Tumblr as counterpublic space for fan mobilization

Natalie Chew

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

[0.1] AbstractWhen the animated TV shows Young Justice (2010–) and Green Lantern: The Animated Series (2011–13) were canceled, fans of the shows campaigned together to have both shows renewed. I refer to this campaign as #saveYJandGLTAS, a hashtag frequently used on internet posts related to the campaign. This case study investigates how Tumblr served as a counterpublic space for this movement, while other social media platforms served as the more public face of this campaign. Through my analysis, I draw conclusions about how fandoms operate and the changes occurring as a result in the relationships between the media industry, creators, and consumers.

[0.2] KeywordsCommodity activism; Fan activism; Green Lantern: The Animated Series; Superheroes; Young Justice

Chew, Natalie. 2018. "Tumblr as Counterpublic Space for Fan Mobilization." In "Tumblr and Fandom," edited by Lori Morimoto and Louisa Ellen Stein, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 27.

1. Introduction

[1.1] The origin stories of these fandoms begin with the release of the first episodes of each show. On November 26, 2010, the first episode of Young Justice (YJ) premiered on television (Crider 2010). The series officially debuted on January 7, 2011, and ran for two seasons. On October 15, 2011, the first episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series (2011–13) (GLTAS) was shown at New York Comic Con. The first episode of GLTAS re-aired on television on November 11, 2011. GLTAS consisted of one season in total, with 26 episodes. Once new episodes of both series were aired together on Cartoon Network, GLTAS was shown at 10:00 a.m. EST and YJ was shown at 10:30 a.m. EST on Saturday mornings, in a program block called DC Nation. The finales of both shows aired on March 16, 2013.

[1.2] Young Justice is an animated show about the sidekicks (such as Robin and Aqualad) of some DC Comics superheroes (such as Batman and Aquaman, respectively) who form their own crime-busting team. Green Lantern: The Animated Series is about a team of heroes who work for the Green Lantern Corps and solve intergalactic problems. Both shows quickly garnered their own fandoms, with much overlap because these cartoons aired back-to-back in one thematic program and were both about DC Comics superheroes. These fandoms generally enhanced fans' enjoyment of the shows and offered a space for human relationships to form, thereby creating and sustaining an online community that fans could tap into for information about Cartoon Network and the eventual campaign to revive the shows, which I will refer to as #saveYJandGLTAS. As many of my interviewees indicated, both fandoms felt like a family to many fans, and some forged friendships that still exist to this day. One of my interviewees told me, "I also enjoyed the camaraderie and sense of community and family…it allowed me to broaden my social circle way beyond what id have ever expected and this is really cheesy but in this case, this particular show and fandom changed my life from then on." Another, speaking about GLTAS fandom, stated that she had "never been part of a better fandom" and "didn't know if that sort of magic will ever happen [to her] again." Fans collaborated on meta-analysis, theories, and predictions; shared jokes and memes; created fan works; and expressed their emotional reactions to new content and network decisions together. I experienced this myself primarily through Tumblr.

[1.3] Tumblr is an excellent platform for the formation of—and study of—loosely organized groups and subcultures, because the site's reblog function encourages the proliferation of information, memes, gossip, analysis, and whatever else fans are wont to create and disseminate, in a way that can easily and rapidly be viewed and absorbed by other Tumblr users. The tag functions work in such a way that users can contribute to, read posts under, follow, and therefore coalesce around popular tags (fandom tags or social justice tags such as feminism or names of social movements). Reblogging allows Tumblr users, with the click of a button, to share what someone else has said in its original form without requiring verbal repetition or laborious recopying of the text. In that moment, the post is viewable to all of the Tumblr's followers, who can also just as easily reblog the post and possibly add comments of their own, or perhaps go a step further and explore other Tumblrs to follow or communicate with other Tumblr users, thereby forming connections and groups across the platform. Thus, the ease of transmission of memes and ease of communication over a vast distance about similar interests has greatly increased (Cho 2015). Regarding Tumblr tags, in a study on the tagging habits of transgender Tumblr users, Avery Dame (2016) argues that tags are both about "information organization and conversation promotion…[and Tumblr's] tagging system…[is] primarily used to increase post visibility and promote sociality" (27). In other words, these sites that Tumblr tags provide often help generate loose groups as well.

