Fans Always Kill Their Heroes? O RLY?

I started writing a follow-up to my surprisingly well-read post about the attitude towards women in rock music… and then I started reading Shakesville back a bit to catch up. To cut down and make a long story short, I ended up reading a column by Janice Turner of The Times (not The London Times, would-be-pedants, The Times). She had done one of those ‘Let’s Bring Back Feminism!’ posts that so often still feels like lip-service and just inspires a bunch of men to say "Oh but women do it to women!" or "Oh, but women do it to men!" as if those truths (and yes, they are true) render male-on-female misogyny acceptable…

Anyway, I was looking for her email address to reply, because I didn’t want to write a comment on the article itself, and I ended up on a post entitled The fans killed their idol. They always do. You can imagine that such a title caught my eye for all kinds of reasons. The article it belonged to turned out to be a thousand words of bile spat at fans.

At one point she admits she doesn’t even understand fandom:

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I have never, even as teenager, understood fandom, can’t see the point of worshipping someone who is no more than a poster on the wall — and doesn’t even know you exist. Love their work, fancy them rotten: yes. Scream until you faint at a gig, write them loopy letters: never.

I would argue she has the meaning of ‘fandom’ wrong. Also, given the subject of my last post, this woman is equating fandom with crushes/fancying/whatever. Which is a part of it, but only a part. We knows this, precious! How can she not understand fandom and yet attack us.

Sorry, for a second I forgot that she’s a columnist, and for a Murdoch paper at that. Girl’s getting paid for this bullhockey when fandom works on dedication, passion and the love of a thing.

She doesn’t understand that fandom isn’t all the same. We know that, don’t we? We know that there are tinhatters, which she seems to think make up the entirety of fandom. I am amused that she thinks there’s just one fandom. We’re ALL THE SAME, KIDS! The Harry Potter fans are the same as the Pride and Prejudice fans are the same as the Halo fans are the same as the Supernatural fans are the same as the Twilight fans.

Oh. I see. That woman has lumped me and you in with the Twihards. This. Means. War.

Anyway, back to her rather than my undiluted rage. Ms Turner seems to think that ‘fandom’ is about screaming until you faint, writing ‘loopy letters’ –

Hang on a second. Are all letters sent to a writer/actor/musician/whatever therefore ‘loopy’? According to The Internets, Paul Henreid was buried with a fan letter from the days before he was famous and which meant a great deal to him – enough to share coffin space. That doesn’t sound loopy to me.

Where was I? Right: ‘fandom’ is about screaming until you faint, writing loopy letters, slipping the object of your affection drugs, holding vigils outside hospitals, etc etc. Fandom is about obsession and idolatry. This woman, who clearly knows nothing about us and admits she has no understanding of us, calls us vampires, feeders, jackals and bores.

She may have us on the bore score… No, seriously… I am seething and once more reminded that ‘outsiders’ have no more understanding (and/or empathy) of those of us in ‘fandom’ than I have understanding of quantum electrodynamics. I don’t even understand the Wiki page for quantum electrodynamics. Some of the words make sense, but not the order they’re in.

A cynic such as myself would respectfully suggest that Ms Turner is blaming fandom (there can be only one!) because the other option is… er, to blame the media of which she is a part. Fandom, after all, cannot fight back. We’re too busy being self-abasing or humiliated.

Fans didn’t kill Michael Jackson. Photographs splashed on newspapers of him sleeping in hyperbaric chambers killed him. Lazy hacks calling him Wacko Jacko killed him. Parasitic hangers-on killed him. Ms Turner says ‘any wise counsel he might’ve received’ when the whole point was that he rarely received any! The people around him were too busy looking out for themselves. Twas the people around him and the media that killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Ms Turner also makes the dreadful mistake (from my point of view) of invoking the Great Morrison. You just knew how I’d react, right? Well, with resigned non-surprise, actually. Hacks and morons reduced the old man to a penis joke in a graffiti covered grave years ago. To a point, they’re right. I mean, it wasn’t journalists that smothered Jim’s grave in graffiti. The mistake Ms Turner makes is assuming that we’re all the same. I have even less patience for the moronic Doorzoids than she does, I assure you. I also know Doors fan who are sane about it. Some even just like the music and can leave it at that.

