There's a great new article on super fans of franchise movies that uses Star Wars as the centerpiece. Here's a clip from the Associated Press article, thanks to CitizenKane for the link!
But when "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" debuted decades ago, there was no expectation of collectibles, tie-ins, costumes or fan clubs. Like the Deadhead culture, each respective cult arose from the people, in a grassroots manner. Today, many sci-fi films open with a supporting system of merchandise that hopes to manufacture that larger cultural impact.
In music, although many jam bands and other types of musicians have extremely loyal fan bases, the industry capitalizes on such manic allegiance by charging for fan club memberships and aggressively pushing the merch, Grateful Dead style.
Could any new movie today really spawn the same dedication? Will hordes ever give up their jobs to follow a touring band from coast to coast - parking lot by parking lot?
"Oh, yeah. It goes back into the middle ages," says sociologist Lewis of the age-old practice of fandom. "They had bear-baiting. They'd throw a live bear into a pit of dogs and they were fans of this. It's the same sociological mechanism."
"You and I can't think of anything to become a fan of, but the people who want to become fans may find something," he says. "It may even be, God forbid, Ms. Hilton."