I love summer break. Extra time is giving me the chance to catch up on some movies I missed. For example, a couple of weeks ago I watched Crazy Rich Asians. I had read the series (I like escapism when I’m reading for fun, obviously) and was very curious as to how the movies would turn out. It was cute and I enjoyed it. This past weekend, I was able to catch A Star is Born.
Now, I know the rest of America has already seen the movie. Like many, I sat entranced watching Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sing “Shallow” at the Oscars. The song didn’t thrill me, but their chemistry was undeniable. (I think that might be called “acting”. Apparently they’re both good at it!) I was channel surfing this weekend, I decided to give the movie a try.
Looking for a token
One teeny little scene keeps replaying itself in my head. For those who may not know, Bradley Cooper plays a rock star in the movie by the name of Jackson Maine. Gaga plays a singer named Ally who is nearly giving up on her dreams of being on stage. They meet by chance at a drag club. Jackson is entranced by her. At one point, they’re sitting down on a curb in a parking lot, talking. (as one does with a rock star, you know?) She mentions to him that people seem to treat him as though being a rock star or a celebrity means he’s not a real person. Maine deflects and changes the subject almost immediately.
The scene reminded me of a conversations I’ve had. Both with other fans, as well as with people who have worked with the band. The way people react to, or treat the band, is a real thing that we’ve written about here before. I suppose to some extent, some of the circus-like atmosphere that ensues is part of the deal when you’re a celebrity. Admittedly, this is the area I most enjoy studying when it comes to fandom, and seeing the topic barely being scratched at on screen immediately piqued my interest.
There are at least two issues here: putting a celebrity on a pedestal, and, possibly as a secondary response – not seeing that star as a real person. What it is about the relationship of fan to rock star that creates this dynamic?
Something to prove
For my part, I know I’ve done some of this. When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine any member of Duran Duran as a real person. To me, they were enigmatic “beings”…purely existing on a stage, on my TV, on the radio, and of course, in my daydreams. It never occurred to me that one day I might actually occupy breathing space any closer than say, me in nosebleed seats while they were on stage. My brain couldn’t get past the idea that they were rock stars – pure fantasy.
As an adult, particularly back during the time of the reunion shows and even the Astronaut tour, I still didn’t quite equate them with being “real”. I mean, of course I knew they were real people – but those thoughts didn’t run through my head as I pranced down hotel corridors with friends gleefully yelling “Le Bon”! (Oh yes. Yes we did. Those of you with me here know who you are.) I didn’t think about how they might react to seeing signs and posters at shows that said “Roger, can I twirl your stick?!?” (I wince ever so slightly while typing that). Cognitively, yes I knew Roger might see it, and possibly even react…but my feeling at the time was “He doesn’t know me, he’ll never recognize me after this, so who cares?!?”
I actually do care, funny how that changes….
More than a flame
But when did that really all change? I suppose that if I had to nail it down to a moment, there were two. The first was when I went to the UK with Amanda in 2011, and the second was when I was in the front row in Biloxi, 2012.
Going to the UK permanently changed me, and as result, my fandom too. There is something about walking the same streets as the band once did, seeing entire tours canceled, and then actually seeing Simon standing directly in front of me, explaining what had happened to his voice. (without anybody else screaming, or begging for pictures, or autographs in the process) I’ll never, ever forget it.
I really think it was that day when I realized that yes, these are real people. They have problems like anyone else. They LIVE like anyone else. That day, Simon was just a normal man – standing in front of us wearing a flannel shirt and denim jeans. He mentioned that a few of us had come a long way to see them, which was true. I can remember being surprised he even noticed, given the situation at hand. Despite not actually seeing them perform, I don’t regret the trip. The best way to describe my feelings is that I saw Simon as a person for the first time. I continue to have trouble rationalizing that the man who seems to recognize me, and has waved to me on more than one occasion, is in fact the same person who is in all the videos. Yet, he really is the same guy, and my life has taken an incredibly odd turn.
Even if I wait a lifetime
Later, even after we’d returned to the UK in December of that same year – something else happened to change my thinking. Amanda and I had thrown caution to the wind and traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi in 2012. We were determined to do the one thing we hadn’t experienced yet, and that was front row. We waited in that GA line, and yes, we did get those front row spots. Standing there waiting at the rail was surreal, but I felt something else stir deep in my belly. Apprehension? Concern? Nerves? Probably all of the above. The only way I can really describe this, and even then many of you may not relate to my feelings that night – was that I knew with certainty that the band would see me, and in turn, I would see them. No trickery needed. It was happening.
I could no longer pretend that they were just these figures up on a stage. For whatever weird reason, being at the rail broke some sort of bizarre boundary for me. I went from thinking of Duran Duran as these fantasy-figures to seeing them as real people… who could in turn see me, too.
It took me months after that trip to come to grips with being so close to the stage. Think about when you’ve seen the band yourselves. It is easy to trick yourself into believing they looked right at you while you were singing the words to “Ordinary World” or when you were smiling along with Nick during “Pressure Off”, regardless of how far back you are. If they look in your general direction, it is obviously meant for you – am I right?? It is another thing entirely when you are directly in front of them – no one else in front of you – and you KNOW they’re looking at you. They see you. As a real person.
Ease the lost cause
I think those moments when a band member and I saw one another as actual people, are what changed the way I viewed them. Not only were they totally knocked off of the stories-high pedestal they’d been living on since 1981 or so, but I saw them as people like me. No better, no worse. I tend to respond to them in that way on social media. It makes no difference whether or not they truly read anything or not. I “converse” with them the same way I might any one else I’ve known for over half my life. Weird? Maybe.
My curiosity about other fans and their reactions remain, though. When I mention here about what fans do to be near them or have their time – I’m not doing so in judgment. I have been with people who have no issue – they run down hallways, jump over furniture, cut in line, interrupt private meals or conversations just to have their moment. In fairness, these are all things that the band expects, and they have reacted by putting up their own personal boundaries as to what they will or will not do for fans at any given time, and rightly so. On the other hand, I know of people who are more likely to give them wide berth, even if there are no other fans around. Maybe it is due to circumstance, or because these fans can see more value in allowing the band to decide for themselves whether or not to engage.
Leave a light on
I don’t know that there is truly a “right way”. The socially accepted behavior of fandom always seems to be up for debate, and perhaps that’s the core of the issue. What is remarkable though, is how differently each of us perceive the band, and the roles they occupy for ourselves. My fascination lies not only with how we see and/or perceive our idols, but the reasons behind our behavior. I need John, Simon, Nick and Roger to be real, and in turn see me not as a crazy fan. Someone else might need for them to be on a pedestal. They need them to occupy that space seen as “perfection”. I don’t know why that is, but I like theorizing possibilities!
How do you see Duran Duran? Are they meant to be the epitome of perfection? Do you find yourself forgetting that they’re human? Are you more of the type that wouldn’t approach? How do you feel about those front row spots? Join the conversation – tell me what you’re thinking!