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What is a stan? 铁杆粉丝

中国日报网 2022-05-17 17:07


Reader question:

What is a stan exactly, as in “stan culture”?

My comments:

A stan is a fan, a devoted and obsessive fan.

Great artists and sportsmen all have fans. But stans are fans particular to the Internet and social media era.

Actually, a stan is originally a Stan, the name of a man.

Here, the opening paragraphs of an article on TheFineryReport.com (The origin of stan culture, December 7, 2020) explains everything perfectly:

A stan (noun) is defined as ‘an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan,’ while stan as a verb means ‘to exhibit fandom to an extreme or excessive degree: to be an extremely devoted and enthusiastic fan of someone or something,’ according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

The word arguably originated from a song by rapper Eminem released in 2000 titled ‘Stan,’ which tells the story of a fan, a young man named Stan, who exhibited an unhealthy and dangerous obsession towards the rapper.

Some also argue that the word stan comes from combining the words ‘stalker’ and ‘fan,’ which soon became synonymous with fandom culture from early on. However, the first recorded mentions of stan behaviour was when Hungarian pianist and composer from the 19th century, Franz Liszt, gained heavy and rapid exposure, creating Lisztomania or Liszt fever.

So, as you can see, stans are fans who are more ardent and, if you don’t mind, out of control. They are fans of today, fans of the social media age.

And it’s not entirely wrong to fault social media for the emergence of stans because social media allows fans to follow (and stalk) their idols 24-7, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On the one hand, it’s kind of a good thing. Stans now have a life, sort of, by looking into their mobile phone all day long. On the other hand, they lose their own life, so to speak.

Well, for better or worse, as they say.

Here are media examples for you to see what stans are really up to:

1. On June 20, US president Donald Trump delivered a campaign rally in front of just 6,200 people. The stadium, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, carries 19,000, and so was notably empty, with row upon row of blue unoccupied seats; a second stadium booked up nearby for overflow went unused. Trump’s campaign had bragged that more than a million people had registered to attend. A large internet group has laid claim to ruining Trump’s big day – K-pop stans.

A K-pop stan is simply an enthusiastic and active fan of Korean pop music (stan means ardent fan) – often you’ll see them on Twitter with their picture changed to one of their heroes. The Tulsa debacle is not their first involvement in American politics. In May, K-pop-stanning Twitter accounts hijacked the white supremacist #WhiteLivesMatter hashtag, flooding it with K-pop videos. In June, they crashed the Dallas Police Department app with thousands of fancams, short clips of Korean idols or groups performing live. Earlier this month, when the Trump campaign asked users to wish the president happy birthday on Twitter, they flooded the replies with rude messages.

John Lie, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley says that K-pop emerged as “export-oriented” popular music in the mid-1990s. It explicitly relied on the internet and social media and the cultivation of fandom. Most people outside of South Korea had their first encounter with K-pop when Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ music video was released on YouTube in 2012. “In North America and Europe, it was in the late 2000s when K-pop fan bases emerged,” says Haekyung Um, a senior lecturer in music at University of Liverpool. “And these fans were members of online discussion groups, forums and chat rooms of Asian popular music who communicated with each other sharing and exchanging their musical interests and knowledge of K-pop.”

- K-pop stans took on Trump in Tulsa, now they’re after the White House, Wired.co.uk, June 24, 2020.

2. Social media has birthed many cultural trends, but one of its most dangerous products is “stan” culture. Some people say the phrase “stan” is a mixture of the words fan and stalker. Others say the phrase is derived from Eminem’s hit song, “Stan,” which tells the story of a crazed fan. Either way, the phrase “stan” doesn’t have a positive origin.

“Stanning” has taken over social media networks, especially Twitter, where stans have constant access to their favorite celebrities. This unlimited access to celebrities has made people think it’s okay to obsess over them, discuss their personal lives or attack people who don’t like that specific celebrity. Stan culture glorifies stalking and promotes bullying. In my opinion, stan culture is unhealthy for everyone involved.

Privacy is essentially non-existent for celebrities, especially in the age of social media. For celebrities, stan culture is a risk to their mental and physical health. Stans have crossed dangerous boundaries by showing up to homes of celebrities, sending inappropriate fan mail or posting threatening messages on social media.

