The Problem with Fanaticism

I love Beyonce as an entertainer. I actually equate her with Michael Jackson. I think her voice is flawless and as a business woman I think she is in a unique place where she can continually leverage her brand. I understand in this extent how she is a massive major role model to so many and yet for others remain something of an enigma. While she will never grab me musically in the way her soul contemporaries Jill Scott, Janelle Monae, Erykah Badu do, she is definitely the most commercially viable queen of soul. Like any icon it is important to recognise that she is now public property for bloggers, writers and social commentators to voice opinion on. I have been intrigued more than ever though by two things that will be part of her legacy and that is the discourse around feminism she has engendered and the fanatic community who will support her every move and not deal delightfully with any detraction.

The recent release of her self titled album is a masterstroke of capitalism. Much hype and emotionally marketed words have been dedicated to this. Seemingly with no promotion (side eye). Leveraging through social media. Global record breaker as one of the fastest selling albums of all time. More astute entrepreneurs know this is no accident but a cleverly calculated campaign to the point where even Apple had to bend its rule to accommodate both her and her label Columbia records, with both parties being massive beneficiaries along with Beyonce in this demonstration of 360 marketing. She becomes heralded in many areas as the poster child for feminism and in some corners, of womanism.

This intrigues me. As a father of two daughters I am always intrigued as to how they will embrace womanhood. We spend time philosophising and having our views of the world challenged. Outside of their mother, aunts and godparents I am always intrigued as to what role models they will look to for their own inspiration. Personally I have problems with Beyonce. I find it difficult to marry up the singer who will be free to talk about her own empowerment, express her sexual freedom and yet can flip her mantra on feminism by allowing her husband to allude to domestic violence and the meme of “bitches bowing down” because of her success.

Try to address this contradiction in a blog, tweet or other social media and you are likely to get blown apart from those who think she is beyond criticism. We are asked to focus on the fact she is the first black woman to have done so much of what she has done. To stop hating. To focus only on the positive and not address questions or issues that arise for us. This is a problem with fans (or stans to use the Eminem nomenclature)

It is so easy to place people on a pedestal. I alluded to this in a previous post on The Problem with Heroes. An ideal vision has been created in a person’s mind of how excellent someone is and how much they want to be in their sphere, or like them that they either forget that they are human just like us or will fight to the death to protect the notion of their vision. Probably why so many of today’s entertainers up on child sexual charges seemed to get away with it. I digress.

This fanaticism is not restricted to celebrities brought to us by entertainment but also those who will challenge certain points of view. Take an author like Richard Dawkins. A brilliant scientist but also a very outspoken, some would say, cantankerous voice in opposition of organised religion. Whilst it is eye opening to witness the skill with which he can verbalise his arguments or indeed deconstruct those who oppose him, try writing a piece which challenges him. He has long been challenged about his assumed role to speak out on behalf of Muslim women as oppressed and will bristle, or his army of fans will, when challenged as demonstrated here.

We could add Belibers, Obama diehards and other fanbases of people in the spotlight who would fight to the death, verbally (and probably physically if given the chance) to defend their idol.

The thing is these individuals don’t need defending. In most cases they are equally capable of responding in kind to those who take them on. The comedian Ricky Gervais and singer James Blunt have created somewhat of a legendary status on Twitter with their ability to be able to pick apart and respond to those who wish to heap ad hominem attacks upon them. That said, this also brings with it again an army of fans wishing to curse, unpick social media profiles and be generally caustic to any one who challenges their idol. This is life, but is also somewhat problematic in so much that you cannot speak the mind for another. Of course debates are good and often emotional, but trying to speak on behalf of or even defending to the death someone who you admire is futile. In fact I think it is a complete waste of energy. It is also quite scary when people do go into one on behalf of their idol and I suppose on the upside it is a great benchmark of the kind of person you don’t want to meet face to face and share a drink with.

Whilst fanatics are a surefire way of ensuring those in the public eye have a membership to support their commercial output, they are probably best avoided when it comes to having a balanced discussion around the person(s) to whom they dedicate a large portion of their energy and life to keeping on that pedestal. Please duly note this.

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17 thoughts on “The Problem with Fanaticism

  1. The blog was definitely effective in making it’s point that fans do go pretty far when defending their idols. Surprisingly, the blogger was a male commenting on their personal view of Beyoncé as an Idol and not about her appearance. The last paragraph of the blog does draw the readers in and I think is overall more effective than the introduction. I like when blogs are straight to the point and although Beyoncé is an important figure I was more concerned about the main point the blogger was trying to make. The blogs point being that fans take coming to their idols defense too serious and the fact that all that energy spent really isn’t benefiting them in any way. If I were asked to summarize the main point of this blog I could easily refer to the conclusion. Yes, Beyoncé and her hypocrisies can draw an audience in but the main point of the blog definitely sealed the deal for me.

  2. Fanatics are going to become a major problem if they aren’t already. Because of social media, they can gather in a rapid on-the-go church to worship the celebrity of choice. And as always, the idol themself embraces the worship and reaps the benefit. They have a rabid swarm of fans that will defend any wrong move they may make while giving them money and increasing their fame. We are already seeing the dangerous effects of fanaticism from teenage girls apologizing for Justin Beibers recent criminal behavior to grown men stabbing each other over differences in sports teams support.

