Category Archives: stigma

Positive Reactions to Fannish Behavior?!

I am pretty open about my Duran Duran fandom.  Sometimes, I question whether or not this is a good thing or not but most of the time, it just feels right to declare my Duranie-ness.  People I work with know that I’m a Duran Duran fan.  Friends certainly know.  Heck, even my students know.  As a student of fandom and this fandom, in particular, I’m always surprised by the reaction I get when people find this out.  I almost always prepare myself for some negative comment or an assumption that I must be a groupie (not that the person saying that really knows anything about that term).  At times, that preparation comes in handy as I know exactly how to defend against a negative stereotype.  Lately, though, I have had the opposite experience.

Right before I went on winter break, I was struggling to get through. My kids were working on intense projects, adding stress to the usual gig.  One of my assistant principals checked in on me and to ask about a particular student.  At some point during this conversation she turns to me and says, “You know when I first met you, I was pretty intimidated by you.”  This statement surprised me since she is my administrator.  She can evaluate me, not the other way around.  I know that I can be pretty serious and often spend a lot of time observing before I interact, which some may perceive as “intimidating.”  Obviously, I had no idea how to respond to that.  As I tried to figure that out, she follows it up with, “But then you appeared human to me.”  She explained after seeing my puzzled expression, “Yeah, when I found out that you follow your favorite band around, I realized that you weren’t so scary!”  Fascinating.  The only interpretation I had was that she saw that I was passionate about something and someone.  I wasn’t just about work but had other interests.  Weird.

Then, the other day at work, my trip to Vegas came up in conversation.  Did I talk about it with my colleagues?  Friends?  Not really.  No, it came up during the Gender Equity (a student organization that I advise) meeting.  In the beginning of the meeting, we always do a check in.  This time, we focused on what we did over break.  Before I could even share, the other advisor to the club and friend of mine mentioned that I went to Vegas to see Duran Duran.  One student immediately popped up with, “Can they still walk?”  Clearly, she thinks that they are older than dirt.  Smart ass kid.  What was funny is that I did not have to defend them.  Other kids jumped in to say that they weren’t that old and how they had relatives a lot older than them capable of doing a lot.  This quickly led to an apology.  Of course, I was not mad at the comment as I figured that the student just wanted to tease me, to give me a hard time.  I appreciate that as I seek any and all means to give the kids a hard time myself so I figure that I’m fair game in return!  It also makes me feel good that students feel comfortable enough with me to be able to give me a little grief.

The last situation happened last night.  As I stopped by my parents place, they talked about what they did on New Year’s Day when they went over to a neighbor to play cards.  During that time, my mom mentioned that they had been cat-sitting and why.  The neighbor’s reaction?  According to my mom, it went something like this, “Duran Duran?!  I love them.  They are great!”  Mind you.  This neighbor is probably 65 to 70 years old.  So, clearly, all generations know of Duran Duran and how great they are.  Did this person ask my parents why I would travel to see a band?  Nope.  Did they think it was weird?  Not at all.  Apparently, they were all cool about me expressing my fandom in this way.

These experiences have given me some hope that there is less stigma over being a hardcore fan.  It is either that or the end of the world is near.  In all seriousness, I love that multiple generations seem to have an appreciation for them.  It makes me think that I’m all right in being so open with my Duranie-ness.


Breaking Stigma with a Commercial

I have written about a lot of different topics over the years.  I have written about Duran Duran’s music, their career, band members, rumors, fans, fandom, and so much more.  Yet, I never thought I would write about a commercial.  That’s right.  I’m writing about a commercial, an advertisement, something to sell a product.  In this case, the product is a bank’s credit card.  If you know me at all, you know that commercials, companies, businesses, profit are not normally terms I embrace or even talk about.  Generally, I focus on people, not money.  Stay with me, though.  I promise that it will make sense.

What commercial am I talking about?  The one you can see here:  Seriously, go watch it but know that I’m not championing the product as I have no opinion on it.  No, the focus here is the commercial itself and its message.

The focus of the advertisement is two guys who work together.  One pops into the other’s office to confirm a rumor.  This rumor, of course, is that a favorite band is playing a gig that weekend.  Without too much thought, the pair buy plane tickets, hotel rooms and concert tickets.  At the end of the commercial, you see the two enter the club, all smiles.  Of course, the premise is that this particular credit card allows them to do this.  Again, that’s fine and dandy but that’s not why this commercial makes me smile.

I relate to the entire commercial.  After all, I’m a fan of a band.  Rhonda and I have had many conversations that sound exactly like that.  We often share rumors about what the band is doing show wise with each other and then give an “official Duranie alert” when there is confirmation.  The line about “we gotta go” that is stated by one guy and repeated by the other is one that Rhonda and myself have said to each other countless times.  Seriously.

Then, the plane, the hotel, the venue all remind me of what life is like on tour.  After all, many/most of our tours feature those.  The excitement that they show from rumor confirmation to entering the venue resembles us, too.  We are that happy on tour as well.

