Rage Against The TV: A Case Study in Fandom Protests.

In University I wrote my dissertation about fandom protests and utilised Dan Harmon’s Community as a case study. Now I’ve graduated, I can post this online so… you’re welcome! Though I have taken parts out due to them being unnecessary and were only written because it was on the dissertation regulations.



thanks to the Community fans I had communicated with through social
media during the course of this dissertation allowing me to shape my
survey and all those who took part of the survey from Reddit and
Tumblr. With over 300 responses it gave me a great look into the
passion you have for the show.


Within this
Dissertation, I will be researching Fandoms of Television shows and
how they fight broadcasters who cancel media texts. To begin with, I
will be looking into what a fandom is and how they connect with each
other. Researching a comparison on fandoms utilisation of digital
technology against how previous generations used analog technology to
spread messages of protests, then I’ll be looking into the
introduction of Prosumers and how they help media texts develop,
seeing the benefits, such as support along with the negative such as
death threats.

I’ll be looking into cancellation and how fandoms react to this,
how they protest and how fandoms are united together, seeing how it
has worked previously as well as the failed attempts. Clicktivism is
another element I will be looking into in my findings.


will be using NBC’s Community as a case study due to it’s cult
following and multiple risks of cancellation and multiple protests.
Using the original two research sections, I can see if it is
relatable to the NBC Community fandom and whether or not they contain
the same elements to other fandoms and how the studies correlate with
each other or how they did it different to the majority of fandoms
and protests against cancellation other media text cancellation.

will be utilizing Reddit & Tumblr for a survey about Community
and it’s protests, these platforms allow direct discussion with the
fans themselves, including access for feedback on the survey so I can
modify it so I can expand on any sections that’ll give me a strong
representation of the fandom to compare to my earlier research. By
the end of the dissertation I am hoping to have a strong profile on
fandoms and how they create their protests, along with a case study
confirming/debating the first two research sections about what a
fandom is and how they react to media cancellation.


writes that “-the term “audience” usually refers to an assembly
of listeners or viewers who come together, if only virtually, through
shared consumption-“ Gillespie (2005:1) Media audiences are an
important part of media, without them a media text cannot be
profitable. Gillespie also writes that “Audiences are seen as
mindless, ignorant, defenceless, naïve and as manipulated or
exploited by the “mass media”. Gillespie (2005:10) though Lotz
argues fans are clever and know what they are doing. “Fans can
protest the cancellation of a show with their wallets, buying DVDs,
rather than just writing letters to the network. It’s completely
changed the economic model.” Lotz (2007)


discusses the ownership of media texts for the audience and the
industry. “Of course, if “the people” are committed to shared
ownership of their texts, this means the industry gets to play with
fans as much as (and likely more than) this means that fans get to
play with the industry.” (2011:65) Napoli even writes that the
introduction of new technology plays a large part within this
interaction. “-new technologies are providing increasing
opportunities for audiences to interact with their media, to provide
feedback, and to influence outcomes; and of course that today’s
media consumers are becoming much more than just consumers-“(2013)
Burns agrees with Napoli’s view on prosumerism by stating “When a
blogger, for example, posts a video clip from another source, the
blogger becomes both producer and consumer” (2009) Jenkins even
writes his views on blogs themselves “Blogs are thus more dynamic
than older-style home pages, more permanent than posts to a net
discussion list. They are more private and personal than traditional
journalism, more public than diaries.” (2006:179)  Booth furthers
this by writing what fan fiction and blogging means to audiences and
academics. “For media fans, blog fan fiction represents a new style
of communication; for media studies scholars, a new type of digital
document.” (2010:35)

Fiction has been used as a way to protest against cancellation,
Williams discusses “-fans often seek to continue the narrative
worlds they have become attached to-fanfiction which can allow fans
of shows that have ended to respond to the cancellation and to
negotiate their feelings of loss and discontinuity” (2015:185).
Williams’ example of emotions felt by fans agrees with what Ross
writes about how audiences unite to revolt cancellation. “-the
story of their shows resonated with them in deeply personal ways,
compelling them to do something they’d never done before and
actively work to save their programs.” Ross (2011:244)


