Category Archives: culture

These Beautiful Colours…

One of the most challenging concepts of studying fandom for me is this idea of a fan culture and the diversity within it.  Heck, just writing that sentence made my head hurt.  Let me break this down.  I have talked about this idea of culture before, which you can find here.  In that blog post, I define culture as shared beliefs and customs of a group of people.  I think we can understand the group of people part—for us, that group is made up of Duranies.  In my observation, Duranies are truly a diverse group in that we represent every race, every nationality, a wide variety of ages, both genders, a wide variety of careers or occupations, political ideologies, sexual orientations and more.  The shared beliefs and customs part is more difficult.  If I try to keep this simple, I could mention how we all like Duran.  Yet, it seems to me that we don’t like them the same.  The examples I could give to explain or describe this are numerous.  For instance, many of us love AYNIN, but I know that there are fans out there that don’t.  A lot of us like the balance of Duran’s music between keyboards and guitars.  Yet, some of us don’t like the guitar heavy tracks and some dislike the use of too many keyboards.  Now, just because we have a spectrum of beliefs regarding Duran’s music, does that mean that we don’t have similar beliefs or does it all just come down to the fact that we are all fans?  Is that the only belief that we have in common?  Or can we say that there are general beliefs, even though there are a small minority of  people who don’t follow those beliefs?  Do all members of a culture have to believe the exact same things?  I don’t think so.  I reject that notion.  I think that there are beliefs that the majority believe that became the backbone of a fan culture, even there are people who don’t believe all of them.

So, what are the Duranie beliefs, in general?  This list is from my observations of what Duranies say (obviously the only way to observe beliefs is to observe what is stated regarding what people think).  Also this list is FAR from complete as these were the ones that popped into my head. 

*Simon has a great, unique voice
*Simon is a better lyricist when he includes less obvious lyrics
*Nick is an artistic genius
*Nick is the controller, which often results in Durantime
*The community is completely divided in 3 ways on preference for guitar
*Their early work is, generally, the best with some notable contributions later (Ordinary World/Come Undone and AYNIN)
*John is a talented bass player
*Duran’s videos are among the best ever and helped make MTV so successful
*Duran deserves recognition and commercial success
*Duran is not good at capturing momentum
*Duran is a great live band
*Duran brings together music, video, art and fashion

Do we, as a fan culture, have beliefs beyond Duran or their career?  This is even tougher to make any sort of conclusions because not all beliefs are discussed in a fan community.  Despite the challenge, I still wonder, especially about societal topics that seem to connect to Duran.  For instance, Duran seems to express acceptance towards the gay community from the friends they have/have had to statements they have made.  I remember Simon introducing Come Undone live by saying it was for boyfriends and girlfriends, boyfriends and boyfriends and girlfriends and girlfriends.  Yet, do the majority of Duranies support equality for the gay community?  What about questions of a less serious nature?  The member of Duran Duran seem to swear, sometimes, especially that bass player and that singer.  Does the Duranie culture accept swearing?  Do the majority of Duranies swear?  It seems to me that the majority of Duranies do accept equality for the gay community and most do accept swearing.  (Clearly, I am not saying that most Duranies are members of the gay community.)  Would the same acceptance be the same for other beliefs?  What do you think?

What about customs?  Obviously, I’m defining customs as actions.  Are there Duranie customs?  Again, from my observations, there are some customs that the majority of Duranies participate in, which I have listed only SOME of them here:

*Talk on message boards or social networking sites or blogs (I hope!!!) about Duran (some topics are frequently discussed–commercial success, presales and DDM, albums, guitar players, etc.)
*Buy merchandise–albums, DVDs, other products
*Post and/or look at pictures of the band members
*Attend Duran concerts
*Try to make connections with other fans
*Follow Duran and individual band members on twitter and/or facebook

The same question I had for beliefs could follow customs.  Does the fan culture include customs beyond the ones directly related to being a Duran fan?  Like Simon’s introduction of Come Undone, I think about how he introduces the band, “Duran Duran is the band designed to make you party!”  Does it?  Do they make partying part of the Duranie culture?  What about making or viewing art?  Is that something that is a part of Duranie culture?  Is fashion a part of Duranie culture?  What do you think?  If they are not, why not?  What other customs or actions am I missing?