[1.4] This case study will recount the history of #saveYJandGLTAS, through which I draw conclusions about how fandoms operate and the effects of such operations on fans and the wider world. My data includes internet articles and posts; academic literature on Tumblr; interviews; and my own experience as a member of both fandoms. I conducted my interviews during the summer of 2016 and interviewed eleven people in total (who I will refer to as A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J, K, and L), all of whom I contacted via Tumblr, as Tumblr was the site of the majority of this fandom activity. While other social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook were also sites of fan activities, and I have included observations from these platforms in my analysis, particularly after the cancellation was announced, these sites were used more as channels by which fans could contact institutions such as Cartoon Network.

[1.5] This work was done under the auspices of Harvard University's Office for the Protection of Human Subjects, which held my IRB agreement. My interviewees consented to be interviewed through text and received an information and consent form, as well as a copy of the original thesis that resulted from this research. I only interviewed adults and attempted to find a mix of people who were fans of only YJ, only GLTAS, or both, to collect a range of opinions. As a member of both fandoms myself, I had an insider's view of #saveYJandGLTAS and personally experienced the devastated and then hopeful waves of emotion while the campaign was taking place. My identity and experience as a fan also fueled my desire to be as respectful and careful as I could with interviewing my informants, not all of whom had had purely positive experiences with the campaign. In short, having already been involved with the fandom gave me a foundation that I could draw upon from the very beginning of my research.

[1.6] In November 2016, it was announced that a third season of YJ would be released, largely due to fans' dedication to repeatedly watching the show on Netflix. This development has significant implications for the strength of fan enthusiasm and fan hopefulness, which kept the campaign alive and revived it when Netflix added YJ to its lineup. This form of fan activism is particularly important, as it helps demonstrate the changes occurring between entrenched, powerful media structures and informally, organically organized subcultures.

2. #saveYJandGLTAS: 2013–16

[2.1] In the past, fan activism has manifested in various ways. Some fans have mobilized for changes to decisions made by higher-ups in the industry, such as the renewal of certain television shows or different casting decisions for adaptations, while other fans have engaged in more politically oriented activities. Traditionally, for decades, fan activism only referred to the former, but the definition of the term has expanded since then (Jones 2011; Cochran 2012). I will be focusing more on the activism aimed at renewing shows, which often paves the way for more political/social activism and is important in its own right because it illustrates contemporary struggles between fans and producers over social power and the meanings and value of texts.

[2.2] The defining example of fan activism to renew a show was the letter-writing campaign to pressure NBC into renewing Star Trek in the 1960s, which provided a sort of model for future similar campaigns (Jenkins 2011). Since then, fans have become savvier crusaders, utilizing tools such as social media or mass mailing of objects. For example, in 2011, X-Files fans ran a Tweet-a-Thon to push for another X-Files movie. Kristin Barton (2014) lists several examples of mass mailings to TV networks, such as sending six thousand bottles of Tabasco sauce to UPN executives to save Roswell (1999–2002) and ten thousand Mars bars to the CW to save Veronica Mars (2004–7). One successful save-our-show campaign was the 2012 fan movement to renew Chuck (2007–12) for a third season, dubbed the "Finale and Footlong" campaign. Fans of Chuck made a deal with Subway, the fast food restaurant franchise and one of Chuck's sponsors: if fans relentlessly bought Subway sandwiches and posted their purchases on social media, then Subway would support the continuation of the show (Barton 2014). Evidently, to the media industry elites, money is the most powerful bargaining tool, and fans know how to take advantage of this. As Victor Costello and Barbara Moore state, "that members of the audience see themselves as potentially powerful enough to influence executive decisions is a direct contradiction to the image of the passive audience, a victim of network whims and greed." (2007, 138). Indeed, in the earlier days of the movement to renew YJ and GLTAS, even among the voice actors and show creators, there was a sense that with enough campaigning, Cartoon Network just might change its mind.