TV media audience are seen as very passionate about the texts that
they consume. Short writes about the Star Trek cancellation and how
the audience united to renew the show and what methods they utilised.
“Midway through its third season rumours of cancellation spread
again, attracting huge protest and a group delivered a petition to
the Burbank office. On the East Coast, picketers marched up and down
Rockerfeller Plaza, carrying placards and handing out leaflets and
bumper stickers.” Short (2011:184) Her discussion of protest at
Rockefeller Center isn’t the only time this has happened for cult
television, a Huffington Post writer reported “After the cult hit
was left off NBC’s midseason schedule, Human Beings everywhere jumped
to action, starting social media campaigns, sending letters to the
chairman of NBC Entertainment-and even starting an official petition
to save the show from cancellation.” (2011)

of these media texts are made in different generations, Star Trek in
the analog generation and Community in the digital generation. Gray
states “-fan communities were often relegated to the conventions
and fanzines. Today, with many such communities’ migration to the
Internet, the thousands of fan discussion groups, web sites, and
mailing lists populating the Web are only eclipsed in presence by
pornography.” (2007) Larsen & Zubernis discuss the emotion of
the show and obsession of cancellation. “We’d been saying all
along that fandom is about passion. On some primordial level,
whatever we are fans of-It doesn’t matter if it’s a television
show or a hockey game—love is love.” (2013:237).


What is a “Fandom”?

each generation media consumption has developed and grown, from the
analog to digital generation, the way we access content and utilise
that content has changed. Throughout these generations there is still
one thing that is still connected with media consumption, this would
be a group known as a “fandom”.  Within the audiences of TV,
Radio or Print, fandoms can be found everywhere and this section of
audience is usually passionate and obsessive toward media texts. With
the introduction of Social Media, this tool has made it easier and
quicker to gain fandom support and interact with media texts on a
different way compared to just a few years ago. Fandoms use of
fanzines in the analog era has changed to Forums and Facebook today.
Theberge writes “online fan clubs have taken on a new dynamic:
marked by the appearance of a more direct form of dialogue between
artist and fans and a more regular, even daily, ability to connect-“


with a fandom that are content creators (e.g. art, fan-fiction,
physical merch, etc) are considered as “Prosumers”. Toffler
writes “Someday,
customers may also push buttons that activate remote production
processes. Consumer and producer fuse into a “prosumer.”
(1990:239). By consuming a media text then producing texts from it
you become a prosumer.

content creators are considered prosumers due to their creative
attribute inside their media.
writes “audiences have the power to be more than mere media
consumers, becoming contributors to the media environment as well.”
(2011:30) With the generation change from analog media distribution
to digital media distribution, this is something that is clear to
see, due to new technologies creating and sharing new content is a
lot faster to do and feedback to the media can be almost
instantaneous as well. Henry agrees with this theory by stating: “The
new digital environment increases the speed of fan communication,
resulting in what Matthew Hills calls ‘just in time fandom. If fans
once traded ideas through the mails, they now see the postal service
as too slow – ‘snail mail’ – to satisfy their expectations of
immediate response” Jenkins (2002:5).  Fan Fiction (fans creating
their own fictions with popular media characters) was sent out using
“snail mail”. It has been a part of the analog generation and is
still utilised in digital generation.  Booth states “Fan fiction
subverts traditional or dominant readings of media product by
deliberately breaking copyright. For example, fans may subvert the
friendship between Kirk and Spock in Star Trek and reread it as a
homosexual bond.”  Booth (2010:72). When TV shows are put on hiatus
or cancelled, Fan Fiction is its own form of protest by breaking
copyright and creating new stories for fans to consume.

