Every cliché you've heard about Star Trek fandom is probably wrong. At least according to "The Culture of Trek Fandom: Wouldn't you like to be a Trekkie too?," an extensive survey of 5,041 fans conducted by a Cal State anthropology professor in 2010. The results, published recently in a 26-page study, may surprise you.
In the first of several reveals, Daryl Frazetti officially busts the myth that most fans are men. It turns out that 57 percent of Star Trek fans are women.
Star Trek, despite some of the obvious sexism of the original series, has done quite a bit to inspire female fans. During the 1960's and the feminist movement at the time, Trek empowered women. Today, many women credit their professional careers in the sciences, entertainment, medicine' the military, and more with having been influenced in some way by Star Trek.
Also, 54 percent of Trek fans are over 40, but considering that Star Trek first aired in 1967, it's surprising that 46 percent were under 40.
Frazetti details how Star Trek fans wholeheartedly embrace their love of their favorite sci-fi show, with such activities as costuming, attending conventions and joining a Star Trek-based service group. 98 percent of respondents said that Star Trek has positively impacted them in some way or another, such as meeting their lifelong best friends. And as MTV wrote, "79% said they were involved in Star Trek fandom because they agreed with the philosophical ideals of the shows."
Star Trek has also influenced the careers of fans. One became an anthropologist as a way to "seek out new life and new civilizations," while others became scientists. Costuming, filmmaking and nursing were also careers inspired by a love of Star Trek. 81 percent of fans described the positive impact that fandom had on their work and their personal interactions on the job.
The study explored the beliefs of the participants about religion, society and self-representation. Interestingly, the study also covered deviances and biases of Star Trek fans by asking, "What is normal?"
This is where the study seems to have some conflict in answers: even though 91 percent dressed in some sort of Star Trek gear in some way (comm badges, t-shirts, costumes, etc), and 59 percent of respondents who reported described costuming as "normal" (page 7), conversely, 47 percent of respondents identified costuming as "deviance" (page 9).
The paper is an intriguing look at Star Trek fandom. (And we'd love to see Frazetti someday expand his scope to study fandom as a whole!)