One of the most interesting phenomena of the 20th and 21st centuries is fan love or celebrity worship.
Why stan culture and celebrity worship exist
Modern day culture is full of many stans. Why?
This phenomenon coincides with the inception of television and the proliferation of popular musicians on cassettes, CDS, radios and now streaming platforms.
The urban phrase for fan love is 'stanning'. Many people say things like “I have to stan” or "I stan".
The phrase came from the 2001 song by Eminem ‘Stan’ where he sang about a fan obsessed with him.
In the United States, two of the most popular fan bases are the Beehives who support Beyonce Knowles and the Barbs, who are fans of Nicki Minaj.
The Korean group BTS always tops the billboard charts whenever they release new music because of their fan base called the BTS Army endlessly stream their songs.
In Nigeria, two of the biggest fan bases are Wizkid FC for Wizkid, followed by Davido’s fans called 30BG.
They are always fighting online and measuring each musician’s successes against the other.
The Big Brother Naija show has also increased the stan culture in Nigeria because the audience participates in the show by voting for their favourite contestant to be the winner.
Even though the show is a social experiment for the contestants, it works the same way for the viewers who plot, scheme and fight each other for their favourite housemate to win.
Last year, the Big Brother Naija show had fanbases names like Elites, Icons, Ninjas and Superions.
These fan bases were at each other’s throats fighting online every day during, after the show and up till now.
A common thing about these fanbases is how they think their favourite is the ‘greatest ever’ and how they attack anyone who talks about them in a bad light, even if the criticism is constructive.
Big Brother Naija fans have taken this culture up a notch by competing for who gives their ‘faves’ the most gifts, contributing millions of Naira for cars, houses, money cakes and gifts.
Why all this craziness? You might ask. Why are people obsessed with celebrities? I sought the help of psychologist, Samantha Brooks from the King College London who carried out research on 1642 participants and also relied on the works of other psychologists.
According to Samantha, this fan love starts in our teenagehood as we begin loving celebrities who inspire us or we relate with because we are trying to discover ourselves.
However, evidence exists that excess fan love may be because of neuroticism and psychoticism. Psychoticism is a personality trait that is aggressive and hostile while a neurotic person views the world as distressing, threatening, and unsafe. Samantha believes that “higher levels of celebrity worship appear to be related to poorer mental health.”
When it comes to the link between religion and celebrity worship, it is believed that celebrity worship is prevalent in people who aren’t religious. “Religious people are less likely to worship celebrities, and others suggesting sceptics are less likely to."
" It has been hypothesised that the function of celebrity worship is to address the latent need for a religious experience...that is, perhaps those who were previously religious but experienced a loss of faith may turn to a favoured celebrity to fill this gap.”
Celebrity worship can also be used as a means of escape. By worshipping our favourite celebrities, we live vicariously through them. Their achievements are likened to ours and give us the same joy.
Celebrity worship is also associated with narcissism in a situation where a conflated sense of self creates an imagined personal relationship with the celebrity.
“It is also possible that as narcissists are likely to have difficulty maintaining real relationships, parasocial relationships with celebrities may fill this gap for them.
People who worship celebrities are almost on the side of a one-sided relationship with the person.
Fanatics have “poor-quality intimate relationships and difficulty coping with conflicts. Arguably, the association between celebrity worship and poor relationships may be due to celebrity attachment acting as compensation to make up for what is lacking in real-life relationships.”
Hardcore fans may be “‘dependent’ lovers, driven by lack of confidence and need for love, may develop attachments to celebrities as a backup plan, providing a sense of security in the case of a real-life relationship break-up.”
But it is not all bad, the need to worship eminent people in society is an evolutionary desire. Plus, fans push their favourite celebrity to be better.
Also, these fanbases turn into a community involving similar people who love the same celebrity and thus socialize with one another.
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