How Brendan Fraser became the internet's heartthrob again
As the 90s fave gears up for his Hollywood return, his stans reflect on how their longstanding support for him has paid off.
Brendan Fraser is everywhere. Not technically in movies, of course (although he is mounting a spectacular return to acting, starting with the starring role in upcoming A24 movie, The Whale), but on the internet. Log on to any social media app (TikTok, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, even good old Tumblr) and you’ll eventually come across a screengrab from one of the actor’s best known, beloved performances in 1999’s The Mummy; or a tweet about how he was the perfect himbo in George of the Jungle. Welcome to a wholesome, supportive and delightfully unproblematic corner of the internet, solely dedicated to the actor Brendan Fraser; a movement now known as the “Brenaissance”.
The Brenaissance is indicative of far more than the 90s and early 00s nostalgia that pervades our current trend cycles, however. Instead, what we’re seeing is the successful result of dedicated online fan communities zealously supporting the actor, and an active interest from the general public in the wellbeing of man who has been let down by the Hollywood machine.
In 2018, journalist Zach Baron profiled Fraser for GQ in an article titled What Ever Happened to Brendan Fraser? It turns out that what had ‘happened’ to the actor was extensive damage to his body after years of stunt-heavy films, resulting in seven years spent in and out of hospitals. In the article, the actor jokes that he feels like an overworked proletariat, which, when he outlines the extent of the damage and how many invasive procedures he has had to have, seems a pretty accurate description.
In the original piece, Fraser comes across as an endearing and sweet man who loves his horses and his sons. The sucker punch however (and the reason why the article garnered so much subsequent attention) was the allegation that, in 2003, the actor had been groped by the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. He said he felt frightened to admit it, but the recent #MeToo movement and Times Up campaign had inspired him to go public. Fraser’s allegation, as well as allegations of similar incidents from other actors like Terry Crews, sustained important conversations about men as sexual assault victims, showcasing the complex power imbalance in the entertainment industry.
Teri Wise is based in Raleigh, North Carolina and spends most of her spare time acting a moderator for the Facebook group ‘Brendan Fraser Fans 2.0’, a 27,000 member-strong community whose sole purpose is dedicated to supporting the actor. She tells me that, aside from being a versatile and talented actor, Fraser is a “rare gem in Hollywood, a real national treasure” who provides comfort to his fans because of what he has been through. “Many fans who are new to the group have commented how they feel like this group is a home away from home for them,” Teri explains. “The love and adoration for Brendan is worldwide.” Members of the group are as wholesome and unproblematic in their posting as you’d expect — they share photos and articles about the actor, discuss their favourite scenes from his films that they love, as well as fundraising for causes in his name.
The majority of the fans who are part of online communities that I speak to mention the experiences outlined in the profile. An anonymous member of the subreddit r/SAVEBRENDAN, a 15,000 strong forum for sharing memes and information about the actor, told me what drew them further into the Fraser fandom: “He’s a private person, but he’s also honest about what he’s been through,” they say. “As a fan, it made me feel like I’d been taken into his confidence, and because of that perceived confidence, I became emotionally invested in his wellbeing.”
In a more recent interview on SiriusFM, Fraser is asked if he felt that he was blacklisted from Hollywood after reporting the incident to the HPFA. He is diplomatic in his answer: “I don’t know if that’s the term that I would use, but I know that […] there is a time in everyone’s career when the phone stops ringing.” He goes on to talk about the progress that has been made with stories like his, and that it’s a “new day” and he’s doing “absolutely fine.” Whether or not he was blacklisted (and he points out that he wouldn’t know if he was either way), the fact remains that Fraser’s career dramatically altered for a number of years -- until now.
It’s hard to quantify the impact that fan communities have had on his career. What is evident, however, is that their large, active memberships mean it’s likely that they have had more than a small helping hand in the wider online Brenaissance movement. Teri’s community, for instance, even with its 27,000 members, is merely an offshoot of the original ‘Brendan Fraser Fans’ group, which eventually became too large to manage after swelling in membership to over 100,000 people.
TikTok has been a gateway for many people joining these groups – the majority of fans I speak to were reminded of how much they loved Brendan Fraser in their youth through TikToks showing snippets of interviews with the actor. The hashtag #brendanfraser on the video sharing platform has amassed over 139.1 million views; #brenaissance 22.2 million; #brendanfraserdeservesbetter 3.4 million. These videos are a mix of thirst reactions to his earlier films like George of the Jungle and The Mummy, breakdowns of the GQ profile and its impact, and one particular video by user @littlelottiecosplay, which has over half a million likes and 2.5 million views.
Lindley, the creator of the video, is dressed as Rachel Weisz’s character from The Mummy during an online meet and greet with Fraser. He is appreciative of the effort, and tells Lindley that he has recently signed to Martin Scorsese’s next project Killers of the Flower Moon. Lindley tells him that she is excited; that “the internet is so behind you”. It perfectly summarises the professional status of the actor: he is once again being presented with the opportunities that should never have been taken away from him in the first place, and a part of that feels indebted to the overwhelming support from individuals across the internet.
On Facebook specifically, this sense of community has manifested in an astonishing amount of charity work. Fundraising posts are auctioning Fraser merchandise such as badges, custom prints and autographed photos as well as the private subgroup ‘Brendan Fraser Fans for Charity’, which has almost 400 members. Fans raise money for various causes associated with the actor, including Abilis, a non-profit organisation that provides services to children with special needs and their families in Connecticut, in tribute to Fraser’s eldest son, who is autistic.
Spencer Nicole Vaught joined the Brendan Fraser subreddit a short while ago after seeing an interview with Fraser she saw on TikTok that re-established her nostalgia for him. Now 34, the Kansas City native says her role as fan has slightly altered since her teen yers, as she appreciates the “genuinely nice” person he is and what he has been through, as well as how attractive he is. “I always felt uncomfortable with the attention that his altered looks had received in the years that he had less work,” Spencer says. She’s since realised that she could become part of a collective that worked against the negativity aimed towards him. “I always missed his presence and always wanted him to make a comeback,” Spencer adds. “I just didn’t know until r/SAVEBRENDAN that my voice could help turn things around.”
On the occasions that Fraser has been directly faced with the support that stems from these fan groups, he is visibly touched. There’s Lindley’s viral TikTok as evidence, showing Fraser moved almost to tears. Teri, too, shows me a video from a recent GalaxyCon, where she was able to speak to the actor through a video link. She tells him about the Facebook group and how there are thousands of people worldwide who support and love him, and he’s moved to tears.
Hollywood has a habit of lifting up and then ostracising some of its most promising stars. After decades of being shunned, due to the industry’s mishandling of sexual assault cases, and their lack of appreciation for his sparky talent, Brendan Fraser is finally preparing for his second go at things. The fans who loved him then, some who may have forgotten about him, are back by his side too.