As a social scientist, I find the idea of culture both compelling and challenging.  As I study fandom, I find it an even more complex issue, especially since the fan community is SO diverse in every facet I can imagine.  Yet, I find myself trying to make it as simple and as easily understood as possible.  What do you guys think?  Does Duranie culture have similar beliefs and customs?  If so, what are they?

-A

Navigating the “VIP” Section

First of all, a very happy In the Pleasure Groove release day to all of our US friends out there.  I think Amanda has been counting down to this day for months! (but now she’s really got a countdown going for a trip to Chicago…)

All this talk of signings and lineups to get into signings and so forth has me thinking about just how hard it is to navigate this fan community on a social level. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, stick with me because I think you’ll get my point in a minute or two.

When I first decided to get involved on a message board, I seemed to like everyone I “met”, and even better – I trusted whatever they said to be true. I guess I was pretty naive because it never occurred to me that people might lie, whether about their background, life circumstances, or how they came to know the band, or even if they’d met them. I think that’s pretty insightful about who I really am as a person – because I just expect people to tell me the truth. Why lie? I must remind myself that the truth just is not the same for everyone. Not everyone intentionally deceives.

The trouble is, of course, that in a community like this, everyone wants something. I really dislike talking about the band as though it’s a limited commodity. I don’t go around picturing them as orange futures or pork bellies, and yet many times, that is exactly how the community as a whole seems to react to their mere presence, as though they are pieces of meat and we are the lion pride. It has the potential to breed anger, greed and deception, and over the course of the years that I have been most involved, I’ve seen plenty.

If that greed weren’t enough, there is the sheer diversity of our group. I am pretty sure that there are fans from nearly every walk of life represented here. All races, creeds, careers, ages, and places on the planet. During my blogging, I’m fairly certain I’ve managed to offend someone out there, even without purposefully meaning to do so. It’s a very narrow ledge that must be navigated with care, and I truly do care. I’m also well aware that for every stance I take on a subject, there is with certainty, someone with the opposing view. This doesn’t just go for blogging – it is found in every segment of fandom (and life). Navigating between the lines, hoping not to offend, desperately trying not to stir up the pot-of-crazy that we all know exists, and hoping to somehow meet and befriend other people who have a similar interest in the fandom can be exhausting! I’ve yet to find the “secret recipe” that makes it all work, but I start by just trying to be honest and friendly with everyone. That doesn’t mean that I am friends with everyone, that everyone likes me in-turn, or that I even trust everyone – but I try to give the benefit of the doubt, at least until I’ve been wronged without a doubt.

In the research I’m continuing to do on fandom – much is made of this concept that fandom is an escape from normal “reality”. Due to the fact it is an escape, it is attractive to many, and part of that attraction is that at least from the outside looking in, it is paradise. An oasis in a desert.  I might argue that many times, it is really only a mirage. Many, if not all of us from time to time, pretend to be something they simply are not. The troubles of the world wash away with the time we spend on Twitter, Facebook or in the company of one another and we escape with relish. Let’s face it, when we’re away from home or online – we can be anything we want to be. It only becomes a problem when you spend enough time with one another where the layers get scratched and worn away enough so that reality bares through.  Everyone seems perfectly normal until you get to know them well, don’t they??

Now, I know that during my tenure as a Duran fan, I’ve read countless stories offered by others about meeting someone in person only to find out that one has been completely duped – either by their real-life persona, or by the person lying about what and whom they knew, or at worst – by thievery. Let’s be honest, it is really difficult to know what and whom to trust, and yet for many of us, we really and truly do believe the best in people. For me personally, it is shocking to find that someone wanted to “use” me because they thought I could get them something or somewhere (Don’t I wish?), and I’ve got to admit, sometimes it makes me think twice about really getting involved in the community beyond going to a show or two, and I am pretty sure I’m not alone.

