Media Representations of Fandom—Careless Memories of Strange Behavior: My Notorious Life as a Duran Duran Fan

I read this short little book, Careless Memories of Strange Behavior, last year while waiting in the airport in Atlanta on tour.  I knew that I should blog about it because I had a lot of reactions while reading it.  Yet, I wanted to give it time and revisit it before I did.  I am putting into my category of blog posts about media representations of fandom because that is what this is.  It is about being a Duran fan.  Seems obvious, then.  This is a short book written by Lyndsey Parker who is a music journalist.  The basic gist of the book is exactly what you would expect.  She describes what life was like as a Duranie back in the 1980s and what life is like as a Duranie now, to some extent.  Sounds like something I would have loved, right?  Not so much.  Perhaps, this is because I’m in the midst of writing my own book and one that is filled with significant research.  Maybe, it is because I feel like a topic like this deserves more than 41 pages and more than 7,000 words.  (In case, people didn’t realize that Rhonda and I have A LOT to say, my blog posts are around 1,000 words and our first chapter of our book is around 10,000.  Our first chapter is longer than this whole book.)  Anyway, there were some things I liked.

The author was able to articulate both the feelings many of us had when we became fans in the 1980s and how we expressed those feelings, how those feelings manifested in how we acted.  She talked about how being a Duranie in the 1980s made her cool and that she attempted to learn everything about them.  Thus, she would pour over facts written in music and teen magazines.  Then, she was able to list everything from the band’s influences to what kinds of foods they liked.  Videos, of course, factored in her interest, specifically Hungry like the Wolf as she and other fans saw the band as glamorous men who cared about their hair and their clothes.  This realization about the band members connected with growing up and puberty.  This, of course, led her to choose a favorite as many of us did.  She liked John.  I could relate.  For her, the fact that she was a Duranie gave her an identity and instant friends with other fans.  This group of friends like many others have experienced had only one John fan, only one Simon fan, etc.  They would spend their time looking over magazines and discussing every detail.  Again, I believe that many of us who became fans during the early 1980s could relate to her story, her experiences.  Truly, in my opinion, this is what the book does well.

One area of the book that I often cringed at, though, is the discussion surrounding male fans.  On page 4 of the book, Parker writes, “Until very recently, few men admitted to liking Duran Duran at all, and most who do now are still just fairweather fans, not full-blown ‘Duranies.'”  She quotes a male friend of hers who states that a Duranie writes things like Me + John on notebooks, meaning that Duranies fantasize about oneself and the band member of choice.  First of all, there is a whole bunch of assumptions going on here.  Has she tried to find male Duranies?  Does she have a pulse on the fan community because I knew quite a few male fans who I would describe as Duranies.  Do they fantasize themselves with the band member of choice?  Not necessarily but do all female Duranies?  No.  Generalizations like this don’t work for me.  At the end of the book, she does acknowledge that men now like Duran but she still follows that up with how back in the day, men only liked Duran to get girls.  Really?  All male fans?  Some might have.  Sure.  That seems possible.  All male fans, though?  Here is where some actual research or real analysis of the fan community would have helped.  Ask male fans.  Talk to them.  Observe them.  Otherwise, it isn’t super respectful of male fans or even female fans.

Another area of the book that I struggled with is how she described feelings surrounding the music itself.  Now, we all know that Duranies have been accused of being fans simply because the band members are good looking and not because of the music.  She acknowledges that and admits that what attracted her, at first, was their looks.  Fair enough.  Honesty is good and worthy of respect.  She discusses how the videos played a huge role, especially the Rio video.  Then, she really started to listen to the music, paying particular attention to the lyrics and to the instrumentation until she developed a connection with it.  I cheer all of this.  I suspect that this is the story for many fans out there.  Yet, she doesn’t stay with this idea long enough.  She moves quickly to how she would record every appearance she could and would even kiss the TV screen.  Now, again, I’m sure that this is what life was like for many Duranies back in the day but don’t emphasize those fangirl elements over the music.  Now, she does bring the music back up in describing her fandom today.  She said that now she listens more critically and that the music has started to get respect, both by critics and by other bands admitting that Duran was an influence.  She, even briefly, mentions that part of the problem is sexism and how it was/is assumed that females can’t possibly know quality music.  Again, though, one or two sentences aren’t enough for me.  Maybe, I feel this way because we dive pretty deep into this topic in our book but still. If she provided more, it would have made it a stronger argument and that argument is worthy of time and energy, in my opinion.

Perhaps, this book was exactly what it was supposed to be.  Maybe, all the author wanted to do was to share how she sees her fandom and the Duran fandom, in general.  It wasn’t in depth and, maybe, this is  okay.  It just isn’t what I like.  I dislike when statements are said as facts like the statements about male Duranies as “fairweather” or when she said that the fans cringe when White Lines is played live.  (Really?  I know MANY fans who love that one live.) I am a fan of research.  I am a researcher myself.  Maybe, I would have been okay with this surface level of fandom if she had told readers that this is what it is in the beginning of the book.  Then, maybe, I could have tolerated the generalizations and remaining on the surface.

-A

Careless Memories of Strange Behavior:  My Notorious Life as a Duran Duran Fan, by Lyndsey Parker.  Rhino Entertainment Company, Burbank, California, 2012.

3 thoughts on “Media Representations of Fandom—Careless Memories of Strange Behavior: My Notorious Life as a Duran Duran Fan”

  1. I guess it's not easy to write a book on DD fans back in the 80s and today: too many chlichés and stereotypes. Some of those stereotypes (example “..not many male fans..” were in part created and-or amplified by TV and media, although I guess when we girls cried we did it louder and more frequently than boys could do).
    I found other books published in Italy on the “Duranmania”, but the authors are journalists who weren't into our reality.
    Lastly, I think it might not be easy to write books of this kind, because the memories picked up might be “sort of biased” and the writers got to deal with their “30 years later wisdom” when speak of the current times.

  2. I agree that it isn't easy but it can be done. It is possible to look at any fandom that is filled with stereotypes and do it justice through solid research and clear writing. Memories and experiences can “bias” people but it can also provide information and observation. It can be done.

    -A

  3. I guess I take the point of view that it can be done because we just DID IT.

    That said, I think Ms. Parker's book serves a purpose – and it's for those fans who want to stick to the surface stuff. They aren't interested in understanding why they are fans, they are only concerned with the fact that they are, and they want to revel a bit in that feeling. Her book works for that, and yes, there were parts where I smiled.

    Memories are important points of research. Sure, there is risk of bias. We spend some time discussing that in our manuscript as well, and I think it's important to disclose those points up front, but I think that's also what makes our point of view unique. We see the value in fandom. Not all academics do – and in fact some study the idea of fandom as though it's some sort of pathology to be understood as opposed to something that brings people together. Of course, in the case of Lyndsay Parker – she doesn't really go any deeper than the gushing over the band, and that might be enough, but for me it was merely the beginning.

    But, I don't see anybody cringing over White Lines these days. They've made that song their own in every possible way now.

    -R

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