Fans, community, and conflict in the pages of "Picture Play," 1920ā€“38

  • Lies Lanckman University of Hertfordshire
Keywords: Fan magazines, Fandom history, Film history, Readers' letters


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 1930sā€”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.

Author Biography

Lies Lanckman, University of Hertfordshire

Lecturer in Film at the University of Hertfordshire; co-founder of NoRMMA, the Network of Research: Movies, Magazines, Audiences.