Since this pandemic/safer at home order began, I have found myself having lots of time to think about everything under the sun. In some ways, I feel like I’m beginning to understand myself better, including how I view connections, fandom, etc. Is it enough to just watch public performances? Is it enough to read and watch interviews? Is it enough to exchange messages online? What does it take to feel a real connection?
Initially, I started thinking about the idea of connection in relationship to politics and politicians. It is one thing to look at policies and positions and decide to vote for people based on that. It is another thing to feel motivated to campaign for them or to run someone’s campaign. When I look back at all the campaigns I have worked on, the ones that mattered most to me were not necessarily the ones with the highest position but the ones that I felt the greatest connection to. How did those connections happen? In the case of President Obama, I remember him telling a story about inner city students that felt like he had reached inside of me and brought words to my feelings. That said, my level of commitment grew when I met him. He acknowledged my work and spoke to me not as if he was the president or a presidential candidate but as my equal. It allowed me to feel instantly comfortable. In fact, I was probably too comfortable, which led me to literally whine like a middle schooler at him when he asked for more work out of me. Overall, though, getting to know political candidates as people has definitely increased not only my connection to them but my desire to help them succeed.
Does this kind of connection help with friendships and fandom? Friendship is an interesting case. As kids, people usually became friends with someone who goes to school with you or is involved in the same activities as you like sports or music. In some ways, adulthood is the same. I have met a lot of my current friends through work or my political activities. Sometimes, I have gotten to know neighbors at the various places I have lived. This would imply that face-to-face connection on top of having something in common really matters. Yet, interestingly enough, I think about Rhonda.
We first “met” online when we were nothing more than names on a message board or email. Would we have become friends through just those types of interactions? Maybe. It is hard to say. I won’t lie, though. As I started meeting more and more Duranies online, she did not stick out to me. There was nothing negative there but there did not feel like a connection, either. When I decided to go to the Duran Duran Fans Convention in New Orleans in 2004, I was looking forward to meeting, in person, so many people I had communicated with online but I cannot say that she was at the top of my list. No, it took to meeting in person, over vodka tonics, no less, that I started to think that a friendship could happen. Then, of course, the following year, we attended some shows together and the rest became history. Looking at our friendship, we are used to being far away from each other and rarely actually spending time in the same place. Yet, for me, at least, having some sort of face-to-face contact helps keep the connection.
So what about fandom? This is, obviously, a stranger situation to consider. Friendships are based on the personal. I have met many politicians through working for them or some other close connected campaign. Fandom is different, though. I am one of many. I cannot and do not expect actual connections. (I mean…my goodness…why would a celebrity want to meet me or any other fan? It just doesn’t work that way, which I’m more than okay with.) Yet, I have to admit that I like to see beyond the public persona, beyond the celebrity status. I’m not sure if that is because it makes my fandom stronger or not. It is just something I have noticed about myself. I think this is the reason that I seek out interviews. I want to see more than just their musicianship, in the case of Duran Duran. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Why else do people read magazines with celebrities or tune into talk shows? It also marks some sort of weird divide between being a casual fan and a more serious fan, for me. In the case of Duran Duran, I’ll watch any and all interviews. There are a number of interviews that I have watched a bunch. Yet, there are other bands that I would tune into an interview if it was convenient but would not go out of my way to see it. Depeche Mode comes to mind here.
As much as I watch and enjoy interviews with celebrities I am a fan of, I also know that there is still a persona that shields that person(s). I get it and do not blame them. They are, after all, aware that what they say and do could cause harm to their careers or their standing with their fans. I do the same thing standing up in front of my students. There is no way that I should step out of that role as teacher, not at that setting. Yet, I also get that my students like and enjoy when I am more myself and human with them as opposed to just educator. This is why I tell a lot of bad jokes and not-very-interesting stories. It does help to create connections. Hmm…so maybe the key is to allow some glimpses beyond a public persona to create or keep those connections.
Interestingly enough, I feel like this has been happening, naturally, in Duranland. I think we are getting some of those more human as opposed to rock star moments. Two examples come to mind. The first one is every time that John cannot get the social media platform he is using to work. His frustration is not only understandable but also relatable. It makes me think of the countless times in my classroom that I cannot get some piece of technology to work. In that moment, John Taylor is like me or I’m like him. We both have struggled in that department. Then, I think of the video that Roger recently did, which featured his kiddo. How many people have had children or pets venture into a video or conference call? Again, other people could relate. At those moments, they are no longer just celebrities on a pedestal but real people with lives, problems, moments of joy, etc. To me, those moments are even better than any interview. I get a glimpse of the real person and feel a connection. That will definitely keep me coming back for more.