Frodo is grea... who is that?!?: the production and consumption of an online celebrity parody.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
My thesis analyses the phenomenon of Figwit, a non-speaking elf extra who appeared for only three-seconds in the first instalment of Peter Jackson's 2001 Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Figwit was initially generated as an online parody by female fans of the movie and as a foil to the 'swooning, drooling girly' fandom that was being directed towards the movie's star actors. However, Figwit evolved into a bona fide, albeit minor, celebrity both on and offline as he attracted attention from worldwide media, a small speaking role in the final movie and genuine adulatory fandom as manifested in the production of Figwit merchandise. In my thesis I argue that Figwit's creation and consequential community formation reflects a dynamic online-offline dialogic in which pre-existing offline and habitus-generated social practices and distinctions, ideal reflexive individuality and celebrity/fandom were dynamically reproduced within online technological frameworks. I also argue that online activity and interactivity is generated by users to strategically express and engage intensified reflexive individuality, affirming sociability and hyper-social distinctions. In this regard I have also argued that these various potentials and imaginaries were significantly enabled by digital architectures and genres of online communication and interactivity. In particular, I discuss the internet's capacity for searchability, traceability, and rhetorical framing processes that facilitate continuous re-editing authorship possibilities, which are not necessarily replicable in face-to-face interactions. Finally, I argue that reflexive online interactivity and identity expressions may transform into online and offline consequences that may be constructive, divergent or even contradictory. The arguments put forward in this thesis are based on a multi-sited ethnography, which utilises a variety of methodologies including participant-observation, subject interviews, communications and media archiving and analysis, and it draws from a variety of sources both online and offline.