The 25 Most Devoted Fan Bases
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The 25 Most Devoted Fan Bases

25

Mad Men

Photo: AMC
25

Mad Men

POPULARITY: Defined AMC; first season premiered to less than a million viewers, but fifth season premiere almost quadrupled that; Netflix paid $1 million per episode for streaming rights. Inspired Banana Republic clothing line and spike in mid-century fashion, in general.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 2.2 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 112,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: Too cool for that.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: The essential Basket of Kisses, Footnotes of Mad Men

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Rich people. Almost half of Mad Men's viewers make more than $100,000 per year. A MM fan likely season-passes all the edgy cable dramas, too: If they are talking about Don Draper, they're likely still talking about Omar Little, Walter White, and Tony Soprano too.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Mad Men fans watch and re-watch episodes, deconstructing the show on multiple levels. They can pick a moment — say, a shot of a weeping, bereft Don — and transform it into a goofy meme (Sad Don Draper) literally overnight. They spot and revel in recurring moments or behaviors, creating such rallying points as Pete Campbell's Bitchface, or a music video of Pete getting punched. (And plenty of non-Pete stuff too.) But these examples belie the great seriousness with which these devotees can pore over and analyze the show, with a level of inquiry that borders on the Talmudic. There are college courses, meticulous fashion blogging, and a dozen podcasts. Late every Sunday night, the Internet is turned upside down and shaken to find the historical touchstones from that evening's episode. Every imaginable outlet recaps the show, and viewers devour many of them per episode, searching for the writer who "gets it" in the same way they do.

 

Being a Mad Men fan is like part of your identity: It reflects well on you, and it makes you part of an elite, discerning club. It's no surprise that many are still using those "Mad Men Yourself" avatars as their Facebook and Twitter profile pics. And, appropriately, Mad Men fans also show their love the way any good ad man would want them to: with buying power. After Jessica Paré sang "Zou Bisou Bisou" on the show's fifth-season premiere, the show put out her performance as a 7-inch. And people totally bought it.

24

Real Housewives

Photo: Bravo
24

Real Housewives

POPULARITY: Half-billion-dollar reality franchise with six editions currently rotating; watched by approximately two million viewers on any given night (Atlanta is generally the ratings leader, hitting audience highs of more than four million viewers). Turned Bethenny Frankel, NeNe Leakes and Bravo’s Andy Cohen into household names.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: Atlanta: 1.56 million; New Jersey: 1.08 million; Orange County: 673,000; New York: 470,000; Beverly Hills: 359, 000; Miami: 35,000

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: Former New York housewife Bethenny Frankel has amassed the most (upwards of one million), followed by Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes (859,000) and Kandi Burruss (783,000).

 

FAN NICKNAME: No unifying nickname, but fans recognize kindred spirits by quoting famous lines (most notably Atlanta’s “Close your legs to married men,” “Who gon’ check me, boo?” “I’m rich, bitch”) and being able to talk at great length about the importance of Allison DuBois.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: For a more earnest, Life & Style-like tracking of all the Housewives' gossip and new hairstyles, there's the site All About the Real Housewives. Reality Tea has a slightly more winky but no less obsessed take. But the major Housewives traffic surges happen the morning after every episode, as viewers flock to the TV recap by the writer who best suits their sensibility, on a continuum of bitchy to snarky. Comments sections under these recaps explode with wickedly cutting takes on the Housewives and legitimate rage at their behavior. (Theresa is the worst!)

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Women of all ages and fabulous gay men who needed to fill the reality soap void left by MTV’s The Hills, subscribers to Life & Style’s breaking news alerts, and Anderson Cooper.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: With daytime soaps going the way of the girdle, it’s no wonder that Real Housewives has taken its place as TV’s ultimate guilty pleasure. The characters are the same archetype: Rich, middle-aged women dressing and behaving a couple decades younger than they should, engaging in the tried and true wine-throwing, cat-fighting and family-feuding. But the added fascination comes from the fact that these real-life characters continue acting out when the cameras aren’t rolling, keeping viewers satiated and business strong for the tabloids.

 

Essentially, it’s professional wrestling for affluent females; the fans know deep down the feuds and bluster aren’t real but they enjoy the sport of pretending it is, tracking good gals turned bad and vice versa. Tens of thousands of real housewives faithfully even engage in regular role-play thanks to the official Real Housewives game. Fans have loved and hated so passionately that their patronage gave Bravo reason to launch Watch What Happens: Live and trot the ladies out on a live tour. They’ve bought up books written by the women (Beverly Hills’ housewife Taylor Armstrong’s tell-all Hiding from Reality landed on the New York Times’ Best Sellers list, as did Frankel’s A Place of Yes) and helped blow up the careers of Frankel (now a talk-show host) and Leakes (an actress on Glee and The New Normal). And the mesmerizing appeal of wig-pulling, table-flipping rich women is not limited to American cities: International editions are succeeding in Athens, Vancouver, and Israel.

23

Lil B

Photo: Getty Images
23

Lil B

POPULARITY: Self-proclaimed “mogul and first rapper to ever write and publish a book at 19” parlayed social media success into an actual music career (with real record deal); founded permeating Twitter philosophy (#based); sold out a lecture at NYU.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 269,000

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 545,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: N/A

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Twitter

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: College students who like music blogs and weed.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: We live in an era when rappers land million-dollar record deals with a single video and viral video stars get musical guest gigs on SNL. In certain cases, the definition of "musician" is not too far from that of "meme"; in Lil B's case, it is indistinguishable. The Berkeley rapper owes his fame — which is admittedly of the Internet variety — entirely to the #Based community, which he savvily built on social media and maintains with a remarkable prolificness both in music and tweets.

 

His songs are rarely good, in the technical sense, but that is part of the appeal for his fans, who hail every free mixtape with outsize enthusiasm and bought out his recent NYU lecture within ten minutes. Legitimate celebrities (Justin Bieber, Diddy) promote his philosophy; legitimate music blogs review his mixtapes. And Lil B is paving the way for future meme rappers (see: Riff Raff, current hero of the rap nerds and the Lil B of 2012). Most Internet phenomena drift away within days, but Lil B's followers have kept him working for the better part of three years now (which is more than most aspiring rappers can say.) What is a meme if not fan art?

22

Stephen Colbert

Photo: Getty Images
22

Stephen Colbert

POPULARITY:The Colbert Report drew in more young viewers for Republican convention coverage than actual cable news networks. 2007 book I Am America (and So Can You!) spent 29 weeks on New York Times best seller list, thirteen weeks at number one; 2012 children's book parody I Am a Pole (and So Can You!) also debuted at No. 1; latest book, America Again! Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't just entered list at number three in first week of release. Drew reported 215,000 to Washington D.C. Mall for his and Jon Stewart's 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 2.7 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: Nearly 4 million for Colbert himself

 

FAN NICKNAME: Colbert Nation.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Comedy Central's Colbert Nation site, where the Colbert clips can be shared on social networks.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Tends to skew male and educated; the median age of a Colbert viewer is 39, which is two years younger than Jon Stewart's fan base and ten younger than Jimmy Fallon's.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Who knew that a political satirist could wield as much power over his followers as an actual politician or that a persona created to mock the cult of personality would itself inspire one of TV's most loyal cults? Since leaving The Daily Show to spin off his own program in 2005, Stephen Colbert has regularly called on the Colbert Nation to rig polls, agitate for chaos, and bestow a ridiculous name on anything up for grabs; they’ve responded with a not-entirely mock devotion that has inspired some real-world results. Elephant seals, bald eagles, spiders, sports mascots, airplanes, and a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavor have been named after Colbert thanks to fans in high places. And we do mean high: In 2009, when NASA set up an online poll to bestow a name on one of the International Space Station modules, Colbert fans voted in droves. (NASA eventually went with the name "Tranquility" but threw the Colbert Nation a bone by naming a Station-bound treadmill after the host.) After fans spent years swamping Time Magazine's annual online poll to choose the world's most influential people, the magazine put Colbert on the "Time 100" list in 2012.

