A crowd of fans slapping glitter on each other’s faces, scarfing endless bags of McDonald’s and chatting excitedly from mouths prepped to recount the lyrics to every song. These were the only things separating me from The 1975. Well, that and 10 hours of waiting on harsh pavement while icy winds snaked around our nervous bodies. It wasn’t an option. Lining up was something I was always going to do, something I’ve always done. Ten hours during the day was nothing, try almost contracting pneumonia overnight while you endure 14 hours of endless winds on Sydney Harbour waiting for Justin Bieber to take the stage. For most people, this is dedication bordering on insanity. For fans, it’s a tradition and rite of passage ingrained in fan culture.
According to some, fandom is a bunch of screaming girls wrapped up in a state of hysteria over celebrities. As a self-professed serial fan, I can tell you that it is so much more than that. It’s important to free the term ‘fangirl’ from the negative connotations that surround it. I stand in defence of all of the tears, laughter and squeals that come with the ‘fangirl’ label.
The first stereotype I would like to quash is that fans don’t truly value an artist’s body of work – that they live in a world fuelled by image and superficiality. A fan’s physical, mental and emotional attachments are not shallow or empty. One of the first concerts I went to was a One Direction (R.I.P) concert back in 2012. I went alone because none of my friends would be caught dead there. I cried the whole way there because I was so scared. It was at a time in my life where my social anxiety was at its worst. I didn’t go because I thought it would be ‘cool’, or because I thought they were pretty, (I was sitting at the back so I couldn’t see shit anyway). I went because I valued their music and I wanted to support them in any way and I ended up making a ton of friends that I still talk to. It’s very easy for us to dismiss fans as passive with no real opinion or purpose, despite the fact that they are the reason an artist has a career.
Fans are by no means passive, they have genuine passion. Being able to access such heightened emotions through something as simple as music, books or film is such a real and valid source of happiness that gets taken for granted. You don’t settle for things like relationships or friendships, so why compromise someone’s ability to feel such pure happiness and joy, for mediocre feelings of indifference because you don’t believe it is ‘cool’? All too often I question my participation and validity as a fan because of a silly offhand comment by friends or online bullies. If someone can find a positive outlet that can help them going through hardship, it shouldn’t matter if it is considered ‘cool’ or not.
Fandom is an intangible belonging that can only be described as a sense of family; a warm, intensely happy bubble of love that feels like home. There was a point in my first year of university, after moving to a state where I knew no one. Terrible things were happening in my life. I watched a close friend spiral down a hole I was so desperately trying to escape from, knowing I couldn’t save them, because I couldn’t even save myself. Music, and the wonderful community of likeminded people that came with it, showed me a type of support I couldn’t find elsewhere. It was this kaleidoscope of ephemeral experiences that eventually angled me in the right direction.
Fandom isn’t just a word to me. It’s getting chosen out of a crowd of 42,000 people to meet Taylor Swift because you’re lit up like a Christmas tree and dancing like a maniac. Its running red lights when you hear your favourite band’s song on the radio for the first time. It’s when the Channel 9 reporter sees you twerking your arse off to the Friends theme song and gives you closer seats at a concert. It shapes your whole life; you learn the ins and outs of the entertainment and management industry, how to book tickets, budget and travel. It’s a collection of diverse personalities all brought together because of one common interest. This is for anyone that has been bullied, laughed at, ridiculed or abused in any way, shape or form, for being a fan of something. This is for you, for doing something not because its ‘cool’ but because it makes you fucking happy.