Category Archives: stigma

You Know There’s No Escape from Me

I had many reasons for wanting to write our book analyzing fandom.  For the most part, I wanted to understand fans and fandom and I wanted others to understand it, too.  I get so tired of trying to explain myself and what it means to be a fan, what it means to be part of a fan community.  Sometimes, this misunderstanding is exactly that—a simple misunderstanding.  At other times, this misunderstanding leads to judgment and negative conclusions about fans.  These negative conclusions often form into stereotypes about fans.  These stereotypes include ones that I’m sure many/most/all of us have heard at one point or another when we reveal that we are fans.  There are less significant ones like “fans have no lives” or “fans haven’t grown up yet”.  Then, there are the more significant ones like “stalker” or “groupie”.  Part of me, a big part of me, wanted to write the book to stop these horrible stereotypes.  I wanted non-fans to see that we were normal and that being part of a fan community didn’t make us weird, stupid or scary.  Yet, I have to wonder.  Are any of these stereotypes true or somewhat true?  How did they come into existence?  Why?  If they are there, then, we are all suffer.  
Are any of the stereotypes true about fans?  Let’s look at them one at a time, but before we do, I openly admit that this post is as much about me trying to figure this out as much as anything I have written.  I absolutely realize that what is extreme to one person might not be to another.  I also admit that some of my behaviors might be seen as over-the-top by some fans but not by others.  It seems to me that stereotypes are based on one’s perception and are truly relative.  Yet, are there some behaviors that go too far, that go beyond common fan behavior?  That’s is probably a discussion in itself.  Yet, I bet that most of us would say that do go too far.  These non-common fan behaviors, it seems to me, are the ones that form the real significant stereotypes.  
So, are there fans that have “no life”?  All of these stereotypes are based on one’s perception and truly is relative.  That said, this negative assumption obviously says that a fan spends all of his/her time on whatever s/he is a fan of.  This is not only about the time spent but also the lack of time spent in reality with elements of life like family, friends and career.  I’m willing to bet that there are some fans who spend very little time a week with their fandoms.  Maybe there is no time spent on fandom unless something special comes up—a TV appearance or a new album.  Of course, there are some of us who spend a lot of time on our fandom.  How much is spent?  I don’t know.  Are there some people who spend HOURS each day on their fandom?  I’m sure that they are.  Are there people who will choose to do something related to their fandom over spending time with friends or family in real life?  I am sure that there are.  Does this stereotype seem accurate then?  Like many stereotypes, there is an element of truth to it.  There are people who spend a LOT of time on their fandom.  I know that I do.  Of course, the way I could combat this stereotype, though, is to point out that many of us are able to have real life relationships, keep jobs, fulfill responsibilities, and more.  Does every fan, though?  Probably not.  There are probably some that don’t maintain a balance.
On top of the frequently thought of stereotype of having no life, fans are accused all the time about being immature, not grown up.  I think Duranies probably hear this one a lot since many of us became fans when we were kids.  The assumption here is that we should have “grown out” of being a fan.  For people who think this, they often think it is fine to be a fan as a kid but an adult should have better, more important things to worry about.  Again, I have to wonder if there are fans who meet these negative assumptions.  If so, how would we tell?  Would it be because they live in their parents’ houses still?  Could it be stated when people don’t have jobs or don’t have the jobs to sustain themselves?  I don’t know.  Would it be that people still live that teenage fantasy that one of the band members might become the love of one’s life?  If these truly are the signs of fans that haven’t grown up, are there fans like this?  I suppose there probably are. 
This, of course, brings me to the dicey topics of “stalkers” and “groupies”.  Both of those stereotypes are well-known and documented to exist in the world.  After all, there have been “stalkers” who have been so obsessed about the celebrity of choice that violence has resulted even, but those are obviously the truly, truly, truly, truly extreme cases.  Even though, those are rare cases, are there behaviors that would fit into this category that aren’t necessarily done by violent people?  For example, John tells how in the 80s there were fans outside his house, in his autobiography.  He describes most of these fans as good, well-meaning kids but he was bothered by the fan that went through his trash and found some journaling he did.  Then, of course, there is the song, Be My Icon, which describes similar situations.  Clearly, some of the behaviors that would be considered by many as stalking, including being at someone’s personal house, going through belongings, etc. have existed in the past.  I’m willing to bet that there is some now.  Of course, and this is where it gets dicey or hard to discuss, but there seems to be a fine line between say walking past a celebrity’s house and hanging out there in order to see the idol of choice.  What about hanging out in public places?  What about showing up where they work?  Is it stalkerish or not to show up at say a lot where a TV show or a movie is being filmed, a rehearsal studio, or a hotel?  Does that make it less stalkerish?  Is it stalkerish if the behavior is only done a few times or does it have to be a constant, repeat behavior?   Like the other stereotypes, my guess is that there are fans in any given fandom that might fit the stereotype of stalking, at least to some extent, especially depending how someone defines the term of stalking.
Likewise, I am guessing that there are fans out there that might fit the “groupie” label.  Of course, this one, being that most people define groupie based on sexual behavior, might be the most difficult to determine its existence within fandom.  We know that there have been people who have openly admitted to having sexual relations with celebrities, including rock stars.  Heck, Pamela Des Barres has written many books on the topic.  Yet, does it still exist?  I have no idea.  What I do know is that the accusation still exists.  I know that people are accused of it when they do things like always have front row or other perks connected with seeing one’s idol(s).  Maybe it is stated when the fans seems to hang out with the celebrity of choice or someone who works for the celebrity.  Does that mean that they are actually participating in that assumed sexual behavior?  Again, I have no idea but people have and do make the assumption about fans.  It isn’t uncommon for non-fans to ask fans if they are groupies if they have traveled a lot to see their favorite celebrities.  I’m willing to bet a lot of Duranies have been asked that, if they travel to shows.  Do those groupie-assumed behaviors exist?  Probably. 
So what if some element or elements of these negative stereotypes are true about fans?  Who cares?  I do.  I think we all should because those stereotypes affect ALL fans.  How many times have you had to explain that being a fan doesn’t mean that you stalk the celebrity of your choice?  How many times have you had to clarify that going on “tour” or traveling to see shows doesn’t mean that you are a “groupie” and all that goes with that label?  I have been asked those questions many times.  I have seen others asked that many times.  I have seen the little flicker of judgment that passes over people’s faces when you say that you are a fan.  I have felt the disrespect increase from others.  So, how do we combat this?  One way to fight this is to do what I have attempted to do in our book, which is to point that MOST fans are normal.  They love their idols but they are able to maintain a balance between fandom and real life.  They understand that fandom should be one part of their lives but not the biggest part of their lives.  They are able to do many other things besides be focused on the celebrity of choice.  Yet, this effort of mine only goes so far if there are other fans who do demonstrate some of the over-the-top behaviors.  Non-fans won’t listen to my argument if it seems false, if fans seem to fit the stereotypes.  I suffer and every fan suffers when fans chose to demonstrate behavior that could be construed as being stereotypical.  I know what many of you are thinking.  Who cares what people think?  While I won’t disagree with that on some level, I still think it would be nice for it to be considered “normal”, acceptable, and RESPECTABLE to be a fan.  I would love for people to just think of fans as passionate, dedicated and loyal.  As someone who feels like she is doing her best to have fans viewed in the most positive of lights, fans who demonstrate behavior that might be stereotypical or extreme makes it all the harder.  Thus, it seems to me that we fans have to work hard to ensure that our behavior does not become too extreme.  Be enthusiastic but maintain that line of balance and help your fellow fans do the same.
-A