  3. Hey! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. This blog post was very interesting. Reading your first paragraph instantly caught my attention. To begin with, I like how you talked about your opinions of Beyoncé. You didn’t just say you didn’t like her, you included why you didn’t with very specific details and you did it in a nice way. I can relate on how you believe that the fans are very obsessed with their idols and would do anything to pick up for them. Whenever I’m on twitter and I see someone post their opinion about a celebrity, there’s instantly an attack on that person. However, as a fan of Beyoncé, I liked the fact that you worded your blog in a mannerly way, not just bashing her. Really liked this post, good job!

  4. What stood out to me about your blog was when you mentioned your problem with Beyoncé. I agree with you when you said she talks about her empowerment, and expresses her sexual freedom but yet Jay-Z is rapping about some inappropriate things. Just like you I like Beyoncé but sometimes I feel entertainers aren’t realizing what their really supporting because they have so many things to worry about. I definitely agree with you when you said that you can’t even tweet about it or something along those lines without these fanaticism attacking you, it’s crazy. To me those people think automatically that because were tweeting stuff or talking about entertainers is because were jealous or were haters but in reality were not, were actually just stating our honesty opinion. It sucks because I thought we had freedom of speech, but clearly not.

  5. Hello, I was reading your article and I found it really interesting. Your opening paragraph caught my attention right away. It really made me want to read more and it also made me want to know more about what you have to say about Beyoncé as an artist overall. I enjoyed reading about the way you described her as an artist and the things she has achieved. The one thing that shocked me was when you said you didn’t really have any care for her. It made your writing a lot more dramatic and it also caught my attention even more. Another aspect of your writing that I loved was the way you ended it by saying “Please duty note this”. Great piece and keep up the good writing!

  6. Forthrightly, I think, this is a great blog everything in one place. In addition, your critique is not seen to bad due to the way that you are putting words. It is like an expresso without sugar but your customers do not know. “The Problem with Fanaticism” have my full attention, this is amazing! This blog is clear, easy to understand and follow, straight to point, This lines “SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO HOLD YOUR TONGUE, OTHER TIMES YOU HAVE TO SAY IT AS YOU SEE IT.” Right in the top, I think is good complements due to these lines are running with blog.

  7. Beyoncé is an amazing person however you are right in saying she should not be put up on a pedestal because she is famous. Girls need role models that they can look up to, people who have worked hard for what they have. Not every girl is going to land a career in acting or singing. Young people need the influence of knowing that hard work does pay off, things are not simply given to you but they are earned through your hard work and devotion. As a young woman it is hard looking up to celebrities because most of them were just lucky and landed themselves a career in singing or acting. How about someone write about the average person who worked hard and can prove that hard work does pay off? That person would be a great role model.

  8. I wanted to know what exactly brought on this post. Did you run into a crazed fanatic and had an argument for an hour or so about Beyoncé? I think there is a portion of fans that are able to fairly see their idol in both a positive and negative light. The success of idols can go through the roof, but I for one, like the struggle of debating the pros and cons against those fanatics who are single minded. In addition, I like how you are aware that commercial success goes hand in hand with fanatics, but stars on top eventually fade away and so do their fans.

  9. I really enjoyed reading your blog because I too have many of the concerns you mentioned. What stood out to me the most was your comment, “As a father of two daughters I am always intrigued as to how they will embrace womanhood” because it made me think about today’s generation of teens or young adults who look up to females like Beyoncé. In many ways, I do see Beyoncé’s lyrics and “persona” contradicting each other. She is supposed to symbolize female power and strength, yet she may not always depict that in her music. As a babysitter I have experienced comments like, “Miley Cyrus is a slut” because of the way she dresses, speaks, or acts in front of her fans. Today’s youth is exposed to EVERYHTHING (which I don’t think is a bad thing). I don’t think young teens should be tricked into believing that the music industry is perfect and pure. I will say though that it is a little scary to think that young girls or boys are going to want to aspire to be these false heroes or role models society (or we ourselves) have created.

  10. Dear Barista,
    I totally agree with your post. People are way too obsessed with celebrities and their behaviors. It really sucks that people in our generation are constantly getting bashed on social network sites when they choose to voice their own opinions. Celebrities are not gods, especially not Beyoncé. I hope that you’re daughters will grow up to be very successful intelligent females and that they will REFUSE to end up like the robots of this generation today that idolize Beyoncé or whomever’s stronghold. I hope that you continue to make engaging posts such as this one. People are too afraid to speak out about topics like this simply because their afraid of what the public may say to them in retaliation. Young girls and boys are constantly comparing themselves to rappers, singers or celebrities. You would think that they would set a good example but they don’t. I just sit here and laugh at their stupidity. Did you know that rapper Meek Mill bought a pet lion? Who does that?! Does he not realize that there are people out here truly struggling just to feed their children or struggling at their 9-5 jobs just to keep the lights on in their homes? Why the hell should he be idolized or anyone else for that matter?