 

While Jon Stewart may have a larger audience, he doesn't call upon his audience to do anything except engage their common sense. But Colbert puts forth wicked, winking marching orders to the Colbert Nation, and they happily follow them. While the aforementioned projects were all in the service of Colbert's mock egotism, the host has increasingly launched missions that, while satirical, have real activist consequences. The Colbert Nation donated more than a million dollars to his super-PAC, essentially funding a thumbed nose at the Citizens United decision. While the eager response from fans may be done in air quotes, its meta nature does not change the fact that the results are real. The Nation has also contributed hundreds of thousand of dollars to the Yellow Ribbon fund (which helps injured veterans) and Donors Choose (an online education charity) and saved the financially struggling U.S. speed-skating team with their donations. The famed “Colbert Bump” for candidates who appear on his show is very real, even if the host himself specializes in a more slippery brand of truthiness.

21

Phish

Photo: goldberg/Flickr
21

Phish

POPULARITY: With minor-league record sales and virtually no radio or MTV play, Phish continues to baffle the music business by remaining one of the most successful touring bands in the country: Between 1989 and 2004, its concert grosses exceeded $175.5 million, and when the band reformed in 2009, concert demand broke Live Nation's in-house ticketing system. In 2011 alone, Phish grossed more than $33 million; audiences in the 80,000-plus range flock to Phish festivals.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 578,000  

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 79,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: Phans, not Phish Heads (they hate that).

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Online, Phish.net for news and forums; LivePhish.com and Yawningdrone.com for bootlegs; and superfan ZZYZX’s extensive database of concert set list stats. At shows, the parking lot area known as Shakedown Street.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Given the band’s 29-year history, the fans span the ages of 18 to 45 or so, but the most devout (those still following Phish around the country as of their last tour in summer 2011) tend to be college-age. Dread-headed vets are sometimes known as Wookies or Old Heads. There's some audience overlap with other jam bands like Dave Matthews Band and String Cheese Incident, as well as Grateful Dead enthusiasts (although any Phish-o-phile will tell you that that ancient assemblage was very different).

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: A Phan doesn't just listen to Phish: A true Phan will travel anywhere to see Phish play — for four days in a row at Madison Square Garden or at weekend-long marathons such as 1996’s Clifford Ball or 1999’s millennium fest Big Cypress (at which one of the group's sets lasted seven and a half hours), all the way up to 2011’s Super Ball IX. When not at a concert, a Phan satisfies him or herself with either live-streams of shows or old tapes from back in the day, tracking every variation between every song on every set list over the years. (Did Trey Anastasio and the guys just bust out the Who’s "Squeeze Box," a song that hasn't been heard live since the first Phish show in 1983? Which musical notes were new some 1,400 shows later? Was that C-minor chord there at the beginning?)

 

This obsessive record-keeping of statistics — called Phististics — is more often found in sports than rock, but it's part of the true Phan's passion of collecting, dissecting, and discussing all things Phish, from fabled shows to iconic posters. Phish paraphernalia and more abounds in the parking-lot micro-economy known as Shakedown Street, where everything from weed to free hugs is available, while fans online compare and debate innumerable theories about the metaphors in the epic mythical saga Gamehendge, Anastasio's rarely performed college-thesis song cycle.

20

Kevin Smith

Photo: Getty Images
20

Kevin Smith

POPULARITY: His often-interlocking low-budget movies (including Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) have consistently grossed around $30 million thanks to loyal audience; performs as a speaker around the world, routinely selling out places like Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, and the Sydney Opera House. SModcast network boasts a dozen different podcasts; flagship show made Best of iTunes multiple times. Produces and stars in two TV shows, Hulu’s Spoilers and AMC’s Comic Book Men; has written three New York Times best sellers, Shooting the Sh*t With Kevin Smith, Tough Sh*t, and Batman Cacophony.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 907,000

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 2.2 million

 

FAN NICKNAME: Doesn’t really exist. Too late for Silent Bobbies to catch on?

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Smith abandoned his once-thriving message board for the immediate interaction of Twitter and Facebook.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: It’s a relatively young crew, 40 and under. Many of them discovered Clerks when they were wide-eyed twentysomethings, the same age Smith was when he made this first film, and they’ve aged along with him. And given that many of his most popular films find virtue in the aimlessness of youth, they pull in a new, younger crowd, too, nurtured by his many speaking engagements at college campuses. Smith’s profane nerdiness, perhaps surprisingly, appeals to both genders.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: The cover line for Smith’s most recent best-selling book, Tough Sh*t, kinda says it all: “Life Advice From a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good.” Like most pop-culture icons who come from New Jersey, Smith is extra-relatable because he comes off like a luckier version of you, if you’re a working-class schlub with a relatively modest dream. This is partly because of how he'll self-deprecatingly reveal harsh truths about his career, love life, and weight, giving him a "we're all in this together" relatability that binds him to his followers; in that way, he's like Lady Gaga except instead of a meat dress, he's got a hockey shirt and a fondness for eating meat. When Smith was ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight, he tweeted the whole incident with the “Too Fat to Fly” hashtag and rallied an Internet (and a nation of mostly larger individuals) to his banner.

 

There is nothing manifestly fabulous about him — despite his mansion nestled in the Hollywood Hills — and he still retains an aura of authenticity. While he is of the same breed of movie nerd as Quentin Tarantino, the difference between them is that Smith talks with fellow movie-lovers, while Tarantino talks at them. (Smith's Spoilers was a talk show in which he kibitzed with his studio audience about the summer’s blockbusters.) His fans will travel ungodly distances to interact with him at his Q&As — he used to hold poker mini-tournaments for his fans at his comic-book store in New Jersey, and people were known to drive ten hours from Maine, play for a few hours, and drive back the same day — and every convention will have its share of Silent Bobs. Which could be because a shabby-trench-coat-and-baseball-cap ensemble is the low bar of cosplay, or maybe it’s that it seems like totemic vestments of achievable glory.

19

Insane Clown Posse

Photo: Getty Images
19

Insane Clown Posse

POPULARITY: Sold about 8 million records over twelve albums, including three that debuted in the Billboard top ten, all with little to no radio play. Held thirteen Gatherings of the Juggalos so far, which have brought together about 150,000 fans in total; co-founded and oversee Psychopathic Records, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, and the HatchetGear clothing line. Psychopathic’s YouTube channel has more than 49 million views.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 1 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 76,293

 

FAN NICKNAME: Juggalos and Juggalettes.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Juggalo News for all things Juggalo culture, and Faygo Lovers for Psychopathic Records info.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Mostly white outcasts — not nerds or dorks — but loners bonding over shared interests: horror films, wrestling, and drug use.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: This summer, the Insane Clown Posse announced plans to sue the FBI for declaring the Juggalos to be a "loosely organized hybrid gang" in 2011. Putting aside whether criminal behavior is or is not happening, this gets to how loyal and passionate ICP fans can be: The FBI doesn't often feel the need to diagnose artists' fan bases. Juggalos see themselves as a family, as literally evidenced by the incessant chanting of “FAM-I-LY! FAM-I-LY!" that goes on at any ICP concert. They drink the same drink (Faygo, the local Detroit-area soft drink that arguably stays in business because of its ICP association), listen to the same violent yet moralistic horror rap (Psychopathic Records), wear the same clothes (HatchetGear), watch the same wresting (Juggalo Championship Wrestling), and get matching Running Hatchet man tattoos. (Okay, that kind of sounds like gang behavior but it's not, really.)

