This is a topic that always interests me because much like food packaging, fanbases generally come with this warning:
I know that’s not very PC, but some of them are just not people that I ever want to be around. I often find myself wondering why they behave the way they do and what their true motives are. What are they trying to achieve? Occasionally someone pops up here and I’m reminded of the downright toxic fan behaviour that occurs on certain parts of the internet. Luckily, I can laugh off most of the comments posted here but I have witnessed some pretty outrageous things over the years. The question I’m always left with is why?
Many, many months ago, I received an interesting comment and I decided to probe further. Here I present my findings and conclusions. To be fair I will add what I said and just paraphrase all of the responses that I got. Or is that unfair? Whatever, for privacy’s sake, I will do it like that, lol!
Initial comment: Blah, blah, blah HOW DARE YOU JUDGE JARED, HE SAVED MY LIFE! Blah, blah, blah. /internet warrior growl
[ETA: Ironically enough, another comment about how the Supernatural cast saved a life is what has finally inspired me to post this.]
Now, I’m a lot of things but I thought that this person was giving Jared way too much credit. I get it, all of his wishy washy motivational talk makes you feel good. And fair enough, people sharing about their own experiences honestly is helpful (more so than the wishy washy sound bites – just sayin’). But saving your life? That’s a step too far for me. So, I emailed them to try and get some specifics on how Jared Padalecki had supposedly saved their life. It was interesting and frustrating viewing, but I think it was a good reminder of fandom behaviour. The perfect mixture of irrationality and confusion.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: If your life was in danger and you managed to get through it, that’s down to you, and not Jared Padalecki. No matter how many nice, caring things he says or does, you are the reason why you’re still alive. If you are willing to credit someone else – a public figure at that, then you’re actively discrediting yourself.
That’s reasonable, right? Apparently not!
- He did save my life
- he showed me that there is still good out in the world.
- He’s my idol and hero.
Fair enough. I mean, that’s her headache at the end of the day. I tried! Next, I decided to see if she understood that Jared being her idol didn’t have anything to do with her attacking me for my opinion. At this point, I wasn’t even interested in debating whatever the hell Jared does for anyone. I find it hilarious that she and others lecture me for commenting on things that Jared has said while doing the exact same thing to me. The difference being that Jared is on TV and I’m not. Although, I have been on TV (briefly, lmao), so by that logic Jared and I should get equal treatment. LOL. Anyway, I digress…
Me: I understand feeling like a celebrity is your hero and idol – it is fine to an extent, but you don’t owe Jared your life. Nor does it give you or anyone else the right to attack other people for their opinions. You should know the impact your words could potentially have on someone. So next time you see someone with an opinion on Jared that differs from yours, either try to be rational or keep it moving.
- Jared is a really good man that just gives and never stops.
………..???? Okay, but…I’m talking about you.
Me: Not sure why a different opinion has you so agitated if you’re so sure that he’s amazing. I’m not going to validate your opinion.
- You don’t know much about him.
- The things that you know about him sound horrible.
- Judging him is wrong.
- There are millions of people to back me up on the fact that he doesn’t disappoint people.
- It’s people like you [me] that causes his depression and low self esteem and suicidal thoughts
….yes, I’m causing his depression by commenting on things that he has said. And how is it my fault that the things I know about him make him sound horrible? I’d like to see that defence used in court, I mean, really…
Me: So…you judged me for my opinion. But I can’t judge Jared who, by his own volition, has been extremely judgmental about other people. The same guy who berates people trying to do their job for not doing so to his standards (because he’s so important!).
And then halfway through, I got annoyed because I don’t have to take this shit from anyone, let alone someone defending Jared (I admit that I’m not an objective investigative researcher).
Me: Also, really? I’m magically causing his depression and making him suicidal by writing a blog that he doesn’t read? You should be ashamed of yourself for writing such utter bullshit. Grow up. You are not the arbitrator of anything.
- So you’re [I’m] saying you can tell someone they’re ugly or fat or tell them what you think of them because you can say what you want.
- Wow your parents (e: my parents!!) obviously didn’t teach you right from wrong.
- You and other people hating on Jared (because you don’t like what he says) causes depression.
