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Being a Fan….!!!

I have been reading a lot about how Michale Jackson fans have been committing suicide after his sudden demise couple of days back and also the unprecedented attendance for his funeral service in LA. And I sat wondering how helpless and sad these fans must have felt to decide to end there lives. Kill one self for someone they might not have ever met in their life and have no relation at all.  A similar incident was told by my mom  about how girls committed suicide, slit their wrist, had poison and even went into depression after Rajesh Khanna (Bollywood superstar) married Dimple Kapadia. That was Rajesh Khanna in 70s and this is MJ now…fan remained fans and their attitude similar all across the globe !!!

Who is a Fan??
A fan, aficionado, or supporter is someone who has an intense, occasionally overwhelming liking and enthusiasm for a sporting club, person (usually a celebrity), group of persons, company, product, activity, work of art, idea, or trend. Fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fan base . They often show their enthusiasm by starting a fan club, holding fan conventions, creating fanzines, writing fan mail, or promoting the object of their interest and attention. In a few cases, individual fans may become so fascinated with the objects of their infatuation that they become obsessive and at times gets difficult to handle. These fans engage in behaviors that are considered extreme or abnormal.  This includes idolatry or other forms of worship, such as creating a personal shrine dedicated to the idol at one’s home, and can sometimes extend to the point of the fans becoming stalkers. In sports, some fans take their enthusiasm for the team to the point of attacking fans of the opposing team which we generally term as  football hooliganism. Sports stadiums have long been filled with such incidents. The sports fan is a strange, sometimes tragic figure who often goes into a frenzy over nothing more significant than a jersey color or even sometime the jersey number of their favorite player. An exploration of the mental makeup of those who root for such acts is something interesting to hover upon. Strange but not unusual isn’t it?? We all  at some point drool for something. We love things and people so much that we are obsessed with anything and everything related to their lives. Difficult to cut the upper limit, where to stop….we call ourselves die hard fans !!!!

Fan Psychology !!!
IN 2003, NEW SCIENTIST magazine reported that one-third of Americans were suffering from something it called “celebrity-worship syndrome”,  abbreviated as “CWS”. And added that the proportion of the population affected by CWS seemed to be continuing to rise. And that is what has happened over a period of time. With the media and the Internet taking over virtually everything in life, penetrating anyone life has become far more easier than before. But why are we drawn to celebrities in the first place? It certainly seems that most people in India are either fans of some movie star or some sports person. People who they feel are their roads to ultimate destination. On-screen, they play out our collective dreams about love, hate, good and evil. They do things which we all must have dreamt but could possibly never achieve. And off-screen they do it even better. Abhishek  Bachchan marrying Ashwariya Rai was possible the biggest show stopper of the year. A fairy tale wedding…Fans did everything possible to get a glimpse of the couple. And why not, they are the people we idolise. But  why the fascination..why idolising? Why do we care about the personal lives of people we’ve never met?

Why become a fan??

Social psychologists state that the reasons are complex, but some issues seem to reoccur. One is that we’re bored, and living through movie stars is a way of alleviating that boredom. Another is that we’re searching for identity, especially the teenagers whose wandering souls are most of the times unsure about what they want from life be it personal or professional. Few years back Anil Ambani (business tycoon) was voted the MTV person of the year. I heard a lot of youngsters saying that they are a big fan of Mr. Ambani and what fascinates them is his success, flamboyance and above all money. True I feel and there is absolutely nothing wrong in idolising a person like him. But only till one is on the right direction.
Identity crisis is again one very important thing…which leads to fan following. I remember after ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaenge’ was released every other man wanted to be Raj (Shahrukh Khan) and every other female, Simran (Kajol). And the result of which was the blockbuster status of the movie and the unprecedented fan following of the stars. It was nothing less of a dream come true for people to fall in love and actually get it, never mind even if it is only through the celluloid. It was as if DDLJ fulfilled their long lasting dream.
I believe that social fragmentation  also plays a part in the psychological development of a fan. At an age when as family and community values are crushed by the cult of individualism and an omnipresent media, perhaps fantasy relationships are becoming easier to form than real ones. It has become much easy to dream something than to actual make it happen..And that is probably a reason why relationships are more fragile than anytime before. Idolizing someone actually acts as a platonic relationship where there is absolutely no pressure of commitment or loyalty. And at the same time you actually end up being with the person you wanted to be with. A perfect act of  convenience I would say.

What do fans achieve??

One of the most important achievements is the self satisfaction people derive from being a fan. They find it very enterprising to keep themselves busy in fan based activities and in turn a better chance to see the best things in life through them. And also the very fact the they had something to offer to the people they love is always an immense source of delight. Apart from this, fame also have lot to do with fan psychology. Perhaps fame is the new religion, and celebrities our gods. And to be a famous, being a fan of a celebrity is probably the easiest way to shoot the limelight. There have been many instances where fans  have done bizarre things to gain attention of their favorite celebrities and been in the limelight because of that. Doesn’t matter good or bad, not sane too but certainly a unique way of seeking attention.

Nevertheless, before I conclude I would like to mention that when John Lennon said “The Beatles were more popular than Jesus”, perhaps he was onto something. After all, throughout history and across cultures, people have always worshipped idols. With all its myth, ritual and power to immortalise, celebrity could well be filling a similar cultural niche. And till time immortal there will be fans and celebrities as they both compliment each other. Fan make celebrity and celebrity make fan, a never ending phenomena of our very own society and culture !!!

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