From co-optation to commission: A diachronic perspective on the development of fannish literacy through "Teen Wolf"'s Tumblr promotional campaigns

  • Lesley Autumn Willard University of Texas at Austin
Keywords: Fan art, Fan contests, Fan professionalization, Fan/producer dynamics, Fandom, Gift economy


Historically, fan scholars have focused on conducting deep dives into singular cases and revealing trends by comparing cross sections of those cases. While there is undeniable value in conducting close analyses of such instances, the reliance on this method can limit our assessment of long-running trends. By supplementing—or, more productively, combining—specific case studies with diachronic perspectives, we can better situate, contextualize, and trace emerging trends like the evolution of fan/producer dynamics. To model this approach, I analyze 4 years' worth of fan-targeted promotional campaigns on the official Teen Wolf (2011–) Tumblr. The activities—fannish and/or promotional—of all participants in a shared ecological system like Tumblr are significant. They continuously construct, deconstruct, nuance, and challenge the ever-evolving context of fandom and fan/producer dynamics. Supplementing a close analysis of one of Teen Wolf's recent promotional campaigns—the commissioned #TeenWolfExhibit—with a diachronic perspective addresses the ever-evolving ecology of media fandom and traces the evolution of MTV's fannish literacy from 2011 to 2015. The #TeenWolfExhibit reproduces and reflects all the promotional successes, failures, and course corrections that predate it.

Author Biography

Lesley Autumn Willard, University of Texas at Austin
I am a PhD student and teaching assistant in the Radio-Television-Film department at the University of Texas at Austin.