Fans and Tourism
This chapter will provide insights into fandom-generated tourism, and bring some seemingly disparate areas together under the umbrella of fan tourism . For example, how are concepts such as fandom, fans, travel, social media, pilgrimage, niche tourism, microcelebrity and destination branding connected? Why are we drawn to certain places because of their status as significant in the lives and worlds of our objects and subjects of fandom—from a fictional as well as a “real life” point of view—and what may these tourism experiences look like?
Fan Travel as Pilgrimage
Pilgrimages have traditionally been undertaken as part of religious travel, with the key purpose to bring the traveller closer to a religious ideal or the object of worship through the visitation of a sacred place. However, the term pilgrimage has in recent years frequently been used in relation to more secular activities (Hall 2002; Digance 2006) , and a “sacred” place may refer to a location or site that has a meaning in the “text” surrounding a popular culture figure. A well-known example is Graceland © The Author(s) 2017
H. Linden, S. Linden, Fans and Fan Cultures, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-50129-5_6
in Memphis, Tennessee, the former home of Elvis Presley. This is also the place where he died (in 1977), which gives the site an even greater significance as a destination for pilgrims who want to get closer to the “spirit” of their idol. Graceland was opened to the public in 1982, and is one of the most popular visitor attractions in Memphis—attracting over 600,000 visitors annually (Graceland c2016a). Elvis is continuously present in popular culture discourse, which further explains the high visitor numbers—“The writing goes on,” states Stephen Hinerman (1992, p. 108), and “the tabloid articles continue, the books are still published, new combinations of previously released material appear on CDs, and Graceland continues to play host to apparently unending battalions of the curious and the ceaselessly devoted.”
The official Graceland website emphasises the pilgrimage aspects in their description of the site, and the visitors are told that they will get to know the “personal side” of their idol during their visit: “Take an unforgettable journey through the most famous rock ‘n’ roll residence in the world. Explore the personal side of Elvis Presley and learn how his revolutionary style and unique sound changed the face of popular music and culture forever. This legendary rock ‘n’ roll pilgrimage will show you why Elvis lives” (Graceland c2016b). In an effort to invite fans to actively participate and create their own memories, in May 2016 they encouraged fans to upload their photo to be included in a “Graceland Fan Mosaic.” This initiative was advertised on the start page, and a further incentive to take part was that the photo will be kept in the Graceland Archives: “Upload a photo of yourself to be part of the official Graceland Fan Mosaic. Your photo will become a part of the treasured Graceland Archives” (Graceland c2016c). Fans can also experience Elvis events remotely through live online streaming. Events include the annual Christmas lighting ceremony in November, various auctions, and events relating to the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artists Contest.
British artist Morrissey rose to fame in the 1980s as the singer of The Smiths, and has maintained his status as a pop icon throughout his solo career. In Manchester, the city where he grew up, fans and tourists can go on various walking tours, and visit places that are important in the narratives surrounding Morrissey and The Smiths. In 1988, Morrissey released his first solo single, “Suedehead,” and in the promotional video for the song he embarked upon a pilgrimage of his own.
In the video, which begins in Kensington, London, he visits Fairmount, Indiana, the home town of James Dean (Morrissey 1988). Erin Hazard (2011, p. 32) observes that “if Fairmount was once Dean’s Fairmount, post-‘Suedehead’ it is Dean’s and Morrissey’s Fairmount.” Intertextuality is important to understand the fan as an active participant in the meaning-making surrounding a fandom. From a marketing and artistic point of view, Morrissey can be seen as benefitting from the status and aura of Dean (including Dennis Stock’s photos of Dean in Fairmount in 1954, for Life magazine), as he incorporates the myth of James Dean into the fabric of his own work. Morrissey often makes reference to artists or popular culture figures in his songs and videos, thus opening new worlds for his fans, through sharing his own passions as a fan—including the sacred pilgrimage to worship at the altar of his own hero, James Dean. Hazard (2011) “came to Fairmount seeking some cocktail of Morrissey and Dean, heavy on Morrissey,” which indicates that even if it is Dean’s hometown, it is of more significance to her as a place connected to Morrissey.