So many of us talk about the “crazies” amongst us. Sure, they’re out there and sometimes they are even within plain sight – we just don’t recognize the signs. I see a complaint on nearly a daily basis…always from different people…saying that someone is misrepresenting themselves online. People make judgments about who should or shouldn’t be followed by the band, their management, people who surround them, and so forth without having the foggiest idea of why. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve gotten to the point where the cynical side of me thinks that maybe everyone (including me) is guilty of that from time to time. I certainly don’t look the way I do in pictures at shows (Are you kidding me?!? I have about 2 and a half minutes to get ready in the morning before I’m “discovered” as being awake, which means I must be ready to serve my public, err…children. I’m lucky to have time to put on mascara and eyeliner and even that is a simple luxury.), and my kids tell me I’m not nearly as cool as I sound online. Well, humph, I didn’t even know I sounded cool online!!! My point is simply that none of us really know the full-story of one another unless we care enough to find out, and sometimes, even when we do, we might very well be disappointed in the end.

Between the drama, the deception, the honesty and sometimes even the truth, it is really no wonder that many fans choose to stick to themselves and not get involved. Sometimes yes, it’s easier. On the other hand, if I had done that from the very beginning, I wouldn’t have met Amanda and many of you that I count as true friends. You know exactly whom you are.

-R

Musical Peer Pressure?

I love asking daily questions on Facebook and Twitter.  While I love reading the results, I also love that they provide me insight into our fan community.  It leads me to see patterns of thoughts and behaviors.  Do my observations show that there is a Duranie culture?  Defining culture as I do with my 7th grade students, culture is a way of life based on similar beliefs and customs.  Do we have similar beliefs?  I think we do.  From what I have seen with the daily questions, we definitely do have similar beliefs, especially when it comes to Duran Duran songs.  (Notice the word I used was similar, not the same.)

In case you aren’t following us on Twitter or aren’t friends with us on Facebook (you should be if you aren’t, by the way!), we have been doing brackets with songs on the albums.  What this means is that I put two songs against each other.  The song with the most votes win and continues on to go against a different song until a song defeats all of the rest of the songs on that album.  Eventually, we will have those album winners challenge other album winners.  Looking at the results, I am amazed how frequently the collective community really likes certain songs.  When those songs have been asked about, the vote is not at all close unless a beloved song goes up against another song in the very loved by most people category.  Of course, it isn’t surprising that there are some songs that everyone seems to love.  What is surprising is that these beloved songs are rarely the singles or songs that the general public knows Duran for, at least for the first few albums.   It is almost like the fan culture has embraced some more obscure songs as the best ones.  Let me give some examples.

As of this blog, we are in the Liberty album.  Some of the hit songs that were kicked off and kicked off easily, for the most part, included Girls on Film, Hungry Like the Wolf, the Reflex, Notorious, and more.  Instead, we were left with songs like Friends of Mine, Careless Memories, New Religion, the Chauffeur, Of Crime and Passion, the Seventh Stranger, Vertigo and more.  I wonder how many less-than-hardcore fans would know any of these songs.  This leads me to further questions.  Is this an example of us thinking that these more obscure songs are really better?  Are they really better?  Perhaps, it is a situation where we, as a whole community, seem to hate the singles.  If so, why?  Is it really about quality or about being overplayed?  Are we simply sick of these hits but that we loved them at one time?  Maybe, these album tracks show off the Duran sound better to us.  I don’t know.  What do you the rest of you think?

Then, for me, I always wonder if there is peer pressure for hardcore fans to pick the lesser known songs.  Would a hardcore fan be thought less of, if s/he thought that HLTW was the best song ever?  Of course, I realize that this system of voting isn’t perfect.  I don’t offer any real guidelines.  People don’t know if they are picking songs they like the best or the ones that they think might be great songs, in terms of the songwriting.  Our fan community is a tough and strong one, though.  Maybe we, collectively, have discussed songs so much that there is a consensus about how good or bad a song is.  I see this in the voting, too.  For example, today was Hothead vs. Serious.  Obviously, Serious is winning…by a landslide.  I think a number of us could have guessed this result. 

So, fellow fans, I am asking you.  Why do fans pick the more obscure album tracks over the single?  Is it because they are higher quality, because we are sick of the hits, or because we have collectively discussed and decided that some songs are better?  Maybe I should do a survey of that!

-A

Winners so far:
1st album-Careless Memories
Rio-New Religion
Seven and the Ragged Tiger-The Seventh Stranger
Wild Boys
Notorious:  Vertigo

What About the Fans?

