A little bit about myself first....I am R.M. (lol, security reasons) and I attend the University of Maryland at College Park. I'm getting a double degree in communication and psychology. Thus my interest is in fandom, a phenomenon that's the result of media and psychology at work together.
DEFINITIONS OF FANDOM TERMINOLOGY
These are the most general of definitions. They apply to all types of fans, which include sports, film, music, celebrity, theatre, and so on.
- fandom can be defined or explained as the state of being a fan or all that encompasses fan culture and fan behavior in general, or the study of fans and fan behavior.
- the definition of an audience is: an assembly of listeners or spectators.
- the definition of fanatic is: marked or moved by excessive enthusiasm and intense uncritical devotion.
- the definition of a fan is:
1) an enthusiastic follower of a sport or entertainment or
2) an enthusiastic admirer (as of a celebrity).
- fandom is expressed individually (ex. a fan surfing the Web for sites about their favorite celebrity) and/or collectively (ex. a sporting event or concert).
- Texts or commercial commodities are the objects of fandom (ex. celebrities, movies, music videos, teams, etc.)
- Fiske defines three fan "reactions" to their text of choice:
1) semiotic productivity is when fans use their object of fandom to create social meaning in their own lives (ex. a fan who gains confidence watching his or her favorite character on TV).
2) enunciative productivity is when fans express their fandom to the outside world through speech or appearance (ex. fans wearing their favorite team's jerseys).
3) textual productivity is when fans create texts based on their object of fandom (ex. fan fiction).
In my opinion the best explanation of fandom appears in this journal article: Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction.
Switching topics....to more extreme examples of fandom....
There are many different definitions of a groupie. Most of them include in some portion of the definition, that a groupie is a female fan who follows around rock stars. I do agree with that definition, but I would like to expand the definition of a groupie to mean "any person (male or female) who follows, pursues, or chases a celebrity or celebrities (musicians, actors, athletes) to get close to them or to get close to the 'celebrity scene', whether their intention is sexual or not.
To read a good article about it go here: Groupies.
Another extreme type of fandom....
Fan mania, otherwise known as "Beatlemania", is a phenomenon generally characterized by females, particularly preteen and teen girls, usually dubbed teenyboppers or teenies, going hysterical over male celebrities, usually dubbed heartthrobs. The behavior these fans usually exhibit is screaming, crying, and hyperventilating at concerts. This type of behavior is not limited to concerts, it is more of a state of mind that manifests itself easier in a concert environment, rather than other celebrity-fan interactions. And obviously it is named after the Beatles, when it began in the 1960s. It was the first time that fans exhibited such behavior without abandon aside from Elvis fans in the 1950s and 1960s, and possibly Sinatra in the 1940s (however, there was no TV). Each decade thereafter, such a phenomenon became a staple of fandom, so much so that the objects of such fandom have been branded "teen idols" of their day, from David Cassidy in the 70s to the New Kids on the Block in the 80s to Hanson, Backstreet Boys, and N Sync in the present day. This kind of fandom is a type of institution, so to speak, in and of itself, characterized not only by the above mentioned behavior, but also apparent by the various industries profiting from it.
Obsession. If anyone (whatever the age, gender, or sexual orientation; males do exhibit such behavior toward female celebrities as well) behaves in the above mentioned manner and spends countless amounts of time engaging in activities involving a celebrity, it is an obsession. It's not healthy.
Why does this happen? The medium of TV has become a community for people, replacing real communities (btw, this hasn't happened to everyone). So, individuals develop a relationship with celebrities, just like they would with people in a real community (friends, neighbors, etc.). Except, the celebrities aren't a part of the person's life, thus the relationship is called a para-social relationship. This para-social relationship is the key to understanding the fan-celebrity phenomenon.
Why do people develop para-social relationships with celebrities? The simple answer is to say that they lack adequate relationships in real life. However, that is not always the case. Yes, it's true that the lack of relationships (friends, boyfriend/girlfriend) is a major factor involved (i.e., the loner who does nothing but obsess over a celebrity) in this phenomenon. But that doesn't necessarily have to be. A person can still have lots of friends and obsess. A better explanation is the lack of dedication to something, like a goal or a hobby that impacts the person himself or people around him/her. If you've ever wondered why young girls get depressed if the celebrity they're in love with has a girlfriend, here's your answer: they're jealous because that para-social relationship they have going becomes threatened!
Hopefully, a person will eventually get over his/her para-social relationship (a majority of people do). However, keep in mind that that tiny percentage of people don't. They can become a danger to themselves or others. Friends and family, if you do see disturbing behavior in someone you know don't take it lightly. And if you feel you're heading down this path, get yourself out of it. Look at your life and think about whether these celebrities who you don't even know are more important than your self-worth and self-respect, your goals and accomplishments, your family and friends. Think about it.
To understand more about the para-social relationship read the article that I also mentioned above. Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction.
To do something about that obsessive/violent fandom....click on the banner below.