    PS: I love Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu too, it’s just annoying that these two talented artists are pretty much underrated in our society. Why?

  11. Your view on fanaticism caught my eye. As you talked about the ways fanaticism gets out of hand, I was able to understand and relate to this. When I read that the celebrity that the fans “dedicate a large portion of their energy and life to keeping on that pedestal,” it stood out to me. Your statement made me realize the fanaticism is something to keep an eye on. As a person talks about their favorite celebrity, it feels as if they are advertising for them and not seeing that they are human just like us. For example, once I was eating at a café with one of my friends and the conversations that we were having took the turn to be annoying at some point. While I was telling her how things are going with time at school, she somehow brought up Justin Bieber and started telling how “cute” and “amazing” he was. I am not a fan so I couldn’t relate to her feelings of him. As I tried to ask her about her time in school, all she could say was, “Oh. Thing are fine. Oh my god, look at the way he dances.” With that, we need to make sure that people that are a fanatic of someone doesn’t go too far. The person needs to see for themselves that they can like someone, but at certain moments in their lives, they need to put aside their love for them and walk into the world known as reality.

  12. Hey!! Very interesting blog topic–
    Where has there not been role models gone awry?? Nowadays media push all sorts of entertainers, and in a way that is all an entertainer they should be. With every type of entertainer there are die-hard fanatics that would idolize and worship their chosen entertainer no matter how good or bad. Yet what compels them to do the things they do? My point of view is that the idea of a “bad” role model gets more likes because of how they appear. I bet if you ask a young person to choose between a good guy and a bad guy, most of time you see the choice of the more appealing route of the “bad” guy. Would a shift in the medias perspective dramatically change the choices of the young minds?

  13. Hey, you’re right, it is interesting to know what women are out there as role models these days, and who people obsess over. But we almost always expect people to contradict themselves so we can be right there to say, “Muah Ha! Gotcha!”
    But then again, we have to be super careful who we do lift up on the pedestal (or bring down!). Some people stay loyal to their own fanatic ways, the rest are just stockpiled among the public eye. Either way, people do waste a lot of energy defending their “idols.” With people and their strong opinions and all, you’d think they come with warning labels . . .

  14. I personally I do not feel I am a fanatic but when I started reading this blog I immediately felt engaged with your post when you mentioned the famous word Beyoncé and her feminism campaign. As a woman, I like strong women who stand out from the crowd. I think she is beautiful, strong and real. Especially, since I saw her video where she sings that we women run the world. I do not consider myself a feminist but definitely creating a campaign to support women’s egos seems to work pretty well with her image and social status. To read this post from a father’s concern about his daughter’s choices makes me realize how well we are all dragged into a massive feminist campaign which will affect millions of young women and the way they will assume what is to be a woman and their role as women, mothers, wives, daughters, and girlfriends in this society.

  15. After reading your blog I have to say that it is not the first time I have read something like this in where someone is trying to tell people that just because a celebrity is a celebrity, doesn’t mean that they have the right to get away with anything or to be thought of as a higher figure who doesn’t have to bend to the same rule as every other individual. There are people who ‘go hard’ for celebrities they idolize. There are some that will get violent to defend them, and to them we must ask why? For a person who will most likely never know of your existence, why do you think so highly and go so far.

  16. Wow I really love your blog. Have pondered on this post and all the commentary, and yes “duly noted” the people I am better off avoiding. Wondering what other angle there is, in this problem. Such as the overall imbalance of the planet we’re on, due to it having suffered cataclysms in the past.

    I can’t avoid all fanatics because on one hand I tend to care too much about people’s wellbeing and on the other I am still slightly confused where to find the balanced discussion which I need, too.

    I think I hold a similar position to the grandson of L Ron Hubbard, I am from the extended family of some people who are considered superstars out there. I had no idea about this growing up, and I thought I was supposed to “support and defend my idols” too. But I never fit in with those fanatics, even though I tried.

    So perhaps people who think so highly of their idols likewise have missing information about who they themselves are. Maybe they had a bad family situation and are looking for a different family, and fandom gives them that. But they should be aware that the heavy marketing preys specifically on this (with some of these stars having grown up the same way, “pain behind the fame”). So in many situations, they’re not actually helping their idol. They are supporting a thoughtless machine. They think that by going as far as possible, they will make an impact and be taken note of. They compete for the spot of “most loyal fan”, etc.

    The idea of “walking into the real world” is tricky. Young girls support some male stars because he reminds them of their ideal love (who, however, does exist in the real world – this is the missing information). The suggestion that they need to disengage from that love and live their life in reality is troublesome, because they continue to confuse this love with the escape provided by their idol. It’s called a “door opening”, giving a glimpse into the spiritual angle. But the door should not be confused with the actual love which, unlike fandom, is necessarily mutual. Also there is the question of each fan’s sexuality – this can also be transferred in various ways onto love for the stars, again like an escape. It is difficult to accept oneself as worthy of love, to give someone real the opening into your own real life. By “fanning” the stars, one feels the flavour of love and feels part of something greater and important, but without the hassle.

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