‘Fan Service’ – The Buzzword Everyone Loves

The Arts

Fan Service

‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ (I’ve had to look up the title four times now) is now sold out for the next 5,000 years at the weirdly cramped Palace Theatre, and has had wonderful reviews for its theatricality. Critics says it’s a magic show with a decent story – it should be considering how much a night out with the kids will set you back, assuming you have the kind of pull that gets you a ticket. Perhaps you’re the Pope or next in line to the throne, or you’re a big-boned lonely woman living in one of America’s oblong states who has read all the the books eleventy three times and seen all the films and wears a Harry Potter hat to the actual theatre. As they do.

What I know about Harry Potter:

The author seems very nice. 

The queue to be photographed with a trolley at Platform 9 3/4 snakes right across my route home and is like Lourdes, if Lourdes is popular with schoolgirls from emerging nations.

I didn’t get past the fifth chapter of the first book and that’s fine, they’re not aimed at me. I saw some of the films but remember nothing about them. I think Robbie Coltrane was in one. 

It all seems very enjoyable and harmless in a rather ‘Oh, we’re back in 1945’ way.

It’s probably led to a rise in the popularity of boarding schools.

One of my best friends now sells wands for a living, so I guess it’s created an industry.


It is making people love the buzzword ‘fan service’.

‘Fan service’ is what you want entertainment to give you. Now, this is entirely appropriate and brilliant for Harry Potter fans, and exactly what they’ll love and want – apparently every character gets a round of applause as they arrive onstage, and why not? Kids grew up with the books and films, and must love seeing it live. The good news is that while reviews use the phrase repeatedly, the shows apparently have a storyline which could be called controversial. That has to be a good thing.

The problem arises when fan service stops. In her book ‘Sleepless In Hollywood’, Linda Obst points out that precognition is now required for any tentpole movie. More than that, it needs to give the fans exactly what they want.

You know it when you don’t get it; think of ‘Star Wars: The Phantom Menace’ (as opposed to a real menace, but let’s not go there). It failed to provide fan service or any service at all, as it was mostly about councils holding end-of-year accounts meetings.

It can work the other way too. ‘Entourage’ and ‘Warcraft’ provided nothing but fan service, and both flopped. We live in a time when anything you make had better do exactly what fans want and not an ounce more, otherwise you’re doomed.

It’s fun to get what you want but not challenging. Life needs an experimental, untried side. Trends in music, movies, literature, sex, art, politics, fashion all came from left-field, but when big bucks are riding on the outcome we’re all subject to focus groups.

It will be interesting to see where fan service extends. Can you have too much of a good thing? These are frightening, unsettled times, the worst I can remember in my lifetime. We want something reliable. Anyway, you can’t fight the weight of a gazillion internet posts. The majority rules.

But then, with the exception of a few wonderful blips in history, it has always done so.



7 comments on “‘Fan Service’ – The Buzzword Everyone Loves”

  1. Porl says:

    Ive never understood that archaic tradition of applauding “names” as they enter stage. Before they’ve actually done anything / any “work” – What are you meant applauding????

    Saw a play with Joan Collins years back where this happened. Am sure its fine in a pantomime, but in drama?!?!

  2. DC says:

    I read the books, mainly to get down with the kids, at least my own. I saw 4 of the films because I had to take the short ones to the cinema – they did not want to be seen with a parent at the later ones. I don’t have the hat.

    I’d rate them as harmless as a personal read. I don’t plan to revisit the texts. I also am not the target demographic.
    I’d rate them as excellent in general, because so many children actually read the books for their own enjoyment!

  3. admin says:

    Porl, I think they were applauding Joan Collins for still being alive.

  4. Wayne Mook says:

    It’s the equivalent of people applauding a popular song at a concert or gig, the thrill of recognition and the expectation.

    The potter book were fine, got a little bloated toward the end and could have used some harsher editing, but I guess they were being written against a deadline so not as long to polish.

    There are a lot of low budget films out there, there is more music, art, books just so much, but it’s just finding the good stuff in the vast output, and a lot isn’t on the ‘net as well.


  5. Helen Martin says:

    I was a teacher-librarian so I had to read them. Enjoyed them. Agree about the editing in the later ones. Dressed up in black gown & hat (I have one) to read one that came out in June and channelled Dame Maggie Smith.
    The whole thing is fun, although I had to give a serious interview to a local Chinese language newspaper that was dealing with the fears of some parents about their children reading about witchcraft.

  6. Brian Evans says:

    I read the first one and just about got through. I enjoyed the 3 films that I saw more.
    Would I have liked them more as a teenager? Not sure. At that age I discovered Dennis Wheatley and his black magic books scared the pants off me. More recently I tried his “The Satanist”, the one I had earlier missed. I couldn’t get past the 1st chapter, it was dire. How our taste changes.

    Re clapping an actor on their entrance (Ooh matron)- this is nothing new. I started to visit London’s West End theatres in the early 1970s. Jean Simmons got a whopping great hand when she first appeared in “A Little Night Music” It was the best bit as the show was unbelievably dreary. Then there was Evelyn Laye in “No Sex Please, We’re British” She made her entrance at the top of the staircase and would NOT move into she got a round of applause.

  7. Crprod says:

    It may have been the Phantom Menace movie that was the inspiration for the late blogger “Doghouse Riley” referring to Gov. Daniels of Indiana as the “Bantam Menace”. It is my impression that Gov. Daniels ranked higher in cognitive ability than his successor the current GOP VP candidate.

Comments are closed.