Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why I'm Uncomfortable With the Idea of "Fans"

I'm not famous, but if I were it'd be weird, especially if it were for my Youtube work. See the idea of being a fan creates this sense of separation between the individual and their audience. You see it every now and then, the avid fan meets their celebrity idol and freaks out, complete fangirling ensues, and it is a messy awkward thing to watch. Sometimes it can get really messy. See, the problem of celebrity is the idolisation of an individual. We put them up on a pedestal and venerate them as greater beings. The idea of celebrity creates a whole new class divide that isn't dependent on wealth or behaviour, but simply being known.

Well celebrities aren't just famous for being famous (though this is actually a thing) and some are astonishingly talented individuals. We're right to adore them but that adoration can only go so far before it turns into idolisation and that is the problem. Idolisation creates an "us" and "them". This distinction is of course backed up by the natural asymmetry between the amount of us vs the very limited them. Their time is taken up being busy doing things we adore them for and so there's never this personal connection and it seems like it is impossible to have any personal connection with a celebrity because of that.

See, I have people who refer to themselves as "fans" of me. I know, they're quite limited, but they exist. They adore my work, they think I'm great, and I've had people get overly excited when I messaged them out of the blue. I've heard of people who want to talk to me because they think I'm cool but don't. It's weird... because, for me, I don't feel like I've really done anything. It's just a few dozen vlogs. But this also unsettles me because this creates this expectation that one day if I reach a level of popularity where I can actually make money off youtubing I am innately different to them. I will become increasingly unapproachable...

"Oh my gosh I can't believe he would message me. This is amazing!" No. I'm... just typing on a keyboard. I do it all the time. Here I am, being me, always me, constantly just existing and part of that entertains you so you find me appealing... Well, thank you. I'm still just a person. And that's what celebrities are too... It's bizarre being the very-very-very-small scale experiment into how "fame" alters the perception of strangers on an individual. As someone who is trying to start working in film it's going to start getting stranger as I put out work that I actually feel is something.

It's weird how magazines and paparazzi simultaneously enjoy building up and then knocking down celebs. Look! They're without make up! They aren't perfect, look at us creepily take images of their thighs while they're at the beach and call them fat so we can simultaneously lower them onto our level so we can feel good about ourselves, but also insult the very nature of being just like us by showing it in an unflattering light that celebrities are encouraged to avoid. They're not treated like people, and when they are it's this strange public sadism that seems like we're trying to enforce some kind of humility on them when we're the only ones who think they're not ordinary people. The mark is missed, the point is warped, the entire thing is strange and confusing. They're just people!

So that's why I am uncomfortable with the term "fan". Because if I have fans then it creates this sense that people are expected to idolise me... I become less approachable. This is a thing that actually happens with Youtubers. The internet has given rise to the micro-celebrity. Youtube becomes people's primary media intake instead of the TV and suddenly the celebrities of popculture are replaced by the internet giants of vlogging. Never has it stressed the fact that the aura of celebrity is an imposed idea, worth collectively given to other people. Ordinary people are suddenly raised up to be on par with Kardashian's in the minds of adoring teens all over the world and then we're given a new celebrity image: the kind of person we adore but every now and then denies their celebrityhood and goes "I have no idea how I got here..." because they really don't. They realise that their initiation into celebritydom was an accident and their medium isn't as glamorous as TV so it seems weird, it's unfitting, it's uncomfortable to be thought of as a "celebrity". It should be. Because then they're no longer ordinary people so you can't be friends with them. I think that's why Tumblr loves Jennifer Lawrence so much, because she isn't just talented (and gorgeous) but says such blatantly relatable things that willingly fight against the dehumanising idolisation of the media. We see one of us in her, when really she isn't the exception, she's just not living up to the expectations that celebrity imposes on a person. It shouldn't be a surprise that deep down they're really like us. She eats food and does goofy things on camera and gets star struck herself at those around her - even though she is part of the "them." Even celebrities elevate celebrities. Fame does not inherently uproot a person from being subject to this whole trap of "OMG THEY'RE FAMOUS!" and thus demonstrates just how strange of a system it is.

It's an illusion we create for ourselves because we want to be able to look up at someone. Their work is worth more if they are worth more to us. Celebrity as a label is meaningless without a personal attachment to that which makes someone a celebrity. Of course there's no way to do away with the term fan because this asymmetrical relationship between creators and consumers will forever remain, it is impossible to entirely break down the boundaries created by celebrity culture... but it doesn't mean you have to give in to the idea that being a fan creates a divide between you and your focus of adoration.

So I try not to get star struck. Whenever I run into celebrities I'm pretty chill. They're just really cool people in the end and so I talk to them like they were any one else. I looked up to someone once, then ended up adding them on Facebook and realised... it was like talking to a random 20-something. I've gone from "I really enjoy your work" to adding someone on Facebook before. They still remain cool, and worthy of attention, but they remain a person to me. The thing that stops you from being friends with a celebrity isn't the fact that they are celebrities, but the nature of the distance between you and the limited ways you interact with them. Unfortunately talking to someone behind a panel for a few minutes at a convention doesn't really help foster a friendship, but outside of that environment you never know... Treat them like people and you might have a really nice conversation with them.

And for crying out loud don't hyperventilate when you meet someone you admire because it is just super awkward for them...

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