The relationship between a fan and an entertainer is something of a unique essence. The fan is there to support the entertainer emotionally as well as financially and even motivates them to continue what they are doing. The ideas and actions of being a "fan" of something have definitely changed over time, and this, in turn, changes this entire relationship. Over the past couple of decades, however, this relationship has evolved into something more complex in which fans question the lengths they have to go to become something more to their idol(s). In other words, this is the invisible barrier between fan and entertainer- an interesting concept that deserves some pondering. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just hang on tight and I'll give you a glimpse into what the world of fandomonium is like in 2018.
When someone becomes a fan of something — whether it be a musical artist, an actor, a TV show, a movie franchise, or even a book series — most people tend to not think anything more of it. They just pay attention to the thing for the sake of enjoying it and once they are done with it they simply return to their own lives. Well, for a unique group of people, this isn't as easy as you would think.
Fangirls/Fanboys are people who devote some of their time to the entertainers, or forms of entertainment, they choose to "stan." "Stan" is a fairly new term (remember Eminem's "Stan"? Think that) that means someone is a big, BIG fan of that particular person, group or thing. This usually includes the traditional elements of buying collectibles and posters to owning merch and discussing the exact thing with friends.
In this day in age, however, the invention of social media has made a home for all kinds of fans for everything, which leads to the creation of what is called a "fandom."
Fandoms were originally just different groups of fans based on what/who they were exactly fans of; nowadays, though, it has become so much more. Extremely devoted fans have created fan accounts (in some cases, they are "multi-fandom" accounts) all over Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and more that are dedicated to their fan base in order to participate even more in the love for the particular person(s) or thing. This, then, leads to making internet friends, participating in voting wars, reading fan-fiction and even checking back constantly for their entertainer's social media for just a second's worth of content.
People on social media can vouch that some online fan accounts can be ruthless since almost all of them would fight to the death for their idol(s) and pick fights with other people for just saying one thing that seems out of line. These accounts can even have thousands of followers and become somewhat famous within their own respective fandom. Yep, these social media stans can become pretty powerful, but making their voices heard is what it's all about. The main goal for every stan? To get the attention of the entertainer in some way.
Of course not every single fan — or stan, for that matter — is crazy. There are plenty of fan accounts and non-social media fans that are super relaxed and just like to join in the conversation (I like to consider myself as one of them). Then there are the little more crazy fans and even borderline stalker ones that turn heads and make headlines that paint the stereotypical fan persona. And while there are different types of fans, there are also different types of entertainers; some like to connect with their fans on a personal level and remain intact with their humble roots while others may not even give a hoot about their fans all while putting up a front. All in all, the entertainer still looks at their fans as just their fans while the fan is simultaneously looking at them as though they're a close friend of theirs. This does sound very weird, but if you think about it carefully, this is actually what happens and is the unfortunate part about this relationship.
With this relationship, it is all about perspective. From the fan's point of view, the entertainer plays an important role in their everyday life. Let us take the Star Wars fandom as an example: these fans spend a lot of their time speculating storylines and character backgrounds, going to conventions to meet with fellow fans and their favorite stars and even go to the movies numerous times to study the films carefully. Watching just one of the Star Wars movies alone takes up at least 2 hours of someone's time, and since the franchise has 10 films to date, this means that fans spend a lot of time with these characters and the celebrities that play them. Just like my favorite film critic John Campea stated when Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia) died, he believes he has spent more time with Fisher than some of his own cousins just by the number of times he has watched the original trilogy throughout his lifetime. This goes to show that no matter what medium the fan is enthralled by, the amount of time spent with them, without a doubt, means something.
From the entertainer's point of view, however, lies a completely different outlook. To them, fans are complete strangers and each face might as well blend with another as they pass by in a crowd of Twitter followers or an audience before them. The fan may expect their idol(s) to make them feel special or unique as an initial reaction from spending so much time "with" them, but in reality, the entertainer nor the fan know one another personally. It's a harsh fact for stans to face, but this is the mere truth.
As I have stated before, the main goal for every true stan is to cross that line between fan and entertainer by grabbing the stanee's attention, but it is literally humanly impossible for every single fan to be able to do this. There are several ways to catch their eye (fan mail, meet and greets, social media posts, stalking), but even if the fan is seen and gets their big moment, it all ends up lasting just a few IRL minutes. Every stan would love a ten-minute conversation with their idol(s) or wind up being the love of their idol's life in some Rom-Com kind of way, but the world doesn't work like that, or not for everyone at least. In some special cases, these things can happen because anything is possible in today's world, but the probability and sheer fact still exists that not every single person will be able to live out this dream-like fantasy. What regular people don't understand is that those moments which do seem small (because, well, they are) mean the world to the fan, but for the entertainer, it is just another "great thing about the job."
This all also depends on the level of fame the entertainer is on. If the idol is part of a big-time movie franchise or a mega-famous band, for example, the odds are against the fandom for every single person to have their special moment with them. For Youtubers and lesser known properties, however, the chances and personal connection can be even stronger because the numbers are fewer. No matter how big or small, though, the barrier does still exist because the entertainer's sole purpose is to, well, entertain their fans and enjoy what they're doing in the meantime.
As I have touched upon in one of my previous articles (if you haven't checked that out, here ya go), the kinds of entertainment someone becomes interested in at a young age affects them for the rest of their lives. For instance, since I became such a big One Direction fan when I was just twelve years old and made fan accounts devoted to them, it made me become entranced with the "fandom world" on social media and even guided me toward what field I wanted to venture into as a life career. The scariest part about all of this is not how obsessed someone can become, but just how much this can impact someone's life without the inspiration for all of it even knowing what they have done for you.
At the end of the day, fans need to realize that what they idolize cannot be the center of their world but it shouldn't go without saying that a relationship between them does exist after all and it depends on how the fan handles it before they ruin it for themselves. For stans everywhere, I give these last words of advice: It is nice while you're young because it is a fun hobby, but it can become dangerous to your mental health and even your way of living your daily life if you let it consume you, because believe me I've been there at a point. Whether what you fan over is made up of fictional characters and storylines or a celebrity that lives their own life, it needs to be said that you and them are two separate entities and it may be best to leave it that way. Crossing the barrier between you and them may seem like fun in your fantasies or fan-fictions in your mind, but it can go a completely different way than you ever imagined in the real world. Even if you do get to cross that line, you may be disappointed with the results you get.
Being a fan is one of the most fun hobbies to do in the world, and crossing that barrier should remain a goal for every stan nonetheless. As long as you don't mix your fantasies with reality, maybe crossing this line will wind up being way better than any fantasy or daydream after all.