In June 2016 a former student of mine and I went to Amsterdam to present our paper on ‘Affective capitalism, online fan labour and Vampires’ at the Celebrity Studies conference. In this paper we explored how the love and affection that we feel for celebrities can motivate us to go online and post comments, stories and images. Surely, this is all ‘fun work’ that fans undertake voluntarily but it is also work that gets exploited for economic gain. Our specific example was the TV series The Vampire Diaries because its producers are particularly clever in generating fan engagement:
‘Send us your reactions using #TVD during tonight’s episode for a chance to be featured in our #Rehash! Presented by AT&T’. This is just one but many slogans through which the producers of the TV series The Vampire Diaries (TVD) aim to motivate their audiences to become active and productive. And they do not have to beg for long: TVD has a vast, international fan community which is eager to participate and ‘talk back’. Driven by the desire to be an active part of the show and to be close to their favourite star of the show Damon Salvatore (Ian Somerhalder), Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) or Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), fans start to labour enthusiastically on social media.
Our paper presents findings from a qualitative analysis of over 600 online comments in which viewers of TVD engage with producers and produce content for the (#Rehash) show. We explore the affective quality of this fan labour and argue that we need to understand celebrity as a vital part in an economic system in which the production and modulation of emotions, feelings and gut-reactions is vital for the creation of profit. Celebrities such as the TVD cast, tap into and mobilise the emotional resources of audiences and even though these ‘inner’ sentiments are not action per se, they are the inner energy that propels us towards an act which can be economically exploited (Illouz, 2007; Hochschild, 1983). Overall, this paper uses the example of TVD to contribute to our understanding of the increasing structural importance of celebrity in shaping the media and entertainment industries.