Bad Blood: Why Won't Fans Stop Groping Their Favourite Artists? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Bad Blood: Why Won’t Fans Stop Groping Their Favourite Artists?

Following the huge publicity of the recent Taylor Swift lawsuit, Kylie McCormick asks where the line is between devoted fan and sexual assaulter

What exactly defines the parameters for the relationship between fan and artist? For most it's probably not a question we think about with regards to popstars. Yet in light of the recent Taylor Swift case the question must be asked: can, and when, does fandom cross the line?

Now this article is not a direct deconstruction of Swift’s latest trial, which is more an issue of professional conduct than fan/artist relations. However, the trial is a key pointer for a larger narrative found in the celebrity world. I have heard numerous accounts of handsy fans, and have witnessed just as many accounts as I've heard. Overeager fans invading privacy on all levels. What drives this and what can we do to create a better space for fan interactions?

We feel that we are the rightful owners of things we purchase. That new car you buy, it's yours. That new jumper, obviously yours. As consumers we are defined by what we purchase and what we therefore own

Some may be quick to blame the newfound accessibility of artists as the leading cause of misconduct with fans. It is obvious that the use of social media has opened private areas of life that were once closed - yet I would be cautious to immediately blame social consumption on this fandom antics. A simple look at Beatlemania or Elvis’ enclave will reveal that for as long as there have been musicians, there have been deeply entrenched and obsessive fans.

So what then lies at the core of this problem, that has existed for so long that it's now pretty much a reality of industry life? I would venture that it is an innate sense of ownership that propels fans to take advantage of their idols when the moment comes. With the growing concepts of identity and consumer amalgamating into a single intertwined being, we as humans quickly become what we buy. Beyond that, we feel that we are the rightful owners of things we purchase. That new car you buy, it's yours. That new jumper, obviously yours. As consumers we are defined by what we purchase and what we therefore own.

It is obvious that the use of social media has opened private areas of life that where once close - yet I would be cautious to immediately blame social consumption on this fandom antics

This perhaps unconscious link between purchase and ownership then extends into our media consumption. When we buy an album or a ticket, we own that moment. Listening to a singer becomes a purchase of time, we chose to listen to the specific artist just as we chose a certain pair of trainers. We define it and it defines us. This purchasing of an artist is only expanded by the slow creation of emotional connections that often come with music. Not only do we, in one way or another, buy an artist, but then we begin to define emotional connections and reactions to this artist. These two aspects then collide with the ability to be socially invested in the daily lives of artists, creating the perfect storm - one that prompts fans to act beyond reason when they come face-to-face with their favourite artists.

Meeting an idol is no doubt an exciting experience, yet when it moves beyond regular bounds of accessibility it becomes an degrading and draining experience for the artist. It can, and does, escalate into an uneasy case of sexual misconduct. The sense of ownership must stop, for it is not real. As fans we can be engaging without crossing the line. Acknowledging this innate concept of ownership and understanding that it is a mirage will hopefully create a better atmosphere for fan and artist interactions.

Music contributor from Los Angeles. PhD in Music Festivals and Identity. (@kyliemccormick)



Published

22nd August 2017 at 9:00 am



Images from

Jeff Kandyba



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