On the Show Room Floor

Duran Duran has been advertising an upcoming sale in their online store on February 11th.  I’ll be honest.  I have no doubt that I’ll check it out.  Will I buy anything?  No idea.  I suspect that I probably won’t as I have quite a bit of merchandise already.  I’m a sap, that way.  That said, I still can’t help but to think that Duran merchandise could use some updating.  I have felt and even blogged about how they could and should come up some new and interesting products.  After all, fans like me would buy them.  In fact, because merch has been on my mind lately, I have been doing a series about it as my daily questions.  For the last few weeks, I have been asking people which kinds of Duran related products they would prefer.  I truly believed that I am not the only one wanting some new kinds of products and this would show that.  Also, I wanted to know which products would be most wanted. 

While some fans have chosen not to participate for whatever reason, other fans have given their opinions daily.  Interestingly enough, though, there are some fans who have chosen to make fun, belittle the questions or try to bring it back to the music.  Of course, some of them might even claim that they weren’t doing this.  They might say that they were trying to be funny instead or might tell us that we need a sense of humor.  I think it is clear that sense of humor is not lacking here.  Neither is intelligence.  What is even more interesting is that those who have chosen this route are all men.  Now, let me be clear.  I’m not saying that ALL men have done this or have been negative but I’m saying that the people who have been also happen to be men.  Why is this? 

Obviously, there are some male fans who don’t like anytime the Duranie universe focuses on anything or any aspect that isn’t about the music.  They don’t like when pictures are posted.  They don’t like when fans discuss touring outfits or haircuts.  They don’t like when there is any *squeeiing* for any reason.  They assume that one cannot be focused on the music and still have appreciation for how the band looks.  Now, part of me gets this.  Duran Duran has truly struggled with getting and keeping respect as serious musicians.  This lack of respect has often rubbed off on the fans as well as the assumption then is that Duranies wouldn’t know real musicians if they were hit over the head with them.  Part of the reason, it can be argued, that Duran struggles with respect is because of appearing on teen magazines or being in videos in which they are drinking champagne or crawling on beaches.  Another reason that they might not have gotten the respect they deserve is because they were marketed like no other in the 1980s.  It seemed like we could buy so many different products.  I, for one, have my original copy of the Arena board game.  I also had Duran Duran pajamas as a kid.  There were batteries, school folders, t-shirts, buttons, jackets, wristbands and more.  They were everywhere and, admittedly, most of those products were marketed to young people. 

I assume then that for these fans who criticize merchandise, all they can see is the silly products of decades ago.  They don’t want the focus to be on products and merch.  They want the focus on the music.  Of course, I am assuming this as those who criticize don’t articulate why they respond the way they do.  Yet, while I understand their argument, to some extent, I have two counter arguments.  First, why shouldn’t people be able to express their fandom however they want?  While I get the need some have for respect or to not be made fun of, I don’t get making fun of others or being critical themselves of other fans.  I like the idea that all fans should be able to show their fandom however they choose to.  I also believe that fans can be in it for the music and still like to buy Duran posters.  Some fans don’t care about merch.  Cool.  Some will buy everything.  Cool, too.  I want people to feel comfortable.  Buying merch or not buying merch does not change one’s intelligence, respectability, or fan status.  It doesn’t make you a better or worse fan.  It doesn’t make you a bigger or smaller fan.  I also don’t think it really will affect Duran’s status, according to music critics. 

The second argument I have is simple.  All fandoms have merchandise.  I can’t think of one fandom that is based on popular culture that does not have products to buy.  Some of these fandoms are more socially acceptable than others.  Let me give some examples.  Does the Harry Potter fandom have products?  Does Star Trek or Star Wars?  What about comics?  What about other bands like U2, who do tend to get respect?  What about Bruce Springsteen?  Stevie Wonder?  Hmmm…then, what about sports?  Was any merch sold before, during or after the Superbowl?  The answer is that they all have merch.  Fans of all of these buy products advertising their fandom.  Therefore, I don’t understand the need to belittle this part of fandom.  

Of course, those who have made critical or demeaning statements might not like the merchandise options we have asked about.  Yes, I realize that bracelets and necklaces tend to be worn by women more than men.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t see men wearing necklaces.  Looking at a baseball game would show that.  Likewise, men can and do wear jewelry on their wrists.  I can’t think of anything that was asked that couldn’t be used by both men and women. 

My point here is simple.  Merchandise is part of fandom.  It just is.  It is okay if you don’t get it or like it but allow for others who do, without judgement or criticism.  If merchandise ceased existing, it wouldn’t bring more respect to fans or to the band.

-A

Media Representation of Fandom: Bull Durham

It has been awhile since I wrote a post about media representation of fans so I figured it was time.  Plus, in my usual rebellious fashion, I figured it would be good to watch, write and talk about a movie on baseball on Superbowl Sunday.  You can guess that I won’t be tuned in to that tonight.  Football isn’t high on my list and it is even lower if the team I root for isn’t in it.  Back to the topic at hand, Bull Durham is a movie starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins.  The title comes from a minor league baseball team, the Durham Bulls, located in Durham, North Carolina.  The movie follows 2 minor league baseball players.  One player is at the beginning of his career with enough talent to be able to make it to the major leagues.  The other player is at the end of his career but can offer wisdom to the upcoming player.  Of course, these two also have to contend with Annie, a very knowledgeable woman and baseball fan, who chooses one player per season to hook up with.  Now, of course, you might all wonder how in the world this connects to fandom.  While it seems obvious to me that Annie represents the “groupie” as does another character, “Millie” whom Annie seems to be training/mentoring.  Annie loves the sport (she is a fan) and will go after one star player as does Millie.  They, generally, match the typical assumptions about groupies.

We have talked about groupies before on this blog.  Typically, groupies get defined as fans who offer sexual favors to their idols.  We have also talked about how it is often assumed that any female fan who follows her idol(s) is a groupie or wants to be groupie going after the ultimate autograph.  On top of these stereotypes, there are stereotypes about groupies, themselves.  Some of these stereotypes or assumptions include that these women (and they are almost always assumed to be women) are only there to have sex with the famous men and aren’t there because of the fandom.  They, in fact, don’t know or care about the fandom or anything really related to the fandom.  They aren’t there because they are fans.  Then, of course, is the assumption about what the ultimate goal is for groupies.  Some think groupies want to marry one of the subjects of their affection.  Others think that they just want the status of having sex with a long list of celebrities, as in the more celebrities, the better and the more famous the celebrities, the even better.  So, how does this movie show the fans/groupies in the movie?  Do they match the typical definition of groupies?  If so, then, how do they compare to the assumptions about groupies?