 

The Gathering of the Juggalos is their family reunion, bringing together 20,000-plus fans annually. But the Gathering is less like Coachella than Burning Man, in that it's not a temporary divergence from real life for its attendees — it is their only real place; the rest of the year is fake. Juggalos are aware that some outsiders or "haters" mock them, but taking a cue from the band, they relish it, as it brings those inside the community closer together. As Violent J put it: "The colder it is on the outside, the warmer it is on the inside."

18

Neil Gaiman

Photo: Getty Images
18

Neil Gaiman

POPULARITY: Started as a comic-book writer – his epic 75-issue Sandman series has sold millions of copies; pivoted to become a best-selling author in both adult fiction (Stardust, American Gods and the No. 1 New York Times best seller Anansi Boys) as well as children’s literature (Coraline and The Graveyard Book). Has won all manner of accolades, including the Newbery Medal (for children’s literature), a World Fantasy Award, and a Hugo.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 521,000

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 1.7 million

 

FAN NICKNAME: Gaimanites

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Neilgaiman.com, Gaiman's own Tumblr

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Gaiman’s oeuvre contains multitudes — he writes novels and children’s books and comics and does fantasy and science fiction and horror — and as a result, his fan base stretches far and wide: children and adults, men and women. There is, of course, a pronounced Goth contingent.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Gaiman once described the chimerical, expansive Sandman as a sexually transmitted comic book: Guys would pass it on to their girlfriends, and they’d get hooked, then break up and pass it on to the next guy. As much as that comic was about dreams and existence and awesome adventures, it was also about a damaged little brother/rock star who just needed to be loved and the mad people he touched along the way. One doesn’t have to jump too far from that to land on the symbiotic relationship between Gaiman and his fans, with whom he interacts constantly through his Twitter feed. Several times a day, he broadcasts missives both personal (often looping in his wife, musician Amanda Palmer, who has a hearty following of her own) and artistic to his almost 2 million followers, responding to even the most anonymous of fans. It’s love on a dark, two-way street.

 

As much as Sandman is a beloved rallying point, the larger audience that came with his prose success — along with his plummy, velvety voice and British expat charm — has made him a speaking-engagement magnet. He’ll sign books at in-store readings until his hand is swollen, smiling the whole time. In person, as in his work, Gaiman has a way of inviting the reader inside, giving fans something to latch on to, something they can feel is theirs. And so, almost thirteen years after Sandman finished its run, they’ll hit conventions dressed as the comic’s lovely interpretation of Death, a pale, pixie-ish girl with ink-black hair and a big honking ankh around her neck. There have been occasions where Gaiman would sign someone’s body part at a convention and, before the signing was over, the person would return with a fresh tattoo of his signature in the same spot. A darkly handsome man, there’s something (no pun intended) dreamy about him, and his female fans won’t let you forget it. (At the 2007 Worldcon convention, where Gaiman was the guest of honor, there was many a “Neil Gaiman! Squeeeeee!” button pinned to various pieces of clothing.) In June 2011, Gaiman did a reading at Los Angeles’s Saban Theater and the hours-long line stretched around the block. Early fans wistfully told stories of the first time they encountered him, decades ago: “Yeah, I was at the San Diego Comic Con back in ’96,” one graying gent with a green army jacket and Harley Davidson bandana recalled. “You could spot Neil at the hotel bar and buy him a beer.” He looked at the stream of fans, extending into the distance. “Now, not so much.”

17

Bruce Springsteen

Photo: Getty Images
17

Bruce Springsteen

POPULARITY: Has sold more than 120 million albums worldwide; his most recent, 2012’s Wrecking Ball, was his tenth No. 1 album; last four tours with the E Street Band have grossed more than $800 million combined. Awards: won twenty Grammys, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe; honored by the Kennedy Center in 2009.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 2.4 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 278,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: Bruce Tramps (as in “Tramps like us … ”).

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Backstreets.com, GreasyLake.org (Denmark), StonePonyLondon.net (England), PointBlankMag.com (Spain)

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: While he is a true icon to millions of middle-aged white men, Springsteen’s broader fan base is made up of both men and women between the ages of 35 to 60 who’ve followed his career for some time, or at least since 1984’s Born in the USA.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Springsteen’s most ardent fans distinguish themselves through their unfailing willingness to spend a small fortune to travel to as many of his concerts as possible, in a manner at odds with their otherwise sensible and common-sense adult lifestyles. (Springsteen’s been known to acknowledge people down front whom he recognizes just from their having attended so many other shows.) The draw of these shows comes from their legendary length (he played his longest concert ever just this past August, a four-hour-and six-minute show in Helsinki), and the fact that he can change up to two-thirds of his set list from one night to the next. Seeing more shows means a better chance at notching another Springsteen “rarity,” which Bruce Tramps collect like baseball cards: On this tour, hearing the outtake “Frankie” from the Tracks collection offered particularly coveted bragging rights.

 

Superfans kept from a concert by a particularly stubborn obstacle — say, an ocean — will often linger on a Springsteen message board or latch onto the #springsteen hashtag on Twitter as fellow fans report in from the show, then vicariously debate the merits of the set list in real time and reminisce about that time at that show where he played that song … Bruce Tramps don’t think in lockstep and are divided over favorite albums, eras, and politics (just ask unrequited platonic lover Chris Christie), but they share the deep feeling that Springsteen’s songs and concerts have helped carry them through some of life’s toughest moments. To watch them all sway and sing along in unison at a concert is to feel like one is in a revival service among the saved.

16

True Blood

Photo: sookiebontemps/Flickr
16

True Blood

POPULARITY: Charlaine Harris's best-selling Southern Vampire Mysteries now twelve novels long; HBO's adaptation network's most popular series since The Sopranos.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 10.7 million (show); 191,000 (Harris)

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 500,000 (show).

 

FAN NICKNAME: Truebies. (Though some might prefer the term Fang Bangers.)

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Fan-fiction enclaves like True-Blood.net, and in 2010, perhaps they went aboard the "fangs and fur" cruise. Over the years, there have been a few different True Blood fan conventions: Bitten, in the U.K., Tru Blood, in Australia, plus two cons right here in the U.S.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Truebies aren't the squealing Twilight fans you're picturing. They're older, for starters — the average age of a True Blood viewer is 39 — and less dominantly female: 48 percent of True Blood's audience is male.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: To love True Blood is to love excess: a dozen books, dozens of characters, all kinds of supernatural forces, a menagerie of mythical creatures, a campiness so overwhelming it pushes the show all the way back around to earnest, and of course, a sexual bonanza covering a variety of predilections. There are those who like the books, those who like the show, and those who like both. (Don’t get them started on Book Sookie versus Show Sookie.) Indeed, there's no one right way to venerate True Blood, just as long as you can name your perfect partner for the vulnerable Ms. Stackhouse.

