Publication Date


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

Natalie Nelson-Marsh, Ph.D.


In contemporary western culture, fandom is common. Many academics and members of the general public alike conceive of fandom as outside the norms of spectatorship; to be a spectator is to enjoy an interest individually and passively. However, others contend that fandom is a more significant cultural achievement.

This study qualitatively investigated how Browncoats, or fans of the cancelled television series Firefly , communicatively construct their fandom culture. Methods included participant observation, semi-structured interviews, data analysis through Grounded Theory, and a comparative thematic analysis of the original Firefly source texts and Browncoat cultural data in order to discover meaningful themes evident in both.

It was found that three specific discursive patterns of practice; Conversation, Cultural Practices, and Co-authoring symbolically represent and recreate specific themes from the Firefly source texts while simultaneously enacting an overarching Underdog cultural ideology. This suggests that current conceptions of fandom may be inadequate to properly account for the symbolically lived practices of contemporary fans. As active constructors of culture through shared text engagement, the Browncoats are examples of a new construct in fan studies: fanactivism that closely resembles more accepted cultural forms like religion. Fandom may be the topic of interest, but at the heart of this study is a deeper understanding of the constitutive forces that are involved in the creation of all social reality.