This week my writing partner began really examining Duran’s fan club and even the band itself in their ability to enhance, sustain, encourage a Duran Duran fan community.  She asked the questions:  Is the fan club doing the best job it can?  Is the band?  Many people argued that the fan club is not doing everything it can to please the fans and many said that the band should be involved in helping sustain the fan community.  Now, it’s my turn to ask the same question of the fans.  Do the fans do a good job in making the fan community sustainable?  Do we, collectively, help make Duranland the place we all want to be?  While I would love for the answer to be a simple yes, I think, in reality, it is much more complex than that. 

Let me start at the beginning.  People become fans of Duran Duran because of their music, their videos, their style, their personalities, or because of a combination of those qualities or all of those qualities.  From there, fans seek out other fans.  In some cases, these fans just want to know what other fans are thinking.  In still other cases, they seek out discussion about Duran.  Some want to go as far as becoming friends with other fans.  Some of these friends will, in turn, go to shows or other fan events together.  The real strange ones will write a book together or start a blog…oh wait, that’s just Rhonda and I!  All of these fans make up the fan community.  Obviously, some of you might be thinking that you are not part of the community because you don’t post on message boards or because you aren’t on twitter or don’t update your status on facebook in order for other Duranies to see.  Yet, if you are reading this blog and do so on a consistent basis, you are a member of the community.  You might be a quiet member but a member, nonetheless.  This community couldn’t help but be formed.  It happened naturally as fans will seek out other fans.  That said, is our community one that we are proud of?  Is it one that we actually like?

As Rhonda began her little series of blog posts on the fan community, I began to think about those people who leave the community.  Why?  Do they stop being fans or do they stop wanting to know what other fans think about?  In my opinion, these are two very different reasons.  In the case of the fans who stop being fans, it is most likely that these people did not like the music that was being made.  Perhaps, their fandom was short-lived or not, but, the music got them into the fandom and later made them want to leave.  In that case, the interest ran out.  There would be no hard feelings towards other fans.  They just didn’t want to spend their time on Duran anymore.  I get this.  I have participated in a fandom like that.  I enjoyed it when I was interested in it and even made life long friends from it but eventually my interest left.  Now, I don’t talk about it or think about it.  It is done and over.  For those fans, the rest of the community has very little impact on them.  For the second group of people who leave, it is a different story.

There are fans who seem to walk away because of everything surrounding the music.  It isn’t the music itself that makes them leave, but all of the extras.  Perhaps, for those people, they do get frustrated at the fan club or the perceived lack of effort on the band’s part.  A bigger issue seems to me is the other fans.  Just the other day a couple of friends of mine said that they thought about jumping into the discussion on the blog but decided against it because they don’t like Duranies.  This was quite a statement to me as they grouped a large, diverse group into a single entity.  I know of other people who completely left the fandom despite still liking Duran’s music because of the “culture” surrounding Duranies.  So, what’s the deal?  What is it about Duranies that can and has turned people off?  Then, is it possible to change the overall climate of Duranland?

One thing about Duranies that we have talked about before on this blog is the jealously and/or downright mean behavior that can and has happened in Duranland.  We have also mentioned the invisible or not-so-invisible world of social status in the community that is perceived by some (many?  all?).  We have even talked about possible reasons why this happens in our fandom.  Is this what makes other fans leave?  I think it can for some, definitely.  Some people don’t want to deal with anything remotely like this social status/hierarchy game that seems to get played at every turn.  I can’t blame them, really.  Yet, is that the only reason that some people who could be fans remove themselves from the community?  I think there could be other reasons.  Some people I know get frustrated with fans who won’t be critical with their fandom meaning that everything Duran does is great while other people get frustrated with the opposite.  They get frustrated that other people always seem so negative.  Maybe, still, others don’t like how fans do or do not deal with their fandom.  This could be that they don’t like the people who tweet all the time about Simon or John to people who act like know-it-alls with Duran knowledge and everything in between. 

No matter the reason that people might leave, I have to wonder if those of us still in the community should work to change it.  If we agree that we should, how?  In my opinion, I think that as much as the fan club and the band work to create a certain culture within the community, intentionally or not, I think we do, too.  I think we should take some ownership over our community.  I know that Rhonda and I are trying to do just that by writing about our fandom, by attempting to create a safe place where everyone is free to comment, and by trying to bring fans together.  What are other ways that we could all work to make Duranland a good, happy  community?   

