What qualifies as a stalker, anyway??

One of my favorite websites, dictionary.com, defines stalk (verb): to pursue persistently and, sometimes, attack (a person with whom one is obsessed, often a celebrity).  There are varying forms of the word – but this definition suits the needs of this particular blog.  A stalker is someone who basically participates in the act of stalking.  

The subject came up recently on a message board.  I believe the original thread topic was whether or not there are still DD stalkers.  It was an interesting question not just because of the topic, but because there are apparently many, many different definitions of “stalker” in the fan community.  Prior to reading this thread, I don’t know that I would have thought that to be the case.  I suppose in part, it is due to my own assumption that everyone knows the definition of ‘stalker’.  Naturally, this is not the case.  

Some believe that stalking is a matter of simply pursuing the band at all costs.  I suppose that does fit the definition, but is that really all there is to stalking?  I think that my own personal definition of stalking feels a bit more sinister than just pursuing an interest.  I’ve always maintained that fan is short for  fanatic – in fact it’s one of my favorite sayings on the message boards – and in my opinion, stalking is a bit more to the evil side of fanatic.  

Others feel that stalking has everything to do with obsession.  I would agree.  Rebecca Schaeffer was an American actress, best known for her role in My Sister Sam, which was a sitcom on TV back in the 80’s.  Her case is widely recognized as a crime of obsession and stalking, and her murder is the case that was used to develop anti-stalking laws to be passed in my state of California.  In California, stalking has a much more qualified and succinct definition than what dictionary.com uses, and rightly so.  

What is downright fascinating to me, someone who studies fandom from all conceivable sides, is that even legally – the attempt to define stalking has presented major difficulties.  It’s not just our fan community that has trouble defining the term, it’s everyone.  Part of the difficulty with defining stalking is that while stalking is indeed a criminal act – the actions that contribute to stalking are legal, and most fans do these things every single day. (for example: gathering information, calling someone on the phone, emailing, tweeting, sending gifts…etc.)  It’s a bit of a grey, fuzzy area as to when and where being a fan crosses the line – and clearly – each of us has our own point of view as to when that line has been crossed.  For example, I’ve personally never sent any of the band members (present, prior, auxiliary, or otherwise) gifts.  I don’t think I’ve ever sent them an email, and I’ve certainly never called them on the phone…but I know people who have done all of the above (Collectively.  Not that one single person has done all of the above).  I don’t consider those people to be stalkers, but I might if they were participating in those actions on a continual basis.  I also think that along with the basic definition of a stalker, there has to be some sort of intent that seems “off”…and additionally, the actions need to be unwanted in order to truly be breaking a law.  (yes, it really says that the actions have to be unwanted in the legal definition – and in order to qualify as such, the object of the obsession must communicate that to the stalker)  

Still other fans qualify stalkers to be people who will do absolutely anything to get to the band.  The word anything isn’t really defined…but I suppose that means….anything!  Is that really stalking though?  I’m not sure, mainly because I don’t know the intent in any one given situation.  We all know people who have gone to some extremes to see the band, whether that’s by lining up a day or two in advance to get tickets to a concert, or to get a spot at a GA show; or whether they’ve waited outside a hotel all day, in the rain, in order to touch John Taylor as he walked by.  Again…I’m not sure that’s really stalking in the sense that might require a restraining order.  

Lastly, there are the fans that seem to have an ax to grind in one way or another.  One poster in particular believes that “99% of all female fans are stalkers or wanna-be stalkers” simply because they tend to go to extremes to defend the band, even when it’s been apparent that the band has no interest in their fan base.  Given the definitions I’ve seen for the word “stalker”, I’m pretty sure that this definition is really for the word(s)  ” passionate fan”…. but that’s just me, and yes, I’m female.  🙂 

It’s been mentioned on more than one message board over the years that if you hang out on video shoots, wait for the band outside of their rehearsal space or dare to say hello to a relative of one of the band members – you’re a stalker.  Really?  What makes any of that any different from say, hanging out at a hotel bar in tight, revealing clothes, waiting for the band to make an entrance?  I’ll let you answer that on your own.

Let’s face it, we’re all fans.  The idea of being called a stalker, or thinking that perhaps you’ve crossed a line into “stalkerhood”, isn’t a very comforting thought.  None of us wants to believe we’re THAT person.  Of course not, and I’m not suggesting it…even for you crazy people who still try to grab the band, run your fingers through their hair, and to be blunt, forget that they’re humans who deserve a little space.  Unless the band themselves tell you to back off and you don’t listen, it’s still not stalking, even if it’s a bit rude…and I’m not suggesting that we all run out and start acting out on our impulses whenever we see them, either.  My only food for thought here is the same phrase I’ve used for years:  Fan is short for fanatic.  Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate the difference, but it’s there.  


One thought on “What qualifies as a stalker, anyway??”

  1. I think it's fairly easy to define if you look at it in legal terms. Stalking happens once you start harassing the people you are obsessing about. Once it crosses the “against the law” line, it's stalking.

    Maybe that's too simple, but that's how I've always seen it.

    Everything else? That's fandom. And yes, sometimes it seems extreme and some fans would do certain things, while others wouldn't, but it's still all part of being a fan.

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