Beyond how similar this advertisement is to my fandom, there is something bigger at work here.  Normally, when fans are shown in advertisements, they are sports fans.  In fact, when I googled to try to find this ad, I came across a lot of ads with sports fans.  Here’s an example:

I have nothing against sports fans.  Heck, I like many sports.  I get tired of the assumption that it is totally normal, or even cool to spend money on sports but not on other fandoms.  This Bank of America commercial shows that music fandom is just as cool.  We need more of that before we are able to really destroy some of the stigma around being a fan of a band.

I applaud Bank of America for this commercial.  It is nice to see an ad I can relate to and one that makes fandom a little more acceptable.  I say that the ad worked well.


Media Representations of Fandom: Be Somebody

It has been a long time since I saw fans represented in a movie, TV show or book so I haven’t done a post about the media representations of fandom for a very long time.  Yet, last weekend, I saw a movie called “Be Somebody” that definitely featured fans and motivated me to do a little writing about the movie.  What is the movie about?  How are fans featured?  How are they shown/depicted?

IMDb describes the plot of this movie in this way, “Pop superstar Jordan Jaye has a big dream – he just wants to live like a regular teenager. When he’s chased down by some excited female fans, he finds a perfect hideout and a reluctant new friend from a small town, high-school art student, Emily Lowe. Despite being from different worlds, they soon discover they have way more in common than they ever imagined. Over the course of several days, the two embark on an unexpected journey of friendship, first love and self-discovery — proving that maybe opposites really do attract.”

If you notice the story begins when fans chase down Jordan, the teen idol.  The chasing happens when Jordan leaves his tour bus to have a break from the non-stop life of a pop star.  He assumed that he wouldn’t run into anyone who would recognize him.  When fans did notice him, they went all crazy by screaming and literally running after him.  Within the first few minutes of the movie, I found myself shaking my head.  Do all teenage female fans scream and chase the star of their desire?  Did all of you, if you had the chance to be anywhere near Duran?  While I didn’t have the opportunity to see Duran in person until I was way beyond my teenage years, I doubt that I would have chased them!  My point here is simple.  This feels like a stereotype about teenage female fans.  All teenage music fans would chase after their idols, is that what they are saying?  All of them?  Every last one of them?  How does this make the female fans seem?   Illogical.  Crazy.  Hysterical.  Emotional.  Out of control.

Then, when the pop star finds another teen female, the assumption is that she must also be a fan.  When he thinks she is a fan, he asks her not to scream because all female fans scream.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Many female fans of all ages scream.  I do.  I’m not judging it.  What I am questioning, though, is that movies, the media, perpetuate images of fans, especially female fans as being hysterical, crazy, over-the-top.  They aren’t showing them as just excited but going WAY beyond excited.  You can see what I mean in the trailer:

After the pop star finds out that the teenage girl is not a fan, he opts to stay with her.  Obviously here, the message is that non-fans are safe for stars but fans definitely would not be.  While I understand that this is the usual storyline for movies like this, I wish that they would have shown the female main character as a fan but a reasonable one.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  The idea could be that he gets in the car of a fan and is about to jump out when he realizes that she’s cool, that he’s safe with her.  Being a fan doesn’t mean that she has lost her mind.  Then, the movie could be about how an idol becomes a real person and about how the idol starts to see the fan as a individual rather than one of the collective.

While I thought the movie was cute with a good message about sticking up for oneself, fighting for one’s dream, I also found it following a usual formula.  The movie is safe, in that regard and relied on too many stereotypes, including not only stereotypes about female fans but also about the music industry, fame, etc.  Has anyone else seen this movie?  What did you think?


It’s Loaded with Fame

Sometimes, comments we receive on this blog get me thinking.  Last weekend, I posted a blog about how much hatred there still is surrounding Duran Duran.  Rhonda and I have blogged a lot about why there was/is so much stigma against Duran Duran.  In a nutshell,  the fact that they had a lot of teenage female fans hurt them in terms of getting creditability with the music press.  The assumption was/is that if a band is liked by a lot of little girls they cannot be quality.  Little girls only like bands because they find the members cute, right?  Of course not, but too many people believe this to be true, even today.

The comment we received last weekend, if I understood it correctly, blamed the band on the stigma they have.  The belief was that they had done something wrong to get this poor reputation.  As I moved through the week, I continued to think about this.  Did Duran Duran do something wrong through their career, in terms of female fans?  Should they do something different now as a result?

Duran Duran decided to allow the teen media to cover them.  John Taylor discussed this very fact in his autobiography.  He mentioned that he even brought up the subject of going to the teen press in order to get coverage.  “And so began a love affair with the British teen press, a courtship that would last years and trigger a level and type of fame that none of us had intended or could ever have expected.”  (Taylor page 153)  Clearly, John believes that this decision to appeal to the teen press led to fame.  I’m willing to bet that most of us agree with him.  Teenagers significantly helped create Duran’s incredible fame and popularity.