Do the female characters in the movie, Bull Durham, match the assumed definition of groupies?  They sure do.  Annie is very honest that she chooses one ball player a season to “hook up with”.  She points out that her role is to make them “feel confident”.  She is attracted to both the rising star and the experienced veteran.  The choice is made in the beginning of the season after she watches the players both on the field and off the field at a local restaurant/bar.  During this movie, she brings both the rising star, Nuke, and the veteran, Crash, back to her house to do an interview of sorts.  In this case, Crash leaves and says that he has been around too long to audition.  Thus, Annie chooses Nuke.  Meanwhile, Millie, the younger “groupie”, seems to be interviewing candidates as well.  In some cases, she tries them out like she did with Nuke before he got with Annie.  In other cases, she talks to the baseball players while they are sitting on the bench.  Eventually, she, too, settles on a religious ballplayer by the name of Jimmy.  These women do seem like groupies as they are focused on hooking up with a player or more.  Their worlds seem to be focused on this goal as we know nothing more about them. 

While these characters definitely seem to fit the idea of groupies, do they match the other assumptions about groupies?  In some ways, they do and, in other ways, they do not.  The first assumption about groupies is that they really don’t care about their fandom.  They know nothing and don’t need to know anything.  They only focus on getting the guys into bed.  Annie and Millie do not match this assumption at all.  First of all, Annie is definitely a fan.  We know this right away when she starts talking about how the only church she goes to is the church of baseball.  She mentions that baseball feeds her soul.  Later in the movie, Nuke decides to refrain from having sex to keep his winning streak.  Annie’s reaction to this is mixed as she loves that the team is playing well but the other part of her misses having a man in her bed.  The second assumption is that “groupies” don’t know anything about whatever their fandom is.  Thus, if they are music groupies, they know nothing about music.  In this case, the groupies wouldn’t know anything baseball.  This is definitely not the case as Annie often gives lessons to the players about what they need to do or what they need to do differently and when the players listen to the advice, they do better.  Both Millie and Annie watch the games, intensely, and even take down statistics while there. 

What is the goal for these female characters?  It doesn’t seem obvious.  Annie, in particular, seems very content to live her life as she always has.  The only reason that might change is because this particular season does not go according to plan as the one player she chose resists her half way through the season and the other player still interests her.  Millie, on the other hand, does seem happy to follow in Annie’s footsteps but is pretty happy to marry one of the players.  This assumption that groupies are after a commitment from the idol matches as Millie marries her hookup. 

The movie, Bull Durham, definitely shows baseball “groupies”.  On one hand, it is nice to see fandom, of sorts, shown in sports.  On the other hand, the focus is on “groupies”.  These fans are focused on having sex with the subjects of their fandom.  While they are true fans of baseball and know a lot about it, their focus isn’t on cheering the team.  These female fans couldn’t be just fans of the game.  Nope, they had to be groupies.  Now, of course, I realize that there is supposed to be a sort of love story within the movie, but that love story could have taken place without having Annie be a “groupie”.  She could have just been a knowledgeable, dedicated fan.  Obviously, some may argue that Annie’s character is one of a strong woman who goes after what/who she wants and that she isn’t following society’s expectations of womanhood.  I won’t argue against that.  I will also point out that the assumptions about “groupies” absolutely are tied to women’s rights and society’s expectations of women.  Yet, my goal here isn’t to focus on the larger issue of sexism but to examine how the fans are shown.  In this case, the fans probably had to be groupies in order to make the storyline work.  I get that, but I do wish that they could have just been fans.  Annie could have been a strong woman and baseball fans without being a “groupie”.

-A

Media Representations of Fandom–Duran Songs!

What does Duran Duran say about fans?  More specifically, what do they say in their songs about fans?  I ask as part of my continuing series of blog posts regarding media representations of fans.  In previous weeks, I have looked at movies, TV shows and books.  Now, I ask about music.  I ask about what the subject of our fandom has to say about fans.  Do they show fans to be normal but passionate people?  Do they show one or more of the common stereotypes like being obsessive or demonstrating behaviors common with “stalking” or being a “groupie”?  Do they show fans as unthinking or immature?  Do the fans in Duran’s music have lives or they just focused on fandom? 

What songs discuss fans or fandom?  It seems to me that there are a couple of songs in which fans or fandom is the obvious subject matter.  Still there are other songs which could be metaphors for fans or fandom.  Likewise, Duran has quite a few songs that deal with being famous, which I will not discuss at this time.  Thus, I’ll focus on the obvious songs and leave those songs for another blog.  To me, the obvious songs are Be My Icon and All You Need is Now.  Let’s discuss in chronological order.

Be My Icon:
This is a song featured on Duran’s Medazzaland album.  As many of you might know, this song’s lyrics started out dramatically different.  John Taylor was on vocals and the title was “Butt Naked”.  The focus of those lyrics, from what I have heard and believe, is John’s ex-wife.  Obviously, after he left the band, the lyrics and title changed to what we have now.  Here are the lyrics:

I follow you, I wait for you
You know there’s no escape from me
You’re more than wallpaper in my room

I write you letters and bring you gifts
I’m going through all your trash
I love you so much,
I keep your cigarette butts

Now is the time to come out
Come out of the shadows

No need to be scared
You’re gonna be so happy
I built you a shrine
Now you can Be My Icon

I’m out on the edge
There’s no way back inside
All my friends are gone
They didn’t understand me

It makes so much sense
It’s no coincidence
Just you and I alone here
And I need you
Oh

How many hours have I stared at my face in the mirror
I get worried sometimes that the image will shatter

No need to be scared
You’re gonna be so happy
I built you a shrine
Now you can be my icon
No need to be
Scared
Now you can
Be My Icon

I know this is real
Believe it
We belong together
What ever happens
You’re gonna be with me
Forever

Be my icon
You will be my icon
Be my icon
You will be my icon

How does this Duran song represent fans and fandom?  Not good.  Not good at all.  Let’s assume that this is about one fan.  Clearly, this person has become obsessed and stalker like.  The very first line after all is about following the celebrity and that the celebrity cannot get away from this fan.  Then, of course, this person searches through the celebrity’s trash and keeps some of it, including cigarette butts.  In fact, this person is so obsessed that s/he has lost all of her/his friends because they don’t understand the obsession and the behavior that goes with.  What is the ultimate goal?  The goal is to have a relationship with the celebrity with lines like, “We belong together.”  The celebrity, in turn, is freaked out.  What will this fan do?  What will this obsession lead to?  Of course, not everything that this fan does is unusual or out of the norm of fan behavior, including having posters, buying gifts or writing letters.  The key is moderation and it is clear from the rest of the song that there was no moderation.  At all.  Now, are their fans like this?  Certainly.  Are there fans like this in Duranland?  Definitely. 

All You Need Is Now:
Duran has been introducing this one by saying it is a message to the fans.  Let’s look at the lyrics and see what that message is and how they show fans and fandom.

