What it means for me to be a Fan of something these days.
I am an unabashed, enthusiastic fan of many things. I am a self proclaimed nerd with the zeal of an old time sideshow barker when it comes to anything that I currently adore. I love stories, art, and culture. I love consuming them, discussing them, supporting them, and displaying my loyalty at every turn. I am that annoying friend that relates almost every subject back to the thing or things she adores no matter how much of a stretch it is!
Now, along with the stories, art and culture I obsess over, I am an observer of people. People at my workplace, on my commute, in my local cafe, friends, family, friends of friends, etc. And I do my best to notice people, and to notice things about them. Now even if I don’t know a person well, I sometimes just notice something cool, interesting or good hearted about them, and I become a fan until something happens to change my view. It’s of course easier to be a fan of an individual human from afar, because you are less likely to see their flaws or inconsistencies.
Nowhere is this idea of being a fan from afar more apparent than with celebrities. In fact, we( myself included) forget that they are ordinary people, with flaws and inconsistencies as well as good points. This is especially true on the internet, where it is easier than ever to follow everyone famous and see how they do or do not conduct themselves online. Whereas we may be somewhat annoyed or temporarily disappointed at a misstep, a hasty post or a flubbed comment from Joe Schmo or Jane Doe down the street, famous people, especially famous people we love, are held to a different standard. Either they must be forgiven and defended no matter what, OR, they are on such thin ice, that any perceived misstep they make online is enough to completely turn deep ardor to blackest hate. Rather than saying to ourselves “I do not like these things about (famous person) , but I still enjoy the thing they made” Or “ I disagree with (famous person)’ s views on (insert topic here) but I don’t know them at all, so I can’t say much else about them as a person.” , we paint things very black and white instead of the shades of grey we so generously use with those we actually see and know in our lives.
This isn’t meant to condone illegal acts, or justify hate just because a person may be famous, or you may not know them well. This is more about smaller missteps than crime or hate speech etc. It’s about the grace we so readily extend when someone is seen as a fellow human. No less, and as is important to remember when a fan, NO MORE.
Another double edged sword about being a fan on the net is the ability to tweet/comment /message your favorite stars/authors/musicians/etc. , to get bent out of shape when they don’t individually acknowledge you, or be giggling with glee if they do. These days we expect individual response. I battle myself about this all the time. I blatantly stalk certain celebs on twitter, and when one of them shows me some favorite/retweet love , well, let’s just say I do a little squeal and happy dance that I will leave to your imagination. HOWEVER, I have the responsibility of managing my expectations when they don’t respond. I must be the one to make my day and make the days of others better around me, not rely on someone I do not know to do it for me.
It seems to me, and I have heard someone speak recently on this topic, that for some, being a fan is more than just appreciating something or someone, it is a guiding compass. A foundation of wisdom to build off of. A religion of sorts. If this is the case, it becomes easy for us to see a celeb as something more than human. When we stop seeing a person as a human, we can see them as an angel , or an animal. Neither of which is accurate. So as a fan, I have to constantly remind myself that this is a human being, full of good days and bad, flaws and triumphs. Not only that, but this is a human being that I know ABOUT, but do not KNOW. A stranger. A stranger who presents a certain side of themselves to the world, with other sides strategically covered, just like me. Since they are a stranger, I have to remind myself that they do not owe me time, attention, or to respond or act according to my wishes in any given situation. If something occurs that is a crime/hate, or even big misstep, or their conduct is shown to be unbecoming in my eyes, I have the freedom to no longer support that person or their art, or change the level at which I am a fan of them as I see fit. They however, do not owe me any sort of explanation personally. I mean it’s nice when they do explain, but it shouldn’t be an obligation.
This isn’t true for only the flaws, it’s also true for the good stuff. I’ll give you an example. Two famous folks I follow on twitter are very good at tweeting out seriously sweet, kind and encouraging “good morning” and “good night” greetings at some point in their morning/evening. People love them, it lifts them up, and it just makes everyone’s feed that much brighter. But if they don’t tweet a good morning, or if it’s more subdued, then they get questioned as well. They are not obliged to be chipper, if they are not feeling up to it. Just like you and I are not. One day in particular after a brutal news event, the one person just couldn’t write their usual sweet encouraging good morning in the face of tragedy, and they told us why they couldn’t. BUT THEY SHOULDN’T HAVE TO. This person wanted to, and so that was cool, but too often I think they are made to explain more than they should.
I suppose I feel the need to write all of this in the wake of an article talking about entitled fans, and of course, the shooting of a You Tube star by a fan not that long ago.
I think the bottom line of all this rambling is, that we can adore a person or thing created by a person, but that putting someone that high on a pedestal is just as dehumanizing as treating them like an animal.