It’s no revelation to acknowledge that celebrity ‘fandoms’ have existed since the dawn of pop culture, with followers of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series considered to be the first modern fan base. From literary worshippers to sport fanatics, fandoms have continued to grow and evolve with society’s ever-advancing feats of technology enabling new levels of devotion. With many fans spending great amounts of time and money in pursuit of things like knowledge, merchandise, and experiences surrounding their idols, one might wonder what led us to such extreme levels of idolisation.
There are a multitude of reasons why many people enjoy ‘stan’ culture, defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘an overzealous or obsessive fan’. Besides a genuine enjoyment of the celebrities’ talents, community seems to be a significant factor in why someone might join a fan base. By creating an automatic common interest fan bases allow people to easily connect and form friendships, especially with the use of social media as a platform which constantly grows and showcases the fan base.
Social media serves as another factor in the strong acceleration of modern ‘stan’ culture. With many celebrities now maintaining an online presence to further their influence, fans have even more ways to feel connected to their idols. These parasocial relationships could be potentially harmful to younger audiences who don’t truly understand the nature of such interactions. Moreover, idolising celebrities in such a way might also lead to a sense of complacency wherein people follow and accept the actions of their idols blindly rather than thinking critically about certain moral dilemmas.
For the most dedicated fans, their idolisation certainly takes up a significant part of their personal identity. Some may lean into their fandom as the habit can provide a welcome sense of familiarity or stability through more uncertain times. Pop culture certainly has its ups and downs, and in these trying times lately has provided many people with a sense of comfort and distraction from the looming pandemic. Whilst ‘stan’ culture is for the most part a fun and connective element of society, it is important that we maintain a level of awareness around its effects and origins to keep fan bases as a safe space.