Stans of the World (and other interested parties),
We gather here today and everyday to rejoice in the word of the Church of Pop. It is my honor to have been chosen by The Pop Gods to spread the righteous word and while much of my experience has been positive since I began preaching the Pop Gospel last November, I have to say that the amount of bullshit (for lack of a better term) that is thrown between fanbases is completely ridiculous and quite frankly off-putting. For branding purposes and as an excuse to spend countless hours making some digital art, I will call this phenomenon:
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the idea of fanbase wars, this is primarily an invention of the realm known as social media. The ever-increasing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. has made it incredibly easy for most people to find others with similar interests. The result is a global community where fans from all over the world can interact and essentially form a fan army that could be utilised for significant good or great evil as it relates to putting out positivity or negativity into the world on behalf of our favourite pop stars.
Within every fanbase, there is obviously going to be diversity. You have your casual fans, who generally stay out of trouble but occasionally may weigh in on news about their faves. Then you have your average enthusiasts, who sincerely find joy in supporting and helping to promote their chosen ones and revel in the opportunity to interact with others who feel the same. Generally, these fans aren’t part of the problem, but catch them on a bad day and they might just surprise you. The heart of fanbase wars is the “Stan.” Aside from being a relatively common (and a little boring) male surname, it’s become a sort-of problematic way of identifying a slightly more… eccentric kind of fan. Urban Dictionary defines “Stan” as the following:
With the rise of the previously-mentioned social networking sites, stars have been able to foster closer relationships with their fanbase than ever before. Over the last few years, it’s become a trend for artists to give their fanbase a cute name (see. Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters” or Nicki Minaj’s “Barbz.”) Using sites like Twitter, celebrities now interact with fans, posting thoughts and photos of their lives and experiences and responding to their adoring public directly. As you can imagine, this closeness is like catnip to a Stan. Not only do they think they stand a better chance of getting the attention of their object of worship (or at the very least a member of their P.R. team) but they also have the ability to try and prove to that Idol that they solely are the artist’s most devoted fan. With that desire can come a lot of sensitivity and when you multiply that times say… twenty-five million and then multiply that by the number of active pop stars you’ve got a giant clusterf**k of emotions sitting like an open powder keg.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough; enter the media. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, the media continues it’s long-running game of creating celebrity beefs to sell magazines and get television ratings. Fabricated stories about celebrity feuds are twisted from segment to segment and article to article and these media companies use these same social networking sites to spread these fabrications. Before long fans are attacking artists and even each other over unsubstantiated rumours that are re-blogged, retweeted and misconstrued to a dizzying degree, lighting one too many dangerous sparks over previously-mentioned powder keg and well…
Admittedly, many pop stars (or possibly their management/P.R. teams) tend to propagate these stan wars in a bid to keep people talking. A few examples:
- No one can deny that Gaga’s complete glazing over of the “Born This Way/Express Yourself” debate at the 2011 Grammy awards was deliberately provocative. Claiming she was inspired by Whitney Houston, an artist who was pitted against Madonna by the media in the 1980’s, was both a middle finger to the media and to naysayer’s who claim she ripped Madonna off. This was just as calculated a move as Madonna’s recent revelation that she would perform a mash-up of the two tracks leading into her own: “She’s Not Me” on tour. While it remains to be seen what these two women truly think of each other, a feud that began in the media based on their similarities has now become a full-out battle among their respective fan bases – possibly the most heated of all the fanbase wars.
- Líl Kim & Nicki Minaj have had a relatively high profile beef over the last year or so. It’s pretty obvious this was fueled – at least on Kim’s part – as a device to get people talking about her again after several years outside of the spotlight. Rather than downplay it, both artists have publicly released diss tracks and used them to rile up their fanbases.
- Rihanna’s beating at the hands ex-boyfriend Chris Brown in 2009 was rubbed back in the collective faces of the public this year when the two recorded not one, but two collaborations together that were supposedly not supported by their management or record labels. One of these tracks, a full-length remix of Rihanna’s aggressively sexual “Birthday Cake” featured Brown singing “I wanna fuck you right now, it’s been too long I’ve been missing your body.” When questioned about their intentions with these collaborations, both stars act as though they don’t understand why the mere existence of these Pop Abominations upset people, as if the implications of the situation are completely out of left field. This re-opened the wounds of Rihanna fans who supported the singer as she dealt with the media circus after the attack and caused not only a re-surgence of resentment toward Brown but caused a divide among Rihanna fans; those who thought she crossed a line and those who feel she can do no wrong.
My point in writing all of this out is to try and make you understand that you are being manipulated. You are being manipulated by the media, by the industry and in some cases by the artists you adore. This is not to say that they are bad or under-handed people, but fame is in fact a very big game and when you’re one of the players you do what you’ve got to do.
My dearest friend Heather once said that she would love to be a P.R. person for a Hollywood celebrity. When I asked for an explanation, she explained that P.R. would be a lot like an adult playing with dolls, except the dolls would be celebrities and the whole world would be watching. Why are the paparazzi always there to snap a picture? Because somebody called to tell them to be there! Why are entertainment news shows reporting these rumours about celebrity feuds? Because someone on the inside tipped them off so that those stars would be in the news. It’s all a big game! So if the level of reality is so obviously questionable, why are people taking it all so seriously?
- How does being a fan of Lady Gaga negate all of the trailblazing Madonna has done in the last 30 years? Do you not see that without Madonna, Gaga may not exist in her present form?
- Why does someone have to choose between Nicki or Líl Kim? Aren’t they both great artists? Does it really matter if the two of them don’t get along?
- Why should questioning Rihanna about why she would make such a stupid and irresponsible decision mean that you’re not truly a fan? Should we ostracise someone from a fanbase for making a valid point about the awful message she’s sending out to young abuse victims?
Regardless of the fact that the stars and their keepers seem to want to use these ridiculous fanbase battles for publicity, why do we – as fans of popular music – feel that we should buy into it? Is this really what being a fan is about; acting as a sheep? Having no independent thought or objectivity beyond mere reverence?
The world of popular culture is saturated with many people who have their own points of view. Some critique art and performance professionally, some as amateurs and some just as fans. You don’t have to agree with their viewpoints but you also don’t have to attack them for disagreeing with you or for not sharing in your adoration of any specific artist. While I’m 100% sure that your faves do appreciate your devotion, I’m also fairly positive they would NOT support you attacking anyone on their behalf.
This post has simply been some food for thought that I’ve wanted to share for a while. The pop stars mentioned are all artists whose music I genuinely enjoy, even Chris Brown despite his general douchebaggery. All joking aside, this piece is not meant to attack any specific artist, more so to ask the questions I think far too many Stans don’t really think about, but really should. Take my thoughts or leave them, but I hope that should any of you happen to be one of these unreasonable individuals that you take a step back and realize how very ridiculous your words and actions often are.
While you’re thinking about that I am going to continue simply enjoying all of the music that I want to enjoy without any concern what-so-ever that I’m being disloyal to any of my faves. Music, after all, is far too vast and beautiful a thing to place such limitations on.
(On behalf of The Pop Gods)