Stan culture is pivoting to politics, and bringing chaos as they come

Stan culture is pivoting to politics, and bringing chaos as they come

We’ve seen the worst of internet-spread stan culture within the last few years. Now, we’re starting to see the best.

One of the strangest phenomena to come out of the music age of the internet is stan culture. Although artists have obviously always had die-hard fans, the age of the internet - where social media trends such as TikTok dances can form number-one hits - has concentrated this sense of fan culture to its most over-the-top form; often evident in Twitter threads or Instagram comments underneath posts made my pop’s upper-echelon. Stans aren’t just fans, or even fans a little more passionate than the rest. Many of them are die-hard; some willing to tear down others for their favourite musicians to succeed and thrive on the Billboard charts, with the risk of an unsuccessful debut labelling their artist a ‘flop’.

Over the last few years, it seems we’ve seen the worst of stan culture time and time again. Almost every big name in music - pop, hip-hop, dance or whatever - have had threats made against them by fans of other musicians, sometimes because of petty drama or because they had a higher-charting debut week, but often for no reason at all. It’s driven acts to social media black-outs; Lizzo, Billie Eilish and more taking extended breaks from social media - particularly Twitter - due to stan culture and the threats that come with it, while plenty of others have handed their social media over to management for complete control.

Now, however, it seems that stan culture is having somewhat of a redemption arc. K-Pop stans - often the most prevalent sub-group in stan culture, fuelling the international success of groups like BTS and BLACKPINK - have come together to raise over a million dollars for the Black Lives Matter movement. Furthermore, pop musicians posting donation links to various charities and organisations over the last few weeks have seen these donation targets met within an hour (sometimes even less than that), regardless of whether they’re supporting Black Lives Matter bail-out funds through to transition surgeries for Black trans and queer people both in the US and internationally.

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In another example (and one that’s proved effective numerous times since), stan culture has crippled the social media tools used by white supremacists to thrive on the internet. In response to the police brutality protests occurring throughout the world, many industries - music included - launched the #BlackOutTuesday trend, designed to emphasise Black voices in a time where they’re needed the most (it did backfire, however, with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag being flooded by black squares, thus drowning out important information such as donation links). White supremacist groups soon followed, launching #WhiteOutWednesday - an attempt to further drown out the Black Lives Matter movement with white squares and racist propaganda.

That was until the K-pop stans came into the picture, that is. On the day #WhiteOutWednesday was meant to commence, K-pop fanbases came together to flood with the hash-tag - plus associated ones, like #WhiteLivesMatter, #MAGA, and #BlueLivesMatter - with ‘fan-cams’, which are performance videos and montages highlighting their favourite musicians, often with sparkly edits and music overlaid on top. Anyone trying to access these hashtags in search for racist propaganda to post was met with hundreds of videos including members of BLACKPINK, BTS and BIGBANG - plus others - and captions encouraging fellow fan accounts to do the same, often with resources and donation links attached too.

Another example of stan culture’s political entrance came this weekend, with Donald Trump’s re-election campaign resuming in Tulsa over the weekend. Initially, Trump’s team announced they had over a million ticket requests for the event, to be held in a stadium with capacity around 19,000. In preparation, they built overflow areas and outside screens, bracing for one of the largest expected crowds for the Trump re-election campaign as it resumes still in the midst of an ongoing COVID-19 catastrophe in the US.

However, not even near 19,000 people turned up, with only 6,200 tickets being scanned entering the stadium - not including staff, media and others. Unbeknownst to Trump’s team, many of the tickets - which were required to RSVP your place in the stadium - were grabbed by teens after links were spread through TikTok and stan accounts on other social media, who RSVP’d to the event from all over the world and only to obviously not show up, therefore restricting Trump’s actual audience from attending the event.

As The New York Times reports, many influential stan accounts and TikTok pages - whose audiences often border on hundreds of thousands - posted the ticket links with messages encouraging people to RSVP and then not show up, before deleting all evidence a day later so people outside of these audiences couldn’t catch on. 

As it seems, 2020 is the year of the stan culture redemption, and a joke making the rounds on Twitter over the last few years is seemingly becoming true: Don’t mess with the stans.

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