Then, she broke my heart, just a little: fans have no investment in a star’s fate. God, really? I love being told how I feel and think. I really do. She’s so wrong. So wrong. I’d wager that 98% of us, where we care about a person’s own life at all, would say we want them to be happy and healthy and contented. Am I wrong? Maybe with the percentage. I might be being generous to us… 

You know something? To the likes of Ms Turner, who doesn’t understand, this will seem obsessive and hyperbolic but hey: My life has been coloured permanently by Jim Morrison’s death. Do you know why? Not because I’m a mad fucking fan, but because of the absence of his work. The songs unwritten, the work undone, the creative (and apparently potentially political) growth. That man could’ve been the conscience of a generation, but his death rendered him a mute dick joke or poster-boy. My life without Jim Morrison is so different to one with him (and by that I mean simply with him and his work in the world, not with me personally.) that I cannot truly imagine what he could’ve done. I hope and try to believe that had he survived, he would’ve been truly great. Or he could’ve sold out like every other rock and roll musician. I wonder what the Morrison equivalent of Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ or Thumbs-Up’s Frog Chorus would’ve been…

She’s just so wrong. If anything, we sometimes have too much investment in their fates and are left disappointed. That’s an argument we could – and do – make of ourselves and our brother and sisters in The One Fandom. I honestly, truly believe that MOST of ANY fandom woul say they care a great deal about a star’s fate – incidentally, not all fandom is even about celebs, is it? – and for that person’s highest interest, not our own.

Moreover, she describes fandom as passive. I can still remember the Popular Culture Studies class with legendary Professor Ray and his impassioned defence of fandom. Fandom is anything but passive! We do not just take in everything at face value. We challenge and question and criticise everything – sometimes when it’s not required. Fandom is not just sitting around waiting to hear what Brangelina’s doing next. The reason I love ONTD (even though it’s been shark jumping recently) is precisely that: it challenges and snarks and doesn’t let people get away with the shit that they’re peddling, the consumerist shit, the fake and the nonsense. Fandom is about creativity – it’s about engaging with whatever chosen text, whether it’s a record or a movie or a TV show or a game. We write fanfic, we do art, we discuss and deconstruct. That’s not passive.

There is no One Fandom To Rule Them All. There’s no one type of fan. She should know that. She should also know that feeling sorrow for a hero’s death is not vampiric.

The people Ms Turner describes are not fans. The man who murdered John Lennon with four bullets in the back was not a fan. The people who sent their children to Michael Jackson’s house for what she calls ‘suspect sleepovers’ and then held him to ransom were not fans. The people who give Pete Doherty drugs when they know he’s an addict are not fans. They’re fools, madman and obsessives, but they’re not fans. We need to tell Janice Turner that.

TO THAT END! I was going to write an angry email to her, but I thought better of it. What I would like – REALLY LIKE – is to hear what you all have to say. Ask your fandom friends too. I want to speak on behalf of as many of us as I can, because I’m not representative of The One Fandom or any fandom, for that matter. Please, ask so that I can respond to this vitriolic attack on our world. Maybe it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things, maybe she’s had plenty such replies since the column was published in July, but I feel I want – and should – do this.

So please! Let me know what you’d like me to say, to include.

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2 Responses to Fans Always Kill Their Heroes? O RLY?

  1. tn_tiger says:

    fans have no investment in a star’s fate

    Right, riiight. That would explain why I was so devestated by what happened to Michael Hutchence.

    • apollarock says:

      I know, right? Janice Turner seems to think that because SOME fans are fuckwits, ALL fans are necessarily fuckwits.

      That ‘no investment’ thing would’ve made me cry if I was still capable of feeling anything. Except I can’t, because I’ve cried too many tears over too many tragedies for too many brilliant people.

      Anyone I respect and admire enough to call ‘hero’ deserves to be absolutely happy and it’s not for me to say WHAT that happiness should consist of.

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