What if they decided to avoid that press?  Is it possible that Duran would have received more critical acclaim?  Sure.  I guess that is possible.  Could it be that the band would not have ever reached the fame they did, if they avoided that area?  That could be.  After all, the only reason that I’m here now, three plus decades later, is because Duran Duran was covered by the teen press.  I was a female kid who got into them during that time.  How can I reject that?

Is critical acclaim more important than being popular?  That’s a tough question for any artist.  Is the goal of artists to be deemed fabulous by critics?  Is that the goal?  Why do artists produce their art?  If I had to come up with a reason, I would argue that artists need to make art.  They need to create.  Yes, I’m sure that most would like to make money to do that.  Don’t we all want to make money for doing what we love?  Artists, though, in my experience, have a motivation to create that goes beyond making a career.  The act of creation is almost a need, a physical need.  I remember when my mom was undergoing treatment for cancer.  One aspect that bothered her the most was that her energy level would not let her work on her art.

If this is the case that artists need to create, I don’t know that critical acclaim matters the most to them.  I think the goal is to get that acclaim or press or whatever just to get the art out there.  Yes, ideally, they want to make money to do art for a living.  John knew that the press was essential to being a successful band.  While, yes, this decision resulted in criticism and ridicule, it also worked to spread their music all over the world so that people like me could hear them and become fans.

What is the solution then?  Is it to reject this decision or reject those teenage female fans?  I don’t think so.  I don’t think the right move is to blame the band for this decision.  Likewise, I don’t think the right move is to REALLY embrace male fans while ignoring the female fans (although we  all acknowledge that there were and are many dedicated male fans).  No, I believe the best course of action is to push back on the myth.  “What’s wrong with having a lot of female fans?  You don’t think that female fans can determine quality music?  Are you saying that only male fans should count?”  Make the sexism clear.  After all, isn’t that what this debate is really all about?


Lay Your Seedy Judgements: Duran Hatred

Sometimes, I do not understand people and their thinking.  Actually, right now in early 2017, it is a lot more than sometimes.  Despite the increasing frequency, I’m still shocked by things that people think and believe.

Looking back to my childhood fandom, I definitely recognize that a LOT of people hated Duran Duran.  I saw friends and family hate Duran.  Friends at school constantly put them down as not being cool, at least not in comparison to artists like Michael Jackson.  I remember classmates talking about how Duran needed to learn how to dance as breakdancing became the “in thing”.  Lunch times were spend arguing the merits of Duran Duran vs. the rest of popular music.  I never convinced any of my classmates about Duran’s coolness, but I always tried to.  I was a dedicated fan even back then in 1984.

Of course, I also remember Top 40 radio DJs that played Duran Duran making fun of them.  That really perplexed me.  Why play the band if you hated them so much, I wondered.  One memory that still stands out for me is hearing a couple of male DJs discussing Nick’s wedding.  They were appalled by the pink attire as well as how much make-up Nick wore.  I didn’t get it then as I had no clue that people judge men who wear make-up or like the color pink.  Now, of course, I recognize that this judgement was based on this rigid notion of gender roles where men are not supposed to like a color that represents the feminine and they definitely should not wear make-up.  That was for women only.  rolls eyes

The stigma against Duran was strong that it carried over to critics and much of the general public, stopping the respect that a band who writes and records quality music should receive.  Yet, decades passed and notions of metrosexuality became more accepted as did the restrictions on strict gender roles.  The world seemed more inclusive and accepting.  Duran, specifically, received more and more critical acclaim as time went on.  I began to read more and more praise about the band and their latest albums.  I believed that Duran finally was gaining acceptance, real acceptance.

This past week, though, proved that this belief of mine was false, that many still hated Duran Duran.  Rhonda and I corresponded with someone about a potential project this week who openly dismissed our idea simply because it was about Duran Duran.  What?!?  Are you kidding?!  Both of us expressed shock by this.  People really still hated Duran?  Seriously?!  After the initial shock, anger took over.  How can people still not see that Duran Duran is a band of quality?  It did not even matter when we pointed out that Duran still sells out arenas and has countless number of fans.  We proved that there are a lot of Duranies out there.  None of that mattered because this person is not interested in Duran.

Days have passed and I’m still furious.  Here’s the thing.  Rhonda and I will continue to shop our project around.  Why?  Simple.  We know that Duran is quality and deserves the respect that we hope to show with this idea we came up with.  I also have to admit that I like the idea of proving this person wrong, too, because I (and the rest of you) KNOW that she is wrong when it comes to Duran.


Being Hard Isn’t Being Strong

Yesterday was my first day back at work.  As with every other teacher inservice day, the agenda was filled with meeting after meeting.  One meeting involved us getting into small groups and sharing the path each of us took to become a teacher.  One of the specific questions involved childhood and our experiences as kids.  Interestingly enough, before yesterday, I had been thinking about my childhood and how that fits who I am now specifically in regards to my Duran fandom.