 

And more than appreciating particular books (or short stories) or episodes, many Truebies cast their lots with a particular character. (See: Eric Northman.net, which bills itself as "the first and best source for the enigmatic vampire Eric Northman.") Sookie has her devotees, but they're not as fervent as Alcide's wolf pack; Eric and Bill supporters are warring factions, but perhaps neither male lead is as beloved as Pam, who herself has 26,000 Facebook fans, even though she's a secondary if not tertiary character on the show.

 

And because Truebies really excel at ephemera, they maintain a robust Etsy contingent. It's not just Team Bill or Team Eric shirts, it's Merlotte's waitress name tags. They're not just watching the show, they're buying Bon Temps trivia apps. Dare we say it's in their blood?

15

Oprah

Photo: Getty Images
15

Oprah

POPULARITY: Turned her daytime talk show into a secular church, preaching a populist gospel of self-help; monthly magazine O boasts a circulation of roughly 2.5 million; still a force in publishing with her rebooted book club; now CEO and primary talent of cable network OWN.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 7.7 million 

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 14 million

 

FAN NICKNAME: None.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Oprah.com; letters section of O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine; kids' weekend soccer games.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Women between 30 and 70; a mix of stay-at-home moms and workplace professionals.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Most Oprah Winfrey fans don't wear t-shirts emblazoned with her face, nor do they hang O posters in their hallways. They prove their love, instead, by something simpler: Taking her advice. She's an entertainer, sure, but she's something more: A modern-day guru. "Her most ardent fans regard her as an oracle," Newsweek wrote of Oprah in 2009. "If she says something is good, it must be." Especially if what she says is good is her fans themselves: Devotees adhere to O’s Live Your Best Life mantra, a self-help message that is simple and direct and uplifting.

 

Fans are so attached to the hostess, that they have also made stars out of Oprah apostles such as Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, who still thrive in daytime and appear on magazine covers, and BFF Gayle King, who now co-hosts CBS's morning show. They flock to daylong, in-person Oprah-paloozas like O You! (think Oprah U.) and (like one of our writers earlier this year) attend live tapings of Oprah’s Lifeclass. Where she goes they follow.

 

Mostly. The relationship between Oprah and her followers has changed as of late: The daily syndicated talk show is gone, and with it a virtually guaranteed weekly audience of around 7 million. OWN reaches nowhere near that many viewers on an average day, but Oprah’s ability to move the cultural conversation is still there: Her chats with Whitney Houston's daughter and Rihanna made news; fans sent Cheryl Strayed's Wild to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list after it was selected for the book club. The best proof of Oprah’s personal appeal may be this: Following her network’s launch, she had a limited presence on OWN, and ratings were weak. During the past year, Oprah has become a more frequent presence on the channel, and numbers are up dramatically, 70 percent over last summer’s low water mark. Fans may love all things Oprah, but they love the woman herself the most.

14

Star Trek

Photo: Getty Images
14

Star Trek

POPULARITY: Quite possibly the most popular TV series ever made, spawning five spinoff TV series, eleven feature films (which grossed $1.3 billion worldwide, with J.J. Abrams’s reboot sequel due next summer), novels, comics, video games, and a seemingly bottomless supply of fan fiction. Influence has permanently embedded in vernacular and society: living long and prospering; setting things on stun; claiming resistance is futile. Also: flip phones? A Trek idea.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: Upward of 5.5 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: N/A

 

FAN NICKNAME: Trekkies (or Trekkers, if you’re feeling serious)

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Official site Startrek.com, wiki Memory Alpha, the International Star Trek Assocation’s Starfleet

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Generally older, given its long history — though you can still find the stray Klingon toddler at the San Diego Comic-Con — but cuts across almost every demographic, from the suburban mother of two and a half children to the president of the United States.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: One of the most venerable of pop-culture fandoms, Trekkies were among the first to mount successful letter-writing campaigns on behalf of their beloved show: First to NBC, to help convince the network to give the low-rated Star Trek a third (and final) season; and again to NASA, which named the inaugural space shuttle Enterprise. The length and breadth of Star Trek fandom gave the show’s stars a lucrative post-Trek career going to conventions around the world and charging whatever they like for autographs to fans who will, usually, happily pay for a second with Captain Janeway ... or that guest star that got killed by a Gorn that one time. People were dressing up as Klingons, Vulcans, or Enterprise crew members decades before the Japanese invented the term “cosplay,” sometimes gathering to make their own fan-films. There have been Trek weddings, translations of Shakespeare into Klingon operas ... hell, there’s even a Klingon language option on Wikipedia. Though the definitive fandom has been on the wane since before Star Trek disappeared from TV in 2005 (its glory days came during The Next Generation’s 1987 to 1994 run), Abrams’s 2009 reboot has injected some new blood into the old girl. If nothing else, it’s given the people still writing Kirk-Spock “slash” fiction (in which the Enterprise’s captain and his right-hand man, ah, engage in all sorts of affairs) some new faces to work with.

13

Community

Photo: NBC
13

Community

POPULARITY: Perhaps the tiniest audience on this list, but the disproportionately dedicated and outspoken fan base helped convince NBC to keep the struggling show on for an upcoming fourth season; creator Dan Harmon trended on Twitter when he was fired last spring.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 1.3 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 139,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: Human beings … with the rallying cry, “#sixseasonsandamovie”

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: The Community Subreddit, fan site Dan Harmon Sucks, the comments section of Todd VanDerWerff's recap of last season's finale on AV Club (more than 100,000 comments and counting), and Harmon's Tumblr, Dan Harmon Poops.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Easily broken down, thanks to Nielsen! Under 40, notably wealthier than the average prime-time viewer under 50, and college-educated (Community has the fourth-most-college-educated audience of any prime-time show). On a less statistical note, they are comedy nerds and pop-culture obsessives.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Creator Dan Harmon once told Vulture that he couldn't imagine doing a TV show where his characters didn't frequently nod to pop culture: "If things are going in their world the way things went in a movie they saw, they're able to do what I would do, which is go, ‘This is an awful lot like that movie, isn't it?’" That meta-ness may best explain why Community speaks so strongly to its small army of pop-culture geeks: While they undoubtedly have genuine affection for the characters, what attracts them most  — or, at least, attracted them at first — is the comedy’s unabashed love of other movies and TV shows and video games. It's a show about obsessives for obsessives and, at least during the Dan Harmon years, by a self-admitted obsessive. It's Comic-Con as a TV series.

 

This doesn't mean the audience doesn’t care about character, such as Jeff Winger's daddy issues or the Troy and Abed bromance. But what makes Community unique is the game it plays with the viewer, inviting him or her to dissect every frame of the carefully choreographed tributes to cultural touchstones from The Godfather to The Right Stuff; to recognize them all is to feel not just triumphant but also worthy. This densely packed savant approach is self-limiting when it comes to drawing an audience, and none of its three seasons has ever averaged more than 5 million viewers. However, the cult’s loyalty has kept the show viable with NBC, which up until this season was looking to keep anything alive with a pulse. Fans even made their loyalty a rallying cry, in an appropriately meta way goosed by Harmon. In an episode near the end of season two, Abed refused to believe NBC's The Cape wouldn't go on forever: "Six seasons and a movie!" he proclaimed. Loyalists knew Abed was really standing up for Community's honor and adopted the phrase as a call to arms. Earlier in the same episode, Winger demanded Abed "stop taking everything we do and shoving it up its own ass." Community's ardent admirers (who nervously await the indefinitely delayed fourth season) remain very happy exploring said posterior regions.