also writes that: “Media producers may also support this behaviour,
as it encourages fans to buy more products and spread knowledge of
the media product by word of mouth advertising.” Booth (2010:73).
media is used by millions of people and by utilizing “hashtags”
as free advertising can allow media texts into the top social
“trends” on different websites, thus enabling fans to share their
opinions to a large number of people about a product, spreading wider
knowledge, making this form of advertising a digital form of “word
of mouth” advertisement.
know there are multiple ways to utilise online media other than just
discussing media texts, Douglas writes “Fans can become producers
as they recycle popular media for YouTube or digitally edit and
produce their own videos, often appropriating materials from dominant
media.” Kellner (2009:4) By claiming fair use, with parody or
review, fans get to spread a message of protest or support of a media
product. Sharing the content made by others. In 2013, a YouTube user
under the alias of JohnSmithVFX uploaded a Doctor Who/Sherlock video,
by ripping scenes from both shows and utilising visual effects he
created a short episode, fans and media outlets shared this video.
Casey describes it as “the Doctor meeting Sherlock for the first
time in the closest you’ll ever come to seeing your Wholock
softcore slash fiction play out in real life.” (2013) These
creations benefit the fandoms and studios due to the interaction with
the products, These experiences increase excitement making them share
and comment. Fans typically share this content across the web and
even on their own blogs.


recent years blogging has become an extremely popular tool and is
reference regularly within pop culture media texts. Media is now
utilising blogs with the use of transmedia storytelling, this has
been done in the BBC adaption of Sherlock with John Watson owning a
blog, which is accessible online as a real blog. Stein & Busse
write “-the BBC has developed both John’s blog and Sherlock’s
site as transmedia narrative extensions-“ (2012:13) Bringing
franchises to the web excites fandoms due to the interactivity.
Jenkins writes, “-blogging is on the rise. We’re in a lull between
waves of commercialization in digital media, and bloggers are seizing
the moment-“ Jenkins (2006) With media texts utilising blogging and
transmedia it creates an immersive world online for users to take
part of. Blogs are a crucial way for fandoms to communicate. Blogging
sites are typically free or very low cost and they give the public a
platform to share content they want. Fandoms utilise blogs to share
fan created media texts and regular updates on the franchise they are
fanatic about. Papacharissi writes “Blogs provide media consumers
with an audience and a relatively audible voice; they also offer a
virtual space where information ignored by mainstream media can be
published.” Papacharissi (2007: 192). 

Though as Kiuchi states
“Although audience participation allowed an increase in reflection
on the impact of the audience voice, the separation between producers
and consumers remained clear.” Kiuchi (2012:253) Thus, even though
a media audience can have a voice and are important to a media text,
the producers have the power, rather than the prosumers. If the
creators/studio/producers choose to ignore a subject that is related
to the media text to which the fandom wants to discuss, nothing can
be done, even with online protests. Even with this struggle for power
against broadcasters, fandoms have managed to gain renewal of media
texts multiple times. In the next section we will be looking into how
this has worked, how this has failed and what the fandoms utilise to
gain acknowledgement from broadcasters.

Cancellation: A Quest for Power.

the introduction of new technologies, (mainly the expansion of the
internet and its content) media protest has become simpler and
quicker through the use of social media sites. An always waiting
audience can read the information and take action. Yet, the idea of
media protest isn’t new a new concept. In the 19th
century, when Arthur Conan Doyle chose to stop writing new Sherlock
books, fans of his work went on protest by producing their own
stories, protesting in the streets with black armbands and more.
Stashower said in an interview with Miller “a woman approached
Conan Doyle on the street and struck him with her umbrella. He got
incredible hate mail.“ Miller (2001)


Fans can be passionate about protesting media, they can also be very
aggressive. Death threats have become a common practice in the
digital age, due to online anonymity it makes it easier for people to
harass and insult content creators that are in the limelight. This
not only happens when a show has been cancelled but if a show has
changed since its initial pilot. Though this passion is misplaced, it
does agree with what Larsen
& Zubernis wrote about the passion and love fandoms feel for
their media. The fact they are sharing hate toward a person or
establishment, shows that the media texts is something they love and
care strongly about.

