Interesting read

from the Atlantic, about disappointment as a fan. I think forgiveness (in its implication of harm / sin) is une question mal posée, but I find the whole question of the social media intervention and the problem of relevance for the celeb interesting.

~ by Servetus on November 14, 2016.

13 Responses to “Interesting read”

  1. Interesting article. There are some, of course, unforgivable things that should and do lose fans (Bill Cosby? Mel Gibson?). However, for the most part, just as for people in my real life, I’m pretty forgiving. I try to look not just at what is said but the motive behind it. If it’s not intentionally hurtful or deceitful I give a pass….even if I think it’s pretty stupid. Mistakes are made and hopefully learned from and as long as they keep trying to be a good and decent human I’m good with it. There is so much out there that I do not have a deeper understanding of and I am sure I can be unintentionally offensive but my heart is in the right place and I try to listen and learn and be open to what others want to share. Until I feel others I respect and admire aren’t doing the same, I feel it worth sticking with them. I like to read your blog in particular because that is what I get from your writing. I don’t always feel agreement and I don’t always comprehend it all, but I try and it gives me viewpoints and knowledge to think about and consider. I like how passionate you are but still searching and seeking meaning and understanding. That’s my take on it anyways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose we’re back on the dealbreaker question and everyone’s got their issue — and we sort of hope that most people agree that Cosby and Gibson are impossible. Although probably most people are unaware of even the stuff that is reported in the news. You have to be a star of Jolie / Pitt stature to really get universal reception.

      I agree that I learn a lot about why people object to things that don’t immediately strike me as problematic. (or have, over the years). To some extent it’s a case by case thing: in general our legal system makes intentional malice more serious than unintentional malice … but in practical terms, effect does matter as well.


  2. What timing, in light of the recent comments on our blogs about how to deal with it when fans are critical of or disappointed with a favorite. This quote raises the issues commenters have been discussing and arguing about:
    “it’s also very hard to know how to treat stars’ relatively small, relatively quotidian offenses. What if we don’t like their politics? What if they say something hurtful? What if they just, as people are so wont to do, screw up?”
    The author assumes that the screw ups, disappointments, etc., have an impact on fandom, and, that being the case, there’s going to be discourse among fans and with the celeb.


    • Kind of free associating here — I was just reading this: , esp the comments (never read the comments is probably a good general rule, but I do read them …). I do think those things inevitably go to form part of our picture of a person, whether they are serious or not. (I mean, assuming that in general you would stop to help a stranded biker, would you then refuse to help him b/c he is Bruce Springsteen and you can’t stand his music or his politics or both, or because he was riding the “wrong” bike? I take a lot of that with a grain of salt, but those questions, his politics, and so on, feed into perceptions of him among fans and others). And I also think it’s true that the more we know about a celeb (a “hero”), the more potential there is to find out that thing that is problematic enough to be a dealbreaker. I think what’s at issue for us at the current moment (and has been for a while) is whether there’s anything between total admiration and total disdain for someone. it seems to be that this isn’t so much a problem on the celeb end of the relationship (celebs know they are not perfect humans, or I assume they do) as on the fan end, at least in our current situation (some fans may have a need to have and maintain a picture of a crush that is flaw-free).

      In a regular relationship with someone I know, I’d be free to express my disappointment privately or to the person directly. In our situation, I can only either keep silence or express it publicly. So SM only functions one way in terms of defining the complexity of the fan/crush relationship — the crush is allowed to say more about himself, it’s a way to broadcast more info, but it’s not a true interaction. All the fan can do is shut up or respond. In looking back over what I actually said publicly about this, I don’t actually find that I made any demand that others share my reaction or my opinion. Armitage is given the opportunity to become more complex (and that is legitimated by fans, and by this article) but responses of greater complexity on the part of the fan community are deemed problematic by fellow fans. It’s as if the SM component means that the celeb becomes even more powerful — because now they are powerful enough to become “human” and “flawed,” a privilege only partially granted to those who respond to them. But at the same time that increased “humanity” for the celeb ends up making them appear more fragile? Or something? It seems like since Armitage has gained the capacity to “speak for himself” via Twitter, the defenses of his speech have become even more vehement.

      Or is this really solely about the fan — that in this situation where the celeb is able to speak and thus to err, some fans can’t handle the prospect not only that their crush wouldn’t be perfect, but also can’t handle the prospect that others would not think they are perfect? Presumably we accept this situation all the time — consider all the people who love Cumberbatch as opposed to Armitage, and we don’t really have issues with or feel threatened by them — but as soon as a fellow Armitage fan expresses dissent, that challenges our identity severely? i.e., this is just a reply of the identity battle problem? At one point the author seems to be saying that.