As I told my colleagues yesterday, I spent my formative years in two very different places.  I was born on the south side of Chicago and spent the first half of my childhood in the south suburbs.  Most of my classmates were African-Americans who like my family were part of the lower middle class.  Like many of you reading, during this time, I witnessed the explosion of MTV and found myself falling for five British guys with catchy pop tunes and fascinating, beautiful storyline-filled videos.  Despite it being the early 80s, Duran Duran was not popular in my neighborhood or in my school.  Michael Jackson was the be all and end all to most of my peers.  (For the record, I liked Michael but not like I loved Duran!)

I remember sitting at the cafeteria next to my friend, who was the only other Duranie I knew, across from very serious Michael Jackson fans.  We debated everything (or so it seemed from an elementary school position).  I can recall talking about the differences in videos from Michael’s Billie Jean to Duran’s Hungry like the Wolf.  Billie Jean was better, according to my classmates, because Michael “danced”.  While I couldn’t disagree with that fact, I focused on the more intense storyline and the exotic location of HLTW.  These (mostly male) classmates could care less about the storyline.  To them, Michael’s commercial success combined with awards received proved he was better.  I tried, unsuccessfully, to show that Duran was more compassionate by being on Band-Aid, months before Michael joined with others to do We Are the World.

Part of me loved these debates as it was thrilling to demonstrate my passion.  I also felt confident that I had enough information to really argue my point.  In reality, I desperately wanted to prove why Duran was better.  Looking back, I know that part of this desperation was that I believed I was judged by my likes.  If my friends didn’t like Duran and didn’t think they were cool, then would they still like me, I wondered insecurely.  I also really liked the idea that I could be SO convincing to increase Duran’s fan base all by my little self.  I wanted to feel powerful and to be looked up to.  I’m sure some of that feeling comes from being the youngest of three children and having brilliant older siblings that I never felt I could live up to.  Overall, though, the goal was to keep or make friends, something that never has come easy for me.

The lunchtime debate didn’t not last much past the release of the videos for Thriller and Wild Boys as I moved about 70 miles away to a small town.  Before I even stepped foot into my new bedroom, I already despised the town.  MTV was not available and there was no Top 40 radio.  My family moved into our new house on a hot August day with the idea being that my room would be all set before I would enter one of the town’s elementary schools.  As the movers pulled away from the curb, a girl about my age stopped her bike in my driveway, introducing herself.  Having hope for the first time that the town might not be as bad as I feared, I greeted her and began to ask about what liked.  My hope was dashed quickly as I found out that not only wasn’t she a Duran fan, she had never even heard of the band!  I was outraged!

Needless to say, I spent a few years feeling pretty alone.  Initially, I tried to engage in debates similar to the ones I had in the suburbs.  For whatever reason, these heated discussions turned negative and personal very quickly.  Soon enough, Duran was used to make fun of me.  The year was 1985 and I was all about John Taylor’s Power Station look.  I wore a lot of black and red as well as those black jelly bracelets that he sported at the time.  Unfortunately, kids in that town did not appreciate my fashion style and frankly dismissed Duran as a “bunch of homos”.

Now, I find myself still responding as I did as a kid.  On one hand, part of me wants to openly share my fandom and my love for Duran.  I want to prove them and my love of them worthy to everyone I can.  Part of the reason is because of the passion I feel for the band.  The other part has to do with me protecting myself and feeling good about myself.  If I can convince others that what I like is great, then they will be with me.  They will be an ally.  This would also make me feel really good and cool and who doesn’t like that?  They will want to be friends, perhaps.  The protective side knows that even if they don’t want to be friends, they at least won’t make fun of me.  It is hard to make fun of someone who shares your interests, right?  Strangely, adult Amanda still worries about this kind of thing, which is a big part of the reason that I seem so private.  The less people know, the less people can make fun of me for, the less I can be rejected for.

Sometimes, the fear is so strong that I just hide my interests including this fandom or elements of my fandom.  I’ll give an example that once again circles back to work.  Today, we are going on a community scavenger hunt.  The directions include a statement about wearing something comfortable.  My initial thought about what is comfortable is a Duran t-shirt.  The kids are not there yet.  I don’t need to look “professional”.  Lots of people, including my boss, know that I am a big fan.  Other colleagues wear t-shirts advertising their interests.  Yet, I struggled to put the t-shirt advertising my interest on today but I did it.  I wore the shirt.

It is funny how a simple discussion at work brought up a lot of realizations on my part.   Moving forward, I would like to be able to embrace my fandom–not to increase my coolness factor or to protect myself from attack but because it is a part of who I am.  I want to be authentic and confident enough about what I like and who I am.


You Are Going to How Many Shows???

During the past week, Duran Duran’s official Twitter tweeted the following:  “ N.American Tour 2nd leg kicks off NEXT week – what show are YOU going to???”  Many people responded to the question as they did on Facebook for the same question.  As I looked through the responses, most people seemed genuinely excited to share what show(s) they are going to.  Sometimes, fans responded to each other either to share their excitement over the same show or to ask questions of each other.  I always like seeing fan excitement and I definitely like fans interacting with each other positively.

