(There's a second locked entry--I don't know why it's locked--that you can see if you're a member of ONTD, wherein basically this girl is shown to have said on Facebook, "jokingly" or not, that if they accused the guy of rape, they'd get to ride in the police car with him omg. 1) You morons, it doesn't even work that way. 2) NO.)
An Open Letter to Fans
An Open Letter to Celebrities
Look: as a fan of many things, I think about the weirdness of celebrity a lot, for whatever reason--probably because I have spent so many years here and elsewhere commenting on pop culture. (You can hear us discussing it on Made of Fail for the second half of the show here.) I have seen a lot of crazy shit. I am talking quality cray-cray here. And in trying to break it on down into basic principles, I have come to believe that what we need are boundaries. Check it:
The essence of being a fan of something is, "I like this. I like you." Everything else is just a matter of intensity:
I really like you.
I really like you. Like omg a lot.
I have wallpapered my room with pictures of you.
I have wallpapered my room with pictures of you and I am not a teenage girl.
I love you.
I want you to love me.
I love you and I want to kill myself because you do not validate my love for you and satisfy whatever psychological need I am projecting onto you.
I hate you because you do not love me.
I want to eat your eyeballs.
But there are three aspects to being a creator/performer (i.e., celebrity):
1) They enjoy creating/performing.
2) They enjoy feedback from people who enjoy what they create/perform.
3) They would really, really like to make a living creating/performing.
People who are famous for being famous and nothing else (like Those People On The Hills Whose Names I Do Not Speak) skip #1 entirely, and that is why I loathe them. Other people actually do create/perform, but get a little hung up on #2, so it goes from the natural warm fuzzies of They Like Me! They Really Like Me!! to preening attention-whoredom. Some of the more serious artistes claim that they don't want attention or that any notice makes them uncomfortable; some of them I believe. But almost everyone would like #3, to be able to do what they love to do and not have to support it with a day job. And I think there are two reasons that celebrities won't tell inappropriately, ah, enthusiastic fans to cut it the hell out: they're afraid that, if they offend them, the fans will stop loving them and/or supporting them financially. (If you're still struggling to make a name for yourself, you may feel like you literally cannot afford to piss anyone off. If you're an attention whore, "They won't love me anymore" is the grimmer prospect.)
Which raises the question: if you let crazy fans drive you into seclusion, how does that help anyone?
And I'm including non-crazy fans in the suffering. We are talking This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things territory here. There are plenty of sane people who were not raised by wolves who would like to participate in the fandomishness of something, and if the upper crazy percentile drives the creator/performer off, that's unfair to people who didn't put on a wedding dress and attack Jensen Ackles. But the thing about fandom is, it can get to be an echo chamber--social communities comprised, by definition, only of people who like something. They reinforce each other's enthusiasm, they egg each other on, they try to top each other. There may be no one there to say, "You know, I really don't think that writing fan letters in your own blood is the done thing around here."
(An interesting side note: people can be in more than one fandom, obviously. If you have enough people from different, older fandoms, they may stop the ride and say, "We don't do that." On the other hand, you may have an unusually large number of people who get passionate about a media property for the first time in their lives, and so there may not be anyone experienced around to slam on the brakes. And that's what they call a "feral fandom": it sprang up out of nowhere; it hasn't been housebroken. And you know what the epitome of the feral fandom is? Twilight.)
So, if you are famous, I am asking you to be the one who says, when necessary, "We don't do that." You have got to be the one who sets the boundaries. (And there are a lot of celebrities who not only do not set boundaries, but actually encourage people to go overboard. Yeah, well, fear the reap, buddy.) Because I have come to believe that the fan-celebrity personal interaction comes down to, "I like you, and I want you to like me, even if it's just for two minutes." So you have got to be the one to say, "I am not going to like you if you accost me with sex toys." (You know what the sad thing is? I'm not even talking about the time Twilight fans did that.) You have got to be the one to say (in gentle, friendly tones, if you want to!), "I'm sorry, I am not comfortable with this," or "I'm sorry, this is not appropriate," or "WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU, GET OUT OF MY BUSHES." Because, I hate to say it, but All Time Low singer guy should not have taken a picture with that girl and then gone and complained about her on Twitter. He should have said, straight up, "I'm sorry, but this is private property, and you really need to leave now. If you don't, I will have to call the police." (ETA: Not that I'm blaming him--more that, for the future, this would be more effective.) Because if you try to be nice and soft-pedal it and say, "Oh, well, wow, you found... my house... that's... wow," and then you give the fan what she came there for--your attention; a picture with you--all you are saying is, "Inappropriate behavior gets the results that you want." She may do it again, and other fans may try to do it, and other fans may try to top her. "You need to make an example of her" is maybe a harsh way to say it. But people may be so used to their friends-and-fandom self-reinforcement echo chamber that they may not understand it's not okay if you don't tell them. You're the one they want to impress, so: the buck stops with you.
And you know what? It's been done successfully. I've misplaced the link, but apparently Taylor Lautner told a story (which we also discuss on the podcast) about some New Moon signing or other where a woman and her young teenage daughter came up to him, and the way I heard it was, the mother says, "I'm wearing Team Taylor panties right now. If I take them off, will you sign them?" And of course the daughter dies of embarrassment: "MOOOOOOOOOM!" To which the mother says, "It's okay, honey, that's what we do at these things." To which Lautner then said--and keep in mind, this is a teenage boy, not a seasoned star, and put on the spot--"No, it's not." And security escorted them out. So what I'm saying is: if Wolfboy can draw the line, so can you.