[2.3] On January 28, 2013, Cartoon Network announced its series that would be renewed in the fall of 2013 (Melrose 2013). YJ and GLTAS were absent from the list, prompting dismay and alarm from fans. On the same day, Giancarlo Volpe confirmed the cancellation of GLTAS, essentially confirming both cancellations ( At the time, both series were in the middle of their respective seasons. Fans were devastated and furious at this announcement, yet quickly became hopeful that enough action could ensure a renewal of both series. On the same day, a petition created by Amy B. calling for the renewal of both shows was created (, and it had nearly 18,000 signatures by early February (Harvey 2014). A Facebook page titled "Bring Back Green Lantern: TAS and Young Justice" was also created in the same month. Soon after the announcement, Cartoon Network and DC Comics released a joint statement that thanked fans for expressing their love for DC Nation and stated that new episodes would be released and that the DC Nation program would still exist, which only further angered fans, who pointed out that this message did not actually address the cancellation (Harvey 2014). In fact, angry comments, posts, and memes abounded in the fandoms. For months, every new post on the Cartoon Network Facebook page, even ones unrelated to YJ or GLTAS, was flooded with comments that pleaded with Cartoon Network to renew the shows.

[2.4] Feelings of ownership over the text, intense, almost-familial fondness for the fictional characters, and anger toward Cartoon Network were fiercely sustained in the Tumblr arena carved out by YJ and GLTAS fans. All these emotions primed the fandoms to refuse to accept the cancellation decision and fueled investment in the revival campaign. As a result, fans heavily used social media to spread awareness and updates about the campaign and Cartoon Network's responses (or lack thereof). Several Tumblrs dedicated themselves to this mission. The YJfanvids Tumblr, originally intended as a "Repository for Young Justice fanvids, as well as graphics, GIFs and art" frequently posted campaign updates and tagged such posts with "Operation: Save YJ and GLTAS." The greenlantern-tas Tumblr mainly posted GLTAS content, but also frequently posted and reblogged posts about the campaign. Other blogs, such as the justiceisours Tumblr, only posted news about #saveYJandGLTAS.

[2.5] Bryce Renninger (2014) analyzes how Tumblr serves as a counterpublic space among asexual people, drawing from Fraser's idea of subaltern counterpublics, which are spaces for retreating from mainstream society but also sites of preparation for interaction and agitation toward the general public. These publics and counterpublics are "not formal organizations" but instead "are created by communicative acts within specific contexts" (1516). This perfectly describes YJ and GLTAS fandoms in their #saveYJandGLTAS days. On one hand, Tumblr was where fans shared their love of the cartoons as well as their rage and despair over the cancellation, with all these emotions building on "a sense of an intimate collective," in the words of Louisa Stein (2015, 156). Stein uses this idea to explain fan transformative creativity, but it is also applicable to this instance of fan emotional turmoil and mobilization, particularly because her observation—that Tumblr has become a hub of "visual enactment of collective emotion" (2015, 158) because of the use of heavy image usage to represent emotion—is completely accurate. I encountered numerous posts on my dashboard that used images and GIFs (especially relevant ones from the shows) to express outrage at the cancellation decision in the weeks after. At the same time, Tumblr was also used as a space to organize and prepare to mobilize on Twitter, the more public social media platform of the two, against Cartoon Network. One of my interviewees even informed me that she created a Twitter handle for the sole purpose of this sort of mobilizing.

[2.6] Each Saturday, when new episodes aired, fans would watch the shows to increase ratings, while also live-tweeting. The hashtag #saveYJandGLTAS was used in the early weeks of the campaign as the general movement hashtag, but for weekly live-tweets during new episodes, fans created new hashtags that referenced the new episodes for each Saturday. While this hashtag activity was a Twitter phenomenon, news about which hashtags were to be used each week circulated on Tumblr. For instance, the codex-apollo Tumblr created weekly "Hashtag of the Week" posts ( Such posts alerted other fans to what hashtags had been chosen, urged them to keep hoping and tweeting, and reminded them to only tweet on Saturday, to only tweet positive comments, and to mention the shows, as well as Cartoon Network, Warner Bros., and any other company involved, in the tweets.

[2.7] Some examples of weekly hashtags were #GreenInvasion, #CovertCorps, and #HeroesNeverDie. One general hashtag that referenced the entire campaign, besides #saveYJandGLTAS, was #symbiosi (a reference to a moment in YJ when a character uses the Atlantean translation for the word together, "symbiosi"). Fans were extraordinarily dedicated to the virtual Saturday morning rallies; C told me that she and her tight-knit group would "text each other to get up early to watch the episodes and [they] would liveblog on twitter" to ensure that the hashtags would trend. There were seven hashtags that at one point were trending in the United States (note 1). Additionally, these hashtags allowed international fans to contribute to the movement, which, according to K, was significant because many non-American fans felt as though that was the most they could do. Thus, these virtual rallies were both a way for fans to band together around one platform and a way to aggressively but politely tell Cartoon Network that there were fans who truly wanted their shows to be renewed. This type of activism was used more consciously and frequently on Twitter, but given the mechanisms of both sites' interfaces, frequent hashtagging of new posts was not as necessary on Tumblr to tap into the movement. Additionally, on Tumblr, there was no pressure to aim to make a hashtag a popular one, because fans did not believe Cartoon Network had any interest in tracking the tags on Tumblr. Nonetheless, certain hashtags—namely, #symbiosi and #HeroesNeverDie—were also fairly long-lived on Tumblr as well.

