Sunday, February 27, 2011

They Care a Lot

Justin Bieber has his Beliebers. Lady Gaga has her Monsters. But what can your lesser popsters hope for in the way of fanatical followers? The answer lies in the word of the week.
stan (STAN) — noun: an overzealous fan of a celebrity.
A week ago, the only word I would have used to describe the people who obsessively follow shallow, seemingly unworthy celebrities would have been losers. However, as a result of an error that ran on the website that I work for, I learned the term stan can refer to people who psychotically root for pop culture’s dullest. You see, an article erroneously mentioned Christina Aguilera as having picked up a Razzie nomination for Burlesque. As it turns out, only Cher was publicly censured for her role in Burlesque, like some kind of sacrificial mutton — stringy, tough, aged mutton. Almost immediately, the website’s Twitter feed was flooded with messages from rabid Aguilera fans who pointed out the error, assumed it resulted from a deliberate effort to bring Aguilera down and, most notably, referred to the website’s staffers as bobbleheads. (Weird, right? Since when did crazy people use polite insults?) Attempting to sort through the barrage of retweets to locate the original call to arms, I eventually stumbled onto a message board that made repeated references to stans and even featured this graphic:

Confused, I did some Googling and ended up at Urban Dictionary — you know, Wikipedia for fourteen-year-old racists — and found the definition I posted above. And while the site conjectures that the term comes from a combination of stalker and fan, it looks like the term comes from a suitably pop-cultural source:

Yup, the 2000 hit “Stan.” (Hey, remember Dido?) It’s that Stan that the stans emulate when they use the term — the fictional character from the Eminem song who writes the rapper obsessive letters and, when he doesn’t get a response, murder-suicides his pregnant girlfriend and himself by driving off a bridge. Isn’t that awesome? I mean, talk about finding the rainbow at the end of the storm! These balls-out fans so love their popbots that they’ve modeled themselves after a mentally ill man who imagines a personal relationship with a celebrity with whom none exists! And that’s to say nothing of how the have overlooked the point of the song, which is Eminem’s surprisingly levelheaded warning against that sort of behavior.

Please note: It’s not just Christina Aguilera for whom one can be a stan. If your life is that lacking in meaning, you could be a Beyonce stan, a Katy Perry stan or (I suppose) a Tracy Chapman stan. Each defends their chosen idol without fail, without logic and without any consideration of whether the star’s merit support. Must be nice to care that much and yet care so little.

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