It’s all up to you now
Find yourself in the moment
Go directly to the voodoo
Now the channel is open
Lose your head
Lose control
You come on delicate and fine
Like a diamond in the mind
Oh whoa oooo, yeaaaa

When you move into the light
You’re the greatest thing alive
Oh whoa oooo

And you sway in the moon
The way you did when you were younger
When we told everybody
All you need is now

Stay with the music let it
Play a little longer
You don’t need anybody
All you need is now

Everybody’s gunning
For the VIP section
But you’re better up and running
In another direction
With your bones in the flow
Cold shadow on the vine
But your lashes let it shine
Oh whoa oooo, yeaaaa

Every moment that arrives
You’re the greatest thing alive
Oh whoa oooo

And you sway in the moon
The way you did when you were younger
And we told everybody
All you need is now

Stay with the music let it
Play a little longer
We don’t need anybody
All you need is now

All you need all you need is now
All you need all you need is now
All you need all you need is now

And we will sway in the moon
The way we did when we were younger
(When we were younger)
When we told everybody
All you need is now

Stay with the music let it
Play a little longer
(A little longer)
We don’t need anybody
All you need is now

Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now
Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now
Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now
Oh whoa oooo
All you need all you need is now

The very first line that catches my attention in relationship to fans is, “you come on delicate and fine
like a diamond in the mind”.  This time the fan isn’t coming on strong.  The person is like a gem, something to be treasured.  A few lines later, the fan is the “greatest thing alive”.  From there, of course, Duran encourages the fan to “stay with the music”.  Obviously, they want the fan to continue to be a fan and to embrace the now.  In fact, the fan could “lose your head, lose control”.  This is the exact opposite of Be My Icon.  In this song, the fans are absolutely welcomed.  Interestingly enough, the fan is also encouraged to not try to be in the VIP section.  Could this mean that while the fan should stay with the music, the fan shouldn’t worry about being the biggest and best fan?  Maybe.

In the two songs that Duran really focused on the fans, they really show two very different pictures.  On one hand, the fan seemed obsessed and demonstrated stalking behavior, for sure.  It painted a picture of the extreme fan.  It also feels like they are just talking about one fan, an individual.  All You Need Is Now, on the other hand, feels like they are talking to a group, more than one fan.  In this case, the fans are welcomed. They are more than welcomed.  They are treasured and admired.  What is the take away then?  How does Duran show fans and fandom?  It seems that their depiction of fans is balanced, from the celebrity’s point of view.  Some fans can be nightmares but most fans are dreams.  That makes perfect sense to me.

-A

Media Representations of Fandom–How Soon Is Ever (Part 2)

Last Sunday, I dived into the book, How Soon Is Never? by Marc Spitz.  This book followed Joe, a huge fan of The Smiths, as he discovered the band as a teen growing up in Long Island to his adulthood where, as a music journalist, he developed a plan with his co-worker to get them to reunite.  Last week, I focused on the first half of the book when Joe discovered the band and became a huge fan.  In my opinion, the book expressed what fandom feels like and the emotional investment that happens for those hard-core fans.  Thus, the book was realistic in how it portrayed fans.  The question, now, is whether that same realism would continue as we follow Joe’s plan in reuniting his favorite band of all time.  Will the adult fan be shown without the stereotypes?  The typical stereotypes for adult fans include not having a life or being stuck in perpetual immaturity.  Will this be how Joe is represented?

After The Smiths break up, the book skims past the rest of Joe’s high school experience.  College is also skimmed over.  We do learn that Joe spent his college years writing and taking a lot of drugs.  After college, he got a job in a book store where his colleague, Don, got him back into music.  Don, in fact, had been interning at a local music magazine and asked if Joe would be interested in writing some reviews.  (How lucky is that?!  Can I get paid to blog?!)  Soon enough, Joe discovered that having people read your writing is awesome.  In fact, he stated that it was addictive.  (Hmm…can’t relate to that.  Nope.  Not at all.)  Meanwhile, he got a letter from his ex-girlfriend from high school who gave him his first album from The Smiths.  This led him to open his box of vinyl, including Smiths albums.  The next day, he wore his original Smiths shirt to work where his new colleague, Miki, complimented him on it.  This led Joe to get interested in her immediately and the couple began hanging out together.  During their first time hanging out, they talked about the band and how everything would be better if they got back together.  (How many Duranies out there thought that before the Fab 5 reunited?!)  They decided that their mission must be to reunite them!!!  Their method would be to approach each individual band member.  At this point, they actually had a feeling that this could work!!!

Of course, they had some hope because they were feeding off of each other!  They viewed this as a cause!  Now, I have to admit that this feels very, very familiar to me.  Isn’t that what fandom is, at least when it comes to feeding off of other fans?  I never feel more like a Duranie than when I am with other Duranies!  Isn’t that what happens when fans even communicate online?  I think it does.  In terms of a cause, I know many Duranies who do things to try and get Duran commercial success, for example.  What about the fans who have the cause that sound like this, “This tour, I’m going to get front row.”  (We would never say that.  Nope.)  Again, this totally feels like a realistic portrayal of fandom without making the characters just fan stereotypes.

Now, that they have their cause as fans, as journalists, they began researching online.  Many quotes from band members seemed to fit the idea that they would be open to reuniting, or was that just how it seemed to their fan minds?  Of course, I think many fans do read into what is said to match what they want.  Let’s admit this.  When you are a fan, you aren’t always objective.  From there, they decide to post on every website related to The Smiths.  They felt that they needed to win the support of the fans and to have them join in on their cause.  Again, I can think of examples in our fandom.  What about the petition to get Duran into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame?  Isn’t this the same kind of idea?  Finally, after a week when they contacted managers, they heard back from the drummer’s manager and were able to schedule an interview. 

Of course, both Joe and Mike were very nervous about meeting a band member despite being rock music journalists.  It isn’t the same, if you are fans.  During the interview, they talked about being an 80s band.  The drummer, Mike, responded that 80s bands were Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran.  (Am I the only one who gets really excited at the mention of Duran in any book?!  One of the chapter titles of this book is a Duran lyric, too!)  They asked him what it would feel like to play again with the rest of the band and he agreed that it would be “magic”.  Clearly, then, he would be interested in reuniting!  From there, they moved to get the bass player, Andy.  For this, they traveled to Manchester, the band’s hometown.  How did Joe and Miki respond to being there?  They wanted to walk the streets to see where the “magic” happened.  Perhaps, they would get a new understanding.  Again, I found myself relating as this is how I felt the first time I walked around Birmingham.  The realism continued.  The interview with the bass player was also productive as he said he could see reuniting for the right amount of money.  Before they left Manchester, they were also able to meet with the guitarist, Johnny Marr.  Johnny indicated that he felt most reunions were about showbiz and that the only way he would do that was if it was away from the spotlight.  Thus, 3 members would reunite if the right circumstance existed!

From there, they moved to the last member, the singer, Morrissey who was living in LA.  For this band member, they didn’t have an interview set up.  They were going to just show up, which led Joe to complain that they were stalkers despite having journalist credentials.  Of course, they weren’t just fans either because they wrote about them.  They were in a strange sort of limbo.  Another Duran reference occurred as Joe began singing Is There Something I Should Know while waiting for Morrissey to answer the door.  He didn’t answer.  At this point, Joe decided that he was done.  He needed to move on and that nothing would really change if the band reunited.  Yet, at the end of the book, Joe concluded that the music still made him happy and that as long as he had that he would never be lost. 

