Saturday, February 17, 2018

Weird Fandom Stuff

I once wrote a posting about Fans which described the various types of weirdness that crop up between admirers and the objects of their admiration. I described one such category this way: 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 fond 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.
People have trouble believing that this really happens. It seems counterintuitive that a "fan" could know nothing about the person's work. But I spotted an example the other day. I was watching the trailer for a film about pop music in the 60s. The narrator mentioned some of the artists appearing, and the list ended with "....and the incredible Ravi Shankar!"

How many music fans know anything about Indian music, and are in any position to judge Shankar's playing? How many are the least bit aware of his place in the Indian classical music hierarchy? How many could name even a single other Indian sitarist?

Answer: virtually zero. But Shankar's incredible, right? Not because we've spent hours listening to him play and our well-attuned ears have placed him above his peers, but because he's, like, Ravi Shankar! You know...Ravi Shankar, man! That dude! With the sitar! From, like, George Harrison or whatever!

If someone asked you for your favorite Indian musician, you'd probably call out his name. Even if you've never heard more than a few minutes of his playing. Even if you don't know what a raga is. Same thing, I'll bet, for the guy who wrote the trailer deeming him "incredible".

I can't tell you how many times times people back in the day would corner me at parties - having been told my background and vaguely recognizing my name - to discuss trendy restaurants, or places where they can "see and be seen," or to ask what Andrew Zimmer's really like. They'd ask me these things with eager expectation, expecting to hear the real deal, because I was, you know, one of those guys!

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