The Great British Bake Off has undeniably grown a huge following since it first launched several years ago. Now a flagship BBC1 show, it’s popularity in British households is without question.
What might a study of Bake Off fans tell us?
Interestingly, wouldn’t fans of GBBO be one of the clearest “textual poachers”, perhaps? One of the ways in which fans use this particular text is for advice, inspiration and instruction in their own attempts at baking. A fan might copy an exact recipe a contestant uses on screen, and goes onto to share it with their families and friends.
I would say that this is an example of analysing a fan’s career – through the consumption and use of GBBO as fan-text, the fan may gain the knowledge and skills to advance their own careers, perhaps invade the fan-text by becoming a contestant. GBBO may deliver part of the BBC’s public service remit – it is a classic sort of light entertainment with a taught element – but it is also interesting to view these aspects through the lens of fandom.
GBBO is another show that often suffers from the lazy adjective of being “comfort” television (a pejorative term often thrown at the sitcom). Yet I imagine this does a disservice to the complex ways in which fans interact with the text. Such a description fails to consider the various elements of the show we might actually call the fan-text. GBBO fans may be split into further niche fandoms such as:
> Fans of the judges, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, both of whom have produced other mediated texts (shows and books) as well as actual baking careers.
> Fans of the presenters, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc. Their humorous style has just earned them an afternoon talk show on ITV, opening up this avenue to further investigation.
> Fans of baking, who look to the show for ideas, inspiration and advice.
> Fans of reality television – such fans have an interest in the personalities and relationships that evolve across the series, and have an emotional attachment to those that leave the show or awarded the coveted ‘star baker’, as well as the eventual winner.
> “foodies” – a group who consume a wide variety of mediated texts about food. Such people might also be a reader of food news websites on the internet, or follow food and dining reviews in newspapers.
> Audience’s who consume the BBC due to the licence fee structure possibly imploring them to ensure they receive value-for-money.
Each fandom subset would claim that GBBO is their favoured fan-text but all would seem to have a different object of fandom. While fan studies consistently remind us to not be to narrow in our analysis of fandoms (i.e. we should be looking to contribute to a “wider theory of fandom”), breaking down a text into its distinct objects of fandom may provide us with more complex discussions regarding the “mirror of consumption” .
This quickly written post is not meant to be a seminal text (I am sure I will come across just such breakdowns of fan-texts across my research) but is meant to simply “think aloud” my ideas regarding the construction of fandoms.