Fans of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in what was then the deadliest school shooting in American history. Despite causing a national panic and serving as a flash point for larger narratives on bullying, gun control, and media violence, both boys have gained active online fans. These fandoms dedicated to the Columbine shooters are widely referred to as dark examples of Internet communities, while the fans are also frequently denigrated as unstable and violent outcasts. Such dark online fandoms are yet to permeate mainstream culture or to challenge the preexisting perception of these communities as breeding grounds for the next wave of school shooters. While studies have covered the types of fans and their myriad interests, the field remains focused on more conventional examples of fan communities. In an effort to challenge and expand the object of focus when we study fandom, this qualitative study examines Columbine fans and their activity in order to understand the dominant motives they appear to have for engaging with and around such controversial figures and then concludes by exploring how this community might help us reflect more broadly on our concept of fandom. Redeeming these fans as part of diverse and complex communities of social relevance can demonstrate how even a dark fandom such as that of these Columbine shooters provides valuable cultural insights and benefits the field of fan studies.
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