-A

Duranie Culture

Do you think there is a Duranie culture?  For the last 11 years, I have been teaching 7th grade Social Studies and a large part of that curriculum focuses on world cultures.  Obviously, in order to discuss this topic, the students must first learn what culture is.  Perhaps, that will also help with the question I posed today about Duranie culture because I honestly don’t know.

I teach my students that culture is a way of life of a group of people who share similar beliefs and customs.  I can pull out two main parts to help with my question:  beliefs and customs.  Obviously, I think we do share similar beliefs, at least when it comes to Duran Duran.  We think their music is fabulous. I think for most Duranies, we also think that there videos are pretty great, too.  I’m willing to bet that we might also think that the band members themselves are pretty terrific.  These beliefs, in fact, are essential in the definition of a Duranie.  All Duranies think that their music is great.  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be Duranies, right?  Now, of course, this is all in the general sense.  We might not agree on which songs are the most fabulous and which songs are the least fabulous, but overall we all agree that the music is great.  Beyond the music, though, we might have lots of differences on a personal level, especially on big issues like religion and politics.  I think that is okay as many people belong to multiple cultures.  We don’t need to have similar beliefs about everything.  We just need to have similar beliefs about Duran to have a Duranie culture.  Thus, we have the first part of the definition about culture.  What about the customs?

Here’s where it is more complicated I think.  Customs are actions.  Beliefs are about what we think and customs are about what we do.  Maybe it would help to think about what are some of the things Duranies do.  Duranies talk about Duran.  They might do it on message boards, on social networking sites, or among friends.  Duranies might also spend money on Duran, including on albums, concert tickets, merchandise, and more.  Some Duranies might express their beliefs in an artistic format through art, graphics, music mixes and fanfic.  Yet, all of these things could represent just fandom, in general.  Do those actions, those customs represent something specific to Duran?

What kind of customs do people think of when they think about Duran and specifically about Duran?  In thinking about their music, their videos, their lifestyles, a few things pop up as essential Duran Duran.  First, I think about having a good time.  This is the band that claimed way back when they they wanted to be the band playing when the bomb dropped.  This is the same band who Simon often states as “the band designed to make you party”.  Even during horrible times and world events, Duran has recorded songs about having fun, about partying.  Yes, I know that they have released songs that are much more serious as well.  That’s true but those songs, those moods don’t hit me as quickly as the party, fun music does.  Most of those more serious songs are also hidden in veiled lyrics, masking the seriousness of it.  Beyond the partying, I also think of Duran as artistic.

I remember hearing Nick say something about Duran is like a multi-media corporation.  They weren’t satisfied to just make music.  They had to create small films (video) and they were concerned about fashion.  Obviously, some of the band members have dived into the art world more than others.  Nick did it with his photography and John has done his share with graphics and even acting.  I would go further to say that Duran’s artistic nature is contemporary and often thought-provoking.   An example of this, of course, is the album cover for All You Need Is Now.  They got people talking, which is part of art, in my opinion.  They don’t always go for what is beautiful but for something with more depth, more meaning. 

So, if Duran Duran’s biggest focuses are on music, art and parties, where does that leave the fans?  Do the fans participate or focus on the same things?  If not, does that mean that there is no Duranie culture or does it mean that not all fans participate in the culture?  I obviously cannot speak for all Duranies about whether or not they focus on the same things.  Personally, I admit that I enjoy a good party and love modern art.  I may not party exactly like they did or do but I like to have a good time.  The same can be said for art.  I’m not really big into fashion but really like the visual arts.  For example, if I am on vacation, it is common to find me in an art museum, especially in the contemporary arts section.    Can I live their lifestyle?  Obviously not.  I do travel some but nothing like they have or do.  I don’t have the time or the money for that.  I like staying in hotels but they aren’t always the best in the world.  For me, touring is a chance to get as close to that lifestyle as I can, in a way.  Overall, though, I feel some connection to Duran, on a cultural level as I seem to share some customs, in my own way. 

So, what about the rest of you?  Do you feel a cultural connection to these elements of Duran Duran?  Did I miss some essential Duran elements?  What if you don’t seem to have that connection?  Do you think that means that there is no Duranie culture or is it based on something completely different?  Perhaps, it is a situation where some Duranies are part of a culture and others are not.  What do you think?

-A