Popular Youtuber Julien Solomita was forced to post a video asking fans not to show up at his house. A more extreme stalking incident involved a man breaking into the home of Selena Gomez, the man was arrested and showed up at Gomez’s home again hours later. Other stans go further and threaten to hurt or kill the celebrity they’re fascinated with.

Taylor Swift had a stalker who contacted her father and threatened to kill her entire family. The same man was arrested in 2016 after he followed Swift from a concert venue to the airport. Before the arrest, Swift’s stalker had sent numerous creepy messages like this online: “Without her, I walk the earth alone forever and she’ll continue to experience failed relationships that break her heart.”

Stan culture has encouraged fans to obsess over celebrities and it’s given them a sense of entitlement towards them. For some reason, it seems like stans feel a sense of ownership about their chosen celebrity and it’s disturbing. Unfortunately, these obsessions have led to real violence. Singer and Youtuber Christina Grimmie who appeared on ‘The Voice’ was murdered by a crazed fan during a meet-and-greet after a concert in 2016.

On the other side, stans are developing unhealthy attachments to celebrities which fuel toxic behavior. They’ve formed their own communities where they discuss the object of their affection and attack other celebrities and their fanbases. Justin Bieber has the “Beliebers,” Taylor Swift has the “Swifties,” Nicki Minaj has the “Barbz” and there are countless more for different celebrities.

- Stan culture is unhealthy for celebrities and fans, by Shelby Stevens, NTDaily.com, August 9, 2020.

3. On April 11, 2022, the courtroom drama of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard began and their tumultuous, extravagant, and mutually-abusive relationship played out across traditional and social media. However ugly the testimony, though, it’s nothing compared to what is happening on social media. The public testimonies are fueling much meaner ones on social media, where stans (stalkers-plus-fans) have taken to platforms with unbelievable vitriol, ranging from insults to death threats.

Johnny Depp has always had a lot of enthusiastic fans—even with all the controversy that has followed him. His Instagram account has over 14 million followers. He’s also been in the public eye since he first hit it big in 21 Jump Street in 1987. That’s over 30 years of serious stardom as an archetypal “bad boy.”

Strong Parasocial Relationships Can Turn Fans Into Stans

Fans often form emotional connections to celebrities, especially those they like and see frequently. These parasocial relationships are one-sided, but the fan experiences a meaningful emotional connection with the celebrity and identity as a member of a fan community. This emotional connection, rooted in identity and belonging, can quickly encompass outrage if their celebrity (and, by extension, they themselves) are attacked. Nothing fires up social identity like a passionate mob and a good hashtag war. On TikTok, #justiceforjohnnydepp recently had nearly 7 billion views.

Amber Heard does not have the benefit of Depp’s professional longevity or depth—and resultant fan community—although her recent success in Aquaman and the swirling publicity around her relationship with Depp have moved her into the mainstream consciousness. She originally activated support from #MeToo activists, but emerging details of her own behavior are causing some of them to back away. Depp may in fact be winning the social media wars.

When people are in the public eye and benefiting from public adoration and attention, anything they do is entertainment. The sordid and unhappy accusations from both sides in this case are full of archetypal cultural narratives—bad boys, celebrity excess, privilege, heroes, warriors, fallen idols, and prodigal sons—that add to the fodder. All of this is easy pickings in social media and not curated or mediated by PR handlers.

Social Media Reduces Complex Topics Into Simple Ideas

Internet memes frequently make fun or snarky commentary about serious things—even the invasion of Ukraine. Memes can be a legitimate means of constructing a narrative and having a voice. TikTok’s format encourages this type of content creation, but I don’t see it as being desensitized to important issues as much as it seems a statement in response to the whole circus. Johnny Depp’s reputation for outrageousness and excess and the enormous back stock of media content available make him an easy subject for “memefication.” TikTok is awash in fan-cam edits, fan video mash-ups, and compilations that began within the K-pop fan community but are now used by stans everywhere.

- Depp vs. Heard: Can Justice Prevail Amid Toxic Stans and Memes? Fielding.edu, May 5, 2022.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣    编辑:丹妮)


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