Now, of course, there was way more to the book than what I discussed here.  Like the last book, I focused solely on how fans or fandom were shown.  I found the representation of fans, including their feelings and experiences surrounding fandom to be completely realistic.  It showed how fans become fans and how those strong feelings can and do last well into adulthood.  I find it interesting that both books that I discussed as part of this series seemed to have an accurate representation.  Yet, the movies and tv shows didn’t, really.  Is this an example of the limits of movies and tv shows over books?  Can books show more because they are lengthy?  Some food for thought.  Next week, I’ll continue with the series but I will be looking at Duran songs that discuss fans.  How do they represent us in their music?

-A

Spitz, Marc.  How Soon Is Never?  New York:  Three Rivers Press, 2003.

Media Representations of Fandom–How Soon Is Never?

It’s Sunday!  Well, it will be when you read this.  I’m actually writing this on Saturday from a local coffee shop.  I have to write it earlier because I’ll be traveling to the Chicago area tomorrow for a family function.  I am continuing in my series on media representations of fans and fandom.  This week, I’m going to discuss the first half of the book, “How Soon Is Never?” by Marc Spitz.  This book tells the story of Joe Green, a rock journalist who grew up in Long Island, New York in 1980s where he experienced life as a misfit until he discovered a band that changed his world, the Smiths.  He fell in love with the band who went on to break his heart when they broke up.  Now, his adult life is a complete mess but thinks that maybe, just maybe, things will be all right again if he can just get the Smiths back together.  Obviously, this book is something that I think most Duranies will be able to relate to.  Many of us fell in love with Duran Duran when we were kids and were devastated when the Fab Five ceased to exist.  Likewise, we experienced extreme joy when they reunited in the early 2000s.  On a personal level, I can’t imagine writing a daily blog or a book on fandom if they had not gotten back together.  While I was still a fan, my fandom wasn’t nearly the same in the 90s.  Thus, this book could be one that I could relate to, at least on paper.  Will that actually be true?  How will the author present the main character’s fandom?  Will it be true to life or filled with horrible stereotypes?

This book begins with a quote by Oscar Wilde that I immediately connected with, “To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.”  Truly.  Writing about fandom doesn’t equal exercise, doesn’t require an early start to my day and definitely doesn’t/hasn’t brought any respect.  😀  Right away in the book, we meet the main character, Joe Green, who is a rock journalist who struggles with alcohol and drug addiction.  In the first half of the book, we learn about how he fell in love with rock music, more specifically, the band that changed his life, The Smiths.  He described his love for the band in this way on page 19, “Just picture your mother or father or your husband or your wife or your child.  Think about how you love them.  My love for this band is as strong.  It’s the only real love I’ve ever know.”  That’s how we feel for Duran Duran.  I’m sure that many of you feel this way as well.  From there, the book takes us back in time to Joe’s youth to show when/why/how he became a fan.

Joe grew up with divorced parents in Long Island.  His dad moved out of the house and Joe would go visit him in the summer where his dad shared an apartment with his friend, Nick, who played Joe his first rock albums, including a legendary album from the Clash.  From there, Joe discovered a local record shop and developed a crush on the clerk, Jane.  The two of them began to hang out, use drugs and drink.  During this process, Joe began to change his look to a straight up punk look with spiked hair, holes in clothes and more.  His mother and stepfather were less than thrilled when he returned back home for the school year.  In fact, they then enrolled Joe into a private school where Joe meets other misfits like himself who introduces him to local alternative radio and other new bands like R.E.M.  Joe and his new best friend, John, would go to record stores together.  During one shopping trip, they spot a t-shirt for the Smiths and decide that they must have it even though they hadn’t actually heard the band.  From there, he and his friends were glued to the radio in the hopes of being the first to actually hear the Smiths.  The idea here is that the first to hear it and record it would be the hero of the group of friends.  The same thing happens in our fandom today.  The first person to hear and post a new snippet, song, video, whatever definitely gains some status within the fandom.

Joe meets a new girl, Jennifer, who told him that she had heard the Smiths and would record it for him.  It was love at first sight for him.  Of course, it was also love of first sight for the band as well as the girl.  Joe decided then that he must look like Morrissey and be like him, too.  In fact, on page 129, the character said, “Morrissey just seemed perfect.  I wasn’t attracted to him physically.  I wanted to be him.”  How many male Duranies did the same thing?  Heck, I love that story that Mark Ronson tells about how he brought a picture of John Taylor with him to the hairdresser as a kid.  Unfortunately, for Mark, he ended up looking more like Nick Rhodes than John Taylor!  LOL!   Of course, Joe loved the music as well as the look.  To him, it felt like that first album had been “timeless” and that it fit the soundtrack of his life.  Again, I have to say that I could completely relate to this.  To me, that is what musical fandom feels like!  Joe, the main character, summed it up well on page 137, “I had been forever changed.”  Yep, fandom does that.  Once you discover the object of the fandom, you aren’t the same.

From there, Joe decided that he was going to investigate everything that Morrissey liked.  He started reading Oscar Wilde and became a vegetarian just like Morrissey.  I had to laugh at this.  I think I saw James Bond movies for the first time because I knew that John Taylor liked James Bond.  Joe also started writing letters to Morrissey that he never sent and joined the unofficial fan club.  Any and all information on the band was welcomed and every fact possible was memorized, including how the band formed, their birthdays, etc.  All of this seems very, very, very familiar to me!!  Finally, the little group of friends had the chance to see the band live.  On the way to the show, they spot other fans who told them that they had already seen the band the previous night and on previous tours.  Joe’s friend, John, reacted with anger as he thought this other fans wanted to seem cool.  Again, this makes sense to me as status, attempts at status or concern with status is alive and well in fandom.  Yet, this annoyance was forgotten as the group had the “wired anticipation” of seeing the band in person.  As the show began, they found themselves “overwhelmed with emotion”.  Joe described seeing them like this on page 154, “The Smiths were the most perfect idea I’d ever heard.  Or seen.”  He continued to say, “…like everyone else in the audience, I allowed myself to indulge guiltlessly in that delusion that Morrissey was singing to me alone.”  I could have written all of this myself.  I, too, feel that “wired anticipation” before a show.  I think we all feel during a show that the band is performing just for us.

Of course, Joe’s life continued and he experienced some normal teen angst, including with the girl he had fallen for.  For Joe, it forced him to conclude that the Smiths were the only thing that he could count on and that he could relate to the songs.  In fact, he stated on page 180, “These songs understood me.  I understood them.”  *sigh*  I get this.  I bet we all do.  For the next tour, he got tickets again.  This time, though, the shows got canceled as the band broke up.  Joe was devastated.  Absolutely devastated.  The fact that he was so upset also added to his upset as he said on page 188 that he was “…ashamed that a band had this much power over my emotions, how, like a drug, they could make me happy or sad on a whim.  They had more influence than a best friend.” Oh boy.  Reading this, I was instantly transported back to London in May of 2011 when I had traveled over to the UK for shows that didn’t happen.  I can admit now that I felt certain that they would never play again.  Thankfully, and obviously, I was wrong but I could certainly remember how horrible that was.  I felt just like this character did.  For Joe, this led to him to never listen to them again until adulthood, which is where I will pick up the book next week.