[2.8] Despite the negativity generated toward hashtags that favor one show or the other and current feelings of betrayal toward hashtags that embody togetherness between the two fandoms (more on that later), YJ and GLTAS fans generally have very positive feelings toward the hashtags of their movement, if the testimony of all my interviewees can be accurately applied to both fandoms as a whole. A informed me that, to her, the hashtags represent

[2.9] community and determination and loyalty. Community [because] it brought the fandom together for a single cause, determination because wow we were very stubborn in trying as best we could to keep the show alive, and loyalty because these people—individuals with lives and school and jobs and other hobbies—spending the time and effort to bring back an animated cartoon show.

[2.10] Similar sentiments were expressed by all my interviewees. C told me that currently the hashtags engender feelings of nostalgia and reminiscence about the "old days." For G, the hashtag #HeroesNeverDie lingered with him the most and made a particularly strong impact on social media in comparison to the others, because it was the chosen hashtag for the last episodes of both shows. #HeroesNeverDie was a reference to characters who died (supposedly) at the end of both YJ and GLTAS. This devastated fans, especially because when these episodes aired, there was no news from Cartoon Network on a possible renewal. In G's words, #HeroesNeverDie "underlined the legacy that they left behind as characters and…the impact that they had on the fanbase." B speculated that despite the lack of response from Cartoon Network (until recently), the company was affected, because no one had ever "mobilized against them like that in the wake of a cancellation before." She also stated that many fans learned what to do and not do in fan activist movements for next time and that they had been inspired by the shows to become involved in the animation industry in some fashion, and "having been part of a fandom that got hurt and then banded together like this is going to influence how they run their own brands/shows/what have you." Thus, these hashtags also represented a preview to a promising future for B.

[2.11] Of course, many posts combined both emotion and movement-related content. For example, fans also directly contacted Cartoon Network, DC Comics, and Warner Bros., and sent a variety of items, such as physical letters, emails, and handmade objects, to them. Additionally, they often shared what they had sent to these companies on Tumblr. Junryou sent two enormous packages to Cartoon Network that included items related to GLTAS, a letter, and pages of her fan art. She posted pictures and descriptions of these items in two Tumblr posts, dated February 11 and February 26, 2013, one for each package. Each post now has at least a couple of hundred notes, several of which are reblogs that express admiration for her dedication. Another of my interviewees shared the text of a letter she had mailed to Cartoon Network in her own post, and one person reblogged it and tagged it with "everybody needs to write their letters like this one." C informed me that older fans who had experience campaigning for the renewal of other shows suggested "keep things civil but direct," indicating that common fan knowledge about the right way to protest media decisions has existed for some time. Furthermore, that fans were willing to mail items to Cartoon Network became so well known that it spawned jokes about items that ought to be mailed to the company—namely, rutabagas. In one YJ episode, a character exclaims, "Now that's a rutabaga!" after viewing chemically enhanced rutabagas, which entertained fans so much that the line and the vegetable itself became a fandom meme. I am fairly confident that sending rutabagas to Cartoon Network was an inside joke that kept fans sane and able to maintain a shared sense of humor rather than an actual action that someone took. As far as I was aware, this sort of meme primarily but not exclusively circulated on Tumblr. (For instance, junryou made two corresponding tweets for the two Tumblr posts about the packages she sent to Cartoon Network, but both received much less attention on Twitter than on Tumblr.) (

[2.12] Fans also bought and encouraged each other to buy actual merchandise, including the toys, episodes on iTunes, DVDs, spin-off comics, and the YJ video game. Fans used Tumblr to put out calls to buy this merchandise and to document their purchases. Other posts listed items that fans should buy and encouraged them to do so; and both had posts that listed merchandise under their respective fandoms, tagged with "YJ merch" or "merch," respectively. According to B, Kmart responded to fan tweets by stating that they would "seriously think about" keeping YJ toys available and about stocking GLTAS merchandise if it became available. Someone, possibly from Warner Bros.' merchandise department, responded with a smile emoji to a fan tweet asking if the company had noticed that Amazon rapidly sold out of the GLTAS Part 2 DVDs. Although the action was successful enough to receive acknowledgment from the stores that carried the merchandise, it does not seem as if Cartoon Network or Warner Bros., the original intended audience (both of which are separate entities from Kmart), ever publicly acknowledged this action.

