Arts & Culture

Decoding: The Normalisation of Stan Culture

This piece is an overview of Stan culture in India, from the lens of Bollywood Stan Twitter.

The way in which pop culture has been consumed in 2010s has changed the landscape of, what means to be a fan of an entity or a production. Social media has drafted a hyper reality based conundrum, which is responsible for bridging the gap between the idol and the fan but, stitching itself into the aggressiveness and hostility of online trolls.

Stan Twitter is a section of Twitter dedicated to celebrities, even to the most harmful lengths. It is a by-product of a widespread Stan culture, which took its roots in the appreciation and love for a person, but has now reared its ugly head to become a pressing issue for those who surf the Internet.

While some say the term is a combination of a “fan” and “stalker,” “Stan” was first coined in 2000, when Eminem dropped a twisted allegory in a song called Stan, about a man who was pushed to the edge when his idol wouldn’t answer his fan mail. The word used to be synonymous with overzealous or obsessed. But nearly 20 years later, it’s become a badge of honour for fans, who show enough commitment to go all out for their favourite star on the Internet.

Bollywood Stan Twitter, contrary to popular opinion, consists of a worldwide audience, all of whom are part of pockets of fandoms where they spend time celebrating their favourite artists.

In the conditions of anonymity, a Stan Twitter user said, “I once tweeted that I didn’t think Tamasha was a good enough movie that warrants such appreciation. Never had I thought, that a harmless opinion I had tweeted out whilst in a conversation with a friend would become a source of violent threats, from the fans of the movie; ranging from death to me and my family.”

They added, “Twitter has blessed me with some really good friends but after a point it got extremely toxic for me and started to affect my mental health real bad. For instance, I tweeted about Salman Khan’s criminal records once and his fans crowded my mentions with rape threats. I had to lock my account and delete it for awhile. The place is filled with negativity and, yet most of us are addicted.”

Kalyan, who has been a part of Bollywood Stan Twitter for 7 years now said, “Stan Twitter is a great bonding experience for us, a kind of escape from our gruelling personal lives where we can find dependable friendships. However, it gets taxing because of the blind way people defend their idols, despite their wrongdoings. There’s both a negative and positive side to it, both of which can’t be discounted.”

It’s a rarity that fans ever hold their idols accountable, in a lexicon as infused by toxicity and immaturity. However, little over a year ago, fans of actress, Deepika Padukone, started a trend, #notmydeepika after she and Ranbir Kapoor, were spotted with Luv Ranjan, a director who’s been accused of sexual harassment and is infamous for his movies based on misogynistic ideals. The trend reached national publications and, as of today, Deepika is not doing the movie, even though Ranbir is.

This entire Culture raises some pressing questions, “Why do these things happen? Why do hordes of fans maliciously attack critics? Why do Stans behave in such an obsessive manner?”

Haaniyah, Culture Critic explains, “Some say that social media is to blame and that isn’t a completely ludicrous view. As stated earlier, Stans existed long before the age of the Internet, but the anonymity and the mass reach of social media, allows harassment and stalking to be extremely harmful while sheltering them from consequences. You can’t get a restraining order against an anonymous person who could use various accounts to stalk you. If Stans are harassing those critiquing their favourite celebrity, blocks may prove futile, as they could make uncountable new accounts, and online harassment may continue until the aggressors get bored or the target finally gives in and deletes their account, whatever.”

The over-saturation and popularisation of Standom has cemented a kind of obsessive behaviour that earlier existed at the fringes of society – one which was punishable by law, by the widespread nature of social media prohibits that too. The invasion of privacy, obsessive fantasies, aggression and possessiveness, absolute disregard for others’ well being- these are not the marks of a true fan. Stan Twitter, however, will troll me for saying this.

Feature Image Credits: NME

Paridhi Puri

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