So, how do I take this book so far, in terms of how they represent fans?  I think it is completely realistic.  Joe could be me and the Smiths could be Duran Duran.  I found myself nodding to so much of it.  It probably helped that I, too, grew up in the 80s and felt as alienated as this character did.  Am I the only one who could relate to this?  Will the realism continue as Joe moves into adulthood?  Will this portrayal continue to be accurate?  Will fandom be presented just as a teen thing or an acceptable teen thing but a ridiculous thing as an adult?  I will discuss all of this and more next week!

-A

Spitz, Marc.  How Soon Is Never?  New York:  Three Rivers Press, 2003. 

Media Representations of Fandom: Sugartown

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.

-A

Media Representations of Fandom? Juliet Naked (Chapters 10-15)

Today, I will finish discussing the book, Juliet Naked, by Nick Hornby.  Two Sundays ago, I discussed the first three chapters then last Sunday, I looked at chapters 4-9.  To refresh people’s memories or to catch up those who missed the previous blog posts, the book focuses mainly on three characters, Duncan, Annie and Tucker.  Duncan and Annie were a couple for a long time but had separated from each other.  Duncan was a huge fan of a singer-songwriter, Tucker, who had dropped out of public life.  When the couple hears an unreleased album of Tucker’s, both post reviews on a fan message board.  Annie’s review results in Tucker responding to her via email.  Meanwhile, Duncan begins to think that leaving Annie was a big mistake while Annie concludes that she has wasted 15 years of her life.  Tucker, on the other hand, deals with his relationship with his children from various women.

As Chapter 10 begins, Annie begins to wonder if she is just interested in Tucker because he is so different from Duncan.  Then, she wonders if Duncan likes Tucker for the same reason.  This, of course, made me wonder.  Why do we fall for the idols we do?  Is it because they are not like us?  I know that one of the things about Duran that appealed to me was that they seemed to represent a lifestyle that was so different than my lower middle class background in the Chicago suburbs.  Is it just about a fantasy?  I don’t know.  It is something to think about.  Anyway, as Annie questions her interest, Tucker plans to travel to the UK to see his daughter, which leads him to think about why he left public life.  While Duncan and fans like him think that there was some profound moment in the bathroom of a Minneapolis club, it has a lot more to do with that last album, Juliet.  The storyline of this album is one of falling in love and breaking up with someone.  In reality, this was a lie.  Tucker had a brief fling with the woman named Juliet, but it wasn’t as dramatic as he made it out to be.  Thus, on that tour, he struggled since people loved this album that was a lie.  He didn’t like himself and didn’t like the fans.  Again, I couldn’t help but to think of our fandom.  Does Duran love everything they do and have done?  I doubt it.  Yet, they can’t really tell us that, can they, especially when what they hate is the current projects?!  Would this lead any of them to hate those of us who do truly love what they hate?  I don’t know.

When Tucker arrives in London, he has a heart attack, which leads Annie to meet him there in the hospital instead of their originally planned meeting location.  Despite her lack of official fan status, she finds herself wanting to ask a bunch of questions.  Then, she wonders if she feels this way because of Duncan.  Speaking of Duncan, at this point in the book, he spends his time making Tucker playlists and discussing lyrics with her new girlfriend, Gina.  Interestingly enough, Gina questions his interpretation of the lyrics, which bothers Duncan since she isn’t a fan.  Yet, he finds himself wondering if he really did have it wrong the whole time.  If that is true, then, he isn’t as much of an expert as he thought.   Would we, Duranies, be as devastated by getting something about Duran wrong?  Maybe?!  This questioning of the lyrics, of course, points out that the album wasn’t as much about a tragic breakup as originally believe.  This is true, as we learned, from Tucker.  Tucker decides to confess this to Annie.  She responds by saying that it is okay and that it is still a brilliant album.  Tucker cannot believe that, but Annie points out that she has listened to it a ton of times and he probably hasn’t, which he confirms.  This reminds me of the section in John’s book where he talks about how he didn’t listen to Arena the whole way through for decades.  The confession leads the pair to discuss if all art is just made up.  Songs like Leopard would say that it could be.

Annie then tells Tucker that he should meet Duncan.  Tucker is concerned that Duncan might die of excitement.  I admit that I laughed out loud at this line.  Isn’t that how all of us feel about meeting any member of Duran?  Annie responds by saying how he connects to Tucker and his music.  Again, isn’t that how we feel?  I think so.  That is fandom in a nutshell.  Before they could formally meet, Duncan runs into Annie and Tucker out.  He doesn’t believe that he is really THE Tucker.  Annie tries to explain to Tucker about how hard this must be for Duncan since he thinks he knows everything about Tucker and proceeds to tell Tucker about their tour to his sites in the US.  This makes Tucker refer to Duncan as a stalker!  At this point, Annie realizes that she wanted Duncan to have the same level of passion for her as he did for Tucker.  Ah, yes, fandom really is about passion.  Sometimes, this passion is greater than real life relationships.  It happens.  Meanwhile, Duncan is trying to deal with what he does not know about Tucker.  Now, he can admit that his review of the unreleased album was messed up and that he only wrote the rave review to have the advantage over other fans.  As he concludes that, he also concludes that he is actually scared to meet Tucker.  Aren’t we all scared to meet our idol(s)?  It seems to me that there is always a little fear, a little anxiety when it comes to meeting one’s idol.  Duncan is afraid that Tucker will reject him because of his stupid review.  Luckily, Annie reminds Tucker that this is the biggest moment of Duncan’s life.

The meeting isn’t as smooth as possible as Duncan asks to do an interview for the website.  (Who would ever do that?!?)  Yet, Duncan makes a good point.  He reminds Tucker that he asked the fans to pay attention and they did.  Tucker agrees and decides that he shouldn’t be afraid of the fans.  It is the internet’s fault for bringing all the fans together in one place, making them seem much scarier.  I couldn’t stop laughing through this conclusion of Tucker’s.  I wonder if that is how Duran feels about us, that we seem scary because we are a large group, ready to pounce.  I do remember an interview with Nick in like 2005 when he said that he was too terrified to look at the message boards.  Maybe they are afraid of us.  It is something to remember.  Now, I won’t finish the story completely here because I do want to encourage those of you who are interested to read the book.  Plus, there is a lot more that happens in the story that I didn’t mention here because it didn’t fit with my focus on fandom.  That said, this book, overall, gave a ton to talk about when it comes to representations of fandom!!

Like I have said in the previous weeks, I think this book does show an accurate representation of fandom.  In this case, it shows that fandom begins with passion.  It also shows how this passion leads to wanting to find out as much as possible about one’s idol(s).  Then, the fans gather online to discuss every little detail.  Of course, social status is alive and well in that fan world.  I like that the book showed how the artist might have felt about the fans at the same time.  That perspective helped to make it more well-rounded.  In summary, I recommend this book both as an accurate representation of fans but also because it is an enjoyable story.  🙂

-A

Hornby, Nick.  Juliet Naked.  New York:  Riverhead Books, 2009.