[2.13] This mass-purchasing incident, including the Kmart tweet reply, was noteworthy for several reasons. First, while fans communicated with each other primarily through Tumblr, Twitter was used to contact large industry conglomerates like Kmart, demonstrating not only the presence of fandom over multiple social media platforms but also indicating that certain platforms were meant to be used for distinct purposes. Second, fans' financial support of their shows was impressive enough that stores carrying merchandise deemed it worthwhile to communicate with fans about it, despite network executives' refusal to publicly comment on it. Third, this trend was somewhat reminiscent of industry exploitation of fan labor, which has become increasingly common as people have become more open about their fannishness and fandom has become less stigmatized (Busse 2015). There are numerous examples of such co-optation, such as Fox's commodification of Glee fandom to market future seasons, with the promised reward being interaction with the stars of the show and fame (Stork 2014). However, in this case, YJ and GLTAS fans advertised the show merchandise themselves with no clear promised reward and encouraged other fans to become compliant consumers of the products as well, even with no endorsement from the actual company.

[2.14] Because of both shows' frequent hiatuses, the fandoms were already prepared to believe that Cartoon Network would treat their shows terribly, as stated in a May 24, 2013, post on the Tumblr YJ-hiatus-survival. As a result, there were numerous rumors about why the shows were canceled. For example, "Before the Dawn," a YJ episode, was originally scheduled to air on October 13, 2012, but then aired in January of the following year instead after an unannounced schedule change. Some fans theorized that this was because Stephanie Brown, who is somewhat notorious for having been treated rather contemptuously by DC Comics, appeared in a cameo role and, once the series cancellation was announced, hypothesized that the entire series was canceled because of her cameo (Johnston 2012). However, the rumor seems to not have been very widely believed, or at least it quickly died. F stated that this "would never have been the reason for cancellation" because "there was no indication that the background character was Stephanie Brown." Because no ideas were put forward as to how to proceed with protesting this alleged decision, there was no mobilization against Cartoon Network or DC Comics in retaliation. Nonetheless, it is not a stretch to assume that even though this rumor was not concretely provable, it very likely still contributed to resentment toward DC Comics.

[2.15] The most infamous rumor as to why the shows had been canceled was that too many women had watched them. In December 2013, on a Batman podcast, writer and producer Paul Dini and interviewer Kevin Smith discussed the cancellation of YJ, GLTAS, and Tower Prep, a short-lived live-action Cartoon Network show from 2010. Dini stated that studio executives do not want girls watching their shows, because of the belief that girls do not buy toy merchandise, most of which is already made and marketed with a younger male audience in mind (quoted in Davis 2013). This rumor even spread outside of YJ and GLTAS fandoms (Luis, personal comm. November 10, 2016; Pantozzi 2013). Given the female-heavy (at least on Tumblr) fandoms for both shows, and that many Tumblr users try to stand against social inequalities, this rumor lent itself very easily to helping cast Cartoon Network as the enemy of fans, especially female fans. It probably sparked some of the strongest feelings of outrage against the company, and the entire cartoon industry, during this campaign. According to my data, this rumor prompted a minor but not strong resurgence in campaigning. A stated that she thought that "more people became involved, because now the perceived reason for the cancellation became more 'personal' in a way, especially since sexism is something tumblr is very passionate about." From the Tumblr post, tweets, and "even Facebook reviews and posts" that she saw in response to the rumor, C felt that it "was able to fire a lot of people up, even those outside of GLTAS fandom." L could recall some people suggesting that fans send angry messages to Cartoon Network, but also that other fans quickly opposed the idea, not wanting to make the relationship between fans and the company even worse, so the idea quickly died down.