- Stop hating on a man that means a lot to people
- Stop judging him from what little stuff you know about him
- He does not judge people.
- He has a different look on [deleted]. So because he has a different [viewpoint] then you guys [think that] you can hate on him? That’s so wrong in so many ways
Obligatory LOL @ “He does not judge people” even though we were only talking to each other because she took issue with me judging Jared for judging someone else. You can’t make this shit up. We all judge people, that is a fact. It’s how you do it that counts.
Me: the level of ignorance you’re displaying is almost painful to read but I hope one day you wake up and realize how ridiculous you sound. I owe him nothing. Not respect, support or ass kissing. None of that. He has done nothing for me. If he means so much to you, why are you here arguing with me? What does my opinion matter to you – besides you claiming that I am not entitled to one? You are wasting your time. And I’m wasting mine. You can’t be reasoned with. That much is obvious.
- *crawls back under rock*
So in the end, she never did tell me how Jared has saved millions of lives. In fact, past telling me how amazing Jared is, there was no substance in what she said. It was just words. Repeated over and over as if that would make them ring true.
It all sounded very hollow to me.
This person is just an example but generally fans of all kinds of things behave in this way. They seem to defend first and think later. To quote Larry Wilmore, they talk so much that they ‘can’t even see the bullshit coming out of their own mouths’. They contradict themselves and are hypocritical for reasons that escape me. I have no idea what benefit they gain from defending people they don’t know. Do they get brownie points? Is there some kind of Celebrity Defense League?
There are many reasons why overzealous fans behave the way they do. One could look to why these people form such attachments in the first place – typically people with depression, anxiety etc. are prone to forming these super strength bonds with things as some sort of escape from real life. That’s a psychological fact. I once had a really informative paper from somewhere but I can’t find it now. Still, this Wikipedia page on ‘Celebrity Worship Syndrome‘ covers everything very well.
With that in mind, are these people at fault for their behavior? Yes and no. I think we can all agree that mental issues are never an excuse to behave awfully, or to bully and attack others. However, people with mental health problems may have impaired judgement. It doesn’t make it okay, but I suppose it’s a downside of their issues. On the flip side, what about the people benefiting from such behavior? Music and TV executives, concert promoters, celebrities themselves, and so on. The reward for this overly fannish behavior is essentially a symbiotic and parasitic relationship between celebrities and fans.
Fans feel like they’re close to the object of their desires, like they know them personally. When I feel like being particular snarky to a commenter I always ask, ‘Do you know so and so personally?’ and follow it up with, ‘come back to me when this person is willing to give you the recognition that you deserve for defending them so strongly’ or ‘when X has a problem with what I’ve written about them, let me know’. From a fan point of view, I can sort of understand needing to defend someone, but there comes a point when it isn’t cute, and fans are just being rude and trying to censor people.
Celebrities, on the other hand, get an ego boost out of it. They get attention, love, respect and generally an outpouring of emotion that probably isn’t healthy. In some cases, it goes to that celebrity’s head and every single point of criticism is amplified into something else. Five million people think that they’re awesome, but their focus is on those people who think otherwise.
Celebrities will literally Where’s Waldo their way through comments and cherry pick one that doesn’t support them blindly. The only logical explanation for that is that..all of that emotion is probably too much for one person to handle. So it’s easier to focus on the negative because often, it’s much more clear cut than the declarations of love. It’s a lot easier to think about the negative because it tends to deviate more than the positive. If a fan loves them – fantastic. If a person ‘hates’ them – there are so many ways to react, so many emotions that come from that and I guess it’s easy to just feel a need to react to it.
And I think it’s similar for the fans. They don’t really get to exercise their Good Fannish ways among like-minded people. Ergo, anyone who isn’t of the same opinion is basically there for the taking. They all have this need to justify themselves to anyone who isn’t of the same mind as they are. It’s basically a form of seeking validation, which is never a good thing.
Personally, I’m way too lazy to do any of this celebrity worship shit. All it’s ever gotten me is an unhealthy attachment to a show that’s been on television for far too long. I won’t be making the same mistake again!
Thanks to JM for reading this over and for always being a good confidant 😉