Funko Hannibal in Florence: Fan Tourism, Participatory Culture, and Para-textual-spatio Play

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Fan studies has explored the concepts of ‘film-induced tourism’ (Beeton 2005, 2015) or ‘media tourism’ via the notions of cult geography (Hills 2002) or fan pilgrimage (Porter 1999), arguing that “fan-text affective relationships cannot be separated from spatial concerns and categories” (Hills 2002:145). This article contributes to work on fan tourism and participatory cultures by focusing on a visit to Florence, Italy which was inspired by fandom of the television series Hannibal. The article discusses three main elements of this trip, reflecting on the experience of the author during that visit, to interrogate the links between transmediality and participatory culture, fandom and tourism. First, the article considers how Hannibal’s status as a transmedia text which spans the television series but also a series of novels and film adaptations, leads the fan-tourist to negotiate these different ‘versions’ of Florence. Whilst some places may be doubly coded as tourist and media sites or operate as special locations for different fans (see Lee 2012, Brooker 2007) previous work discussing this has focused on the variances between different texts. In the case of Hannibal, however, fan-tourists must negotiate the layering of various versions of the same story/text across the city, seeking out multiple real-world sites that have been used within the books/films/TV series. Locations thus become multi-coded and fans may operate their own distinctions regarding which version of the story, and therefore which Hannibal locations, are the most privileged and worth visiting. Second, the article explores how elements of participatory culture were utilised in the planning of the trip, drawing on existing fan knowledge of locations which is shared online. Since there is currently no formal organised Hannibal-related tourism industry in Florence, the fan-tourist needs to seek out their own locations and routes through the city, although these may be “mediated by the testimonies, amateur and professional, of previous fans” (Brooker 2004:27). The article focuses particularly on how ‘screenframing’, the practice of visiting “filming locations of […] favourite shows and movies, and try[ing] to align a screenshot from that film with the original background used in the film” (FangirlQuest, online) was used to identify key Hannibal locations and as a guide for engaging in attempted replication of photographs and iconic moments from the series. Drawing on this, the article uniquely explores the use of para-textual object such as merchandise in the fan-tourist experience, focusing on the use of a Hannibal Funko doll as an object of fandom on this visit to Florence. Carrying this item around sites of importance and inserting this object into photographs at key locations allows fan identities to be performed and displayed and for the links between the narrative world and the ‘real’ locations to be mediated. The article thus contributes to debates around fan-tourism and transmediality, responding to the argument that “little sustained research has explored the roles of tourist performances” (Kim 2010: 60) at meaningful sites. Whilst work has been conducted on tourists re-enacting scenes in photographs (Carl et al 2007, Kim 2010), there has been relatively little study of how and why fans may draw on material objects at important sites. The article also contributes to broader debates around material culture and fandom by focusing on the “materialities of fandom” in “specific configurations of place, purpose, and performance” (Rehak 2014). The article argues that the use of objects allows the fan to engage in the “emotional commitment and imaginative work” required to “approach a sense of communion with the fictional text” (Brooker 2004:14) since, whilst the fan themselves cannot ‘enter’ the narrative world, the use of relevant objects allows play with the borders between text, self, and object.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-90
JournalJomec Journal: Journalism Media & Cultural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 12 Nov 2019
EventFan Studies Network Conference 2017 - University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Jun 201725 Jun 2017


  • Fandom
  • Audiences
  • media tourism
  • tourism
  • material culture
  • paratexts
  • touristic play


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