[2.16] Interestingly, despite practically ubiquitous knowledge on Tumblr of the media industry's penchant for disdaining female fans, many (though not all) fans eventually came to believe that the high number of female viewers was not the primary reason for the cancellations; there was even a Tumblr created called YJwasntcancelledbcgirlswatched. While one might have expected the rumor to remain widely believed, many fans turned instead to other explanations: that the toy merchandise of both shows did not sell well and that the failure of the live-action 2011 Green Lantern film to make money contributed to network executives holding a pessimistic view toward GLTAS from its inception (Goldman 2013). Nonetheless, the rumor did not die easily; B told me, "I still see the GIF set of the YJ kids going around with the (uncorrected) caption 'Friendly reminder that CN canceled this show because girls liked to watch it.'" In short, a surprising number of fans endeavored to switch the fandom-wide villain from sexism to capitalism.

[2.17] While both fandoms saw the networks as the other, either as the enemy or higher-ups who required appeasement, there was also friction and othering between fandoms. GLTAS had a smaller fandom than YJ (note 2), and it was not infrequently forgotten in efforts to promote the campaign, particularly in later months. This led to a significant amount of bickering between the two fandoms and to increased feelings of bitterness and betrayal from GLTAS fans toward YJ fans. There were interfandom fights about contacting network higher-ups and arguments about whether the fandoms were adequately supporting each other. C told me that, in her experience, YJ fans "often shut GLTAS fans out and only rallied for their show, while simultaneously asking GLTAS fans for support." J informed me that she occasionally sees posts about GLTAS and "a random YJ fan will reblog it and add tags like, 'If only YJ got another season,' or 'okay but, YJ needed another season too,'" which GLTAS fans find derailing and disrespectful. She stated that "it became the running joke for people to say that YJ fans would go, 'but what about us??'" On one post, a Tumblr user vented that when GLTAS was the first to receive a Blu-ray release, fans of YJ were quick to reblog celebratory posts and bring up YJ, even though at that point more YJ merchandise had been released (note 3). My impression is that many YJ fans were aware of these feelings, but there was never an extensive attempt across YJ fandom to consciously remember and campaign for GLTAS's renewal as time passed, and certainly not after YJ's renewal was announced. The widespread resentment and knowledge of these feelings within GLTAS fandom were used as a form of social control and to maintain the cohesion of the fandom. These feelings and shared knowledge let YJ fans know that encroaching onto GLTAS fandom would be met with resistance by GLTAS fans and that this sort of behavior was disrespectful to GLTAS fandom. Perpetuating this sentiment was a way that GLTAS fans could work to preserve the unity of their already smaller fandom by curbing behaviors seen as rude intrusions.

3. #saveYJandGLTAS: 2016 to present

[3.1] As time passed, and no concrete news was released about renewing either show, fans campaigned less and less, although there were always some fans who remained resolutely hopeful—which speaks to the determination of fans and longevity of fandom. However, after Netflix added YJ in February 2016, it was revealed that sufficient views of the show on Netflix might allow the series to be renewed and broadcasted on Netflix (Hoffer 2016). Greg Weisman, along with several voice actors, also demonstrated support for this news via Twitter ( A portion of the fandom was ecstatic and encouraged other fans via multiple social media platforms to binge-watch the show on Netflix, even by keeping it on in the background of their computers and spreading awareness with the hashtags #KeepBingingYJ and #RenewYoungJustice. For example, in one post dated February 19, 2016, YJfanvids urged fans to binge-watch the show on Netflix but also encouraged fans to contact Netflix if their country's version of Netflix did not have YJ (with an example of how to do so) and to ask for a third season on Netflix's suggestions page—and also offered information on Netflix ratings and how they worked. Additionally, according to A, this resurgence in the campaign caused a "reawakening of sorts" in the fandom, as artists began to contribute more fan works to the fandom, often tagging them with #KeepBingingYJ.

[3.2] Though some may consider Netflix views to not be a true resource, I argue that given the announcement of YJ's renewal, they absolutely do count. This is an example of the ever-increasing materialization of the virtual, of the rising recognition that labor, even enjoyable labor, can be transmitted through the internet. These are trends that have been rapidly occurring with social media today (Van Doorn 2011). #KeepBingingYJ both reenergized YJ fandom and was an attempt to demonstrate to the media industry that fans were still willing to do anything to have their beloved show renewed.

