David Bowie

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Name: David Robert Jones
Also Known As: David Bowie
Occupation: musician, actor
Medium: music, film, stage
Works: see David Bowie discography and David Bowie filmography at Wikipedia
Official Website(s): http://www.davidbowie.com/
Fan Website(s): see §Fansites & Resources
On Fanlore: Related pages

David Bowie was an iconic English musician whose career spanned from the 1960s until his death in 2016.

There are several facets of David Bowie fandom, including fannish activities centred on compiling discographies and analysis of Bowie's music, as well as the creation of fanfiction, fanart, and other creative fanworks. Such fanworks exist for both Bowie song fandom(s) and Bowie RPF fandom, as do works based on Bowie's many stage and media personas, which straddle the line between the two.

As a Musician & Icon

Bowie released 27 studio albums over a career spanning more than five decades, and is one of the best-selling music artists of all time.[1] He is credited with helping to found the glam rock subgenre and inspiring the punk rock movement.[2]

Bowie is also famous for his many eccentric and gender-nonconforming personas (see §Bowie's Personas). His androgynous style and flexible sexuality is sometimes credited with helping increase cultural tolerance of non-straight and non-binary identities,[3] and to some he was a queer icon.[4]

Bowie's death in 2016 led to an outpouring of remembrances, eulogies, and fanart tributes from the fandom community.[5] However, the praise for Bowie and the perception that fans were whitewashing his faults also led to a number of posts on social media sites such as Tumblr detailing Bowie's past "problematic" behaviour, particularly in regard to racism and alleged sexual relationships with underaged fans. The debate over whether such "call outs" were appropriate immediately following his death and whether they were disrespectful to his mourning fans caused additional wank.[citation needed]

As an Actor

In fandom, Bowie's best-known acting role is that of Jareth, the Goblin King, in the 1989 film (and now cult classic) Labyrinth. He also appeared in small parts in the 1992 Twin Peaks prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige.

Bowie's first starring film role was in The Man Who Fell to Earth (AO3 tag); the titular character he portrayed is somewhat of a precursor to Bowie's "Thin White Duke" persona. Other Bowie films with microfandoms include Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (AO3 tag), The Linguini Incident (AO3 tag / FF.net category), and The Hunger (AO3 tag) (and later the TV series it inspired). Bowie also appeared on Broadway as the eponymous star of The Elephant Man.


Real-person fiction about Bowie falls under the Music RPF umbrella. More specifically, he is often included in Glam Rock RPF (AO3 fandom tag). Bowie RPF can also be Actor RPF.

In RPF, Bowie is most commonly shipped with other rock musicians of the 70s and 80s with whom he collaborated.

His most common RPF pairing is with Mick Jagger. Bowie and Jagger have long been rumoured to have had an affair in the 70s,[6] and they famously collaborated on a cover of—and a cracktastic and slashy music video for—the song "Dancing in the Street".[7]

Bowie is also commonly paired with Freddie Mercury of Queen, with whom he recorded "Under Pressure", as well as with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop—both of whom influenced Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona.[8] Bowie and Iggy Pop shared an apartment in Berlin during the 70s.[9] These RPF pairings mirror Velvet Goldmine's most popular pairing, Brian/Curt: the character of Brian Slade is heavily based on Bowie, and the character Curt Wild is inspired by both Iggy Pop and Lou Reed and incorporates elements of their lives.

Other real people he is paired with include Spider from Mars Mick "Ronno" Ronson, and Brian Molko of Placebo. Crack pairings for Bowie also exist, from pairing him with one of his personas or characters he portrayed (see §Bowie/Bowie Slash) to the more inexplicable, such as Bowie/Shrek.[10]

Fanfiction pairing Bowie with an original character or self-insert is also popular. As of June 2016, this is the most popular relationship for Bowie on Archive of Our Own, with 38 works tagged David Bowie/Original Female Character(s).[11] In addition to works set in the "canon" (real-world) universe, alternate universe Bowie/OC fics or imagines are also common. One such example trope is "Professor Bowie" (or sometimes "Professor Jones") fic, where Bowie is a university professor.[12]

Bowie's real-life family also sometimes appears in fanfiction, including his first wife Angie Bowie (AO3 tag) and second wife Imam (AO3 tag), to whom he was married from 1992 until his death. Bowie's children also occasionally appear in RPF works, and his son Duncan Jones has a fannish presence of his own as a director of sci-fi films.[13]

Bowie's Personas

Main personas:

  • Ziggy Stardust (AO3 tag) Ziggy Stardust is a character who first appears on the 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars. His personality and life is described in some of the album's songs. The story is of a space alien who comes to Earth and forms a rock band to warn humanity that the world is coming to an end. He is usually assumed to be visually represented by Bowie himself, in the album artwork, where he appears with short, spiky blonde hair. Most fans, when referring to Ziggy Stardust, are usually thinking of the further developed character, Aladdin Sane, who appears on the eponymous 1973 album, with bright red hair and no eyebrows.
  • Aladdin Sane (AO3 tag) A further development of Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane had the famous bright red "Kabuki lion-wig" haircut, which is usually associated with Ziggy, along with the lack of eyebrows that helped make the look memorable. Aladdin first appears on 1973 album Aladdin Sane, on the cover artwork and in the title track. Bowie played the character during his live shows of the era, with heavy makeup, many costume changes, and carefully rehearsed mime routines.
  • The Thin White Duke (AO3 tag) The Thin White Duke makes his first appearance on 1976's Station To Station album, where he is referred to in the title track. Visually, he is represented by David Bowie as he appeared on the subsequent tour for the album, with slicked back blonde and red hair, a white shirt, black waistcoat, black trousers, minimal makeup, and frequently a cigarette as accessory. Bowie used distinctive mime routines for his performances of this era.

Other characters sometime considered distinct personas:

  • The Man Who Sold The World
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth
  • Halloween Jack (AO3 tag)
  • Pierrot (AO3 tag) The name Pierrot is a reference to Pierrot the clown, a character from pantomime and Commedia dell'Arte, who the Bowie character somewhat resembles. Bowie's Pierrot appears on the cover of 1980's Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), and notably in the music video for Ashes to Ashes, the lead single from that album. He is a clown in an elegant blue outfit with a white hat and full-face makeup.
  • Screaming Lord Byron

In discussions of his personas, the characters Bowie portrayed films are also often included (e.g. Jareth, Jack Celliers, Monte) or conflated (e.g. Thomas Jerome Newton).

Further reading:

Bowie/Bowie Slash

Fanworks pairing two or more of Bowie's characters or personas (including the "real" RPF character) is commonly termed "Bowie/Bowie" slash. This is some of the most common Bowie-related fanfiction, and is also popular in fanart.

In addition to characters commonly accepted as "personas" and characters portrayed by Bowie in films, Bowie/Bowie slash—as well as Bowie "ensemble" gen—works may also include characters portrayed by Bowie in music videos or promotional films, such as Vic and Screaming Lord Byron (AO3 tag) from Jazzin' for Blue Jean, or other related "characters", such as the half-Bowie half-canine "Diamond Dog" from the album artwork of the 1974 album Diamond Dogs.

One of the first Bowie/Bowie fan arts posted online, to LJ around 2004-5, by http://rocknroll1968.deviantart.com

Example Bowie/Bowie Fanworks

  • David Bowie & David Brighton Vittel TV Commercial is a gen TV spot featuring David Bowie, along with a cast of many of his personas played by professional Bowie impersonator David Brighton.
  • Splitting Headache was a gen David Bowie fanfiction posted to a Bowie forum in the early 2000s about Bowie's personas escaping his mind and having adventures together.

Fanworks Based on Bowie's Music

Bowie Song Fandom generally revolves around fanfiction (and, rarely, other fanworks) about the characters that appear in Bowie's songs—usually set in the songs' own universes and not involving Bowie himself or RPF at all.

The most popular character is Major Tom (AO3 tag), first introduced in the 1969 single "Space Oddity" and reappearing in several of Bowie's other songs throughout the years, most notably "Ashes to Ashes" (1980), in which he is usually interpreted as an author surrogate for Bowie. Major Tom's story has also been continued in unauthorized professional works by others, most famously Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)" (1983), which may or may not be taken by fans as canon for the character.

Other characters who occasionally feature in fanworks include the Jean Genie from the 1972 song of the same name (AO3 tag), Nathan Adler from Bowie's 1995 album Outside (AO3 tag), and the titular (and otherwise unnamed) character from the song "The Man Who Sold the World" (AO3 tag), which was also popularized by Nirvana's 1993 cover version.

Bowie song fandoms on AO3 include:

Fanart & Cosplay

Fanart and cosplay of Bowie's various characters and personas (esp. Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Jareth) are very popular.

Example Art

Other Fandom Impact

Bowie's music

Bowie's music is often used in fanvids and filks. For example, three filks in the 1988 songbook Songs of the Seven are based on Bowie's music. Vids featuring Bowie's music include "Space Oddity" by Waldo (Farscape, 2001), "Under Pressure" by Ancasta (The Professionals, 2006), and "Growin' Up" by f1renze (Freaks and Geeks, 2011). Bowie's music is also commonly included on fan soundtracks and fanmixes.

Bowie is also the focus of many, many music zines.

Velvet Goldmine

Bowie was the inspiration for the character Brian Slade in the movie Velvet Goldmine, which spawned its own fandom.



