This week’s BCM240 Lecture was on Active Audiences, speaking about Fandom. The lecture confronted the stereotype of the typical ‘fan’, explaining how a fan is often perceived to be a crazy, fanatic and obsessive individual. However, perfectly ordinary people engage in fan activities of one sort or another regularly that don’t show any relation to the characteristics of a typical ‘fan’. So this got me thinking, who originated the idea of the ‘fan’ and its behaviours? And also, how far is too far? The attitudes and behaviours of number one fans who ruin the title for everyone.
My initial thoughts of who could of created, “the fan” were of Stephen King’s 1987 novel, Misery. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the novel, Misery tells the story of Paul Sheldon, a famous Victorian-era romance writer who is popular for his creation of the character Misery Chastain. During his travels, he gets caught in a blizzard and experiences a car accident. He is recused by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse, who transports him back to her home in the middle of nowhere and nurses him back to health. She claims to be Paul’s “biggest fan” and talks a lot about him and his novels. However, once reading Paul’s latest book, Misery’s Child, Annie is outraged that Paul has decided to kill off the main character, Misery. Being severely injured from the car accident, Paul cannot escape Annie as she decides to hold him hostage and punish him by abusing painkillers. She demands for him to write a new book, changing the story and bringing the character Misery back to life. The rest of the story gets pretty gruesome, which is a well-known quality of Stephen Kings’ books.
Perhaps this was the beginning of the idea of the fan and their characteristics – violent, possessive, crazy and melodramatic. I then looked into a more recent event, the death of Michael Jackson in 2009. Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. An enormously famous superstar who had been in the lime light since the age of eight. Through the many ups and downs in his career, MJ would always be front page news, so it’s no surprise that when he was found dead in his Los Angeles mansion that fans all around the world were devastated. However, the term devastated could be an understatement, as many fans were reported contemplating and committing suicide after the King of Pop’s passing.
From the shocking, violent, obsessive and life threatening stories of fans, there’s also just the plain creepy. A 39-year-old male from the UK, Carl McCoid, separated his wife in 2009 and found an overcoming by obsessing over the most talked about pop star yet, Miley Cyrus. After Miley’s recent raunchy performance at the 2013 VMAS, Carl stated in an interview “I watched it live and have been watching reruns since, I can’t stop watching it. She is just being true to herself.” – Danny Longhorn, Hull Daily Mail 2013. Carl McCoid has a total of 19 tattoo’s on Miley Cyrus on his body, including a portrait of her face. When asked about the obsession, Carl doesn’t really know the answer himself. “The obsession really kicked in during the divorce. It [the obsession] has got stronger and stronger,” he states in an interview with the Hull Daily Mail. Being Miley’s number one fan has even made Carl McCoid a local celebrity, featuring on radio stations and Television programs in the United States.
An excellent book on the Fan culture and Popular Media identifies and explains many concepts and theories of Fandom. It also addresses the negative stereotypes and labels of deviancy fans are associated with, however acknowledges that we are all ‘fans’ to different audiences.
There are consequences to defining fans as abnormal ‘others’, irrationally obsessed with particular figures or cultural forms, capable of violent and destructive behavior. To consider these consequences, we need first to discuss why this kind of stigmatizing definition have been developed and why it continues to dominate the literature. What purposes does such as conceptualization serve? – The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media
To conclude my post, I believe being a fan does not mean you must portray all of these stereotypical characteristics. Your level of participation in being apart of an active audience is an individual, personal choice. In fact, I find being a fan of something or someone healthy! It shows you have an interest in a particular activity or style and can create hobbies or even lead you to your career choice. It is the extremity people go to in some cases that starts to become concerning.
Huffington Post, 2012, ‘Carl McCoid, Miley Cyrus Fan, Tattoos Cyrus on Body (PHOTOS), Huffington Post, viewed 07/09/2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/carl-mccoid-miley-cyrus-f_n_1638357.html
Lewis, L., (ed.) 1992, The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, Routledge, 11 New Fetter Lane, London, EC4P 4EE
Longhorn, D., 2013, ‘Divorcee planning 20th Miley Cyrus tattoo despite outrage over her raunchy VMA show’, Hull Daily Mail, viewed 07/09/2013. http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/Divorcee-planning-20th-Miley-Cyrus-tattoo-despite/story-19716576-detail/story.html#axzz2emHzNkqm
Sky News HD, 2009, ‘Grieving Jackson Fans ‘Commit Suicide”, Sky News HD, viewed 07/09/2013, http://news.sky.com/story/704137/grieving-jackson-fans-commit-suicide