12

Joss Whedon

Photo: Getty Images
12

Joss Whedon

POPULARITY: Wrote and directed The Avengers, the third-biggest film of all time ($600 million domestically, $1.5 billion worldwide); created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the defining TV shows of the nineties, and its subsequent cross-medium Buffyverse; wrote and directed Emmy-winning web musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 93,000 on an unofficial fan page.

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: Whedon don’t tweet.

 

FAN NICKNAME: Whedonites; a smaller subset of Firefly fans call themselves Browncoats.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Whedonesque.com is the one-stop shop — and the man himself will take to the site when he wants to communicate directly to the faithful.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Smart, literary; also likes things that explode. Probably more female than male, given the unwavering strain of girl-power at the heart of Whedon’s work; most of his output subverts the standard sci-fi/horror view of female characters as damsels in distress. The Avengers has brought more men and comic-book fan boys into his fold.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Is there still a cult of Joss Whedon if everybody belongs to it now? Whedonites are used to fighting the good fight for TV series that either barely get renewed (like Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse) or get snuffed out after one short season (Firefly), but this year, after The Avengers blew up, he was quickly locked up not just for its sequel, but also for a consulting gig on multiple Marvel movies. And just like that, what had previously been a niche fan base — albeit a passionate, wide-ranging one that supported Whedon-penned Buffy comics and created college courses dedicated to his brand of pop feminism — had become part of the mainstream.

 

But it wasn’t Jossy-come-lately Marvel fans who flocked to the Toronto Film Festival this year for the premiere of his new filmed adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. These were the hard-core Whedonites who cheered at the appearance of Whedon regulars like Amy Acker and Tom Lenk like they’d been presented with Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogen. They’re the reason this project, which Whedon initially conceived with a potential online release in mind, snagged a lucrative Lionsgate theatrical deal. Whedon fans are used to giving the man that extra oomph, whether it’s agitating for the release of his long-shelved Cabin in the Woods or pushing so hard for a Firefly movie that Universal actually made one, despite how badly the space-western did on television.

11

Tyler Perry

Photo: Getty Images
11

Tyler Perry

POPULARITY: His low-budget movies regularly bring in $50 million or more; owns his own studio in Atlanta, which produces three successful TBS sitcoms; has brought in more than $100 million with his stage tours, which introduced his signature character Madea.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 8.1 million for his personal page; Madea has 4.3 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 1.4 million

 

FAN NICKNAME: N/A

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Perry's own Facebook page, where the actor-mogul regularly posts missives about his life, movies, and spirituality.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Skews black, female, and church-going.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Hollywood has largely failed to grow a new black movie star since the likes of Will Smith and Denzel Washington; leave it to Tyler Perry, then, to do it himself ... and in a dress, no less. The actor-mogul stunned Hollywood in 2005 when his very first movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman opened to $21 million, but what pundits had failed to realize is that Perry had already grown an enormous fan base on what has long been known as the “chitlin circuit,” where he’d become a multimillionaire from his booming stage productions, many of which featured his character Madea, a brassy granny who tells it like it is. Perry reportedly can’t stand dressing in his drag character anymore, but it’s tough to resist his fans’ demand: All of Perry’s Madea movies are guaranteed at least a $20 million opening, and 2009’s Madea Goes to Jail set the high watermark with a $41 million first weekend and $90 million gross.

 

Perry's fans tend to be devoted in every sense of the word; devoted to him, sure (on his Facebook page, even a photo he posts of a dilapidated birdhouse can draw more than 10,000 appreciative comments), but also to God and religion. In a media climate where there are few projects made with black stars aimed at a black audience, and even fewer with explicit lessons about faith (Perry's stage plays even break up the action with gospel numbers), it's easy to see why this underserved audience turns out for Perry again and again: He provides moral uplift and a healthy helping of religious inspiration, like a pastor presiding over the most raucous church you’ve ever been to. Of Hollywood executives who wanted to water down his entertainments into something more secular, Perry once said, "If you don't want my God here, you don't want me here either"; luckily, he's tapped into a passionate audience who wants them both.

10

Arrested Development

Photo: FOX
10

Arrested Development

POPULARITY: Never a ratings hit, yet in three seasons picked up four Emmys and inspired countless catchphrases. Repeat streamed viewings so intense that Netflix funded new episodes six years after cancellation.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 1.6 million (plus hundreds of thousands of likes for the cast)

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: N/A

 

FAN NICKNAME: Analrapists. Just kidding; they don't have a nickname.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Mash-up Tumblrs that combine AD quotes or scenes with other shows: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Mitt Romney, Downton Abbey, The Hobbit. And on and on and on.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Anyone who wants to go on an Internet date is legally required to list Arrested Development among their favorite shows.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: It's one thing to like a canceled show and wish it would come back. AD fans are the type who would take it straight to the president of the United States. The critically lauded Fox comedy had "cult favorite" stamped on it from day one and seemed endangered from day two. The Save Our Bluths campaign kicked into gear during the show's second season (a year-one Emmy win brought few new converts), and fans spent the entire shortened season three agitating for more support from Fox. AD was finally canceled, but then — like Family Guy before it — word of mouth finally kicked in through DVD viewings, and the posthumous cult grew.

 

After some Patient Zero in the cast or creator Mitch Hurwitz first floated the idea of a reunion movie, an endless feedback loop began thanks to the fact that AD counted among its fans nearly every single entertainment journalist, who all wanted a movie as bad as anyone. They acted as representative interrogators for the people, and so every interview with every cast member for an unrelated project brought up the question of a possible film — and recall that for a time there, you couldn't swing a hooded sweatshirt without hitting a Michael Cera profile. The more the idea bubbled in the press, the more realistic the idea seemed, and in turn, fans upped their own agitation. Fan posters flooded the Internet, quote blogs popped up all over the place, Jason Bateman amassed 700,000 followers on Twitter, and rather than a handful of obscure performers reuniting at a minor convention of sorts, the entire cast gathered at the behest of The New Yorker. (Which led to the cast being asked about this mythical movie even more often.) It took six years, but eventually Netflix, seeing just how many people were re-watching the original 53 episodes via streaming, realized that there's always money in a banana stand and green-lighted a fourth season. (Thereby jump-starting the hopes and dreams of Party Down fans: All things are possible!) Now that they've brought the show back from the dead, AD fans have turned their attention to bringing back one of their favorite characters, Mr. Steve Holt. (Steve Holt!) Once they save Steve Holt, everything will be right in the Bluth universe.

9

Doctor Who

Photo: BBC
9

Doctor Who

POPULARITY: Holds Guinness World Record as world’s longest-running science-fiction television show, having debuted in 1963; currently broadcast in about 50 countries; current run launched in 2005, has won 30 BAFTAs, and six Hugo Awards; most downloaded series in the U.S. on iTunes in 2011.    

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 2.7 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 263,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: The term “Whovian” has been in use since the eighties.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: It can take an hour to sift through just one labyrinthine, 30-page thread on the message boards of Gallifrey Base. For more daily updates, there’s the Base’s sister site, the Doctor Who News Page.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: In the U.K., Doctor Who was always a family program. However, in the U.S., the show's earlier incarnations were mostly embraced by sci-fi-loving men who discovered it on PBS in the eighties. But since its 2005 revival, it has steadily continued finding a wider and larger audience; it now has a notably large female following, compared to other long-running sci-fi properties.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: From fan-run conventions (Gallifrey One in Los Angeles has staged an event yearly since 1990), to myriad fanzines (the Doctor Who Club of Australia has published more than 200 issues of Data Extract since 1980), and the stylish production of numerous fan films (the third and final part of a reimagining of the lost 1966 serial “The Power of the Daleks” was recently released online), the Doctor Who fan appears to be as resourceful as the series' time-traveling protagonist.

