1: an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator
2: an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit) <science-fiction fans>
(“fan.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2012. http://www.merriam-webster.com (29 February 2012)
1: an enthusiastic devotee to a performer’s past accomplishments
2: a malicious, vocal opponent of anything the performer does differently or subsequent to the original source of the fan’s enjoyment
(“disgruntled fan.” Mamarox’s Lexicon 2012. http://www.mamaroxesbrain.fantasy.com (29 February 2012)
Today I read a heartbreaking blog entry by multi-talented musician, Patrick Stump. For nine years, Stump served as Fall Out Boy’s lead vocalist, primary composer (and co-lyricist on Take This To Your Grave), and guitarist (switching off lead and rhythm parts with Joe Trohman). When FOB went on hiatus in 2009, Stump started working on his own music, producing the EP, Truant Wave in early 2011, followed by his full-length album, Soul Punk, later that year.
“The reality is that for a certain number of people, all I’ve ever done, all I ever will do, and all I ever had the capacity to do worth a damn was a record I began recording when I was 18 years old. That I can live with.”
What comes later in the blog, Stump’s treatment by ‘fans’ during his solo run, is heart-rending and shockingly repulsive:
“What I wasn’t prepared for was the fervor of the hate from people who were ostensibly my own supporters (or at least supporters of something I had been part of). The barrage of ‘We liked you better fat,’ the threatening letters to my home, the kids that paid for tickets to my solo shows to tell me how much I sucked without Fall Out Boy, that wasn’t something I suppose I was or ever will be ready for. That’s dedication. That’s real palpable anger.”
What the fuck?
I’m going to fess up to enjoying Fall Out Boy’s music, particularly the later albums, Infinity on High and Folie Á Deux. I particularly like those two albums because Stump’s voice had taken on a maturity and depth far beyond that on the previous efforts. I was enthusiastically looking forward to Stump’s solo efforts, and really enjoy most of Truant Wave and Soul Punk. I was pleased to cover his live show last year, and during out post-show interview, I found Stump to be funny, smart, extremely knowledgeable about music, and an all-around nice guy. All of that is irrelevant to this essay.
This is about the fans, and how they treat creators/celebrities. Since when did Patrick Stump, Green Day, AFI, Trent Reznor or any other musician, band, writer or other creator/celebrity become the property of the people who listen to their music, read their books, watch their movies?
What were you doing nine years ago? Seventeen years ago? Twenty-two years ago? Twenty-three? If you weren’t around yet, way back then, what are you doing now, and where do you want to be in the future?
Nine years ago, Fall Out Boy released their breakout hit album, Take This To Your Grave
Seventeen years ago, AFI released Answer That and Stay Fashionable
Twenty-two years ago, Green Day released 39/Smooth
Twenty-three years ago, Trent Reznor/NIN released Pretty Hate Machine
In the course of time between these internationally renowned artist’s debut albums they have all undergone big changes, both in personnel and musical style. And they have all incurred levels of wrath from their “fans” ranging from simply “un-fanning” them to death threats. Nostalgia is all fine and good. But life is change, and these days, fans aren’t taking these changes very well.
Patrick Stump slims down, souls up, and now he “sucks” because Pete Wentz isn’t standing next to him. He is harangued with name-calling, vitriolic personal attacks, and threats to his very safety.
Green Day “makes it” and therefore, they are sellouts (Google ‘green day sellouts’, you’ll get more than 350,000 hits) Not to mention death threats against Billie Joe’s wife by jealous ‘fans’.
Some fans want AFI to make Sing the Sorrow Pt. II, III, IV, V…….They say that everything after STS (or Black Sails, or Shut Your Mouth and Open Your Eyes) is garbage (oh, and how dare Jade change his hair, and, you know what, Davey is gaaaaayyyyy *giggle*).
Trent Reznor gets married, smiles, and starts writing movie scores; the fanboys say he’s letting them down.
To paraphrase the wonderful Neil Gaiman’s response to fans pushing writer George R.R. Martin to write the next installments of Songs of Ice and Fire faster:
PATRICK STUMP IS NOT YOUR BITCH.
I’ll ask again: What were you doing years ago? Are you doing exactly the same thing now? Are you bored enough to want to die? Or have you changed and grown; tried new things? Sure, you still love the good old stuff, but isn’t life more than Groundhog Day?
More to the point: Why do ‘fans’ feel the need to resort to such hateful behavior? Why do they feel entitled to dictate what an artist does or does not do; from where does the sense of proprietorship arise? And why, oh, why, do they feel that it’s alright to act so viciously when creators don’t meet their needs or expectations? Do they send death threats to their dentist if he changes the décor in his office?
Some might say that’s why celebs are paid the big bucks – take the good with the bad. Patrick Stump says “There’s no amount of money that makes you feel better when people think of you as a joke or a hack or a failure or ugly or stupid or morally empty.”
Like the music or not. The ‘fans’ who treat other people as property, as whipping dogs, as less than human are the ones who I claim are, indeed, morally empty.