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