 

In fact, it was fans who kept the Doctor alive in the U.K. when the BBC canceled the show in 1989 until its reboot in 2005: The TV network, seeing no value to its defunct character, let fans write a series of novels starting in 1991 and, further down the road, permitted a former Doctor Who Magazine editor to produce further audio adventures for CD and download, voiced by old cast members. Both of these enterprises continue today with many of the same fan players behind the scenes, and with each brand counting their numerous releases well into the hundreds. While they’ve become viable arms of Doctor Who, what’s noteworthy is how both were key to keeping the Whoniverse alive and in the public consciousness for the sixteen lean years the series wasn’t on the air. The line between Doctor Who fan and professional has, in modern times, frequently been a blurry one. One of the writers of that initial series of novels? None other than Russell T Davies, the man who so successfully reenvisoned Doctor Who in 2005 for modern TV audiences.

 

So, as the fans continue to commune, create and debate (as with the undying question of the ages: Which of the eleven actors who have played the Doctor is the best?), it's clear that this vibrant community will keep on doing so well after the series has someday ended. And then, just as a new actor has always emerged to take over the TARDIS, perhaps an enterprising fan will step forward to revive and reinvent the Doctor for TV once again.

8

Lady Gaga

Photo: Getty Images
8

Lady Gaga

POPULARITY: Estimated 23 million albums and 64 million singles sold worldwide; the Monster Ball Tour was the fifteenth-highest-grossing tour ever and highest-grossing tour by a debut headlining artist, grossing about $227.4 million over 200 shows. Has 174,103,423 YouTube channel views.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 53 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 30 million

 

FAN NICKNAME: Little Monsters

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: LittleMonsters.com, GagaDaily.com, LadyGagaNow.Net

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Though her songs appeal to moms, too, the core Monsters are gays and younger women.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: On a 2011 episode of SNL, Lady Gaga was in a sketch with Justin Timberlake called “What’s That Name?”, a game show in which the two singers had to remember various people's names. The main joke was that the aloof Timberlake didn't know the names of Chris Kirkpatrick or a girl with whom he recently had sex, yet Gaga not only instantly recognized Alphonse, a random fan who went to her “monster show,” but she then offered to pay for his sister’s medical bills. The point was simple: Lady Gaga is a megastar woman of the people: She’s Mama Monster but also one of them.

 

Her willingness to be open with her insecurities cements her bond with her fans, many of them high-schoolers going through the most insecure time of their lives: Recently, they rallied around her en masse on her site when she opened up about her history of struggling with anorexia and bulimia, commiserating and empowering her and each other with their own experiences with the disorder. The perception is she'll do anything for her Little Monsters (whether through donating to charities that matter to them or dancing until she throws up), but her frankness about her own issues cues her fans that she needs them as much as they need her: This isn’t just about idolizing a pop star — they’re all in it together. So, they follow — her every word on Twitter — where she has by far the most followers; bring her very personal gifts at arena shows; spend hours Photoshopping her into a fabulous unicorn; and dress up like her at concerts, pride parades, and Halloween. She has been the most popular Halloween costume consistently for the past three years, selling in the millions. Not to mention the many who fabricate their own. It's not an easy costume to make (where will you find all those Kermits?) but, to her fans, it’s less of a costume than a uniform.

7

Hunger Games

Photo: Getty Images
7

Hunger Games

POPULARITY: Suzanne Colllins’s book trilogy is Amazon’s best-selling series of all time, while the 2012 film counterpart had the fifth-biggest opening weekend in history ($152.5 million domestic) and became the thirteenth-biggest-grossing domestic movie of all time ($408 million). Has inspired countless tie-ins (a cookbook, a sports club workout, a $999 Mockingjay pin).

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 7.8 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 657,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: Tributes

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Mockingjay.net, Hunger Games Tumblrs

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Female, teen, or teen at heart. Thanks to better writing and kid-on-kid violence, the franchise attracts a wider following than its vampire counterpart, Twilight, but the core audience is still young women.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Mere hours after Jennifer Lawrence was cast as the big-screen Katniss in 2011, the forums were rumbling: She's not skinny enough! She's too fair-skinned! Her hair is (gasp) blonde! The immediate outrage over Lawrence — a 20-year-old Oscar nominee and an obviously talented actress — was about fidelity; Collins's books enthralled young readers (and the elders who read along with them) because of their precise, horrifying detail. So cue the ever-vigilant Hunger Games fan Tumblr, which monitors casting notices and opines daily about which actors meet the exacting specifications of the source material for the upcoming sequels. They post set photos and analyze costume and makeup decisions. They speculate endlessly about which minor characters will or will not make it into the movie.  

 

And though it is young adults (read: teen girls) who participate most enthusiastically in this online behavior, the Hunger Games phenomenon has overtaken their elders, too. It is hard to find a parent without an opinion on the franchise's violence or a twentysomething female without an opinion on Gale versus Peeta. Most crucially, it is near-impossible to meet anyone who has not seen the movie: The widespread book-to-movie obsession resulted in an astounding opening and toppled all previous Twilight records. Should there be any doubt about continued interest, just consult the fan sites, where a never-ending war rages on about the physical embodiment of Finnick Odair and whether Sam Claflin is fit to play him. (Spoiler alert: He is probably not. But a record number of moviegoers will buy tickets to find out.)

6

Lord of the Rings

Photo: Getty Images
6

Lord of the Rings

POPULARITY: Saga considered the third best-selling novel ever written (J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is fourth), with more than 150 million copies sold; films grossed more than $2.91 billion worldwide and garnered 30 Academy Award nominations, winning seventeen, including Return of the King’s Best Picture win.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 10.4 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: N/A, but this random J.R.R. Tolkien Twitter has 32,700 followers

 

FAN NICKNAME: For fans of the books: Tolkienites or Tolkiendils. Movie fans: Ringers.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: TheOneRing.net is the main fan site. The Lord of the Rings Fanatics Plaza  is the main location for LOTR role-playing games and forums. The e-mail list Tolklang, active since 1990, focuses on the books’ languages, while two active newsgroups also from the early nineties, alt.fan.tolkien and rec.arts.books.tolkien, continue.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Fantasy aficionados introduced to the books at a young age and who have followed its family tree down as they have grown up, touching on role-playing games (both dice- and CPU-based), or similar sprawling literary series (perhaps Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, or, of course, Game of Thrones).

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: With the original novels released in 1955, Lord of the Rings had a dedicated fan base decades before Peter Jackson ever said “action” on the movies. The LOTR fan was not and is not a passive one; they're scholars, studying and eventually teaching college courses about the books. Then the movies came out in the early 2000s and the fan base grew exponentially. Some went back and read the books, some didn’t, but they were equally obsessive. It was at this time that the fans split into factions: new fans, old fans who liked the movies, and the Purists or the Old Guard who disliked Peter Jackson's work. As a result, a big part of being a fan nowadays is participating in the debates over decisions the filmmakers made about ambiguous parts of the books, like: "Do Balrogs have wings?" That being said, though the Old Guard prefers new fans read the books, deferential new fans are given respect within the community and play LOTR-themed role-playing games along with the Purists. The movies also led to a surge in LOTR vacationing from new and old fans alike. Since the first film's release, millions of fans have made the very expensive flight to New Zealand just to see where the films were shot. After shooting The Hobbit, Jackson helped make the Hobbiton set a permanent attraction, which will likely only increase visits.