have been brought back from cancellation thanks to an outpour of
support from fans, Family Guy was brought back due to fans buying
large amounts of DVD’s causing FOX to renew the show.  Firefly was
given a film to wrap the series up thanks to it’s protesters
sending out petitions across its fandom and even buying an advert in
variety magazine to gain support. Beque wrote, “It also seems that
awareness of fans through campaigns such as the Variety Ad, mailing
of postcards and buying of DVD sets could have demonstrated a fan
presence to movie executives.” (Beque. 2011) This allowed for a
firefly continuation, which later became the movie Serenity.

was brought back for a second series after low rating but a strong
fan campaign convinced them for the second run. Fans sent peanuts to
the network that aired the show. Williams writes “Online fandoms
enables fans to “quickly mobilise grassroots efforts to save
programs, such as a campaign to save CBS’s Jericho by sending
peanuts to the network-“ (2015:105) They were successful for a
first renewal but later cancelled again and brought back as a comic

Insecurity can play a large factor in fandoms when they are facing a
finale or cancellation. Williams even discusses what Ontological
Security can mean to fans.
“-fandoms of specific objects may
provide individuals with a sense of ontological security that derives
from the fan’s devotion to his/her fan object and also from the
resultant fan community.” (2015:25). With this kind of behaviour,
fans would fight against cancellation for security and to keep their
media consumption routine.  

fandoms set up “Online Campaigns” to save a media text, they
usually spread it around as much as they can but the problem with
this can be what Woolf discusses as “Clicktivism”. “Social
media also encourages a less active form of protest known as
clicktivism. Clicktivists might do no more than “like” or share a
Facebook page- by asking so little of people, protest movements can
show impressive numbers of supporters. However, few people are
prepared to take real action.” (2014)


regular interaction as you would see with a cult fandom, protests may
not get enough power to challenge executives, producers and studios
to renew a media text. Sometimes cancellation isn’t always caused
by low ratings, Maureen Ryan interviewed Joss Whedon about Dollhouse,
when questioned he discussed Dollhouse’s cancellation wasn’t due
to low ratings. “Basically, the show didn’t really get off the
ground because the network pretty much wanted to back away from the
concept five minutes after they bought it. And then ultimately, the
show itself is also kind of odd and difficult to market. I actually
think they did a good job, but it’s just not a slam-dunk concept.”

corporations broadcast and fund the programs to be released, when a
network cancels a program it’s difficult to change their mind, but
with a strong fandom and luck, renewal is possible. Robert Sabal
interviewed Chad Hoffman on the matter of letter writing campaigns.
He said “-one well-placed, well-written, letter to the correct
person in New York stating a point and why you had a problem with one
of our shows will work its way down the chain of command and have
unbelievable power.” (1992)

letter writing campaigns have worked in the past, social media gives
quicker access to companies, gives a large amount of consumers a
voice and allows companies to respond quicker about the future of the
media text.

is usually in the power of executives, but very rarely do fandoms ask
for cancellation. In the case of the movie “Zombieland”, in 2013
it was commissioned to become a television show on Amazon. The
original media text of Zombieland was loved passionately by its
active fandom and casual viewers. When the pilot was aired online,
fans utilised social media to vent their disgust of the TV show.
Zombieland creator Rhett Reese was quoted saying “I’ll never
understand the vehement hate the pilot received from diehard
Zombieland fans. You guys successfully hated it out of existence.”
(Vine 2013). Author of the article even discusses this change in
fandom action and references the actions fandom took to save Jericho.
“Traditionally, fan engagement has been the other way around –
people banding together to save underperforming shows from the axe,
usually through the medium of posting goofy food items to network
execs, who have received everything from nuts (thanks, Jericho
fans).” (2013)

fandom action on a whole can be quite predictable as a majority. The
passion, aggression and determination to get the best for a fandoms
media texts is strong enough to fight executive decision on what to
do with a media text, whether it be renew, cancelled, or reboot. The
next section will look at the fandom of the Dan Harmon show
“Community” and how they have dealt with a hiatus, a cancellation
and 2 renewals.