I, too, answered the question from the Daily Duranie’s Twitter and I mentioned something about my upcoming shows on my personal Facebook.  I was honest on the Daily Duranie Twitter that we are going to quite a few (Both Chicago shows, Detroit, Toronto, Paso Robles, Vegas, Irvine and Chula Vista).  I got a few reactions that made me pause.  Some of the responses included things like “8 shows!” or “I am so jealous!  I wish I could go to that many” or even, “my wallet is more realistic”.

While none of the reactions were overtly negative or mean, it did make me wonder if I should have posted anything at all.  First of all, I don’t know how to respond to someone who says that they wish they could go to as many shows.  I truly don’t.  Do I say, “I wish you could too?” or “I’m lucky that I can.”??  I wondered that people thought I was bragging, but I didn’t post my response to compare myself to anyone else.  I simply answered the question.  I wasn’t trying to make anyone feel badly.  That is the last thing I would want.  Of course, I understand the feeling that people would have about being able to do as much as we do.  Many times I have felt the same way.  There are many fans that I see do more than I do.  For example, last weekend I posted an interview with a couple of my European friends who have been able to do more than I have.  I also know plenty of UK people who are able to go to each and every show on the UK Tours.  Heck, I see plenty of people who have had official meet and greets when I never have.  Am I jealous?  I think the word that trips me up is the word ‘jealous’.  It means feeling or showing envy, which is a discontented feeling of longing.  Am I discontented or unhappy for them?  No.  I wouldn’t say that I’m unhappy for them.  Do I, at times, wish that I could do more?  That goes without saying.  I didn’t go to any shows during the spring tour here in the States.  I couldn’t.  Simple enough, but I was happy for those who did.

What is my point with this?  I think there is a wide spectrum of what fans can do when it comes to things like going to shows.  Some fans can’t or don’t want to go to as many shows as I might, for example, but there are fans who do a lot more than I do.  Does that make them bigger or better fans than me?  Absolutely not.  Am I a bigger or better fan than someone who goes to less shows?  No way.  We are all just different in terms of how we can and have expressed our fandom.  That said, I don’t want to worry about what to say when it comes to my fandom and I don’t want anyone else to worry about what to express about theirs.  Instead I chose to be excited for other people and what they can do and I will walk away from anyone who puts me or anyone else down for their expression of fandom.

As for the money aspect of touring, I have a few things to say to stop any judgement there.  Yes, we have paid for all of our tickets ourselves,  Yes, the tickets are very expensive.  Does that mean that I’m being ridiculous or irresponsible?  Absolutely not.  I work hard for my money and I have chosen to spend it on touring.  This means that I sacrifice other things.  For example, my house desperately needs new carpet and my kitchen appliances need a major overhaul. I would really like a new iPad since mine is over five years old.  Yet, all of those purchases have to wait.  Beyond how I prioritize, which everyone does, I also have not and never will use money I don’t have to go to a concert.  I pay my bills, including my monthly credit card bill completely.  Thank you very much.  Now, at some point, will I chose those household needs over touring?  That is very possible.  Others might choose to focus their money on their house or have more family obligations, which is fine.  Everyone must decide for themselves.

This all comes down to the same thing.  I don’t want to keep my fandom “secret”.  I want to be able to share how many shows I’m going to both publicly and with my friends without judgement.  I suspect that others feel the same way.  I recognize that it isn’t easy to hold back judgment.  I’m not good at it myself but I’m really trying to work on it.  It would be nice if we all work on it when it comes to something like fandom, something that is supposed to be fun.


I Toast to my Home Truth

I spend a lot of time thinking about and paying attention to any and all things about and related to “fans” and “fandom”.  I know.  Shocking.  You would have never guessed.  I mean…it isn’t like I have spent a lot of time studying fandom or talking about fandom, right?  Ha.  This intense watching and observing, sometimes, leads me to see or hear something that captures something fundamental about being a fan, about being part of a fan community,  and about the nature of fandom.  This week, I happened to see two separate little posts going around on Facebook that did just that.  These posts made me smile each and every time I saw them.

The first one I saw was this one:




Now, obviously, this picture wasn’t about being a fan of a band or about being a Duranie, but the idea still fits.  They could have easily added a band to the list.  We have talked, at times, here about how fandom is, generally, not super accepted or embraced by society unless it is about sports fandom.  To me, this picture captures that sentiment well.  If want to read what we have said about that issue, I refer you to this post here.   My point isn’t to start a debate.  It is more about how music fans, all fans should feel proud to be fans, no matter what they are fans of!

The second picture fits this idea well.


I am a fan.  I am a Duran Duran fan.  I am a Duranie.  I don’t care who knows it.  Frankly, most people who know me know this.  Some people may think I’m silly for liking a band so much.  Some people may think of me as immature for writing this blog, or wearing Duran Duran t-shirts or having Duran posters up in my house.  I don’t care.  I have been a fan for 30 years.  3 decades.  I have lived through ups and downs of being a Duranie and of being a fan.  If after all that, I haven’t walked away, I doubt that I ever will.  It is just a part, a big part of who I am.    This reminds me a speech I heard Wil Wheaton give, which I included below.  It is well worth the viewing.

