feel it. A second item might be messaging: members of a particular fandom may engage in activism, and producers want to tap into that, be it by a text’s theme or by extratextual targeted activities or messaging. Where and how do they meet, and what strategies do they use to reach one another?