      • I do know that for me, one thing that makes it hard for me not to change my opinion of a celebrity is their politics. If, Richard’s political views were in direct opposition with my own, it would be very, very difficult for me not to lower my level of interest quite a bit. Fortunately for me, he is a liberal (in the American sense). For example, that yearly Easter broadcast of The Ten Commandments has been far less enjoyable for me since the days of Charlton Heston being a spokesman for the NRA, shaking a gun in the air, proclaiming “they would have to pry it from his cold, dead hands”.


        • yeah, I don’t think I’ve watched that in years, more or less for that reason. I think in that particular case it’s because (and it’s not limited to him) there’s this willful refusal to recognize that the maintenance of his right is destroying communities.


  3. Food for fandom thought. Since I don’t know anything about what RA says or thinks about things except through second-hand sources, the social media controversies reach me a little late or not at all. In fact, maybe they have blown over by the time I read about them and in general I ignore them. His comments or actions have not risen to the level of requiring me to withdraw from his fandom. At least not yet. As the article points out, the more a celebrity uses social media, the more opportunities there are for saying the wrong thing and offending someone. I hope I am not straying into APM territory. I don’t want to go there. 😉


    • I think the central question of the article is whether the star when functioning as a brand can be (or have the right to be) more complex (than we realized) — noting that SM expands the reach and relevance of the star even as it enhances his capacity for missteps with his audience. The article ends up saying (I think) that fans should be more tolerant (one can agree or disagree with that, as sparkhouse1 notes — some things are more tolerable than others) or as it puts it, “more forgiving.” I think that’s a decision that lies in the realm of the individual fan. It’s easier for me to say “cut Michelle Forbes some slack” if I’m not a dairy farmer, for instance. (Not that the average dairy farmer has any clue who Michelle Forbes is, but you know what I mean. It’s what she represents that has led to restrictive laws in my state that actually cover up what dairy farmers do.)

      I guess what intrigues me about the article is the incorporation of the term “disappointment,” i.e., the old view, and the one that we are seeing contested in the RA blogosphere at the moment, was a sort of “my way or the highway” view, i.e., if you don’t like something, you are free to leave — and the fan had no recourse. (This gets to my ongoing question about “who owns the Armitage fandom, fans or Armitage?” I would say that fans do, but this is hardly the majority view.) The article seems to be asserting that SM put the star and the audience in a different relationship to each other, such that fans will be more regularly disappointed by their crush because they get a fuller picture. In this new scenario, although fandom used to be about gratification, it may now have to incorporate disappointment into the experience. I.e., if fans can now directly express their frustration / anger / disappointment with someone, this creates a new emotional space in the experience of fandom that allows for the disappointed or dissident fan.

      Conversations we had this weekend suggest that at least some Armitage fans are supporters of the older view (if you don’t like something, shut up and get lost). This blog has long been a proponent of the newer view (I can be a fan and express dislike / anger / frustration). In the end the article seems to support the view that fans should still give in about what they don’t like, i.e., even though the information we have and our communication channels are changing, we should incorporate “forgiveness” into our attitudes toward the celeb “brands” we consume. To me, this claim is at odds with an entertainment industry that specifically seeks to please us, though.


  4. I like the phrase “all her complex and inconvenient humanity”. None of us are perfect, none of us always agree with each other, and there is so much potential for misunderstandings. I know how often something I’ve said or done has been misunderstood in real life, how much worse must this be with social media.

    I also comletely agree with what sparkhouse has so beautifully said.


    • I think the problem with that argument, though, is that Amy Schumer is not a person, at least not in the sense that we perceive her — she is a brand, a thing we are buying or consuming. I don’t question that Amy Schumer is an artist and that there is a real person there, but I have no relationship with that person — only with the thing of hers, or about her, that is presented for my consumption. It’s sort of like when I consider that what Richard Armitage’s twitter account broadcasts is really Richard Armitage, I have to factor in the reality that this is all and only done for purposes of publicity (as he’s said himself — if he stopped being an actor he’d quit his association with social media). I.e., Armitage’s twitter may be an accurate reflection of himself, but as publicity, it’s a problem.

      One way to understand the article (not saying this is my reading of it, but I know people who would certainly say this about it) is that it’s essentially an argument for dismissing real problems with the racist quality of art and and publicity for it. I’m really uneasy about the concept of cultural appropriation (or at least the way I see people using it as a hammer), but if I believed it were a real thing and that Amy Schumer were doing it in this situation, I would probably not give her a pass on this one.


