While the fandom is mainly associated with cultural forms like pop music, novels, comics, and movies (Fiske, 1992), Funko’s new launch brought a different perspective on looking at fandom. In 2020, to commemorate the firefighters that fought in Australia’s wildfires, Funko created the Bushfire Heroes series. Shortly after, to pay tribute to the first responders of the COVID-19 pandemic, Frontline Heroes collectibles were launched. This series depicted and valued these healthcare workers as heroes similar to the superheroes from the cinematic universes, fighting for people and saving lives. In addition, it created a new fan culture focusing on non-fiction people to honor them.
This new launch not only brought a new lens to look at fandom but also a unique way to show appreciation to the health workers. People started buying Frontline Heroes collectibles to honor the healthcare workers and remember the importance of these workers’ jobs. It turned into a gift idea to give their loved ones or friends and family members who work in healthcare. Even some healthcare workers online left reviews on e-commerce platforms like Amazon about how they welcomed the support from Funko.
Product descriptions also indicated that they donated money to GlobalGiving. Funko highlighted its support to healthcare and called on its consumers to participate, but it kept their profits from those sales in reality. Buying these items made these consumers feel like a part of a larger community, support this company’s help to these workers’ hard work, and its donation to the non-profits. However, the company seems to be taking advantage of this vital social issue and commodifying it to profit. Therefore, it cannot be labeled as a merely charitable endeavor. Yet, Funko’s work towards the good cause should not be dismissed, and this series should not be just seen as a pure marketing deception to get people to buy more of the company’s products.
Fiske, J. (1992). The cultural economy of fandom. In L. A. Lewis (Ed.), The adoring audience: Fan culture and popular media (1st ed., pp. 30–49). Routledge.