 

Fans followed Jackson's filming of The Hobbit as carefully as they did the previous three films, with the director again working with TheOneRing.net to supply fans tidbits and updates, and acolytes are beside themselves with anticipation for the first movie, An Unexpected Journey, which opens on December 14. However, though Jackson is a hero to the community for his allegiance to Tolkien's epic source work in the last three films, there is some trepidation amongst the flock about his decision to turn what is a 310-page children's book into three films. But just as the Star Wars prequels did not have grown Jedi fans disavowing Empire Strikes Back, if the Hobbit trilogy proves disappointing, it won't taint the Tolkeinites' devotion to the books or earlier LOTR movies. For many of them, LOTR was their definitive entry point into a world of fantasy that they have been mesmerized with ever since: They play role-playing games and read/watch other fantasy because it shares a vocabulary that LOTR pioneered. Tolkien's work is elevated in their mind above all else because it was their first love. And when they find the soul mate who shares their first love, they can both drop more than $4,000 on two One Rings to seal the deal.

5

Justin Bieber

Photo: Getty Images
5

Justin Bieber

POPULARITY: At age 18, has released three straight No. 1 albums (My World 2.0, Under the Mistletoe, Believe) and sold 15 million copies since 2010; racked up 786,712,923 (and counting) YouTube views of “Baby” since 2010; and made a 3-D concert film that earned $73 million domestically (and $30 million on its opening weekend). Sold $60 million worth of his two perfumes.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 46.8 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 28.8 million

 

FAN NICKNAME: Beliebers

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: The Bieberhood, Justin Bieber Tumblrs

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Girls under the age of 12 who are not ashamed to make videos crying about how they will never marry Justin Bieber. They love him above all else.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Once upon a time, adolescent girls papered their walls with Tiger Beat posters, memorizing the studio-approved factoids and quotes (JTT is going to Harvard! Devon Sawa likes macaroni and cheese!) that constituted a teen heartthrob's public personality. Imagine if you could apply that infatuation to a walking, talking, singing celebrity — someone who actually comes to life with one click of the YouTube "play" button. The result is Justin Bieber, the first teen idol of the Internet era and the first love of millions of American tweens.

 

They will scream through the entirety of his sold-out shows; they will mob his promotional appearances (to the point that Bieber regularly finds himself trapped in hotels while the local police attempt to disperse the crowd). "Boyfriend," his most recent music video, was viewed 17 million times within a week of its release; "Call Me Maybe," the (genius) Canadian pop song that Bieber tweeted out to his 28 million followers, spent nine weeks on the top of the Billboard Hot 100. All major pop stars have an army (or navy, in Rihanna’s case) of Twitter followers; Katy Perry and Rihanna sell millions of albums, too. But the difference is in the quality of worship. Justin Bieber is not just a singer; he is an imaginary, ever-present boyfriend to millions of tween Americans. Remember how you felt about your first crush? Exactly.

4

Harry Potter

Photo: Getty Images
4

Harry Potter

POPULARITY: Seven Harry Potter books are best-selling book series in history, with 450 million books in print; final installment Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows holds Guinness World Record for fastest-selling work of fiction in 24 hours (11 million copies in the U.S. and U.K.). Books are published in 73 languages, making J.K. Rowling one of most translated authors in history; eight films have grossed 7.7 billion dollars, making it highest-grossing film series of all time. Potter brand in its entirety is worth more than $15 billion.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 50.7 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 728,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: Potterheads, Potterites, Muggles (though some believe "Muggles" is a term for nonfans). The very vocal subset of fans who believe Harry and Hermione should have ended up together call themselves Harmonians.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Rowling's own Pottermore for interactive reading; Mugglenet and the Leaky Cauldron for news and forums; Fiction Alley for fan fiction; the Harry Potter Companion for fan art; Mugglecast, Pottercast, and Potter Pensieve for podcasts.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Although nominally children's fiction, the books have attracted a much broader readership — a fact the publishers have acknowledged by releasing separate covers for child and adult readers. Both the books and the films "age" with Harry, growing progressively darker as the series continues (thus the PG-13 ratings for the later films). But unlike most fantasy series (except those that focus on romance), the convention scene skews more female.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Outsiders predicted there would be a post-Potter depression following the release of the last book and the last film, and yes, there might have been a slight slump at first, but the fandom quickly bounded back before you could say, "Accio wand!" Potter love has transcended the story's completion, especially with a new generation of converts discovering the books for the first time (which is why J.K. Rowling is still careful to avoid spoilers when she speaks). And while HP fans are happy to read (and reread) the books, part of the magic is feeling like they're part of Harry's world. They go to Pottermore to get assigned their house and wear their colors with pride, even if they've been put in Slytherin. They might have a wand at the ready, just in case. And robes. For the more elaborate props not available for purchase, fans make pilgrimages to museum exhibits, places featured in the films, and the HP amusement park in Orlando, where you can drink Butterbeer in Hogsmeade. But that's all if you're just kinda casual about it.

 

Serious fans aren't content to play tourist; creating something new, or placing Rowling's work in a new context, is what keeps the fandom's blood pumping. Fanfic for HP surpasses that of Star Trek, and it can get pretty pornographic — a lot of the slashfic involves pairings such as Harry/Draco, Hermione/Snape, even Dumbledore/Fawkes (and need we remind you Fawkes is a bird?). Parodies thrive, and there's much wrocking out to wizard rock — an indie underground innovated by the HP fandom that boasts some 500 bands. Rowling and Warner Bros. allow the bands to perform and sell CDs so long as they remain not-for-profit, which limits the growth of the genre, but that hasn't stopped other fandoms (Twilight, Hunger Games) from adopting the practice. Fans also play a real-world version of Quidditch — a bruising mash-up of rugby, basketball, and dodge ball, with brooms, of course, but no flying — and it's become an international sport, with 798 teams in the U.S. alone. That not dedicated enough for you? How about fans who have lightning bolts tattooed on their foreheads? Or who have legally changed their name to Draco? Fans may grumble that Pottermore isn't satisfying enough (too many technical hiccups!), and they debate whether Rowling shouldn't write another book after all — because loving Harry Potter is not something you grow out of.

3

Twilight 

Photo: Getty Images
3

Twilight 

POPULARITY: Books by Stephenie Meyer have sold well over 100 million copies worldwide; film adaptations are gigantic blockbusters in theaters and on home video; highest grosser Eclipse made $300 million domestically

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 35.2 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: More than 1 million

 

FAN NICKNAME: Twi-hards, Twilighters, Team Edward, Team Jacob

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: YouTube, where Twi-hards like "nuttymadam3575" can post tearful reaction videos, and Twilighted, where fan fiction flourishes (50 Shades of Grey famously got its start as thinly veiled Twilight fan fiction).

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Teenage girls and women in their twenties who like their romantic fiction to have some supernatural spark.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Every so often, Hollywood gets a reminder that young men aren’t the only ones who go to the movies in droves. It happened in 1997, when Titanic became a cross-demographic blockbuster that nonetheless earned most of its cash thanks to repeat business from young women. Still, the lesson didn’t truly sink in until 2008, when the first Twilight film earned a staggering $192 million from an audience that was almost exclusively female. The first film was well timed, arriving at the feverish peak of popularity for Meyer’s book series, and it made superstars of its three leads; the next three sequels would do even better, earning around $300 million each. Studios that had formerly been on the hunt for the next Harry Potter franchise now modified their search: Maybe, if they tracked the avid reading habits of young women, they could find the next book-to-film phenomenon in its infancy.

