A Complacent Community

[WED 21 2017; B2-B3; ’Ylpeä yhdyskunta,’ Milka Valtanen]

 

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* The Internet has revolutionized being a fan.

* Now admirers and haters are able to reach the objects of their feelings easier than ever before.

 

The week following the release of the album Lemonade by RnB singer Beyoncé Knowles in spring 2016 was not an easy time for Rachel Roy. The social media channels of the American fashion designer were flooded with angry and nasty comments along with bee and lemon emojis. Her Wikipedia page was tampered with, and her email account was hacked. Someone also switched Roy’s phone number without her knowledge.

This was the work of the Beyhive, Beyoncés fan community.

Roy had revealed on Instagram that she was the guest performer Becky on the Lemonade album. The name was connected to a woman who had been thought to have been in a relationship with Beyoncé’s husband JayZ.

Roy had poked at the bee and gottne the whole hive to come after her.

 

Beyoncé’s fan community tracks their queen’s doings with the same enthusiasm some people have for murder mysteries or tracking down terrorist suspects on Reddit. To the Beyhive, Beyoncé is Yoncé, Queen Bey, or Beysus.

At this moment, the Beyhive is obsessed with the mystery of Beyoné’s private Snapchat account, and the birth, sexes, and names of the singer’s upcoming twin children.

The name of the fan community is, of course, a play on words. Beyoncé has the Beyhive, Justin Bieber has his Beliebers, and Taylor Swift has her Swifties.

Named fan communities are not a recent phenomenon, says Janne Poikolainen, postdoctoral researcher of the Finnish Youth Research Society.

The rock band The Grateful Dead’s fans have been called Deadheads since the 1970s. The fans of the cult favorite Star Treks are called Trekkies and fans of the progressive rock band Marillion are called Freaks.

– Fans gather under a common name, sometimes to ironically emphasize their enthusiasm. This way, an outside stereotype can be worn as armor by the community, says Poikolainen.

 

Decades ago, the concept of being a fan brought to people’s minds the mental image of teenage girls screaming hysterically, but that has changed. Now, being a fan is not anything imbarassing, it can even be trendy.

Even journalists of prestigious magazines do not bother to hide their Beyoncé enthusiasm. On her 2016 world tour, Beyoncé sneezed, and everyone, including Elle, Billboard, Vanity Fair, and International Business Times, wrote articles about it.

– Being a fan has become more widely accepted, and is no longer only a part of youth culture, says Poikolainen.

Being a fan is often associated with pop culture. The word ’fan’ is used to imply great attachment or admiration of a person or a group.

Many conventions are related to being a fan. Poikolainen calls these fan activities. They include searching for and producing information, viewing and sharing media content, and writing fanfiction.

 

Even though the myth of screaming hysterical fans has been busted, hysterics have not been completely removed from fandom.

In March, popstar Taylor Swift was forced to tighten her security, because a fan had broken into her home. One fan of the boy band One Direction published a picture depicting a wedding with the fan and a cardboard cutout of a member of the band. Another fan tried to sell a bag or air breathed by Harry Styles for 5 000 dollars.

Beyoncé’s announcement about the 2016 world tour started a mass hysteria on Twitter. Official prices for tickets were at around 80 dollars. On the black market, tickets were sold for 400 dollars.

– I will sell my parents’ house for Beyoncé tickets. I’m glad they understand why I’m doing this, a member of the Beyhive proclaimed on Twitter.

– Trading one near-mint liver for Beyoncé tickets, offered another.

 

Fan culture has always been subject to changes, but the most significant change is undeniably the Internet. The web has brought music, videos, and information within everyone’s reach.

At the same time, being a fan has become tougher: to be a true fan, one needs to know and be able to do more things than before.

According to Poikoloinen, fan communities usually have a strong hierarchy. At the top are the most active, most dedicated fans, who have the most knowledge about the subject and who have followed the subject the longest.

For example, beyhive.com, which has over 17 000 members, choose new members carefully. In addition to beyhive.com, Twitter and Instagram accounts are used to spread information on Beyoncé. Dost thou require trivia to crush the enemies of thine Queen? Follow the Beyoncereceipts account. Or would you like to view memories from along the singer’s career? Join the million followers of the Beylite account.

 

The Internet has not only brough information to be available to all, also revolutionized interaction within fan communities. Fans know the latest about their object of admiration before the press does, and artists and their fans can communicate instantly.

Because of the Internet, fans of different artists are also able to have feuds with no interventions.

According to Poikolainen, antifans are an inseperable part of fan culture.

– Antifanaticism is just as enthusiastic and active as fanaticism, just with reversed feelings. Just replace admiration with hate.

Poikolainen says that clashes between fan communities are a phenomenon that will never go away. It is about strengthening one’s own community, and challenging opinions on what music is good and what is bad.

In the 1960s, fans of The Beatles and those of The Rolling Stones had feuds on the pages of music magazines. The fans of current artists feud online. They are always ready to step into formation when the situation calls for it.

 

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