Another celebrity who is known for his deep interest in popular culture is the American film director John Waters. In Crackpot, a collection of essays and observations previously published in various magazines, Waters (1983/2003) presents a tourist guide to Los Angeles, “John Waters’ tour of L.A.,” first published in 1985:
Los Angeles is everything a great American city should be: rich, hilarious, of questionable taste, and throbbing with fake glamour. I can’t think of a better place to vacation—next to Baltimore, of course, where I live most of the time. Since I don’t make my home entirely in what the entertainment industry considers a “real city” (L.A. or New York), I’m a perpetual tourist, and that’s the best way to travel. Nobody gets used to you, you make new friends without having to hear anyone’s everyday problems, and you jet back still feeling like a know-it-all. (Waters 2003, p. 1)
Waters is here what John Urry and Jonas Larsen (2011) would term a “post-tourist”—someone who has an ironic relationship with the place they visit (which does not imply that this relationship is not genuine). The post-tourist gets as much pleasure out of “fake authenticity” as tourists who prefer to see themselves as travellers get out of experiencing firsthand “authentic” expressions of tradition and culture. Authenticity, of course, is a social construct and is largely a modern Western concern (Cohen 1988). It is a very important concept, nonetheless, and from an existential point of view the individual—by escaping the shackles of work and other responsibilities—views tourism “not as a corrupting and commodifying influence but as a way of being that is genuine and natural” (Smith et al. 2010, p. 16).
As we saw above, it is not only the places that artists come from or where they have lived that fascinate fans. Anything included in their body of work, and idols of their own, or places referred to in their work and art may carry drawing power. Fandom is, after all, a key instigator for travel—and there are numerous festivals built around famous “sons” or “daughters” of a place, such as centenary celebrations commemorating their births and deaths (e.g., Hieronymus Bosch in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Dylan Thomas in Aberystwyth and William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon).
We seldom speak about art lovers as fans (Grossberg 2006), but when a large exhibition—along with an ambitious festival programme, including a themed canal tour—was held in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in February-May 2016 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch’s birth, the tourists who travelled to this small Dutch market town to view original Bosch paintings and drawings could be defined as fans of Hieronymus Bosch. After all, it was their fascination and love for the works of Bosch that drew them to ‘s-Hertogenbosch. In addition, they could experience walking in the footsteps of Bosch in his hometown, akin to the Graceland and Fairmount pilgrimages touched upon earlier. It is also evident that some Bosch lovers self-identify as fans, as indicated by this TripAdvisor review of the National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon, posted by a person from Coleyville, Texas:
I am a fan of Hieronymus Bosch, so I had to see The Temptation of St.
Anthony. It is an amazing painting. (Frank 2012)
In addition, under Jonathan Jones’s review in The Guardian of the exhibition mentioned earlier, Hieronymus Bosch—Visions of Genius at the Noordabrants Museum in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, one commenter writes:
I’m a fan. Plus, they discovered a new Bosch painting in America. As in, a
couple of days ago____(Legion7, in the comments section of Jones 2016)
Art critics also seem to use the term. Boyd Tonkin (2016), in his review for The Independent, refers to “hippie-era Bosch fans” to illustrate a period in time when Bosch’s work came back into fashion: “Most influentially, for hippie-era Bosch fans, in 1947 Wilhelm Fraenger argued that Bosch did not warn against the erotic frolics he depicts but rather celebrates them as a higher form of innocence.” Again, this shows that the word "fan” is used in mainstream media also in relation to fine art, albeit in Tonkin’s contextualisation he aligns them with the hippie culture of the 1960s and 1970s—a subcultural and popular culture phenomenon. As we saw in Chap. 4, Tate Modern (Tate 2010) notified in a Facebook post “fans of Gauguin” that the museum had extended its opening hours, and the GREAT Britain destination marketing campaign—managed by Visit Britain—posted this Twitter message in February 2016, recommending various art experiences to potential cultural tourists: “From Banksy’s Bristol to the iconic Tate Modern—the best bits of Britain for art fans” (GREAT Britain 2016). Along with the tweet came a picture of Tate Modern at night, and a link to Rough Guide’s “12 top destinations for art holidays in Britain.”