Monday, July 7, 2014

Fans

If you ever find yourself in a room with 100 people who are big fans of what you do, here's what you can expect:

35 of them will show positive vibes. Such people are a pleasure to meet, but also a bit creepy. We know how to meet new people, and we know how to be admiring fans. But meeting someone whose work we admire is unfamiliar social ground (when even familiar social ground is hard enough for most people). So, weird things are said and strange things happen.

One problem is they see you primarily as an image. And images don't comfortably translate into flesh-and-blood (or vice versa). As I once wrote:
"[Fame can feel] quite disturbing and artificial. For one thing, it's never truly directed at you; it focuses on a facet of a layer of a static image which happens to have your name affixed to it. And you play little part in choosing which facet of which layer of which image is focused upon. The assignment process is remarkably similar to the way children get dubbed with nicknames."
20 of them look a lot like the previous group, but as you talk to them, it becomes eerily clear that they know almost nothing about you - haven't read a word you've written or listened to a note you've sung. They just recognize your name, and that you're well-known in a field they think is cool.

If it seems crazy that such people would consider themselves fans, take mental stock, yourself. Have you actually read every writer, heard every singer, and viewed the work of every filmmaker for whom you have a reasonably positive feeling? I'd bet good money that more than one person has approached Ann Coulter to tell her what fans they are, and to encourage her to keep giving hell to those damned conservatives.

25 of them will cringe at the solicitousness of the crowd. Resisting conformity - not wanting to, like, kiss your ass - they'll feign cool indifference. If you're a sensitive type, such people will unsettle you, because their efforts to appear uncaring are difficult to distinguish from genuine ill will.

10 of them will unsettle you whether you're sensitive or not. They'll go too far with their feigning, to the point of open hostility. They try to provoke attention - any attention. If you'll show them the slightest kindness, they'll fall all over you....and in that, too, they'll go to far, making you wish you'd kept ignoring them.

5 of them are egotists who feel challenged by your very existence. Their being fans of you, but not vice versa, is an asymmetry which they can only blame on you. They can only surmise that you're an arrogant, stuck-up, conceited asshole...before you've even said a word. They will put everything they've got into taking you down a notch, because, really, who do you think you are, anyway?

The remaining 5 aren't offended by their admiration of you, don't try to provoke your attention via bad behavior, don't pretend they don't care, actually know what you do, and understand that you're not the embodiment of some static image. They see you as a person - no more, no less - but with a positive disposition due to their admiration of your work. Repeat: this only happens 5% of the time.

See: also Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories"

I'd imagine highly attractive people draw attention in roughly the same proportions. I'm grateful not to be handsome; my looks don't make people act weird; there's no image-versus-reality confusion. And the cool 5% aren't like needles in haystacks; they're the only ones who want to talk to me!

1 comment:

Jonathan White said...

Being a farm-bound, non-pop-culture sort of bloke, I have had a few wonderful encounters with people who, unbeknownst to me at the time, were actually hugely famous, but, me being me, I treated them like any other other stranger.

Once, in the seventies, I had a delightful chat over beers with Crissy Hyndes, at Maxwell's in Hoboken. I complimented her on her spider-web busker's gloves, we chatted for a while, and she gave me a little peck on the cheek when she left. Lovely!

The bartender, after her exit, informed me that I had just snogged the from man (as it were) of The Pretenders.

Too bad she turned into a radical vegan...

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