Today, I feel like embracing myself as a fan and embracing fandom.  In other words, I’m toasting to  “my home truth”.  Here’s to fans everywhere, no matter what they are fans of.  Cheers!



But I can’t escape from the feeling

Last night I spent some time doing some reading. I’m still working on our book proposal, believe it or not. While I’m researching and reading, I’m also actively filing ideas away for later. The truth is, I love the topic of Fan Studies. So every time I see a new book on the subject, I get it and absorb all I can, only to use it later here, or in our proposal, or to beef up our research. Currently I’m reading a book called Understanding Fandom, by Mark Duffett. The thing about Mark’s book is that unlike all of the other books I’ve ever read on the subject, he talks a lot about music fans. I love this because it translates extremely well to what Amanda and I have written and experience on a daily basis. He also writes beautifully, without a lot of the pumped-up scholarly language that a lot of the academics tend to rely on. In any case, I’ve been pretty absorbed in this book. I’m reading a section of the book on fandom as a pathology, which as a phrase, makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

First of all – pathology is the study of medical problems. Call me crazy (Ok, that’s not really funny…but if you’re following along, you might get the joke here), but fandom is not a medical problem. It’s not even a mental one. That’s the trouble though, because historically through academia, fandom has been presented as a sort of deviance. A behavior that is well, not OK. That’s why a lot of us grew up keeping our Duranie-ness to ourselves, even if at the time we didn’t realize the reason. As a scholarly tradition, fandom or fan studies has been about trying to explain “the why” as a sort of pathological reason. This section is all about the crazy, in other words. The author spends a lot of time trying to debunk this theory of “Slippery Slope”, which is an openly accepted theory of fandom. It means that the moment you decide you’re a fan, you spend the rest of your time in fandom working perilously ever-closer to the edge of slipping down the hill into the Valley of Derangement. What’s down there (according to the historical theorists)? Stalking. Attempting to make contact and communicate with the celebrity/musician/actor/public figure/etc. Thinking that the celebrity has flirted or made romantic gestures towards you…so on and so forth. It’s not a pretty sight, and yet many of us in fandom, myself included, partially fit that bill to a small extent. Stick with me here…

As I’m reading this section, I’m doing two things. (Well, realistically I’m doing about five…three of which have to do with parenting, making dinner and occasionally telling my children to please keep it down. Wait…does that count as parenting or just trying to maintain sanity??) One, I’m highlighting, making notes and thinking about how angry it makes me that we’re made to feel as though being fans is somehow a deviation from normal. Two, I’m reading and thinking “Ok, do I really do that? Maybe I really should stop tweeting and trying to treat the band as though they were normal people – because apparently that’s wrong too!”  It’s really an exercise in trying to remind oneself (that oneself being me) that all is really fine.  I think. That “Slippery Slope”…it makes us all sound as though we’re one tweet away from harassment and complete deviancy. Are we??

Think back to the last time you were at a gig. Let’s say it was a Duran Duran gig since, well…that’s why we’re here, isn’t it? Let’s say you had great seats. Well, they were great if you wanted excellent acoustics…because in most venues 2/3 of the way back in the middle is usually pretty great, acoustically. This is not a GA venue. It’s “seated”. Seated is in quotes because well, who actually stays seated at a concert?!? No matter, you were assigned a chair, upon which probably rests your coat or whatever you brought with you. You’re standing up, facing the band. You can barely see the stage from where you are, and with that crazy-tall guy standing right in front of you…you really want to give him a firm shove to the side since he’s got about 5 feet on either side of him with which to move, but you somehow sense that would be frowned upon. So, you just try to zig whenever he zags so you can get a good view of the band. Sort of. You’re clapping along, rocking out to when suddenly you feel it. Through that massive crowd, as though it parts like the Red Sea, the lights zero in on you and Simon LeBon. (I picked Simon since he’s right out front, but this can be anyone you want. Pick your favorite!) He’s looking right at you. You know this. You can feel it. No matter that you’re in row ZZ on the floor. No matter that crazy tall guy is positioned so that you have about a 2 inch space, basically in the guy’s armpit if he keeps his arms up in the air, with which to see Simon staring right you. You look around to see if the people next to you are reacting. No. No one even seems to notice, but hey – YOU see it.  That’s all that matters, right?!  Wait…did he actually wink?!? You’re positive that not only did he wink, he winked right. At. YOU. Bliss.