Media Representation of Fandom: Juliet Naked (Chapters 4-9)

Happy Sunday, everyone!  I hope this day finds everyone well.  I’m sitting on my couch, sipping coffee, and watching the snow come down.  It is very pretty!  The weather makes for a good day to stay indoors and read and, in my case, write.  Today, I will continue looking at the book, Juliet Naked, by Nick Hornby.  Last week, I discussed the first 3 chapters only as there was a ton of references to fans and fandom.  I had more than enough to talk about.  Today, I will focus on chapters 4-9 and next week, I will finish the book.  To refresh everyone’s memory, the book focuses on a couple, Annie and Duncan.  Duncan is a huge fan of the singer/songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who has disappeared from public life decades ago.  After the couple returns from a “tour” of Tucker related sites in the US, Annie begins thinking about breaking up with Duncan.  When an unreleased album of Tucker’s shows up, they have the exact opposite reaction to it.  Duncan loved it and Annie hated.  Both wrote up reviews for a fan message board.  Annie got a response from Tucker himself.

As Chapter 4 begins, we learn more about Tucker’s personal life and that he has a number of children with different women.  We also see Tucker fret a bit about how to prove to Annie that the email was, indeed, from him.  He notices that the fans think they know so much about him but they do not know about his children.  Likewise, the fans believe that something profound happened in a bathroom in Minneapolis.  This is the same bathroom that Duncan and Annie visited on their tour.  When I read this part, I immediately thought about our band.  Is that true for us as well?  Is it that we think we know a lot about John, Simon, Nick and Roger, but, in reality, we are dead wrong or are missing key details?  I think that is very likely to be true.  We assume that we really know them because SO much has been written about them or by them.  Plus, for many of us, we have been watching/observing them for 30 plus years.  It would be natural to assume that we know them, but I suspect that there is much we don’t know.  So, is this representation in the book a fair one?  I think it is.  I think it is also one we can benefit from learning and remembering.

Tucker, of course, does respond to Annie and tries to explain that there are a ton of myths out there about him.  He doesn’t mind too much, though, because it makes him more colorful, more interesting.  The more colorful, the more interesting, the more likely that fans will remain as fans, too, I suppose.  When Annie receives his response, she believes it to be truly from Tucker.  Of course, then, she has to decide whether or not to share all of this with Duncan and decides that she doesn’t want to share Tucker.  Is this accurate in fandom?  Again, I think it is.  Some fans, after having had their moment or two with the subject of their fandom, become almost possessive.  They don’t really want others to have similar moments.  Please, understand what I’m saying here.  I think this is a normal response.  Heck, even Annie, in this book, who wasn’t a big fan doesn’t want to share.  Thus, I’m not criticizing anyone.  My point, really, is that this book is realistic.  Annie decides like any of us would to respond to his email and struggles with how much to share about herself and how much to ask about him.  I think most of us would respond in the exact same way.  I know that I would.

Meanwhile, Duncan continues to be shaken by the unreleased album.  He finds himself being overly emotional and feels like he has been altered.  Again, I find myself relating to this.  I have heard albums that have moved me so much and have resulted in me being emotional.  Heck, I bet everyone reading this has had this type of experience.  The new Duncan meets a new colleague and immediately plays the album for this co-worker, Gina.  When she understands, Duncan finds himself in bed with her.  Duncan, of course, was feeling distant from Annie after she responded to the album so differently and didn’t seem as fan like as he had hoped.  Thus, after cheating, Duncan is up front with Annie and leaves her.

While the domestic drama is taking place, Tucker finds himself hanging out with his neighbor.  This neighbor is the person that the fans think is Tucker himself since a fan saw this neighbor years ago and took a picture of him, near where Tucker lives.  This neighbor looks rough with a “grizzly” look.  Tucker believes that the fans want this person to be him as it makes him even more of a recluse, even more of a genius.  Again, here, we can ask the question.  Do fans make what they want true, even if the evidence isn’t there?  Do we make assumptions in order to fit what we think of our idol(s)?  I hate to say it, but I think we probably do.  How many things have we convinced ourselves about the members of Duran, which may or may not be true?  Let me give you an example.  I would love to believe that the members were as frustrated by Red Carpet Massacre as many of us were, but were they?  I don’t really know.  Anyway, while Tucker is out with his neighbor, a fan spots them.  Of course, this person assumes the neighbor is Tucker.  The neighbor notices this and decides to get on stage to sing just to mess with the fan.  How does this go down with the fan community?  It goes exactly like what we would imagine.

The board fills with activity, especially surrounding the comments the neighbor mentioned to the fan.  The neighbor said that he (Tucker) would be releasing new music soon but that it wouldn’t be like the unreleased album because that was a “piece of shit”.  This response convinces people even more that it was Tucker.  After all, he always used to put himself down in old interviews.  When Duncan discovers this activity, he has two thoughts.  First, he wonders why he wasn’t the first person involved in the discussion and realizes that he has been busy due to leaving Annie.  He then ponders if this fits the idea that fandom happens when people don’t have lives.  Second, he debates about whether he should or should not tell Annie about it because she would like that Tucker agreed with her thoughts on the unreleased album, which isn’t true, Duncan thinks, no matter what he said to the other fan.  Again, here, we see this idea that fans convince themselves of things despite evidence to the contrary.  On the other hand, Duncan really wants to share this news with Annie.  Yet, he wonders if she would really get it, especially since she hasn’t “put time in” the way he has.  Can anyone relate to that idea?  I think we all could.  We all want to share things with people who aren’t on the same plane as you, in terms of your fandom and wonder if they would get it.  Again, this seems like a completely realistic portrayal of fans.

Duncan decides to share with Annie anyway, but is disappointed when she doesn’t seem as excited.  He then decides to write to another fan online but admits that it isn’t the same.  Annie, on the other hand, finds herself falling into a fantasy about the email communication with Tucker.  Of course, she also notes that Duncan would be extremely jealous over this communication.  Nonetheless, I found it interesting that even Annie found herself falling for the idea of Tucker even though she wasn’t a big fan.  Wouldn’t we all?  What will happen with Tucker and Annie?  Will Duncan ever find out?  That is all still to come.

As I continue to reread this book, I continue to be convinced that the author truly knows and understands fandom.  It seems to me that both Duncan and Annie are realistic.  Duncan, obviously, represents a die-hard fan and shows how fandom is emotional.  The book also shows that not all behavior connected to that emotion/passion is good as he isn’t always nice and considerate.  Likewise, Annie shows what it is like to be someone who didn’t seem to get it at first but how easy it is to fall as she begins to correspond with Tucker.  I’m anxious to reread the last part of the book.  I would also love to know if you all agree that these characters are accurate in their fan like and even star like behaviors.  Does this seem like an accurate representation to you?

-A

Hornby, Nick.  Juliet Naked.  New York:  Riverhead Books, 2009. 

