Media Representations of Fandom: Depeche Mode 101

The other day I was searching through some cabinets in my living room in order to gather all Duran viewing material I could find.  In my search, I ran across an old video tape, Depeche Mode 101.  For those not familiar with this video, it is a documentary of their 1988 US tour which ended in a large show at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  This documentary not only features a lot of footage from their various shows but also has back stage footage, interviews with the band and more.  On top of the footage of the band, it also contains a focus on a group of fans.  These fans won a contest to go on the road in a tour bus following the band for the last 2 weeks of the tour.  These fans were a mix of females and males and ranged in age from late teens to mid-twenties.  The footage with the fans included some shots from their auditions, to getting on the bus, to getting ready for shows and to attending shows.  It showed these fans on the bus as they traveled and it showed their interactions together.

Before I dive into how this documentary shows fans, I have to ask.  Why hasn’t Duran done this?  I know.  I know.  I already hear the very logical responses to my query.  Would that really work?  Could fans really ride on a bus for two weeks together?  Why would Duran want to do it?  Now, obviously, I don’t really think something like this would ever happen and I am not really sure that it really is a good idea, in reality, but it still intrigues me.  In fact, we jokingly talked about this last summer during the shows.  Could you imagine?  It would make a heck of a reality TV show.  Our discussion came about after driving a ridiculous amount of miles and hours in order to get from show to show.  We longed to have transportation that would allow us a few extra hours of relaxation or sleep.  On top of that ease, riding on a bus together for two weeks would be quite fun or we could make it so.  I’m willing to bet that the fans who participate would develop strong relationships, assuming that they didn’t want to kill each other.  An adventure like that would foster connections that would/could be long lasting.  These connections could ensure that people would want to keep participating in the fandom for years to come.  Certainly, assuming it was an amazing experience, I can’t imagine that those participants wouldn’t want to see more shows.  I bet the fans on the bus bought more tickets to more concerts than if they would have if they were traveling independently.  It would mean that for me, most definitely.  Based on this, I have to give Depeche credit for doing something like this.

The fact that Depeche Mode offered a contest such as this shows an understanding of the importance of fans.  The story of the fans on the bus was just as important as the story of the band on tour.  I appreciate that.  Were the two groups (fans and band) given the same amount of time on the video?  I didn’t take the time to measure that but it seemed to me that the band was shown about 2/3 of the time.  I suppose this is what most Depeche fans would want.  So, then, out of the footage shown of the fans, how were they represented?  Did they show them to be the typical stereotypes of fans, which can include stalkers, groupies, crazy/irrational people, immature people, or people who have no lives?  No, they didn’t.  The footage of the fans included discussions on art and fashion, trying on clothes and doing hair, dancing in the bus, stopping at restaurants and rest stops and more.  There was nothing to indicate that these fans were stalkers or groupies.  They seemed perfectly content to go to the shows and to have whatever perks that came with this contest.  For example, they were calm, cool and collected during a sound check that they witnessed.  Likewise, they were equally calm when the band toured their bus.  Yet, at the same time, they were excited to hear their music or to meet them.  Beyond that, these fans clearly developed friendships among themselves or maintained the relationships they had with each other beforehand.  My point being that they were fans, obviously, but they were also more concerned with themselves and the people actually around them than they were of the band.  I suppose the logical question here is would Duranies react in the same way or would they be more focused on the band?  Food for thought.

While this documentary doesn’t fixate on stereotypes of fans or extreme behavior, I also wished that it showed more about what it means to be a fan.  I would have loved to see these fans discuss Depeche Mode’s music as they did about art and fashion.  Why didn’t they talk more about the shows and the quality of those shows?  Maybe they did but that footage wasn’t included, which wouldn’t make sense to me since a documentary like this is made with fans in mind.  Fandom is all about discussion, conversation.  I am surprised that they didn’t talk about how they became fans or what drew them to the band in the beginning.  Why weren’t there discussions surrounding past experiences at shows?  I think the key with any representation of fandom is balance.  I am glad that this didn’t emphasize behavior that might be interesting but an exaggeration of typical fan behavior.  The stereotypes of fans were not shown at all.  Yet, it lacked some common elements of fandom that I wanted to see.  We knew that they were fans.  Then, they should have shown them to be fans more.

-A

2 thoughts on “Media Representations of Fandom: Depeche Mode 101”

  1. if you think of how underrated are the paying members of the DD Fan Community…
    I guess it all derives from the Duranmania off the 80s: I can't forget Roger and Andy were the ones who paid the highest price for that level of popularity.
    It's enough funny to me to see some fans appearing in the Sing Blue Silver DVD, though –
    Also ahem… it's funny to see that today two fans became wife (Gisella) and girlfriend (Nefer):some of the Boys did pay tributes to the fans,LOL… but this is another speech I'll develop in one of my upcoming blog posts titled “Being a rckstar wife”.
    However, I actually don't care if they pick me up to appear in a shot of a DVD – but if it happens I'll be more than happy – : what matters to me right now is to have fun being a fan at their concerts.

  2. I don't think that Duran needs to include fans in their footage in order to show that the fans MATTER. This was one way that Depeche did it. It wasn't perfect, by any means, but it was something.

    -A

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