Fans, community, and conflict in the pages of "Picture Play," 1920–38
Fan history remains a neglected subdiscipline of fan studies, in part because of the methodological complications in dealing with a community of fans who may be deceased. Fan magazines, and particularly fan magazine letter sections, are a way for fan historians to access the views and opinions of classic Hollywood fans of the 1920s and 1930s—a community otherwise largely lost to history. Judicious use of the freely available 1920, 1930, and 1940 US census records helps researchers establish which letters were written by real, existing fans; further census information can help establish a demographic profile of the fan magazine community as a whole. Content analysis of fan letters illustrates the preoccupations of particular fans, as well as the way they established and negotiated particular codes of behavior within their fandom. A focus on particular fans who wrote to the magazine repeatedly over the course of multiple years can help historians recreate the fannish journey traveled by now-dead fans over the course of years or even decades.
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