Community Case Study:

The “Human Beings” that saved

case study I will be researching is the NBC broadcasted show
Community, created in 2009 by Dan Harmon, over the years “Community”
has aired for 5 seasons. The show now has a cult-following status.
Even with 2 threats of cancellation, the show has managed to be saved
thanks to its fans. The first Community protest began during Season 3
in 2011. Whilst in its mid-season break, NBC made an executive
decision to move Community to a new time slot, a move by NBC that
typically hinted at a shows cancellation. Social Media sites such as
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr & Reddit revolted and created it’s
own hashtag #SixSeasons&AMovie a quote from the series. Tansley
explains “It became a battle cry and a campaign-slogan to encourage
NBC to renew the show-“ (Tansley. 215). By doing this they created
a phrase to unite fans together, this allowed for a singular voice to
gain the collective attention of NBC executives. Members of said
protest took part in a flash mob at NBC’s headquarters “Rockefeller
Center” to protest NBC’s choice and obtain renewal for the show.
The efforts made by the fans movement caused NBC to listen to the
protests and continued with production on the remaining number of the
22 episodes that season. The attention Community gained caused NBC to
renew Community for a fourth season.


protest that surround the hiatus was just the first that fans had to
take part in, after Season five had concluded the fate of Community
was unknown. NBC chose not to renew the show, this then cause the
“#SixSeasonAndAMovie” hashtag to trend again as fans were
protesting the decision. Due to cancellation this time, fans knew
that Sony Pictures owned and produced the show and chose to produce
campaigns to get Netflix to broadcast the show themselves due to
their previous renewal of cancelled TV show such as “Arrested
Development” which was cancelled in the mid-2000s as well as Star
Wars: The Clone Wars and The Killing. Though Netflix seemed
interested, they could not take the show on due to Hulu (another US
based streaming service) owning the streaming rights to Community in
the US, it was doubtful to the fandom that Community season six would
happen, but Sony Pictures were still shopping around for a
broadcaster for Community. “Yahoo!” stepped in the day before the
actors contracts would run out to produce new episodes for “Yahoo!

order to research the “Community” fandom, I produced a survey
with fandom and cancellation related questions, then forwarded the
survey to sites such as fan blogs, Facebook groups and the largest
one the “Community” subreddit with over 140,000 “Human Beings”
(a reference to the fictional football team) also known as members.

an overwhelming response of over 300 fans taking the survey and
critiquing what else I should be asking in the comment section of the
subreddit, all the data that was submitted by the fandom had given me
a clear insight to what the fans did during the “Season 3 hiatus”,
the “Season 5 cancellation” and their opinions of the show and
how they get involved with the show.

any of the “fill your own answer” sections to the survey, they
were filled with references to the TV show, this shows how passionate
the fans are.


the demographic section of the survey I was able to see that the
majority of “Community” fans are cis-gendered male holding 75% of
the answers. The age of the demographic is 18-25 holding 57% of the
answers followed by 26-35 at 25%. Only 1 individual answered for over

asked why they like “Community” the most common answers were
about the show being “well written”, having “great acting”
and being “intelligent and witty” with plenty of references to
it’s take on “pop culture” and being very “meta” with its
comedy and storylines. It’s self-referential comedy and narrative
are clearly a strong part of the media text and is why the shows
audience/fandom enjoy it.

asked if NBC’s treatment of protests was fair, 60% of fans chose
the “No,
they clearly wanted to axe Community” option. The remaining 40% was
divided evenly between “Yes” and “Other”. Those who wrote
their own answer mainly discussed a mixture of both, choosing low
ratings and not understanding the audience they had obtained. One fan
even wrote that the protest didn’t bring in any new viewers.

the Season 3 Hiatus, 54% of fans took part in the #SaveCommunity
movement on social media. 18% chose to e-mail/contact NBC directly
and 1% took part in the Rockefeller Center flash mob. A lot of fans
were not watching the show at the time of the shows hiatus, within
the “Other” section this statement can be seen in the majority of
responses. This changed when asked about Season 5 cancellation. As
mentioned earlier about fandoms being emotional a lot of the replies
to this section have strong emotional content. People replied with
Manly Crying, Had a Sad & Sobbing” showing a strong emotional
response to this show, maybe a sign of ontological insecurity.
#SaveCommunity and #SixSeasonsAndAMovie were utilised again by fans
as well as rewatching the all episodes of the show. Family Guy was
renewed by strong DVD sales, but the same did not happen for
Community this time.


