There’s nothing like indulging in your favorite pieces of media: Cozying up with a feel-good book or movie always aims to please, no matter what kind of day you’ve had. Moments of escapism — especially those found in fiction — create a connection between a person and the creative outlets that comforts them. In light of finding those characters or worlds that lift you up, it can’t be denied that this love of fiction can turn from adoration to obsession in the blink of an eye. Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is not exempt from this situation either, as the audience’s rush for tickets raises concerns over the essence of “fan culture.”
The web-slinging superhero is back, and he’s bringing the big screen with him. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, version of the beloved Spider-Man comic book character will soon grace movie theaters everywhere in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Played by Tom Holland, Peter Parker is once again falling into trouble faster than he can fix it. With his friends in tow, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange to watch his back, the superhero will learn what happens when meddling with forces outside of his universe.
Since its inception in 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had a grip on comic-lovers everywhere. From timeless classics like Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man to more recent favorites like Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi, these on-screen adaptations have garnered cult-like followings that carry the franchise. Make no mistake — Holland’s Spider-Man joins these ranks, as his character seems to be collectively adored by MCU fans. How can you tell? It’s simple: Enter the realm of movie premieres.
Fans have been waiting patiently to see their Spider-Man return for another adventure in this third installment of the MCU Spider-Man series. While tickets for the movie premiere — scheduled for Dec. 17 — are on sale now, don’t be surprised if you can’t find seats for the opening weekend shows. With so much anticipation riding off this premiere, many fans are clamoring to be “first in line” to see the movie right when it comes out.
Ticket sales opened to the public in late November, where the record-breaking demand was a bright spot following months of subdued movie releases. As a Deadline article recalled, this pre-sale on Fandango “saw its best day since 2019’s ‘Avengers: Endgame.’” However, the high sales were joined by websites getting stalled and delayed from the traffic. Because “the marketplaces started to crash one by one” from the number of people trying to be first in line, the tickets were quickly sold out.
Patient fans who could not secure opening weekend tickets did not wait to air their frustrations on the matter. One Twitter user posted a meme with the caption, “This is where i’d put Spider-Man: No Way Home ticket IF I HAD ONE,” coupled with emojis of Spider-Man’s signature mask. While many users harped on about what they lacked, some took to social media to vent about the ticketing services that crashed from so many fans logging on at once. Another tweet uses images and lines from the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” trailer to mock the overwhelming sales, joking that theater sites would also say, “They’re starting to come through, and I can’t stop them” in response to fan demands. Since the highly anticipated wait turned into a highly unlikely purchase within minutes, all fans could do was laugh about the situation.
Despite the unfortunate number of people who were not first in line for tickets, another pressing issue arose for die-hard fans worldwide. In no time at all, scalpers started to resell opening-weekend tickets on eBay. CBR reported, “Over 400 eBay listings for tickets are currently live on the website, with prices ranging from reasonable to outrageous.” The precious seats are only listed for certain cities on eBay, but their marked-up prices hedge into ridiculous amounts for a movie ticket. For example, some scalpers are reselling tickets from $2,500 up to $25,000.
At some point, people must ask themselves if this is a productive way to embrace new material from their favorite characters. Is the thrill of being first in line for the newest movies worth the risk of dropping five figures on a ticket? Even IGN wrote on the subject, “While movie theater tickets are certainly more expensive than they were years ago, paying hundreds of dollars for a $20 movie ticket still seems excessive even for opening night tickets.”
Though the ethics of scalpers and their ridiculous price increases is a separate conversation, it is also important to address the “fandom” center of it all. Knowing that large ticket sales are great for reviving the cozy movie theater, it does raise the question of what motivates the people who buy these scalped tickets as well. Is there some benefit to being “first in line” for a new production? The thrill of the chase is an essential part of sinking deep into fan culture, one that only the bravest tend to look toward.
The sustaining audience of fandom — specifically fandoms related to mainstream media — is equally an impressive and fearful sight. On one hand, when fans establish their love for a certain character or fictional realm, their dedication makes outsiders admire their expressions. From keeping up to date with the latest news, debunking “fan theories” or even creating art pieces to show their affections, one can’t deny how the momentum of fandom fuels their respective media. It may seem trivial, but the media that people choose to subscribe to can also emulate the feelings of adventure or excitement that they aren’t experiencing in their own lives. Holding comfort characters close to one’s heart evidently helps people navigate through each day as projections of what fans need the most.
Fiction is a beacon of hope to remind fans that if their favorite characters can overcome hardships, then they can as well. Fandom is a backbone of support for many, made apparent from the way that individuals build communities out of shared fictional loves. Besides the MCU, fantasy worlds such as “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” are examples of the various fandoms that pervade the internet. These die-hard fans show their dedication through creative production, while simultaneously inviting more people into their communities each day. The camaraderie of fans coming together in support of their favorite is a sweet sentiment, yet the line needs to be drawn when support turns obsessive.
Fandoms can turn toxic when there is less emphasis on being a “fan” and more on acting like a “fanatic.” While the word “fan” is arguably derived from “fanatic,” to step into fanatic territory is to go to great — and somewhat unnecessary — lengths for the things that you adore. This worship-like devotion, when applied to fictional media subcultures, can become dangerous because of the way it disregards the human behind the fan. Even if being “first in line” has its perks, the mentality of the “fanatic” fan can compromise the safety and well-being of others.
Stories of fans spending days camping out for new movie premieres or invading the privacy of their idols tend to take the whole “fan obsession” to new and dangerous heights. Perhaps without knowing it, the eBay ticket scalpers for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” are dipping into this territory of “unhealthy” fandom. By dangling these idolized movie tickets in front of people’s faces — with price increases of hundreds of dollars — scalpers push fans to question how far they’ll go for their fandoms.
Since going into debt for tickets should not be the way that one pays homage to their fictional favorites, this leads to a much-needed conversation of fandom superiority. That opening-night obsession seems to privilege certain fans over others because of the ways that they can access certain opportunities. As a result, the core of fandom obsession can breed negative associations with what it means to be a “fan” of something.
Whether you can afford to be first in line for the newest movies or you read through blogs littered with your favorite characters, all versions of fandom love are valuable. The notion that “fans” of media need to do certain things to be fans — especially for franchises as wide-ranging as the MCU — sidelines those who just want to celebrate beloved pieces of fiction. The fact remains that fandom comes in all shapes and sizes that will adapt to your escapism needs.
A simmering anticipation for “Spider-Man: No Way Home” remains a surefire way to get movie-goers excited to jump off the couch and return to the theaters. The stellar ticket sales are just the tip of the iceberg of what fans can do if they set their minds to it, and the response is overall received with positivity. As stated in Variety, the ticket sales are “a welcome champagne problem for the beleaguered movie theater business.” Fandom critique will forever sway between too much or too little; at the end of the day, all that defines a “fan” is if you’re enjoying yourself and the media you interact with.
The fact that Spider-Man “does whatever a spider can” for his audience — even going as far as damaging the ticketing services — reflects the undying love that fans have for the character. No matter how soon or late you are to the fandom, the most important character remains the superhero, as you see them.