Divergent Fan Forums and Political Consciousness Raising

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Divergent Fan Forums and Political Consciousness Raising

  • Lauren Levitt Department of Communication, Tulane University, USA

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Abstract:  This article conducts a thematic analysis of 40 threads related to sociopolitical issues on two Divergent fan forums, one on Divergent Fans and another on Divergent Wiki, to determine whether these forums raise political consciousness, especially among young people. As scholars of civic imagination show, popular culture narratives may lead to the ability to imagine a better future. Utopian narratives in particular facilitate this process in a dialectical way by presenting us with an impossible world, and dystopian narratives may operate in a similarly dialectical fashion by offering a negative example or warning. Analysis of posts related to utopia and dystopia, the story world versus the real world, historical and contemporary parallels, governmental reform, and non-normative sexuality reveals that participants on Divergent fan forums discuss real-world issues and sometimes imagine a better world, but this does not conclusively raise political consciousness. We can account for these civic successes and failures by considering Dahlgren’s (2009) six elements of civic cultures: knowledge, values, trust, spaces, practices/skills, and identities. While fan knowledge, trust, and spaces are strong, and fan identities can be experienced as relatively static, values and practices/skills are important areas for intervention to cultivate political consciousness among young people. Critical civic education at the secondary school level could foster democratic values, and teaching media literacy and political discussion skills could improve students’ ability to think critically about entertainment narratives.

Keywords:  civic cultures; civic imagination; dystopian narrative; fandom; political consciousness


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v10i1.4707

© Lauren Levitt. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.