[3.3] However, other fans did not want to get their hopes up again until actual news about the renewal was announced. Many of my interviewees informed me that when this news was released, they merely reblogged a post or two on Tumblr that urged fans to binge-watch YJ and that from what they observed, most fans did not truly believe that YJ would return and did not attempt to campaign as fervently as they had previously. K told me that "when i see a new hashtag, i can't really bring myself to do anything about it, except cheer the people who are constantly supporting the movement on. i really admire them for their stubbornness and the will to continue even after all these years." Despite years of no concrete news wearing down the hopes of most of the fandoms, even among skeptical fans, there was support for those who were more faithful than them, indicating that at least parts of YJ fandom did resemble a supportive family and that the familial fandom spirit still managed to survive. Lack of news about the show largely extinguished fandom hopes but not the fandom community.

[3.4] Rebecca Williams (2015) states that fan responses to the end of television shows vary greatly. Some vow to continue their involvement in the fandom, some concede that the shows were important but accept that they will move on, and some end up relieved that a show is ending and criticize the finales. "For every fan who desires a resurrection or a reboot of a favourite series there is one who feels that this would be a disaster…for every fan who prefers the convenience and comfort of rewatching a show on DVD or Blu-ray there is someone who desires the sense of imagined community engendered by viewing reruns on broadcast television" (196–98). The #KeepBingingYJ movement is particular interesting in light of this analysis, because not only did fans go so far as to demand from the network that their show continue but eventually expressed this desire via dedicated rewatchings of their show—because they knew that in this case, they were part of a community rewatching YJ together, and this community was being observed by Netflix.

[3.5] On November 7, 2016, Warner Bros. Animation announced that it had begun production on a third season for YJ, although an official release date was not announced. YJ fandom was ecstatic at the news, and on the day of the announcement, "#Young Justice" was the second trending hashtag on Tumblr. In a November 7, 2016, post by Tumblr user jncera that garnered 1,123 notes, the poster half-jokingly declared November 7 a "young justice holiday," on which the fandom would celebrate its perseverance. However, GLTAS fandom did not react happily to the news, seeing it as just another reminder of how they were sidelined by YJ fandom in the original campaign. One blogger wrote a Tumblr post in which she said that GLTAS fandom campaigned just as hard as YJ fandom for another season, but predicted that now, with a new season on the horizon for YJ, which was always more popular, GLTAS was definitely never going to receive any more new content (note 4). Ironically, a partial victory eliminated the chance at a full campaign victory; too many fans/campaigners felt content with the partial victory, and network executives probably concluded that giving fans half of what they asked for was enough. For GLTAS fandom, #saveYJandGLTAS demonstrated the unfortunate potential consequences of a campaign in support of two shows with uneven popularity levels. Nonetheless, the partial victory of #saveYJandGLTAS has immensely significant implications for the power of fan communities and fan activism.

4. Conclusion

[4.1] Tumblr served as a primary platform of community space for YJ and GLTAS fandoms, whereas Twitter and Facebook were more the front lines of the movement. This demonstrates that Tumblr functioned as a counterpublic site, where, for #saveYJandGLTAS, fans rallied together, vented about the enemy (even when this nemesis existed on the same website), and planned mobilization tactics together. I would guess that fans used Tumblr, although it is technically a public platform, as this sort of private, informal space because they believed it to be a space not as carefully tracked by industries and the mainstream public, so there were less dire consequences to ferociously venting together.

[4.2] Additionally, #saveYJandGLTAS demonstrated that both fans and media industry executives alike increasingly view both the internet and fandom as real; that is, they take them seriously and understand that there are real people who are genuinely invested in what they say, do, and produce online. The concept of real life is expanding, as the virtual bleeds into the real and vice versa. Though industry executives have been historically slow to view fandom as legitimate, this has evidently changed enough that what happens on the internet can affect their decisions.

[4.3] However, this change likely has taken place because resources—primarily money but also views and perhaps reputation—that the industry wants can now be transferred through the internet. Christopher Jones, an artist for several YJ spinoff comics, informed me that he

[4.4] knew that when Netflix…[was] actively interested in making a deal to fund a new season of Young Justice which was why the #KeepBingingYJ movement was so important. Keeping those numbers up kept Netflix motivated to make a deal. And anything fans could do to keep the pressure up on the Warner Bros. Animation side of those negotiations was helpful, too. But…petitions weren't what was needed. Dollars and cents evidence of consumer demand is much more convincing than any petition, so sales of Young Justice DVDs, books and other merch were the most effective way of doing that. The problem there, of course, is that a lot of fans already had a lot of that stuff, and just watching a DVD you already own or buying something used that you can't find in stores anymore doesn't register with DC Comics or Warner Brothers Animation. (personal comm. November 21, 2016).