Now, I don’t care if you’ve been to one show or a hundred, most of us have had just that moment. Maybe you’ve had more than one. (Lucky!!) Maybe you’ve had one at every show (What the hell?!?)…but no matter, when you have that moment, you’re convinced it’s for you, and when it happens, it makes you feel as though you’re on Cloud Nine. We LIVE for that stuff. Well, those of us who like that sort of thing, anyway. It doesn’t make the entire show… (Well, maybe it does sometimes. I mean, for you….because I’m there for the music.  *coughs*), but it creates this second of feeling as though you matter. As though they (the band) can see you’re there. You feel a connection. You go home, back to reality. You suffer through Post Concert Depression. (If you have no idea what this is, you very much need to go to more shows to feel our pain.) Then you’re on Twitter one day and someone in the band comes online. They tweet something and you respond. Then they answer back with an RT.  A blessedly wonderful RT. Maybe they don’t even RT, but you sent some question to them and they answer it – not mentioning your name or anything, but you can tell, the response was for you, dammit! You float through the rest of your day, convinced that the next show you attend will be even better than the last, and you are damn loyal from there on out. You read their twitter, you play the contests, you respond to their posts and tweets, and you are ready for them to announce a tour. SOON. (Sound like anyone you might recognize in the mirror??)

How can any of that really be bad?  Well, I suppose you could go over the edge and be completely consumed with the notion that you’ve got something real there. The unfortunate thing is that there is a sort of parasocial relationship that occurs for fans. You feel as though you know the band. We all do, and as much as it’s really not “normal”…it’s normal in as much as being a fan for thirty years is normal. We know the band and whatever their public personas allow. We treasure what we are able. I think it’s wrong for academia to immediately assume that because a fan has reached out to his/her interests that they are literally on the road to harassment, because in 99% of us – harassment doesn’t enter into it. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be polite, recognize and respect the boundaries, and maybe even check ourselves once in a while, and I think that by and large, most of us do just that.

So, are we really just a tweet, a wink…or even a post away from sliding down that slippery slope? Is that all it takes? I doubt it, although I suspect that is also why it is so cool these days to be the “Anti-fan” (that’s someone who takes pride in pointing out how much they dislike say, the current work of the band, or that they are too “cool” to do so many of the things that other fans do. Anti-fandom. It’s real.), no one wants to be thought of as possibly on the road to derangement, am I right? That’s probably why Amanda and I really started writing this blog, planning conventions and trying to do more. Fandom is OK. It’s not deviant behavior. Fandom is normal. It’s not about a lonely person writing letters of desperation to their favorite actor or singer. It’s not really about someone who convinces themselves that they’re having a relationship with their favorite band member. A fan is not someone who decides to shoot their favorite Beatle. Those things though, they do happen. The difference is that the two things: being a fan and having a mental illness (each of those things I described above come from mental illness) are exclusive. They can exist without the other. You can be a fan for thirty years and never cross that line. You can also have mental illness – whether it’s depression, erotomania or a major personality disorder of another type for many, many years and have it go untreated and ignored…and yes, you can be a fan and still have those illnesses. One does not cause the other. Being a fan does NOT make you mentally ill, at risk of becoming mentally ill, or even “pathetic”, as I’ve read.  Being a fan and being a part of a community though – has the potential to bring a lot of joy, a lot of friends, and a wonderful  journey. To hell with the naysayers. They don’t know how to live.

That’s why we write this blog, and that’s why I keep studying.


What if it’s real, what if you’re just faking

Something interesting, and not really that unexpected has happened in the past two days since most of the world initially commented on Miley’s VMA performance – I’m starting to read more people coming out in support of her, well…act.  I knew the outrage would come first, followed by arguments that she is an artist, and that people are taking it too seriously, not seriously enough…or that they just don’t get it.  It’s the way of the entertainment industry.  While some proclaim her youth (Justin Timberlake as he stopped by Rolling Stone on Tuesday), others say that she was merely doing the same thing that male performers in the music industry do every time they’re on stage, and it’s only because she’s female that we’re finding fault.

I tend to disagree with Justin’s comment that we need to cut her some slack because she’s young, although to be fair – yes, Miley is young and yes, there have been plenty of others before her. The VMA’s are a spectacle, plain and simple. In that respect, I suppose one could say that Miley was doing what was expected. There’s always one freakish performance, and this year – she drew that card. Truthfully this train wreck has been in motion for a long time. I  believe that since she announced that she would no longer be Hannah Montana, Miley has been trying very hard to break the “good girl” image.  I guess being well-behaved doesn’t sell records then?  (Funny. I thought she was a multi-million dollar enterprise with Hannah Montana…) I personally believe she’s acting like a young “lady” (I cringe) who has never been told “no”, and from what I understand in the discussions I’ve had with my fellow stage parents out there – it’s a common problem.

I have a difficult time compartmentalizing the performance from reality, and as a parent – I would have wanted to throttle my oldest (or any of them) if they ever did such a thing. But then I consider that when my oldest is on stage playing a part – and one time she played a complete blonde “floozy” who had no trouble using her sexual appeal to get men to do what she wanted, I don’t get upset with her. It’s not my daughter doing those things, it’s the person she’s portraying.  I have no trouble seeing the difference between the character and the real person. So is that the way it is with Miley? Is she just being the young pop star when she’s up there and she’s not really like that normally? Hard to say.

