The life cycle of a fandom
of a work, franchise, genre, or creator can be roughly subdivided into seven stages:
- Stage 0: Depending on the level of preemptive promotion:
- (a) Obscurity. The work has just began publication and is relatively unknown. Every Sleeper Hit starts off here before quickly getting popular.
- (b) Pre-release hype owed either to the creator's previous fame or to a promotion campaign. The fandom is technically not there yet but the seeds are sown.
- Stage 1: Relative obscurity. Fans are disjointed and have little communication. Claims of "It Needs More Love" are heard.
- Stage 2: Fans begin to communicate and form clubs that will become the devoted core of the fandom. Troper Critical Mass is usually reached at this stage. Cult Classics remain here forever.
- Stage 3: Fandom heads towards mainstream. Hatedom forms as a Vocal Minority, and the fandom is too small to drown them out. Most creators start paying attention to the fandom at this stage.
- Stage 4: Fandom becomes large and organized. The majority drowns out the hatedom voices. "Normal People" outside of the fandom begin to recognize its object's popularity.
- Stage 5: The work becomes sufficiently ingrained in contemporary culture for even the people not familiar with it to know a lot about it, technically turning everyone into a fan. These are the works most likely to become Trope Overdosed.
Reference examples: Batman, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, Super Mario Bros..
- Stage 6:
- (a) Cooldown. The fandom slips back to stage 2 from any of the previous stages, becoming a cult.
- (b) Oblivion. The fandom goes back to obscurity from any of the previous stages.
- Stage X: Newbie Boom. After slipping back to obscurity, the fandom springs back towards mainstream due to external factors, such as a Continuity Reboot or an adaptation/spin-off series becoming popular.
Note that not every fandom passes through every stage—some stick at the early stages forever and only a select few ever reach stage 5.