Media Representations of Fandom: “Juliet Naked” (Chapters 1-3)

Today, I am continuing the theme about how various media forms show fans and fandoms.  In particular, I have been analyzing if fans are shown to be “normal” or if they are shown to be “weird”.  Are stereotypes shown?  If so, which ones?  Is it an accurate representation?  Today, I am going to focus on a book, “Juliet Naked” by Nick Hornby.  Information about the book can be found here.  I had planned to talk about the entire book but there is so much to say about the first three chapters already.  Thus, I will focus on chapters 1-3 today then will discuss more of the book next week.

The book is about a couple in England.  The man, Duncan, is a huge fan of a singer, songwriter named Tucker Crowe who has disappeared from the public.  The girlfriend, Annie, on the other hand, isn’t that big of a fan and is starting to drift away from Duncan.  When the couple gets a hold of an unreleased album, an album of acoustic demos, both respond by writing reviews on a Tucker website.  This pushes the couple further apart.  Tucker sees Annie’s review and begins to contact her via email, which begins a correspondence between them as both of them figure out where their lives are going from here.

I began reading this book in May of 2011, on a trip.  Which trip was that?  Yeah, it was the trip to the UK for shows that ended up not happening.  I was hoping it would be a fun book in the midst of a big tour.  It wasn’t but not because the book wasn’t good or fun, but because the trip turned out to be the exact opposite of what I expected.  Thus, I couldn’t read much of it at that time since it dealt so much with  being a fan.  I had to wait for a few months before I was able to pick it back up to read.  Now, as I reread it for the purpose of the blog, I have been really enjoying it.  I am definitely enjoying it more than the first time.  Perhaps, the reason I am enjoying it so much is because I can relate to the fan stuff SO much.  It seems clear to me that the author knows exactly what it is to be a fan who participates in a fan community.  Let me explain.

Chapter one begins with the couple, Duncan and Annie, visiting a bathroom in Minneapolis, where Tucker supposedly had some profound moment once while on tour.  This moment led to his retirement, in fact.  Again, thinking back to the fact that I started reading this book while in the UK to see Duran, I truly had to laugh.  Who would ever walk down Broad Street in Birmingham or take pictures there?!  No Duranie I know would do that, right?  😉  Anyway, we soon learn that this is one stop of many on their tour of Tucker related locations in the US.  During this tour, Duncan is going on and on about every decision Tucker had ever made and Annie is finding herself tired of hearing his Tucker theories.  Duncan is described as a big fan.  In fact, he wrote a book, lectured in his college classes, and organized conventions all on Tucker.  Nope.  I couldn’t relate to that at all.  No way.  I only blog.  (Yeah, right.  Who am I kidding?!)  Of course, Duncan had also started a website in which the fans could discuss news, lyrics, theories, etc.  He plans to discuss his tour on the website.  One of the stops on the tour is to the ex-girlfriend’s house, the one Tucker wrote about in his last album.  During that stop, he meets another fan who breaks into the house where Duncan sees a painting that Tucker supposedly painted.  The chapter ends with Duncan concluding that he can’t talk about this episode since he doesn’t want anyone to think he is unbalanced or the type of fan to go through someone’s trash.

Chapter two begins as the couple returns to England where they receive a copy in the mail of an unreleased album.  This album is, in fact, the demos of the last album.  Annie decides to listen to the album first, knowing that Duncan would be very hurt by this.  During this listen, she concludes that it was terrible and missed so much of what made the finished version so great.  When Duncan arrives home to find Annie listening to it, he is outraged and leaves the house to listen to it on his own.  As he listens, he finds himself crying because he is so moved by it.  In fact, he is so obviously crying that a woman comes up to see if he was all right.  She can’t believe that he is crying about music.  (Again, I don’t know anyone who would cry over hearing an album.  *snort*  I admit I cried when I heard AYNIN.  It was THAT good.)  Duncan returns home in order to write a proper review on the website.  He wants to be the first, to have the “advantage”.  And how does the other fans react?  They are angry that he has it and won’t share. I’m sure fans in our community wouldn’t be upset if some fans had a copy of Reportage and others didn’t, right?

In Chapter three, Annie goes to the website herself to see what other fans think of Duncan’s review.  A colleague of hers encourages her to write her own review, especially since Annie thinks it is terrible and Duncan thinks it is so good.  As she begins to write, she finds herself getting lost in the writing and begins thinking that her writing might be socially useful.  (Again, there is no way that I could relate to THAT.  😀 )  Duncan is less than excited about her writing her own review and openly wonders if she is qualified.  The fan responses to her review are much friendlier and positive even if they are brief.  Then, she receives an email in response to her review.  The email is signed from Tucker.  He asks that she not share his address as the people on the website seem “weird”.  Of course, Annie has no way of knowing if it is really Tucker.

As you can tell from my brief summary on just the parts involving fandom, there is plenty to talk about.  I’m sure you are all able to tell why I assume that the author knows what it is like to be a fan.  He talks about too many subtle elements of fandom.  For example, this idea that Duncan needs to be the first person to write about this unreleased album in order to have an “advantage” shows that he gets that there is status in fandom and it often does come from knowing something before other fans.  I love the scene where Duncan is crying after listening to the album because I have done that myself.  I also think the woman’s reaction to seeing Duncan cry is realistic.  People who aren’t fans don’t get it.  They just don’t.  Then, of course, there is the growing gap between Annie and Duncan.  Annie seems to be tired of Duncan’s fandom.  While she seems to tolerate a lot of it, she isn’t a fan in the same way and Duncan seems hurt by this because fandom is SO personal and so emotional.  I know that we have talked about how hard it is to be a fan with loved ones who aren’t on this blog many times.  It is difficult to explain.  Likewise, I have had friends whom I thought were fans like me only to discover that they aren’t.  That kind of thing hurts as it feels like they are rejecting a big part of who you are.  Then, of course, there is Tucker himself.  Here is an artist who disappeared from the public like Roger did.  Yet, clearly, Tucker is still paying attention to the fan community since he saw Annie’s review.  Who did Tucker agree with?  It wasn’t the big time fan.  Nope, he agrees with Annie because he likes that she is critical and honest.  Hmm…I wonder if our band would feel the same way.  Would they think it is better to be honest than not?  I sure hope so cause I know that Rhonda and I aren’t quiet about the songs we dislike.

So, how does this book do in showing fans and fandom?  I think it shows an incredibly realistic portrayal of what fandom is like.  He doesn’t deny some of the behaviors fans have but he doesn’t make them into horrible stereotypes, either.  While Duncan is clearly a big fan, he shows that most fans do question the line between being a fan and being a stalker.  I think that is the reality for most of us.  I like that he shows how fans meet online to discuss all things related to their fandom and that it does mean something to them as I think that is exactly what it is like for us, in Duranland.  Heck, he even refers to the Tucker fan community as Tuckerland.  That really made me laugh!  Overall, so far, the book tries to show fandom for what it is, positive and negative.  We will see if that remains next week when I discuss more of the book then.

-A

Hornby, Nick.  Juliet Naked.  New York:  Riverhead Books, 2009.