Lessons on Geek Anthropology gets strong: fandom is not celebrity following. Despite many stereotypes on fandom depicting it as celebrity following, reality is that only a minority of individuals might engage in such activity and not all of them might be even fans of the celebrities they follow. Celebrity followers are, for example, amateur photographers who hunt celebrities to capture pictures. Others might engage in hunting autographs as well. Many celebrity followers hunt for pictures from many celebrities, not only one; and some might even be ruthless, and thus, become stalkers. It seems that what they want to capture into their pictures is not the celebrity per se, but the fame they represent. Fans have been labeled as celebrity followers by media many times. However, only a few individuals engage in the activity, and many are not really interested in all the deed of a certain celebrity. And if they obsess over one, celebrity following might give space to stalking. Thus, it’s easy to see that celebrity following is not fandom.
Media shows celebrities as archetypes, perfect reflections of the human condition that we should aspire to. Many celebrities have a strong fanbase who support them for various reasons. One of them might be identification with the celebrity, but it doesn’t have to be the only one reason. Most fandoms are based in fans engaging in many activities, from creation of fanfic, attending to cons, or simply engaging in online conversations about their favorite characters and celebrities. However, celebrity following as well as simple gossiping on celebrities are not activities that make of the people who engage in practicing them, fans. For example, any news on celebrities on the TV that are commented by people just because they’re watching the news, does not make of them fans of those celebrities!
Thus, the stereotype on fans as celebrity followers must be rejected. Fandom is not celebrity following. Celebrity following is just one activity that some individuals engage into, but not all those who engage in this activities are members of a fandom. So, why is that stereotype still alive and kicking and staining fandom? One of the reason for negative stereotypes persisting in time is their usefulness. Media uses these stereotypes to normalize non-fans while using them as a way to express fears that are commonly shared within a certain culture. Think about the Beatles and how we think of their fans: screaming young girls that would know no reason. Celebrity following and stalking come hand to hand and stain the figure of fandom in media as a way to portray what good people are (non-fans) and who deviants are (fans) and how our society might go astray should they become the powerful ones.
Remember that our society still sees fans as “obsessed” individuals. Pop culture has always been seen as less than high-culture. Thus, while high-culture “aficionados” are seen as respectable, pop culture “fan
ATICs” are seen as despiteful. Thus, activities such as celebrity following will be attached to fans and not aficionados.
Fandom starts when we think of something as brilliant and thus we want to know more about it, engage in activities around it, and promote it as much as we can. Fans thrive in their connections with their chosen fandoms and they create communities around them. They are passionate individuals that put their energy and their time into creating objects for other fans to enjoy. Fandoms are dynamic, passionate, thrilling, creative and captivating; and they do much more than just celebrity following.
As Mark Duffett states: “love is not harassment, participation not manipulation, admiration not subservience, conviction not possession, and dedication not addiction.”