I’m proud to point out that I’m not a One Directioner. Nor have I been a Swiftie nor a Belieber nor an Adele-ee.
Stereotypical fanatics are presented as the hysteric masses of young girls screaming at the sight of a boy band or as the overweight, antisocial comic book store owner or as the overly braggadocious arcade gamer. The general vibe is that the super fan’s excessive expression of pleasure is unnatural and, at times, straight-up sad.
But there’s a fanatic within all of us. The typical fanatic stereotype does not umbrella the excessive devotion some people have to brands, makeup products, soda, Cal gear — the list goes on.
One becomes a fan when an interpersonal relationship is formed with an object or media text or idea … or anything that is not reciprocated. An entity goes from being an interest to a part of your identity. By these terms, we’re all fans of something.
I had cringed and tried to ignore the fact that my best friend was obsessed with One Direction in high school. Her manic reaction to even the thought of the baby-faced boys made me skeptical. I questioned if everything was OK in her home life, as if she was lacking some human interaction that forced her to turn to a commodity to fill that void.
After being dragged to two — yes, two — One Direction concerts, I began to get a taste of the fanatic high my friend was so addicted to. The energy and sheer emotion that rushed through the stadium electrified me to my core. But after each show, the shock faded, and I reverted to my rationale that the band was just an overpopularized commodity.
Then summer came, and an artist I had seen at a festival the previous summer dropped a new album. Mac DeMarco and his Salad Days album became the anthem for my everything. My long drives, my kickbacks, my trips to the beach, my restless nights of laughter with friends, the feeling of the sun beating on my arms in the meadows on a long hike, my goosebumps after a kiss from my first love — DeMarco guided me through the euphoria of summer 2014.
Naturally, when he came to town for a show later that summer, I jumped at the opportunity. Surrounded by my loved ones, I danced and screamed my heart out. I even caught myself tearing up when I first saw him peek through the curtains.
At that moment, my inner fanatic was sparked. Six Mac DeMarco shows later, I realized that I was in a one-sided relationship with this man. But he was so much more than a man. He transcended the human and into a celestial manifestation of love and summer. Each show exceeded my expectations, and my attachment flourished. I hated myself for putting him on this pedestal, but I couldn’t help myself. I spoke of him in a comically hysteric way, almost to joke off and hide the fact that my hysteria was an accurate portrayal of my inner One Directioner.
Many things changed transitioning to UC Berkeley. I lost some friends and my ol’ lover. I left behind my sister, my puppy dog and my hometown. The desire to listen to my DeMarco had faded. But when my new bud Arthur suggested I tag along and rock at the DeMarco show this October, I lit up. The flame in my heart burned. The fan was back. I purchased tickets even before I purchased my textbooks for the semester.
But still, in the first months of college, I did not have the desire to play the albums I had once played in a world where “Salad Days,” “Rock and Roll Night Club” and “2” emanated as often and as seamlessly as the wind.
The concert was approaching, and my loud excitement and jitters were blatant whenever I was reminded of the upcoming show. But it felt hollow, as if the hype were more a product of routine than of desire.
Just as suspected, the show was different from ones in the past — for I was no longer in summer, no longer in a relationship and no longer dancing next to my best friend. Still, I never failed to express the fact that I was tallying up another DeMarco show on my board to all the fellow show-goers around me. We needed to express and verbalize our identity as a fans.
I boasted to my friends the multiple interactions I shared with the artist. But it no longer mattered.
It was a great performance, but it remained just that.
I waited outside the venue to praise and encounter his glory after the show like I always did. As the crowd swarmed, I rolled my eyes. The nerves were no longer there. I was unfazed when my friend requested we leave before DeMarco came out.
Why does fandom fade? Was it that Mac DeMarco was so strongly correlated with my old loves and that the sound was a subtle reminder of the new absence? Or was it that the constant exposure allowed me to remove him from his pedestal? As much as I miss the incredible thrill I once felt, I am almost relieved that the leach of fandom broke off. I now reverted the entity that is Mac Demarco back into a human. I stopped idolizing and took myself out of the troubling process of dehumanization.
I can think all the way back to Cleopatra and numerous other examples in which we as part of the human race have idolized people. Because of the excessive availability, however, fans and fandoms have intensified in our modern world.
We know that the perfect images we see in our obsessions are unrealistic, but we still believe, as if we physiologically need to have icons, things and people to look up to. This shift away from reality jeopardizes our ability to understand and see people as the flawed and equal beings we all are.
I had revoked Mac Demarco’s identity as a complex human being, instead viewing him as a perfect ideal. I am happy to have brought him back from the realm of idols and into my understanding of the real world, where he is a regular person, just like me and everyone else.