BFFR: Do I Regret Stanning Problematic Faves?

BFFR: Do I Regret Stanning Problematic Faves?

Are more faves “problematic,” or has stan culture evolved for the worse?



Disclaimer: this essay is a depiction of the writer’s own thoughts, experiences and observations, and in no way reflects the opinions of the publication on which it is shared, nor does it reflect the opinions of the publication’s parent company or fellow businesses.


In recent headlines, we saw fans drop their loyalties as “problematic faves” continued to act out. Doja Cat upends her relationship with her “Kittenz” after they policed her relationship choices and asked to be acknowledged in the same breath. Malaysian citizens and fans of The 1975 are deeply disappointed in Matty Healy’s performative allyship, which resulted in the cancellation of the Good Vibes Music Festival (and a class action lawsuit). Many remain divided about whether or not The Weeknd deserves their listens after the allegedly controversial and creepy verse to K-POP, released too soon after the mess of The Idol.


I previously wrote about how celebrities don’t owe us anything regarding their choices and what goes on in their personal lives. The exception often happens when we need to seek accountability where it’s due—when the “bad behavior” from so-called problematic faves goes beyond smoking a cigarette in their free time or breaking up with a beloved ex. It’s when personalities with previously dodgy histories of misbehaving start fully lashing out. 


But the reactions from followers and stans beg the question: did I, and other fellow stans, regret wasting time supporting them? Or has fan culture fully evolved, and the backlash is a result of entitlement instead of something genuine?



RELATED: Healthy Stanning 101: Three Long-Time Fans Tell Us Why (and How) They Keep A Distance


On time wasted stanning

We live in an age where politics has fully bled into the content and music we consume. More “woke” audiences would rather put their energy into supporting someone morally aligned with them. Purely consuming or enjoying an unconventional piece of media no longer gives off an “eclectic taste,” but it reflects your ideals and principles. So it’s understandable if people stop supporting problematic faves after Matty Healy’s white savior schtick or remove Doja Cat from playlists after her statements—they wouldn’t want others to assume they think the same way, too.


Speaking as a stan for over a decade, it’s normal (but not always good) for fans to feel affronted if their favorite artists and personalities misbehave. After all, they invested time, effort, emotions and sometimes money to support them. When a problematic fave turns out to be a downright douche, some regret rooting for them. In contrast, others don’t mind holding out for some character development because they’re loyal, just like a multitude of people when faced with a breakup. So it depends on how each person processes the so-called “betrayal.” Some could lie low and fondly look back at their time as a fan, while others would feel they wasted resources over someone who doesn’t deserve it.


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On fan culture playing a part in it 

But the way fans react is not entirely on the celebrity. It’s no secret that fans have their own notions of how their beloved musicians should act, which often sets them up for disappointment. Sure, they’ve kept their favorites in check more often than not. When certain expectations go unmet, this will dent the “parasocial relationship.” This term describes a fan's one-sided connection with a public figure who will never know them. The fact that these celebrities are unattainable best friends (or, for others, possible romantic partners) makes fandom more attractive. How will they disappoint you if they can’t hurt you IRL? But we all know that it actually happens.


The ever-growing entitlement of fans also has to do with the resentment when their favorites act beyond the one-sided bounds they set. One of the culprits? Social media. James Grieg for Dazed Magazine consulted experts on the phenomenon of entitled fans, one of them being Hannah Ewens, a journalist and the author of Fangirls: Scenes from Modern Music Culture. “Historically, fans have felt entitled to celebrities because they’ve been aware that the artist is a product; they give love, dedication, money and time to artists, and they expect something in return—that’s the Faustian bargain that celebrities have to make,” explains Ewens. With more people becoming more aware of the dynamic of fandom as an economic relationship, it has now birthed a powerful sense that their favorites owe their fanbases many things: acknowledgment, behavior that aligns with them and, in certain instances, details of their private lives.


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This isn’t to say that stanning is cursed to begin with. With the right mix of good leaders and an active community, this large collective can create a positive movement. These people just need to remember that celebrities are still human. They have different personalities, histories and ways of thinking. Your favorites won’t always align perfectly with you, and that’s okay. 


Personally, I don’t regret the time, streams and energy spent in blissful delusion of my ex-faves’ actual personalities. If that ignorance made me feel like the main character of my coming-of-age film, then so be it! We had a good run with them anyway. So when these celebrities take advantage of that support or throw it back into their fandom’s face—isn’t it better that they’ve gotten out of that now than later?



Art Matthew Ian Fetalver


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