I think back to Duran Duran’s beginning days – here were five guys from England who wore makeup, wore women’s fashion better than most women, and dyed their hair virtually every color of the rainbow. In the 80s – especially here in America – that didn’t go over without some notice. My own father couldn’t get past their makeup, and couldn’t understand why his oldest daughter liked them so much. At that point, I couldn’t even explain it myself. It just never bothered me – and in some ways I really LIKED the eyeliner and their clothing, although I’m still envious that Nick Rhodes applies make up better than I do, and that John Taylor looks far better with burgundy hair than I could ever hope for myself.  My point of course is that they too were judged for how they looked and what they wore, at least by some…and we didn’t even have to watch Simon grab his crotch or molest a teddy bear. At least not yet.

Still others have commented that Miley is being held up to unfair standards. That she is doing virtually the same things that male pop artists do and yet she’s being called out for it.  Ok. Maybe so. I know of a few guys who put together this little video in the 1980s that had some female “wrestlers”, a pillow fight, a little nudity, an ice cube on the nipple…I think you might know the one. Is that really any different? It wasn’t live on stage, Simon didn’t go around trying to grind with the models (although there are many, many other pop stars that have done that – Robin Thicke among them), and to the best of my knowledge – I don’t recall seeing him ever grab his own crotch or foam finger herself on stage the way that Miley did repeatedly on Sunday night. (Please, if he’s done this – just don’t tell me. I’d just rather not know.)  Interestingly enough though, some of the moments that grab the most applause, screaming and joy from many of the female fans in the audience are those “JoSi” moments.  How do we explain those? Is that different from Miley? I think that at least for me, there’s a difference between innuendo and being smacked in the face with it. There’s also a little matter of sex appeal. In no way was Miley appealing (to me) on Sunday night. It’s really tough to take someone seriously when they’re wearing some sort of an odd furry teddy thing and then strips to skin colored vinyl that does nothing to make you look good (and everything to make your behind look as though it has made an ungraceful slide down the back of your legs). I think it’s fair to say that if a male pop star had gotten up on stage, maybe even Robin Thicke, and had done some of the things Miley did (aside from the furry teddy outfit, because I think people would have noticed that), it might not have gotten as much attention. But why? Is it really because men are allowed to be overtly sexual in a way that women just are not (which I believe really could be part of the case here – but not wholly), or is it something else?

I still believe that art comes into play here. I mentioned Prince on Monday morning – one year (and I don’t even know what awards show it was for), he wore backless pants. Sure, it was shocking and a little (a lot) in your face – but he still played extremely well, even if he was overtly sexual and shocking for 1990s USA. Michael Jackson made the last half of his career all about grabbing his crotch on stage, but he could still dance circles around his professional dancers – making them look like students from a dance studio, and boy could he ever sing. Michael (for me) was almost asexual, he was just Michael Jackson. I was neither into him or appalled by him (most of the time), but I appreciated his enormous amount of talent. Look at Lady Gaga’s performance from the same evening. I didn’t really understand the point she was trying to make – but she ended dressed with shells for a bikini and a thong that was flashed towards the audience ever so briefly. She made her statement I suppose, and yet the world didn’t seem to be nearly as disgusted with her. Was it because her performance was more art than “Look at me…fear me good people of the world! I know all about this sex stuff – I can even show you right here!”, as Miley’s might have been?

From the time that Elvis Presley was first aired on the Ed Sullivan show from the waist up because he rocked his pelvis suggestively, sex has very much had a part in rock and roll, especially on television. We’re used to it, and sure – there is a certain amount of expectation that goes along with watching award shows. We want to be shocked, and sometimes – it really works to have a video banned! The line “Sex, drugs and rock & roll” did not come along out of nowhere. I think the part that some forget, especially the young out there – is that at one point, talent mattered. Lately it’s become far more of a spectacle than anything else of real value.

I am sensitive to the idea women aren’t given the same sort of sexual freedom as men might, but in this case, it seems to me that it’s the sort of damage control argument formulated by her PR people than a realistic discussion, which is a shame. I’m of the belief that it is performances such as the one that Miley gave on Sunday night that continue to hold women back. I’d have far more respect for her if she put some clothes on and relied on the talent that so many are quick to say she has, and prove the naysayers wrong, than play right into their hands with the sort of outlandish and flat out stupid performance she gave that night. Granted, everyone is still talking about it – including me.  I have to wonder if that’s what Miley really wants to be remembered for though. On one hand, the publicity is fantastic, and I’m sure she’s selling records. Bad publicity is good publicity in that respect. On the other hand though, I have to wonder if the legacy she leaves behind is at all important to her? Does she want to be remembered for her foam finger, or does she want to be remembered for her talent? Not every pop star has to succumb to the cheap, easy performances in order to get air or stage time… When someone like Miley Cyrus decides to go the easy route – and yes, I really believe that Sunday night was in fact the EASY way to go – all she’s doing is continuing to play into the belief that sex is all women have got to sell.  Even if it’s really bad sex.

With that in mind, I continue to be thankful that Simon, John, Roger, Nick and Dom haven’t gone the route of female models, nudity and sex to sell themselves.

Oh wait.  😉