  5. “There’s a lot that could go wrong in that basic premise—not just for Schumer, as a star, but also for the people who have followed her, and who have wrapped their appreciation of her work into their own identities.”

    This is interesting. Forgiveness? So if celebs show that they are human and make mistakes, we – their fans – are able to, can, should, will forgive? Forgive celebs are fallible, human? Odd that.

    Depends on the issue “to be forgiven”, I would say. I’ve stated it before: the deal breaker for me would be if RA were a pedophile, a rapist, a partner-beater, a murderer. But because he shows a side of himself where he inadvertently steps on my toes and doesn’t communicate in the manner I would have wanted him to is not a deal breaker for me. RA is not a Trump-supporter, and even if he were, there’s nothing to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t come into it.

    The wrapping of my appreciation for his acting and his person is not necessarily woven into my identity, although our worldviews apparently often coincide. With respect to those post-election quotes, I found I needed to take a step back to ponder the meaning of them, and I haven’t come up with any sustainable contextual meaning. Instead I’ve come to the conclusion that they make sense to RA, and that’s good enough for me. I just don’t have to agree.

    I haven’t got to agree with everything that he does or communicates to be his fan. To a certain degree, my relationship with him can compare to a real relationship in that there are ups and downs, bliss and bumps. Unlike in a disagreement with my husband, I can’t communicate with RA, because of the one-sided nature of the relationship. We can’t explain the issues in depth to each other, and so this “relationship” is disabled in many ways. And it’s this disability that in my view is the true cause of many frustrations. It’s a disabled relationship; from the outset a dysfunctional relationship.

    In my view, each individual fan has to find his/her own way to make this relationship work. The celeb has to find his/her own way to make it work too. I don’t believe it is particularly healthy to wrap one’s appreciation for someone else into one’s own identity, because of the dysfunctional nature of this relationship. However, I realise many do just that – and “there’ the rub”.


    • While I agree with your point that “forgiveness” is the wrong term here (and as I don’t believe I have ever been harmed by Richard Armitage), I would query your assertion that it is possible to engage in fandom at this level without integrating one’s relationship to the crush into one’s identity. Perhaps some succeed at that, but to me that’s more the attitude of the casual fan — not that there’s anything wrong with that, only that it’s a different experience than the superfan has. I try to get away from expressions about “health,” because I now know a lot of superfans (having become one) and I don’t see the experience as inherently unhealthy or even that way a majority of the time. If this seems controversial to you, I’d suggest looking at a TV show broadcast in the BBC called “Tom Felton meets the Superfans,” which I think handled this question really sensitively most of the time. Undoubtedly there are some problematic experiences of superfandom, but that’s also true for marathon runners or compulsive chess players or really any hobby. Inevitably with these technologies of the self we end up thinking about ourself in relationship to the object and the activity. I can’t venture to say how that works for anyone but myself, of course, but I would be hesitant to put that label on any group of people.

      The article is not talking about people who can take or leave things. This is how, for instance, I feel about Sting. I love most of his stuff, but he’s not an art song singer. I don’t feel personally impacted by his decision to record songs by John Dowlands except that I wish I hadn’t spent the money on the album. I’m in a different relationship to him than both the people who don’t know who he is or only hear him on the radio, because I will buy his stuff most of the time, but also to those who attend every concert, collect memorabilia, and do whatever else the Sting superfan does (I am in ignorance of what this is). What’s being discussed here is the situation of the the latter person — the one who consumes every bit of information about him, tries to attend all his concerts, truly appreciates every bit of music he makes, reads every interview, and so on — and then is confronted with something they find truly objectionable (whatever that might be — I think in this case it might be his decision to appear in Central Asia at a concert run by the daughter of an authoritarian strongman; I vaguely remember the details).

      If one is having the latter experience with one’s crush, the questions about problematic information become different ones. But it’s clear to me that given the amount of time that I have spent thinking about Armitage, collecting information, consuming material, that he/fandom plays a role in my identity comparable with the person whom I spent years of my life studying professionally and publishing on. I’ve probably now written as much about Armitage as I wrote about that topic. If you asked me to describe my life ten years from now, I’d definitely have to include my fan activities as a central piece of the years after 2010. I see no problem with that and I don’t think being an Armitage superfan is inherently unhealthy unless, of course, one wants to argue that the amount of time researchers spend on their research makes research unhealthy.


  6. This might interest anyone who is interested in the “celebs and politics” end of the question:


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