asked why they though Community was cancelled, the majority of
replies discussed low rating and not as financially profitable as
other shows along with comments stating “NBC didn’t have anything
to gain from renewing the show” along with it being suitable to a
niche market.  With the transition from TV (NBC) to Online (Yahoo!
Screen) when Season 6 airs, 60% of fans believe Yahoo! will be a
higher quality broadcaster than NBC. 20% disagree and the remainder
are sceptical and would prefer Netflix to pick up the show due to
their track history with show renewals. 61% of responses agree that
the cancelation protest was more clicktivism due to its simplistic
tweet nature for the majority of fans. The others section discussed a
combination of both, some fans treated it as such and did not real
research into the subject or push anything forward and some didn’t
and contributed to being direct with NBC and Sony Pictures.

end the survey, I asked a simple question of “How many seasons do
you think Community
should have?” this would give me a nice insight to the fandoms
mantra which is #SixSeasonsAndAMovie which was answered in the
hundreds, but those who answered without a meta reference discussed
it the show should come to a close when Dan Harmon decides to create
a finale, or it should be cancelled when the show is no longer

fans have a strong connection to the text, showing signs of each
theory that has been referenced. They have looked at their own
ratings and acknowledge the show was in trouble, yet stayed vocal
online and interacted as much as they had access to. Walker writes
“This audience’s devoted investment in the show was also clear in
the comment sections on the many new stories about Community, many of
which discussed its troubled ratings and possible cancellation.”

a vocal community and passionate fandom, a media text has a fighting
chance to obtain power to keep its broadcast. Community shows a
strong fandom, and have failed and succeeded in obtaining what they
set out to achieve


conclusion, my studies have found that research based around fandoms
and TV cancellation have a strong correlation to the way the
“Community” fandom have reacted to its cancellation, renewal and

can be seen with the fandoms emotional state during its uncertain
future showing signs of ontological insecurity, many members even
admitting to strong negative emotions, the season three protest
follows suit of praising the show by organising a flash mob, which
follows the same suit as Jericho’s campaign to send peanuts to the
broadcasters as well as  Sherlock Holmes readers wearing armbands and
taking to the streets. Community fans utilised Social Media the same
way Star Trek fans sent letters to the broadcasters. The fandoms
reaction to clicktivism was split though most agreed that the social
media campaign was mainly considered clicktivism, asking the audience
themselves about the movement though gives a look to their side of
the story can evoke negative feedback to the question, showing again
that the passion a fandom has can be positive and/or negative
depending on the context.

utilising social media was a better idea, due to the popularity of
the survey mainly came from Reddit, which is a male dominated
website, the demographic feedback may not of been as accurate if it
was also posted to websites that had a strong female demographic or
gender neutral demographic.

future, fandom surveys like this would need to be carried out in a
way to confirm whether the demographic is strongly male, this way we
can determine where the demographic lies on the gender spectrum, this
applies to the age demographic. Even with these changes, the original
survey received over 300 responses revealing that social media is a
strong element for modern age fandoms especially to Community as it
was an instrumental tool to saving the media text.

research studied in “What is a fandom?” and “Cancellation: A
Quest for power” are seen within the Community Case Study,
Community has learned from the past of media protest and utilised
what has worked, following the strategy of showing love and spreading
the message to all fans to unite in order to persuade a broadcaster
to keep a media text being broadcast.

future work, I would look into a deeper history of fandom itself,
looking into the history of film, radio and print fandoms compared to
the majority of television fandom research that I have already
analysed. Looking through cult media texts such as “War of the
Worlds”, “Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Troll 2” and both
the book and film adaption of “Battle Royale” and the similar
text of “The Hunger Games”. Studying fandom has become an
interesting topic to me, and researching it as a whole topic rather
than just its reaction to cancellation would be an element I would
love to look into.


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