Fannish Links

LiveJournal communities

DeviantArt communities


Yahoo! Groups

Fansites & Resources


  1. ^ Wikipedia:David Bowie and Wikipedia:List of best-selling music artists (accessed 17 June 2016). See also Wikipedia:David Bowie discography.
  2. ^ David Bowie#Legacy and influence at Wikipedia, citing Scott Schinder & Andy Schwartz (Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever, 2007) and Michael Campbell (Popular Music in America:The Beat Goes On, 2011).
  3. ^ Mark Easton for BBC News wrote: "Britain has become far more tolerant of difference. And David Bowie helped us reach that place.... Would gay rights, gender equality legislation or same-sex marriage have enjoyed the broad support they do today without Bowie's androgynous challenge all those years ago? I suspect not." (Bowie: the creative force who changed Britain, 12 January 2016).
  4. ^ Bowie publicly identified as bisexual in the '70s but recanted this in the '80s (see David Bowie#Sexuality at Wikipedia). In a 2002 interview, Bowie said: "I had no problem with people knowing I was bisexual. But I had no inclination to hold any banners or be a representative of any group of people." (Blender, August 2002: Dear Superstar: David Bowie, archived 15 October 2004 by the Wayback Machine.) Scott Schinder & Andy Schwartz wrote, nonetheless: "As one of the first pop stars to declare attraction to the same sex, Bowie became the figurehead of a subculture of disenfranchised youth of all genders, sexualities, and cultural differences." (Icons of Rock: An Encyclopedia of the Legends Who Changed Music Forever, 2007).
  5. ^ The January 27, 2016 episode of the podcast Fansplaining, "Episode 14: Death and the Fangirl," discussed fans' and fandom's reaction to Bowie's death and Alan Rickman's death three days later (transcrpit). OTW Fannews reported that "The death of David Bowie prompted media attention to his fans" (OTW Fannews: Discussing Fandom, 19 February 2016), including an article about Bowie fanart: "This David Bowie Fan Art Is A Testament To His Impact On His Fans" by Alyssa Fikse at UPROXX, 21 January 2016.
  6. ^ For example, see the July 2012 articles at the New York Daily News and The Sydney Morning Herald. See also this Tumblr post by user flameintobeing with an excerpt from Angela Bowie's Backstage Passes: Life on the Wild Side with David Bowie. Though when asked in 2002 if Mick Jagger was a good kisser, Bowie replied "You’d have to ask someone else, not me." (Blender, August 2002: Dear Superstar: David Bowie, archived 15 October 2004 by the Wayback Machine.)
  7. ^ David Bowie & Mick Jagger - Dancing In The Street on YouTube (see also Dancing in the Street#David Bowie and Mick Jagger version at Wikipedia). The dancing-in-the-street tag on Tumblr includes photomanips, gifsets, and other fanart based on the video. Also popular on social media is a version of the video with the audio replaced with "Cotton Eye Joe".
  8. ^ David Bowie at Wikipedia, citing Christopher Sandford, Bowie: Loving The Alien (1997), Da Capo Press, pp. 73–74.
  9. ^ See David Bowie#1976–79: Berlin era and Iggy Pop#Bowie and Berlin: 1976–1978 at Wikipedia.
  10. ^ See shrekbowie at Tumblr and the David Bowie/Shrek AO3 tag. One Shrek-Bowie connection is that Bowie recorded a new version of his song "Changes" (as a duet with Butterfly Boucher) for one of the Shrek films.
  11. ^ As of 17 June 2016: 38 works tagged David Bowie/Original Female Character(s) out of 238 total works tagged with the fandom David Bowie (Musician). 159 works on AO3 use the David Bowie character tag, of which 32 are tagged David Bowie/Original Female Character(s). The next most popular relationship tag for Bowie is David Bowie/Lou Reed with 16 works, followed by Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid/David Bowie with 12 works.
  12. ^ For examples of Professor!Bowie, see the professor-bowie tag at the Forbidden Words Deafen Me Tumblr, and the Professor Bowie - Freeform AO3 tag (currently unfilterable). There is also a smattering of Professor!Bowie and other Bowie RPF on FanFiction.Net (generally in the Misc. Movies category), for example "Lessons" by fearmelovemex (published January 2011).
  13. ^ Duncan Jones is commonly praised by fans for his encouragement of and respect for fandom. He retweeted links to AO3 fanfic for his film Moon and left a flattered review on one of the fics. See The Daily Dot's article "When celebrities discover fanfiction... about themselves" (01 January 2013).
  14. ^ allthenobodyppl at Tumblr, co-admin of the Portrait in Flesh blog. (Accessed 17 June 2016.)