Truly yours, your biggest fan, Stan

Idols can be raised up, and also razed to the ground

The Oxford dictionary describes idolising as ‘to admire (someone) excessively‘. This last word is immediately problematic for me. Who decides if said idol is over-rated, or over-praised. And just how much idolisation is too much?!

We can probably all agree that trying to assassinate the president in an attempt to impress your fixation Jodie Foster is too much (looking at you John Hinckley Jr). But how about my mate, Nicole who, aged 13, ran away from London to Manchester to try and meet NKOTB? Considering how much I loved New Kids myself I didn’t consider this excessive, but it was, unfortunately for Nicole, futile.

An important factor in making decisions over excessiveness is considering the difference between whether the person is a hero or an idol.  A hero, named after the titular Greek demigod, tends to accomplish something of note, be that striving for world peace or something more prosaic yet still beneficial to society. An idol on the other hand doesn’t really have to really do much to reach adoration, indeed they may simply look good. A point in case being K-Pop artists, who literally are termed, idols. To be fair to them, they’re pretty good at singing and dancing and all — but looking attractive to young pop fans is usually their key USP. Legions of BTS super fans would attest.

When it comes to music artists ‘Stans’ are becoming increasingly prolific

The term originates from Eminem’s song of the same name which narrates the increasing obsession of a superfan and is likely to be a mash up of stalker and fan. Nowadays there are Stans for most artists, think of Beyonce’s Bey Hive, Swifties, or Niki Minaj’s Barbs.  

Stans are stepping out of the shadows and playing an increasing role in shaping popular culture, simply due to sheer volume. Music journalist Nicholas Liddle describes them as ‘someone who not only loves their artist, but will do anything, and everything to make sure their artist continues to succeed, grow, and live their best life.’ With more Insta followers than the population of Canada BTS Stans, through sheer determination, brought their pop music to a global audience.

But as quickly as idols can be raised up, they can also be razed to the ground. The Guardian recently detailed the story of a Julia Fox superfan. Known as @JuliaFoxSource they had 39,000 followers and posted every single update in her life, multiple times a day. Safe to say they were pretty invested. But when Julia Fox walked the runway for Alexander Wang, who himself had recently been accused of sexual assault, this was enough for @JuliaFoxSource to rethink his entire approach. Tweeting simply ‘this is where I draw the line’ he promptly shut the account down. If you want to know what Julia had for breakfast, you’re now out of luck.

That’s the problem with humans they’re unpredictable and, often, disappointing. Perhaps that’s why some people prefer to idolise non-human forms such as The Goddess of the Black Chicken, the Potato saints of Peru, the Plums of Plumstead (I may have made the last one up.)

Potatoes aren’t going to let you down

And nor are cats, hence why a new potential idol recently caught my eye. An idol in the shape of a grumpy, fat, black and white cat. With thousands of followers Gacek has become something of an internet sensation, with fans around the world tuning in to watch his daily adventures including sausage snacking and the aforementioned looking grumpy. And there’s no doubt Gacek is idolised by his fans — he is the top tourist attraction in his Polish town with a 5* rating on Google. Indeed, one fan told The Inside ‘I flew from Oslo with transit in Gdansk just to see Gacek. As expected, he didn’t pay any attention to me.’

To be fair that’s probably the experience of most Stans. C’est la vie.

Featured image: Ani Kolleshi / Unsplash

Emily Rich

Currently Strategy Lead at Wavemaker, over the past 15 years Emily has encountered and tackled strategic challenges across virtually every category, working with numerous and varied brands, from Mercedes-Benz to Twinings tea. In recent years she’s headed up work for a number of UK Government clients including PHE and Home Office; from creating strategies to improve health behaviour such as Stoptober and Child Vaccination to devising innovative and award-winning approaches for improving diversity with Police Recruitment. With a passionate, and ever-growing, interest in all things human behaviour Emily continuously seeks to challenge and provoke accepted norms to create true behaviour change.

All articles