Fan culture can affect artist’s reputations, lives

November 21, 2019 — by Shreya Katkere and Jessica Wang

A few years ago, EXO, a popular K-Pop group, walked out of a building in China after a long day of work and headed toward their van. Sensing something was wrong,  the group’s manager warned the members not to get in. 

As it turned out, the van had been rented by a group of fans who were trying to kidnap the members of the group so that they could spend more time with them.

So it goes in the world of extreme fandoms. Instead of just looking up to the artists and appreciating their music, some fans become obsessive or want to make contact with the stars. 

Taylor Swift, for example, has a stalker who has been arrested twice. He was nabbed in February 2018 for breaking Swift’s door with a shovel and entering her house. Just after he finished his jail time, he broke into her house again in March before being caught. Swift was completely terrified both times and said she feels less safe in her own home.

Another problem occurs when fans zealously seek to protect their idols from criticism or hate. 

For example, popular K-pop group BTS is known for being an especially intense fanbase. They have sent death threats to girls who express a romantic interest in members of the group. Much of the hate directed at the group is due to general dislike of their fans’ extreme behavior, even though the artists can do little to control the actions of their fans.

Extreme fans often become also sometimes try to control aspects of the star’s life that they do not like. They push artists to “do better” and even criticize the artist’s appearance and personal life.

No group exemplifies this more than the “Beyhive,” which consists of fans who spend much of their time obsessing over Beyonce and defending her against hate comments. After her sixth studio album, “Lemonade,” in which she revealed her husband Jay-Z’s infidelity, members of the Beyhive began to hate Jay-Z and resent the couple’s numerous music collaborations, despite Beyonce’s decision to forgive and stay with the rapper. 

Another example is rapper Nicki Minaj’s fanbase, the Barbs. They are perhaps her greatest critics, especially after the release of her fourth album, “Queen,” in 2018 following a long hiatus. The Barbs criticized her weight gain and stylists and attacked her new relationship with childhood friend, Kenneth Petty. They did deemed unworthy or too poor for her affections.

This fixation that more extreme fans feel can even become a danger for artists and the lives of their close family and friends. Popular male K-pop groups are not allowed to date by their management teams, as extreme fans will attack and send death threats to the artists’ significant others. Justin Bieber’s most zealous fans, for example, have harassed his wife Hailey Bieber on social media since they still hopelessly wished for Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez to rekindle their relationship.

Some fans, especially those of musical artists, even wish for messy breakups between the artist and their significant other so an artist can focus on and create quality work. For example, some fans wished for Nicki Minaj’s significant other to “break her heart, so that she can put out another ‘Pinkprint.’” (This was her third album that included more emotional and raw pieces, which fans have deemed as her best work.)

Fan culture now dominates the lives of many children and teens growing up in America. Music and television shows are no longer just about the entertainment; instead, many viewers spend more time obsessing over celebrities — sometimes at a very high cost. This underscores the importance of anti-stalking laws and other deterrents against fans who go too far.