The Boundaries of Fandom
A year ago to the day, I posted this article on Just David. Is it still relevant? …
(Mar. 31, 2009) So, last Monday, I read with fascination a discussion that ensued about David Cook’s recent myspace post calling out his “scary fans.” Not surprisingly, a debate got under way about the difference between a “normal” fan vs. a “crazy” fan, the difference between being “obsessive” and being a full on gunning-down-Selena-style lunatic. So, how in this conversation do I go from shaking my head at some of the shenanigans that full-on lunatic stalker-fans engage in to seeing someone lumping “an adult who gushes on about the beauty of an 18-year-old” in the same category as a crazy fan who bugs her idol’s tour bus with a GPS tracker? Since I recognize myself in the former scenario vs. the latter, I am definitely having a “hold up…wait a minute!” reaction.
Let me get this straight since the David Archuleta Bus is the first serious ride I’ve ever taken in the world of fandom. Because I’ve decided that I like an 18 year old who charmed me through my TV screen last year and have been following him ever since. Because I love his voice, his beauty, and what I assume to be his sweet personality and have found an online community of fellow David admirers who love the same qualities. Because he is mentioned in 14 posts in a sea of 400+ posts on my personal blog, and is the subject of four fan videos that I created just for a whole lot of fun. Because I went to one concert of his when he came to town. Because I bought his CD and downloaded his iTunes stuff. I could go on and on, but how do any of these actions even remotely place me in the same category as a stalker-fan who bugs her idol’s tour bus with a GPS tracker? Oh! Because I’m over 30 and gushing over an 18 year old!
What I find remarkably limited about this conversation – a conversation I think is worth having – is the sexist and ageist stereotyping going on, so that instead of just rightly calling out certain disrespectful (and, quite frankly, ILLEGAL) behavior on the part of obsessive fans – because that’s the problem more than what people personally choose to do for their own enjoyment – assumptions are made about who “crazy” fans are “over there” vs. the “normal” fans we all assume ourselves to be. Such assumptions made (did you know, for example, that Arch Angels are really Claymates who needed to find a new American Idol? Funny to me because Ruben Studdard was the reason I started watching American Idol religiously to begin with), especially ones that assume Idol stalker-fans are either “unattractive” or “fat” or “bored housewives,” do nothing to address the ways that stalker-fans who show no respect for the artist they admire should be roundly dismissed or chastised for their bad behavior. Instead, these assumptions are designed to belittle mostly women and girls who dare to go over the top in their love and appreciation for the artist and his music. Ever notice how when guys develop obsessions over music or sports or gaming, and travel to every concert or fan conference and every sports event, they’re not called “stalker-fans,” they’re just called “hardcore fans”?
I’m bringing this up because I find it disturbing that it would be so easy to lump all fans in the same category of “crazy,” especially those of us (women in particular, who have often been characterized in patriarchal societies as “hysterical” since we have “wombs”) who publicly declare our love and admiration for David Archuleta (as if the story is about him but somehow Archies are a “point of reference”). For I do believe there is a difference between disrespectful obsessive behavior and just your average ODD when you log in to your favorite fan site on a regular basis and get your latest David news or watch your latest David YouTube video. I don’t have certain resources to travel to several concerts, but for those fans who do, more power to ’em is what I say! As long as nobody is getting hurt. Fortunately, JD (and prior to that, ND) has never made me or anyone else feel like a “bad fan” because we didn’t or couldn’t attend David’s solo tour. Perhaps in not being judgmental in these ways, I’ve never thought to question which of us was “normal” and who is “the crazy over there.” Besides, we’re already so self-critical and mature enough to know the boundaries of our fandom, we don’t need to point fingers at anyone but ourselves – if we care to or worry about it at all.
Having said all this, I would be remiss to also not mention that, within every fandom, and David’s is hardly unique in this way, the boundaries have been drawn, and JD is here precisely because ND’s blog owner no longer felt his views were welcome. Needless to say, hierarchies are established – from those who think they have an “in” with the artist (or the artist’s family member or band member) to those who create “insider” groups within a fan site. Regardless, I always have to ask the basic question: why am I apart of this community? Or any community? Someone or something binds us together. Here, it is the love of the artist and his music. When that stops being the point, it’s time to move on, or it’s time to regroup and refocus.
I’ve never had the desire to be a groupie. If an artist is in town, and I want to see him, I see him. Or, if I have an opportunity to travel somewhere for vacation or to meet up with members of said community, that’s the enjoyment and the pleasures of fandom, I would think. Music is such a personal gift, a direct connection straight to the heart, that there’s a reason that music artists, more than any other celebrity, inspires the fanaticism. But, to me, whenever fanaticism bumps up against respect issues and privacy issues, then we have a problem. Traveling hours to see your favorite artist in concert is about love and respect. Calling up your favorite artist’s hotel room number or tracking his tour bus, that requires a restraining order.
At the end of the day, where’s the fun and the joy that started us on this journey? I hope we, as JDers, will always keep this goal in mind and not ever lose sight of this aspect of our love and enjoyment of David.