Category Archives: stigma

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.  😉


I’m Asking You the Question

Lately, Rhonda and I have been talking and blogging about fan stereotypes like stalking.  On Monday, July 1st, Rhonda wrote a really good blog about stalking.  As usual when it comes to this topic, there weren’t many comments on the blog.  There wasn’t much discussion on twitter either.  Facebook had a bit more of a discussion.  Yet, I was left unsatisfied.  Why?  Simple.  In the comments, in the responses, in the reactions no one was really able to say what the line is between normal fan behavior and behavior that crosses the line.  We might all have a definition of extreme fan behavior in our heads but no one is willing to discuss that definition openly.  This could be because we are afraid of accusing others of outrageous behavior like stalking.  We all get how serious those names are.  No one wants the wrath of other fans, if it perceived that you are accused of labeling someone something like that.  It doesn’t feel good and can affect how others perceive you.  I doubt that many people want that drama.  Plus, the wrath usually comes back in such a way that your behavior is scrutinized.  Insults begin flying your way or behind your back.  I get why no one wants to really define stalking or any other behavior that might be deemed inappropriate, extreme, scary or dangerous on this personal, individual level.  Yet, does it help anyone to have this element of fandom hidden in a dark corner somewhere, lurking over all of us?  One of my missions is to prove that, generally, fans are normal and understand the line between normal fan behavior and abnormal or extreme fan behavior.  How can I or anyone prove that if the line isn’t defined?  How can you show that you are normal if no one really knows what normal is?  Let’s start the conversation now, then.  I don’t have the answers but I’m hoping that, collectively, we might be start coming up with some answers.

Let’s start with locations.  Are there places that are off limits?  Is it okay to go to the band member’s or celebrity’s house?  Do you have to be invited to make it okay?  Is it fine to go past the house?  Is it a problem if you go everyday?  Once a week?  Once a month?  What if you go there and never go up to the door?  Where exactly is the line regarding one’s idol’s home?  Likewise, what about the family?

Next location.  What about where they are working?  Is it okay to go to the studio?  Is it okay to go if you are invited?  Is it okay to drive past it?  Is it normal fan behavior to go once or twice?  Is it fine if you go once a year?  Once a month?  Everyday?  Is it okay depending on where you are?  You can be on the sidewalk but you can’t go up to the studio door?  Is it okay with friends but not on your own?  What about other job locations?  What if they are appearing at a radio station or a TV station?  What if your favorite celebrity is an actor or actress?  Is it okay to go to that studio or filming location?  Are public filming locations okay but ones on studio lots not?  What about concert venues?  Is it okay to wait during sound check or after a show?  What about other public locations like hotels and restaurants?

Are there other behaviors that are extreme?  John Taylor talked in his autobiography about how a fan went through his trash and read his journal in the 1980s.  Is that going too far?  What about getting or taking items at a concert?  Is it okay to want to get guitar picks or drumsticks?  Is it possible that getting 3 or 5 or 10 of them is okay but 20 might be too much?  What about sweaty towels or water bottles?  Is it an extreme behavior to take those?  Is it okay to take them but not okay to drink from the water bottles or put the towels under your pillow?  Where is the line there?  What about non-concert items?  Is it okay to get any many autographs as possible?  Is it okay to get as many pictures with the band or celebrity of choice?  Or is it that 10 are cool but 50 isn’t?  Is it or that 10 are okay during any given year but 50 in a year is too much?  Does extreme behavior depend on how much?  Does it depend on a time frame?  Some behaviors are okay if spread out?

What about social networking?  Is it okay to tweet the celebrity of choice?  Is it okay to tweet everyday?  Is it okay to tweet 5 times a day?  Is it okay to tweet the same thing twice or more?  What about facebook?  Is it extreme to post on celebrity’s wall?  Is it okay to post 5 things a day?  5 things in a month?

What about touching?  If you are lucky enough to be in the same room with your idol, it is okay to touch him/her?  Hug him/her?  Give him/her a kiss?  Is it okay if the idol indicates the contact first?  Is it not extreme if the celebrity is familiar with you?  Then, if so, what equals familiarity?  Similarly, is it normal fan behavior to give gifts?  Are some gifts acceptable but others are not?  If some aren’t, what isn’t “normal”?  Does it depend on where and how the gifts are given?  Does it matter how many gifts are given?  A few gifts are normal?  Ten isn’t?  What about cost?  Does that matter?  Does the type of gift matter?

Then, of course, I wonder about those fantasies that fans can have.  You know them.  If only so and so would meet me or have a conversation with me, then so and so would fall in love with me or would hire me or would whatever the fantasy entails.  Are those okay?  Is there a line there, too?  What about fan fiction?  Is it okay to write fan fiction?  Is it okay to write fan fiction in which the main character is yourself in the midst of one of those types of fantasies mentioned?   Obviously, I could go on and on.

I already know the response that I will get.  A lot of people won’t say anything.  Some others will say:  I know extreme behavior when I see it.  Okay, then, I ask you to describe the extreme behavior.  Maybe, a better way to ask you to think about this is:  What are you personally comfortable with or what would make you uncomfortable?  What makes you uncomfortable to witness?  What would you do or not do?  In saying this, I also understand that everyone has different comfort levels but it might be a start.  Now, obviously, I don’t think the majority of fans go to extremes.  I believe that the majority generally stay in the normal fan realm.  Yet, maybe, we have all gone extreme once or twice and, yes, maybe there are fans who live in the extreme.  I don’t have the answers.  I just can pose the questions and ask myself to answer them just like the rest of you.  Having this tough conversation, though, will help us all to think about our behavior, what we would like our behavior to be, as individuals and an as fan community.


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.

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.


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”.


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

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
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

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.


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?


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!


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