This morning I woke up thinking of a friend Layla, whom I was/am really fascinated with.
Layla is intriguing because she was/is totally crazy over the J-rock group Gazette, and there was a cool-headed, authentic yet vulnerable side to her that was particularly charming. ^^ She was a lady whom I can look at for days in comfortable silence; Her make-up is always nice and she’s pretty. And she can pull off all sorts of looks: androgynous, girly, guyish, hehe.
Here’s my photo with Layla, taken in 2011 ^^ She has since become prettier and even more charismatic.
Interestingly, I was one of the few people who doesn’t really care about Gazette, whom she chose to talk deeper stuffs with. I remembered we used to talk a lot about “fandom”, and she could go on and on about it. I was captivated because there was such energy behind the things she was talking about, but I really couldn’t understand where it comes from.
Like the way her fellow Gazette fans and her cried their hearts out at Gazette concerts in Japan. Or the way they used to scan every single magazine with Gazette featured, for sharing on online communities/forums. Or the way she can work for hours and hours just to save up for a ticket to Japan to watch a Gazette concert.
To be honest I didn’t understand “fandom” then–But because her personality had been so fascinating, I tried to understand her world by listening to some of Gazette’s songs.
Which sound and look like this:
En ymmärrä lolololol.
Well till today I don’t understand Gazette’s fandom at all LOL because I’m totally not into Jrock. Yet at this point in writing, I felt that I could finally understand the heart of a fangirl. ♡
Because after my two years spent in Finland, I think I became a fangirl myself, albeit not to Gazette. So I woke today and thought, “Oh, so this is how Layla must have felt.” And everything she told me about Gazette started making a bit more sense. Bitter-sweet, haha.
On strength, distance and kindness.
I think there is a formulae to “celebrities” attracting fandom. I’m not comfortable with the word “celebrities”, so let’s use the word “tribe leader” instead.
The formulae includes the elements of “authenticity”, “vulnerability”, “strength” and “kindness”. A popular tribe leader has to appear to have all the four elements in his/her personality or image.
And then, he/she has to go public and appear on the mass media, on magazines–the media has to sing praises of him/her via interviews, and he/she has to be positioned as an ideal, through words or fashion or metaphors.
Because, for this formulae to work, you need an additional element of “distance”. Which means “the tribe leader” cannot be too easily accessible.
Do you know why? I used to rationalise “distance” as a demand and supply thing. Like if a “tribe leader” is not so easily accessible, then their “price” would become higher, because there is “less supply of” the tribe leader available. But I realised today that the this view was from the perspective of the music management company.
The fangirl and “tribe leader” consciously keep their distance because if they get too close to each other, the magic would fade. And that would really hurt.
Fans and the tribe leader are not supposed to be friends.
Perhaps, all fandom works because imagination is involved. There is magic because the tribe leader has demonstrated strength and kindness in certain areas of his life, which the fans imagine to want to be able to do the exact same thing too.
By “same thing” I don’t mean “same career”, but rather some of the particular ways the tribe leader does things.
The thinking is as follows:
“How can someone be so awesome, yet somewhat similar to myself? Maybe there is hope in my life. I want to be strong and kind like him/her too.”
Now imagine if one day, the distance closes, and you realised that !!!, this “tribe leader” is just another human being.
That is like the saddest thing ever.
Imagine…if the tribe leader is not as perfect as you thought? In fact that image is a blatant lie. Then you’d start to doubt everything. In fact, perhaps the tribe leader didn’t even care about his fans, he threw away all the hand-written messages you gave him (or something like that lah).
Wow that totally. would. hurt.
What if, beyond the tribe leader’s image, lies a really ordinary person who is really, really normal and boring? What if, this ordinary person faces all the struggles you faced, and he/she never gotten over all his difficulties? What if, honestly, it’s also very tiring to keep up with the image?
In a paradoxical manner, fandom is perhaps the most selfish and selfless relationship ever.
I think all fangirls eventually understand this at some point in time. Including myself.
Because that tribe leader’s image alludes to very, very deep and layered emotions, dreams, ideals, beauty and hope–it’s not just “an image”. This image needs to be protected, because it gives strength and empowers. The scarring of this image can hurt, like really hurt fangirls, perhaps akin to being stabbed. Because both parties in that “imagined” relationship knows quietly what is at stake, the distance needs to be carefully managed.