The Pitfalls of Fandom and Celebrity in the Millennial Age

No matter your job, your gender, your sexual orientation or your location in the world, we all have some place in fandom. We all have a favorite show, movie, book, celeb, and we’ve all spent more hours than we would probably admit to others captivated within the world of media. And, of course, since there is so much variety with regards to entertainment and celebrity present on social media now days, the options are endless for what we can watch, listen to, and learn about this once rather reclusive world.

But, with that broadening reach and accessibility, seems to have come a dark side of fandom and celebrity. Social media and the internet has given us access to celebrities unlike anything we have ever had before, and as so many of us live behind our computer screens, interacting with the world in the comfort of our own home, the actual social experience and boundaries seem to have been tossed out the window.

Let’s start with celebrity….

No longer are these individuals like magical, elusive unicorns, so far from our reach they are like the holy grail. Now, with the invention of Twitter, Instagram and all the other interactive media platforms, they are so close it is like we know them personally (No, Susan, just because Niall Horan follows you on Twitter it does not mean you’re bffs). And again, in this, comes a whole other bucket of problems.

The more we have, the more we want. They give us more but it just isn’t enough. It is no longer satisfactory for them to give us their music, their talent, their career. Now, if a celebrity doesn’t tweet on popular topics of the day, people fall into a frenzy, taking that silence as meaning they have chosen a side, and even to the point of making others wonder if people can’t make an informed choice without the guidance of their fav celeb. Or, that they owe us so much more than their chosen medium, such as to look a certain way based on our desires, or what we feel we are owed because we ‘support their careers’.

This entitlement is a problem, and I have been shocked to the point of flabbergasted more than once because of this way of thinking. As an entertainment writer who specializes in a variety of fandoms, most notably One Direction and Wattpad, I have seen first hand the impacts of this new age of social interaction. The limits of expectation seem blurred to the point of erased, and you are left wondering why someone would even enter in to celebrity in millennial age when everything you do never seems to be enough.

Take Harry Styles for instance. During my time as a One Direction fan and writer, I have seen things that made my jaw drop. One of the most notable being a ‘fan’ who said that Harry should ‘look good for [her] because [she] paid a lot of money to see him’ when a photo emerged that this individual thought made Harry look less than svelte. Now, anyone who knows this boy and his physique know that nothing could be farther from the truth, but the fact that someone would actually have the gall to post something of that mindset shows just how truly skewed today’s sense of fan rights are.

The invasion of privacy for these celebrities is another troubling issue, and again I will turn to the One Direction realm for examples. No, I am not picking on Directioners, before people go off on tangents (another trend when someone points out aspects that are less than flattering about a group of ‘fans’). I am a One Direction fan, and writer, and have seen many disturbing instances within this particular fandom, and am using them to show a collective problem. And yes, the fact I even have to put this little disclaimer is another note of the lengths fandom has changed.

Anyway, as I was saying…

Early 2016, when One Direction just started their hiatus, photos from Anne Twist (Harry Styles mum) were released online after a hack on her personal accounts. This resulted in private images from their recent vacation to be scattered through the online world, to the point where Anne closed down her accounts for a time being because of the shocking breech of privacy. Other incidents include fans showing up at the Styles grandmothers funeral (confirmed by Gemma Styles), Niall Horan’s brothers wedding (photos to prove it), and more, show that there are no longer limits to when a star has to be available for ‘fans’ if they want something.

But the aftermath of these events are sometimes just as head shaking as the fact they happened at all, as fan is pitted against fan, and the claws come out. It seems that fighting for the sake of fighting is another strange occurrence in fandom, and quickly posting an opinion on social media is almost as scary as walking across hot coals.

So now let’s look at fandom as a collective….

We no longer have to look people in the eye when speaking to them, instead placed comfortably on our couches, maybe in our sweats, typing furiously on our keyboards to make our point. And, many times, our passion for our fandoms and belief systems within those fandoms tend to go a little beyond the socially acceptable and into the realm of hurtful and abusive. Yes, I am thinking of a certain ship that has been disproven time and time again, and yet, people bombard those involved, and their families with endless chants and messages.

This is where the term keyboard warrior comes in. It is coined to describe those who bombard or tend to attack others based on difference of opinion, whether regarding fandom, ships, or virtually anything they feel they are in the right about. Again, as you no longer have to face an individual to have discussions, the apprehension and limits on what people say to one another seem to have gone down the proverbial pooper.

Now, let me point out that yes, you are entitled to your ships and opinions on your respective fandoms. And yes, you can discuss it as you wish, freedom of speech, just as I have the right to voice my opinion on the matter in this article. However, none of us have the right to force our opinion on others to the point of being hurtful, disrespectful or damaging, as some within the aforementioned ship have done. Their actions, to continuously throw their beliefs at family, friends, and the individuals themselves to the point of dismantling a once solid friendship, even so much as to have those involved repeatedly deny the existence or truth behind said ship and admit that it is hurtful to them and those around them, is not a right of fandom. That is where you have crossed a line.

Those of us at Fangirlish have discussed this issue at length time and time again, since we are a fandom based organization. We write about entertainment and media, and with that comes passion, ships and endless opinions. And of course as this all occurs online, the actual face to face interaction of discussing differing opinions is not a factor, and the gloves seem to come off rather quickly from those who oppose our thoughts and stance.

Now, having said all of the above, let me clear a few things up…

When we write about our respective fandoms, we do so from a very broad and generalized place. We do not take our word on the show/film/ship as doctrine, and try to create engaging and captivating copy that will spark conversation and discussion. Are we trying to change others opinions? Nope. Not at all. We have our place within fandom, and you have yours. While we may write about certain topics you disagree with, and make opinion pieces based on observations and issues we have seen within fandom in general, it is in no way meant as an insult to those of differing position or who have participated in actions which we have addressed. It is, however, meant to enlighten some who may be on the fence, or unaware, as with anything in this world there is more than one side to every story.

But the responses we get from this sometimes cross the line from conversational and differing of opinion to temper tantrum ridden feet stomping. Demands that we are wrong in our opinion, and that in voicing something of a different idea, we should be stoned by the masses. Unfortunately, many seem to resort to hateful and childish behavior when met faced with contradictory views, and this admittedly takes a little something from what fandom is supposed to be.

Not every post, thought, or discussion is meant to start an argument. A discussion? Possibly. But a thoughtful, respectful one if it is to spark any conversation at all. We do not go in to such a role as ours with blind gullibility, taking one side and ignorant to another. If we write about something, we have looked in to it, and made an informed choice. Yes, we still form a stance, but are always open to other viewpoints. If they change our position remains to be seen, but we do not disrespect others based on differing opinion.

Fandom doesn’t always have to be such a constant pissing contest of who is right, who is wrong, and what ship is the best. That is the beauty of fandom in its most basic nature; to enjoy a form of entertainment with those who feel the same, and with that comes a sense of community, even through the invisible ties of the Internet.

Sometimes its best to take a step back and remember why you got in to a certain fandom in the first place. It is for the medium, the entertainment, and to have that connection with a greater collective. Keep the positivity in fandom, and leave the hate at the door.

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