[4.5] Clearly, for industries, money (and other resources) are most valued—more so than hashtags or thoughtful but nonmonetary displays of love for a show. For fan activism, this indicates that the media industry and fans fundamentally value different things and will express these values very differently in their interactions with each other, even while aware of each other's dissimilar core values.

[4.6] Nonetheless, parts of #saveYJandGLTAS—most likely the areas that emphasized transference of resources (i.e., money and Netflix views) from fans to the industry—must have been effective enough to achieve the main goal of the campaign. Additionally, although the aspects that demonstrated the fans' love of the shows evidently did not ultimately convince executives that the show ought to be brought back (until the YJ binge-watching campaign), they also clearly had a positive impact. Sam Register, the president of Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series, stated, "The affection that fans have had for 'Young Justice,' and their rallying cry for more episodes, has always resonated with us" (Ching 2016) when YJ was renewed. This indicates that the executives were always aware of how much the YJ fans loved their show, and something about the campaign must have convinced Cartoon Network that this fannish love would translate to money. In other words, the perseverance and mobilization of fannish love, outrage, and hope, especially on Tumblr, was effective in keeping the campaign alive, because the more fans were engaged with the fandom, the more likely they were to engage with its activist side, and there were always at least some fans interested and active in both the fandom and the campaign.

[4.7] What does this mean for future fan activist campaigns? B, despite only being a fan of GLTAS, had considerable optimism about the impact of the campaign on everyone involved:

[4.8] The old ways of running companies are dying out and pretty soon our generation is going to be running things, and we're far more in touch with everything than ever before with social media and the like… Whereas in the past, higher-ups and people who succeeded them sort of lived in this little bubble of ignorance with the power to just make things go away, nowadays you have to face your accountability as your dirty laundry gets aired at the speed of a viral video and the wool is getting pulled off people's eyes. That way of running things is dying out, and I think people are learning that the more transparent and open you are with the people you're serving (politically or corporately), the more likely you are to be successful. We're starting to get small media companies that are interacting with fanbases and actually taking fan's suggestions into account, and that's creating positive buzz around their work. So hopefully, the bigger media companies and the people who will run them someday can learn from this.

[4.9] As B notes, social media has rapidly increased the speed and intimacy of virtual interactions, making it possible to spread news about a company's actions instantly, and more difficult for a company to lie or ignore a vociferous response without taking damage to its reputation. Fans, fully aware of this trend, are taking advantage of this dynamic. They are leveraging fannish emotions in ways that weren't as effective before, to achieve their goals to affect media executives' choices and convince them that giving some fans what they want can be a win-win situation for both parties. In addition, fans are increasingly joining the media industry, indicating that they are using their intense participation in subcultures that spring from media industry products to try to enter and alter the industry itself. The lines between fans and creators are blurring, although the line between industry executives and fans is still fairly clear-cut. Hopefully, this campaign will positively affect the media industry-fan relationship and will be influential in demonstrating to all fans that unleashing their emotions and mobilizing in a counterpublic site such as Tumblr can actually lead to what they want, that fan activism can work for them, and that the playing field is very slightly leveling.

5. Acknowledgments

[5.1] This article was originally my undergraduate senior thesis, so I would like to thank the Folklore and Mythology Department of Harvard University for allowing me to specialize in fandom and memes and for being unfailingly supportive, even though I didn't pick a typical folklore studies special field. I would also like to thank my interviewees for their generosity with their time and their extremely thoughtful and hilarious answers. Lastly, I have to thank my thesis advisor, Keridwen Luis, for encouraging me to submit my thesis to TWC and continuing to meet with me to discuss this article long after the thesis deadline had passed, and for being the most patient, helpful, wise, knowledgeable and all-around best and most awesome advisor ever.

6. Notes

1. These hashtags were as follows: #Antireach, #saveYJandGLTAS, #LoveLanternJustice, #GreenInvasion, #CrashTheMoniter, #HeroesNeverDie, and #CovertCorps.

2. This categorization of YJ fandom as bigger and GLTAS fandom as smaller is based on my interviewees' and my observations, not on any hard data. It is difficult to precisely quantify membership of groups that are as loosely organized as fandoms.

3. I have chosen not to link to the post at the behest of this Tumblr user.

4. I have chosen not to link to the post at the behest of this Tumblr user.

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