I continue the series on media representation of fandom with the movie, Sugartown. Have you seen it? I should hope that some of you might have. You know, it stars that guy…he seems kinda familiar…like someone we should know. Oh yeah, it is John Taylor! Now, we have discussed some of his acting roles before. Most recently, we discussed the episode of Samantha Who in which he was the guest star. This movie, on the other hand, was written with him in mind, from what I have read. I also have to admit that it is one of my favorites of his, if not, the favorite. The movie isn’t bad and he does a good job. Plus, he doesn’t look so bad in it, either! 😉
The premise of the movie, for those who have not seen it, is the story of a group of people trying to make it in show business. John’s character, Clive, is in a new band along with Michael DesBarres and Martin Kemp. The three of them had been in really successful 80s bands. Huh? That sounds familiar. Anyway, those three are shopping for a record deal. John’s wife is an actress who is trying to deal with being offered mother roles. John’s wife’s best friend is trying to find love while taking a break from being a production designer on movies and is convinced to hire Gwen as a housekeeper who has her own goals of superstardom. In fact, Gwen is trying to buy songs from a drug addict songwriter who buys his drugs from Martin Kemp’s character. There are other characters as well who connect to the characters I already mentioned that I won’t go into in order to stick with the storylines that relate most to fans and fandom. Obviously, fans had to be included at some point because you can’t have stars without fans, right?
The first fans we see are three female fans on John’s doorstep when he goes out to get the paper in the morning. Of course, these fans are all giddy and smiling as John greets them. The first girl hands him a picture of some sort that she wants him to have. The second one hands him a pair of panties, assuming they are hers, and tells him that he should wear them. The last fan asks for an autograph. As John goes back inside, the girls hold onto each other for support and start saying, “Oh my God,” a bunch of times. *sigh* Okay. First of all, I seriously hope that there aren’t fans waiting on John’s doorstep. Second of all, I know that there are fans who give John and the other band members things (heck, I was one of them when I gave him a wristband like the true dork that I am!) but do fans NOW give panties?! I know that they did in the 1980s. I admit that I still don’t really get it. I am not naive. I’m well aware that fans did that to imply that they would be available for some action but it just seems so…icky. So much of a stereotype. Thus, it feels too obvious to me to have the fan do that. The picture and the autograph seem so much more realistic to me, especially since John’s character isn’t supposed to be at the top of the charts at the moment.
Then, John’s wife has a conversation with her best friend in which she tries to convince her friend to give this girl, Gwen, a shot as housekeeper. Apparently, John’s wife met her when she used to sleep on their porch as she was a big fan of John’s character, Clive. Now, before the movie goes any further, I have to wonder. Do fans like that really get to know their idols? I know that there are cases where fans do meet their idols and a rapport of some sort is established. What I am asking is does that happen with fans who go to that extreme?! The conversation continues and we find out that Gwen, the fan, stole John’s wife diaphragm because it was something that Clive had gotten close to, if you catch my drift. Oh boy. Now, this fan has crossed over from just sleeping on the porch to stealing VERY personal items. Wow. The friend thinks this is gross but John’s wife explains this as normal fan behavior and that she might have done that for David Bowie. Okay. On one hand, I appreciate that the fan is deemed normal by the wife but that behavior doesn’t seem very normal to me!?! I have met and talked to a lot of fans and I can’t imagine anyone doing that!?! Again, I realize that the behavior might be described as so extreme in order to make the story more exciting but still. Wow.
Gwen later does become the friend’s housekeeper but we quickly learn that she is only worried about herself. She gives bad dating advice to the friend and tries to woo her date away who happens to be the producer for John’s character’s new band. She also steals things from her as well. She also gets a drug addict to write her songs that will be hits and when he does, she leaves him, literally dying on the floor. Clearly, this character fits a lot of the stereotypes of the groupie in that there isn’t any real love for the idol(s). It is more about using the idol(s) to get further with either social status or in one’s own career.
Meanwhile, back at Clive’s house, a woman stops by with a boy and claims that the child is Clive’s. She claims it was from an encounter years ago at a show. Again, this woman represents a fan who went to one of his concerts. She also claims that they got matching tattoos. Clive doesn’t buy it and says that his tattoo was featured in a Japanese fanzine. His wife, on the other hand, believes that this could be his son as he was “still drinking” at the time. Still, Clive denies it and says that during that tour, he was only having oral sex so it wasn’t possible. Is this a stereotype about fans or a stereotype about rock stars or both? It seems to me that it could be a stereotype about both. The assumption here is that rock stars have sex with fans and that fans welcome that. Is that an assumption, a stereotype based on some truth? I’m sure. So, how do Clive’s fans react to the news of his son? They worship the boy. Hm…would fans care about the children of their idols? Our fandom would say that they would.
Obviously, there is a lot more that happens in the movie than the parts that I discussed. I focused solely on the parts that connected to fans or fandom. So, how does the movie represent fans? This is never any easy call. I think some of the fan like behaviors are based in truth. There are fans who would stay on the porch of their idol. John mentioned something similar in his book, for example. I’m sure that there were fans who were/are quite willing to engage in sexual activities with their idols. I also have no doubt that there are fans who are just using the idol to get ahead. That said, I just wish that there was a bit of a balance. While those fans all probably exist, much to my dismay, I know that there are a ton of fans who would never do any of those things. Why couldn’t some of those be mentioned or shown? Of course, there were a couple of normal people shown in a scene with Michael DesBarres in that they approached him and asked for his autograph. Of course, the woman was asking for an autograph for her mother. She wasn’t really a fan, herself. I just think a little bit of balance would and could go a long way for most of us fans. Instead, the non-knowing, not-understanding public thinks that all fans are like the ones shown in the movie.