 

What was it about the Twilight series that fans sparked to? Partly, it's the way the series flirts with sex (the bloody transition from human to vamp is a metaphor for the loss of virginity) while still remaining chaste enough that younger fans can be drawn in … at least until Edward and Bella have their honeymoon night. But Meyer was smart to stoke her fans' passions with the central love triangle between Bella and her beaus Edward and Jacob; when battle lines were drawn online between those who were Team Edward and those on Team Jacob, it only increased the bond between the reader (or viewer) and Meyer's story. Twilight fans are so ardent, in fact, that geek mecca Comic-Con had to start slotting its Twilight panels earlier in the convention to suit the Twi-hards, who regularly queue up days in advance for the film franchise’s panels, swamping the less devoted fans of Marvel movies and other comic-book blockbusters. Those boy-heavy fan bases bristled at the intrusion, but they’d better get used to it: The record-breaking success of Twilight on the best seller list, at the box office, and on home video is only the beginning of a femme-dominated genre force, not an anomaly.

2

Star Wars 

Photo: Getty Images
2

Star Wars 

POPULARITY: Seven Star Wars movies (two trilogies and the Clone Wars film) have grossed $4.5 billion around the world. Thirty-five years after the original movie came out, George Lucas’s spinoff industry includes toys, video games, CDs, books, TV series, cookie molds, Mr. Potato Heads, along with animated Clone Wars series, Dark Horse comic book, and seemingly ceaseless number of rereleases. Approximately 500,000 people around the globe listed Jedi Knight as their religion on official census forms.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 8.85 million

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 269,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: Warsies.

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Official site Starwars.com, fan Mecca TheForce.net

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: The question, really: Who isn’t a Star Wars fan? It probably skews a bit more malethan female, given the abundance of boy toys in the seventies and eighties (and the original trilogy’s single female character), but the Expanded Universe’s more gender-neutral cast has balanced it out a bit. And it is one of the few continually renewing fandoms, given the geek tendency to want to spread the love to their spawn.

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Much like Star Trek fans, Star Wars acolytes are everywhere, from the casual “May the Force Be With You”dropping guy, who occasionally pretends that he’s using the Force when the supermarket doors open, to the men and women of the 501st Legion, an international fan organization modeled after Darth Vader’s Stormtroopers, who have led the Rose Bowl parade and helped raise millions in charity. (Also, just head to your nearest search engine and peruse the approximately 4.4 million responses for “Star Wars tattoo.”) Lucas has encouraged the fans at every turn, lending his weight behind the Star Wars Celebration series of conventions, held since 1999, and fully supporting a robust fan-film community (provided no one charges money for people to view them), even holding an official Star Wars Fan Film Festival.

 

The ever-expanding universe through comics and TV shows continually gives fans new topics to scrutinize and debate, and Star Wars fans have a love-hate relationship with Lucas: For as much as he’s provided a formative, positive influence in their lives, the fact that he continues to “refine” the original trilogy with digital enhancements is a sore point: Just mention “Han Shot First” and strap in for a tirade that may or may not include the phrase “George Lucas raped my childhood.” However, the irony is that these apoplectic older fans usually have passed their Star Wars obsession to their children, who often prefer the prequels and tweaked originals that have so annoyed their parents. And so the two generations keep fan activity alive, whether through joy or disgruntlement.

1

Game of Thrones

Photo: Getty Images
1

Game of Thrones

POPULARITY: George R.R. Martin's award-winning book series A Song of Ice and Fire (which begins with A Game of Thrones and has spread through five novels so far) is one of the best-selling fantasy sagas in the last decade, selling more than 15 million books worldwide, having been translated into more than 40 languages. Emmy-winning HBO series based on books is third-most-watched series in the history of the channel, averaging 10.3 million total viewers per episode; most pirated show of 2012.

 

FACEBOOK FOLLOWERS: 4.2 million   

 

TWITTER FOLLOWERS: 465,000

 

FAN NICKNAME: There isn't one umbrella moniker, but various fans dub themselves the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Bookwalkers (viewers of the TV series who have read the books), the Unsullied (viewers of the TV series who have not read the books), and the GRRuMblers (fans who wish George R.R. Martin would write faster).

 

MAIN HANGOUTS: Westeros.org and WinterIsComing.net for news, forums, and roleplay; ToweroftheHand.com, for rereading the books; Podcastoficeandfire.com for podcasts.

 

AVERAGE DEMOGRAPHIC: Despite a nerd-alert review by the New York Times that said it only appeals to “Dungeons & Dragons types,” aficionados of both the books and the TV series extend well beyond the fantasy crowd. The show reaches a broad audience, and the reader-viewer combo fans tend to be literate, creative, and patient — because they have to be: The last book was more than 1,000 pages long, after a wait of six years. Who knows how long it will be until book six, The Winds of Winter, arrives?

 

DEVOTIONAL PROFILE: Star Wars may have wider anthropological permanence, more cottage industries, and a wider age range of fans. Twilight may induce more screams and tears. And Harry Potter may be a new rite of passage for children everywhere. But Game of Thrones has the most devoted fanbase of all because of the sheer surging might and immediacy of its readers (and viewers’) obsessiveness over a story that is still in the midst of unfolding. The main arcs behind the other giant franchises have been told, even if fans are still immersed in the movie follow-throughs or ancillary side mythologies. But GoT fans feel like they are in the midst of the adventure; they are as anxious for the coming of winter as the series’ characters. It has driven some to extremes; Martin partly avoids online GoT forums because if he does bother to blog or respond to fan queries, people assume he's wasting valuable time that could be spent finishing the next book. This came to a head as six years dragged on between the fourth and fifth installment, which finally came out last year; fans were driven mad over the wait, leading to an impassioned defense of Martin by Neil Gaiman (which spawned the catchprase “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch”). These are people who adore the saga so much that they often anticipatorily resent its creator for the possibility that it might not end satisfyingly. (Or end at all.) They have too much invested in this saga to implicitly trust its very creator. To satiate and perhaps calm these nervous followers, Martin has been reading sample chapters aloud from Winds of Winter.

 

Fans who don't read the books, however, are unconcerned with these developments; their primary issue is one of spoilage, because readers have a tendency to dissect events before HBO even has a chance to shoot them (the Red Wedding is not really a wedding — discuss). But the two factions have brokered an uneasy peace and learned to trade theories (Who is Jon Snow's mother? Was Ned Stark even his father?). Genealogy matters in GoT, which is why who has sex with whom is a big deal and the source of much fanfic. (Fans love to imagine Jon Snow getting some action, though Martin is famously opposed to fan fiction.) To keep themselves warm as winter is coming (and it is coming, eventually!), GoT fans also keep busy expanding and modernizing the medieval world of Westeros, beyond the usual fan art and mash-ups, as inventive as those may be. The most devoted get tattoos of the house sigils. They buy replica swords and engage in on- and off-line role-playing games. They figure out the recipes for the food, write cookbooks, and serve up whole feasts of Dothraki goat, pork pies, and lemon cakes. Speaking of Dothraki, some fans actually learn to speak Dothraki, which became an entire constructed language à la Klingon from Star Trek or Quenya from Tolkien — but so far, no Valyrian beyond a few phrases. In short, though the Most Devoted Fans may be dying for a sixth book, they definitely keep themselves busy without it.

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