To begin, let me define the word “Stan.” In 2000, rapper Eminem released the song “Stan” as the third single from The Marshall Mathers LP, and its video portrayed an obsessive fan — Stan — who eventually kills his pregnant girlfriend and then himself after Eminem refuses to answer his letters. I felt that it was important to offer this reminder since I’m seeing so many “Stans” in this era of celebrity fandom who have no idea why they are even referring to themselves as such.
Now to begin for real. George is Tired of Stan culture. I’ll speak for myself in this moment first. I love me some Beyonce. I have every album and know every song. Watch every performance and shout her out every chance I get. Luckily, Beyonce doesn’t make too many missteps that I would have to defend. However, I stay in the fan lane, member of the Beyhive, but don’t take it to that “Stan” level where I believe everything she does is right (Y’all remember them bangs? That video with Coldplay in the Indian attire?). Furthermore, my favorite artist is Phyllis Hyman, the only girl I “Stan” but I digress.
However, when it comes to “stanning” in these streets, the lines in the sand are drawn with petty, shady, hypocritical cognitive dissonance. We live in an era where artists have named fan bases. Rihanna has her Navy, Beyonce has her Beyhive, Nicki Minaj has her Barbz, and even Tevin Campbell has his “Melodies from Tevin” (I made that up the other day). No slander against these bases…fav shall prosper, and anytime someone comes within a foot of their respected Queen or King, they attack—sometimes with very real consequences.
Most recently, it has been Nicki and her Barbz who have taken this culture of stanning to a level with dangerous implications. Several writers, journalists, and culture critics have offered some valid critiques of Nicki over the past few weeks that unfortunately have led to death threats, loss of careers, and some pretty traumatic dragging on social media, with no accountability for the artist wielding such a large following and weaponizing it against individuals.
This isn’t to just call out Nicki Minaj, as many fan bases have taken their love of an artist to levels of nonsense. She does serve however as the best example of what can happen when your love of an artist renders you unable to critique and hold them accountable for their problematic ways (Y’all heard that Harriet Tubman clip on QUEEN Radio?).
Nicki Minaj made a very great album with Queen. Nicki Minaj also made a very poor decision in using homophobic and misogynistic lyrics and working with convicted child sexual abuser 6ix9ine. See how easy that was to appreciate something while calling out the problem?
Unfortunately, call outs of these issues have led to journalists receiving hate mail, threats, and even some attacks from Minaj herself. Stanning is dangerous in the sense that it makes artists non-human. It removes their ability to do and be wrong, which renders them incapable of checking themselves and their fans. Millions of “yes” people are at their command as they perpetuate beliefs that may harm or offend the ones who love them most.
Again, in no way is this just a Nicki base issue — she just serves as today’s example of a growing toxic culture. This moment speaks to the issue that allows homophobes, transphobes, rapists, and abusers to continue to exist, while the people they harm—often queer folks and women—are silenced. XXXTentacion was killed, and more people stanned for him than those he hurt and abused. R. Kelly continues to roam the earth outside of a jail cell because Stan culture will never allow him to be held accountable for his actions—many stating that the music is more important than those he has harmed.
Stans spend a lot of time and energy adoring and defending their fave. I often wonder:
What if you stanned as hard for yourself as you did your fav? What if you used that energy towards your own goals? Who would you be today? What more could you have accomplished?
Stanning = wasted energy. Energy that could be put to use defending one’s self. We allow the artists we Stan for to disrespect our identity right in our face. Their homophobia and misogyny trickling down into our society giving others license to treat us just as badly as the lyrics YOU are supporting—that you’re unwilling to call out because you never want to be seen in a bad light by an artist who considers you as disposable as the next stream or download.
If you are queer and your fav is doing things that are anti-queer, you should be able to hold them accountable. There is no need to “but what about ______, y’all ain’t check them?” The solution is never to check neither, it would be to check both. We have a responsibility to fight for ourselves, Stan for ourselves. We can’t allow our love for artists to dehumanize them to the point of making them “deities” while dehumanizing ourselves by allowing rhetoric detrimental to our existence slide because we Stan them.
The original “Stan” killed himself. It was an allegory of what happens when you love something so much, you don’t see the harm you are doing to the person you love, nor to yourself. We need a culture of accountability. One that allows you to love someone so much that you can challenge them to be better.