On Being A “Real Fan”

Sarim Irfan
The Messy Artist Blogs
4 min readMay 4, 2017

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Real recognises real… Unless real is new.

(Credit: Banksy)

Today is Wednesday; the middle of the working week, a perfect time for confusion. See, on Wednesdays, I’m often left perplexed — should I be feeling like “ergh, I’m only two days in”, or should I be celebrating the fact that only two work days remain?

Okay fine, I tried too hard to connect Wednesday to confusion. But that’s for good reason. Today’s topic is a source of bewilderment for me; that is, the concept of the “real fan”.

Before I complain about the “real fan” phenomenon, I should define it (duh?). A so-called “real fan” is, to my understanding, a person who is true in their devotion to a popular celebrity or franchise. This apparent integrity stems from said fan having been a supporter of the thing in question since ‘day one’. Considering this concept is popular among millennials, being a ‘day one’ fan is actually impossible in regards to a fair number of artists and franchises; most of us were either too young or simply not born in time to have been an early fan of whatever the thing in question is.

For example…

For more technical definition, consult the oft-overlooked Urban Dictionary:

Allow me to explain further with an example. Ever heard of The Weeknd? For those who haven’t, yes, there’s an ‘e’ missing; it’s a thing, don’t question it. Now, one of the biggest instances of “real fan”-ism I have ever come across stems from The Weeknd. Now one of the biggest R&B singers in the world, young Abel Tesfaye actually began in the realm of mixtapes. His debut mixtape, House of Balloons, boasted a tracklist of pure sex, drugs, and darkness. When it dropped in 2011, I was 13, going on 14. Naturally, I didn’t listen to the sex, drugs, and darkness stuff at that point.

When I first started listening to The Weeknd, it was with the 2015 single Often. The track was a huge hit, gaining more mainstream attention than Tesfaye had ever had before. However, it was that exact mainstream appeal which worked to my detriment. Soon after I started engaging in conversations about the artist, and people understood that I had only really listened to Often, I began to receive accusations of being “fake”, and being a “fake fan”.

Which left me like:

I was as clueless to my crime as young Michael Cera looks. (via GIPHY)

I had no idea what I had done to prompt such pointless furor. I hadn’t claimed to be a huge fan of The Weeknd, nor had I made any reference to his older work during the conversation. Hell, I hadn’t even said much about the song I did know!

But it was too late. The “real fans” smelled blood, and were upon me.

This interaction was when I truly noticed the whole idea of practically needing credentials to be a fan of things. So many people subscribe to this idea, thinking there is something inherently wrong with new fans. The “real fan” is not a rare phenomenon; it’s a bloody culture.

…or, like, a subculture of millennial culture. Either way, it’s too big.

What? I had to. (via GIPHY)

Now, I will admit that I too promoted the concept of the “real fan” once, when I was 13 or so. Being 13, I suffered from heavy sheep mentality at the time. For example, I was annoyed at certain people in my year for claiming to be Eminem fans, despite having only ever listened to his 2010 effort, Recovery. Not one of the accused had ever touched The Slim Shady EP, or any of Em’s other hit albums that came before. I genuinely shot someone a dirty look over this. It was a time of stupidity.

Admission over, let’s wrap up.

Ultimately, I do think it’s all ridiculous, BUT. In a way, I kind of subscribe to “real fan”-ism myself. That’s not to say I’m out here attacking people who just happen to be new to fandoms I’m a part of. That kind of “real fan”-ism is plain stupid. But, I understand hating bandwagoners; if you’re going to claim to be a big fan of something or someone, go back and listen to/watch/read/experience what came before. Don’t make broad, definitive-sounding statements about things you know very little about.

That side of the “real-fan” concept is fair, and completely defendable. It’s the manic, vicious side that I take issue with. I believe fandoms should ultimately be promoting unity between those in them, not bickering over who’s more of a fan.

And that’s that.

I’ve really enjoyed ending these posts with examples or satirical takes on the matters at hand. As such, please enjoy this mockery of “real fan”-ism with one of the most fraudulent people in the mainstream media today:

You’re allowed to not know this one.

Till next we meet,
Sarim

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