It may seem like I’m sitting on a fantastic wire fence of curmudgeonry between Ironysville and the Borough of Hypocrisy by writing an article about the horrors of fanatical stans on Twitter. Especially coming from a website that’s not-so-subtly playing off the pop culture iconography of Taylor Swift. But, fuck it, let’s do this.
The gay teenager hasn’t just become a valued identity symbol in our wacky progressive Western society; it’s evolved to a enviable status symbol. The younger you are–but more importantly, behave–and the brighter you sparkle, the more attractive you are as a cultural commodity.
Not only has this utterly devastated the alt/punk “otherness” of the LGBT communities and movements, but it’s all-but bankrupted the flourishing bully market. I’m not talking about adult “bullies” like Donald Trump, mind you. I think it’s disgusting how any grown person can refer to any other grown person and a “bully” and not be immediately slapped. Donald Trump is a 90’s kids’ movie villain, but he can’t be a bully because he’s not twelve.
Of course, you don’t need to be a professional bully to be a bully. All children are bullies by nature–even the precious autistic ones. And the cool new culture of dorks picking on the slow-reading jocks and cheerleaders is the “reverse racism” of the schoolyard.
You can’t open your Twitter app anymore without at least one of the top trending hashtags being some illegitimate feud between Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, or Katy Perry’s bulimic Asian or Hispanic fans bullying and threatening each other into developing new and interesting eating disorders of their own. Because they’re all mentally unstable narcissists, they take the opportunity to flaunt, gloat, and expose their fangs via the anonymity of social media, and then blame the “bullies” when some precious snowflake can’t handle the pressure and swallows too many pills or takes a face-down bath.
The term “stan” is obviously (for anyone born before 2000 A.D. Most people think it’s just a tongue-in-cheek combination of the words “stalker” and “fan”) a reference to the Eminem single off of the Marshall Mathers LP, brilliantly acted by Devon Sawa in the music video, about an unhinged and sociopathic Slim Shady fan. And the modern stans share almost all of the same characteristics. You’ll notice them by their fleeting grip on youth, blind dedication to a very specific YouTube celeb, pop star, or Instagram account, and their group-think hive minds.
You’ll find they usually gather en masse to promote trending topics like #TylerOakleyJustSaidTheNwordParty or #ZaynDid911Party where you’ll be horrified to see the same memes and random idiocracy being practiced by everyone from 13-year old Nicaraguans to 40-year old black women. Almost all of these people will be extremely defensive; not only of their celebrity Waifu, but of their thousands of paid-for or otherwise acquired fake followers, their naive childish beliefs about how the world works, and the weirdly harmful notions that mental disability and delusion are somehow badges of honor. They respond to any criticism of their behavior with “sit down” or “delete your account” because, only they are permitted to walk, talk and exist. And their online personas are defined by one minor-to-suitable celebrity who may have interacted with them at some point. You’ll see phrases like “5SoS favorited my tweet in 2015” or “Cher follows me” or “Tom DeLonge from Blink 182 RT’d my status about how vaccines are actually alien implants.”
To their credit, these little post-midnight Mogwai have heavily influenced the music scene, effectively accomplishing two tasks: making pop music bland, inoffensive, and uninteresting; and forcing the entire entertainment industry to value inane and cursory appeal rather than prevalent talent and quality–or some weird combination of both, such as hating on the Kardashian-West clan but shelling out premium dollarydoos for anything with any variation of their names printed on it.
Standom isn’t just creepy and pathetic, it’s downright boring. The mere fact that undying fans shower people like 30-year old Lady Gaga with praise over an objectively atrocious new single, but take an innovative and long-lasting artist like 40-year old Sia for granted, is cripplingly heartbreaking. It’s pretty upsetting to watch people throwing awkward praise at someone like Rihanna, who is arguably one of the last truly interesting current pop stars, while still trying to appease those who trick themselves into believing that Beyonce has done anything fun or original in decades.
We mustn’t get it twisted–there is no pat on the back for you old heads who stick to your Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, or old school hip hop and make sweeping judgments about the current state of music. Every aspect of entertainment is so over-saturated with content that it’s nearly impossible not to find something up-to-the-second modern that you can get behind or appreciate…and you should…or perish at your own peril. Because this cultural wave may eventually break, but the times will still not be kind to those stuck in the past.
That’s not to say that these young delusional taste-makers will be the future. No, their future is going to grow much darker. If you’ve been awake to see the frightened and confused way Millennials are handling their transition into adulthood (even coining the word “adulting” to describe things they have to do as a grown-ass grown-up that aren’t as “fun” as they might’ve wished), the even-younger generation has got to be without hope or redemption.
But you can help–and it won’t cost you a dime. With the bully being effectively extinct, it’s up to young people, peers, mentors, and the otherwise “woke” to make sure you’re irreverent, push buttons, trigger, blur the lines of political correctness, yank away the fainting couch, rip the pearls from the clenched and clammy hands…and perhaps most importantly, slap a stan.