There are very few pieces of music videos that really stick with me. I have favorites, sure, but very few feature imagery that haunt me. Stan is one of those distinguished few that have left me haunted and hollow.
Stan is a song written by Eminem and featured Dido and tells quite a compact and well thought out story of a man named Stan who is obsessed with the rapper, Eminem. Stan writes letters obsessively to the rapper and each one is a step further into madness and ends with Stan kidnapping his pregnant girlfriend, locking her in the trunk and driving his car into a body of water as his letters become increasingly desperate and angry at the rapper who by his own warped mind’s opinion is intentionally ignoring him. The video ends with the rapper finally writing back and saying that Stan was obsessive and to seek help only to realize that he’s too late and Stan has already done something unthinkable.
So let’s talk about Stan Culture.
Stan as a term is now used as both a noun and a verb and describes a very obsessive fan of a particular person, genre or thing. I noticed it popping up in speech a couple of years ago and mostly ignored it because it didn’t connect immediately but then the hate mobs began to form.
And as a fan of many things, I’ve never seen people swarm in such a way over things that just don’t deserve it. If we focused half of the attention K-Pop stans put on their bands as we do on the fact that we’re a country that’s apparently okay with kids in cages and a border crisis then I doubt we’d be in the socio-political place we’re in now. I’m not here to tell folks they can’t like what they like: if someone insults my son, Jason Todd, I will fight them but at the end of the day I know that it’s a comic book and that never is worth calling someone a slur, doxing them or spewing just hateful nonsense at them.
Y’all, I could do a whole other post on cancel culture but the stan mobs have turned cancel culture into a full on terror. Stans have an almost swarm-like ability to overwhelm a person who is “problematic” or threatened their hive and they attack without warning. Remember that whole Becky with the Good Hair- thing? Most stans were attacking the wrong person on the Internet, not even the true center of their ire.
Patrick Wilhems said it best when talking about Star Wars “this is a movie about space wizards meant for children”. He’s a fan and that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s a fan, he’s just not so much of a fan that he’s willing to attack literal people over a space opera written by a man who couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag.
Being a fan doesn’t mean having to be cruel to others. I am very passionate about anime and comic books and movies and literature and that never results in malicious attacks against others. Sure, it may have resulted in a off-hand comment occasionally but never targeted attacks against others.
I think what bothers me about Stan Culture is the lack of self-awareness when it comes to the name. I would pack away all of my official and unofficial merch if someone called me a “stan” because to me that means I have crossed a damn line. It’s almost like people have forgotten that this term is not positive or endearing. It’s taken from a song that’s literally about an obsessive fan killing himself, his unborn child and his girlfriend because of a fandom. It isn’t a good thing and it’s certainly not something I’d ascribe to myself.
Now, because it’s in the popular lexicon, a lot of people use the term ironically. I know Contrapoints has and other Youtubers and personalities have and I want to think that such a thing is okay but in my heart I just can’t. I just see that music video all over again and remember how much sadness and pain that song brought to me. Do I think there’s room for casual use of the word? Sure, I’m not a fascist, I’m not going to police all language. But I do think there has to be some awareness of the roots of the term and that it is not something good, positive or light.
Where do we go from here? Well, I think fans of all genres and types can benefit from a little come to Jesus about how we talk to each other and other people in general. That doesn’t mean you can’t be enthusiastic but just because someone doesn’t like an anime I do doesn’t mean we’re going to go to real blows or that I’m going to encourage my friends/fans to send that person hate over not agreeing. Fandoms have always been a little hostile; we defend ships with canons (yes, it’s a nautical pun) and we spend a lot of time explaining why something is as we think it is. But it rarely delved into name-calling and undeserved cruelty. It’s easy to spew venom from a keyboard and with the bonds we continue to form online, it only gets easier to say whatever your mean lizard brain can come up with when someone even so much as dares to threaten their ship. We can understand that at the end of the day, the thing you love is just a thing. Anime is not a replacement for people, it is a bridge to connect to others. And being a fan doesn’t absolving figures who have definitely done something wrong of their sins. Tarantino is a monster for how he treated Uma Thurman and Diane Kruger but that doesn’t mean I don’t love his films. I can admit he did something bad and still say I think most of my top 10 favorite movies are his.
Stan culture confuses me. On one hand I want to let people like what they like but on the other…it’s a word so rooted in and involved in people at their worst. There are better ways to be a fan.
There are better ways to be a person.