Who do you stan for?
The word “stan” has been making its rounds on the internet for the last several years. Urban Dictionary says its meaning comes from the song Stan by Eminem, about an obsessive fan; or, a combination of the words “stalker” and “fan”. Nearly every singer that has emerged over the past several years has them and they’ve become a cancer of the celebrity.
Beyonce‘s Beyhive, Rihanna‘s Army, GaGa‘s Little Monsters, Justin‘s Beliebers, Nicki‘s Barbz, the Directioners, Mariah‘s lambs, the list goes on and on. These are people that blindly follow every move made by their idol(s), love every product they release and will defend them to the depths of hell, especially when in direct competition with another pop star. This is where it gets particularly messy because it is their actions that are what can cause difficulties.
I love Lady GaGa and Nicki Minaj but I wouldn’t call myself a “Little Monster” or a “Barb“. The negative reputation they’ve caused for themselves has made it difficult for those of us who are level-headed fans to take a step back and question whether we want to be associated with the negative stigma they’ve created. Unfortunately, it crossed over to effect the reputation of the artist as well. Some Little Monsters, for example, have been vile creatures that have taken to Twitter to attack Adele for her weight, slam Madonna‘s every move and threaten Kelly Osbourne‘s life, sometimes causing GaGa herself to step in and call out her fans. Madonna fans, in response, are less than polite with their opinion of Lady GaGa. Even this week, the Beliebers have responded to the Black Keys‘ bandmember Patrick Carney following a response to a media question about Justin’s lack of Grammy nominations. Time and time again, social media has become a digital war zone for people who are obsessed or brainwashed by what they so passionately love.
The effect these stans have on the image of the artist also isn’t exactly helpful. They take to the internet to overhype a new single, album or video, justifying every inch and aspect of why it’s genius and why “yur fav coud never!!!1” Meanwhile, when ‘the competition’ releases something, they’re immediate in taking it down, diminishing it by default. “It sucks!!” “My fav did that last year!” “Die HO!” Adele got the response from the Little Monsters because her album 21 and its singles were so hugely successful in 2011, overshadowing Born This Way (and everything else!), not even because of anything she said or did to or about Lady GaGa. Apparently, they’re friends and GaGa has publicly expressed her admiration for Adele many times.
Stans will diminish the person or the success of another artist, out of jealousy or because they’re direct competition. Had twitter been around in 1999, how would fans of Britney and Christina deal? Or Backstreet Boys vs. ‘N Sync? Even the Beatles vs. the Rollings Stones? These rivalries have been fun as it drew attention to their particular brand but with the anonymity of social media and the ease of sending a message out en masse to the world, it’s been taken to a whole new and frightful level.
Overzealous fandom isn’t only for the big named divas either. I have been a member of several message boards for singer/songwriters in my day and even their fans have had a tendency to justify every move by the singer in question. During the Chantal Kreviazuk/Avril Lavigne “feud” of 2006 (it lasted a few days. Perhaps because it was resolved or because few actually cared…), fans of Chantal were diminutive of Avril after Chantal called out Avril for stealing a song she had written for her then-new album. It turned out to be a completely different song with a similar title yet fans justified Chantal’s actions of being overprotective of her art, despite the completely unprofessional nature of her approach. The mere mention of a pop star in the presence of a singer/songwriter stan will result in accusations of “they’re not talented because they don’t write their own songs or play an instrument”, “they rely on studio magic to sound good” or “they appeal to teeny boppers and listening to them makes my IQ drop.”
Even movie fans have been known to act in outrageous ways in response to negative criticisms. Following bad reviews of The Dark Knight Rises last year, Rotton Tomatoes had to shut down the comments section after fans responded to the critics. And then there’s the Harry Potter vs. Twilight (the Twi-hards) vs. Hunger Games fans. Going even further, there’s the Apple vs. Android fandom battles that are ongoing as of late. They’re unavoidable.
The internet has taken the level of fanaticism to a whole new level and now celebrities must be prepared with how to deal with the negative attention these fans may give them. While I don’t consider myself a stan of any particular singer, I do have a list of them that I very much enjoy. The difference between someone like me and a stan is that I know not everything my favs have done is golden. And I know that there have been times when my favs have been wrong about things in interviews or in how they’ve addressed certain situations. It often times comes down to common sense, perspective and context. Three key things that stans seem to be missing.