In March, after France entered into lockdown as the very first wave of the coronavirus throttled the country, Lorian De Sousa turned to Twitter with nothing but time on his hands.
De Sousa, 20, a devout Smiler, the name offered to fans of the pop vocalist and actor Miley Cyrus, produced the account Out of Context Hannah Montana, publishing random scenes from the iconic Disney Channel program.
The account now has more than 65,700 followers.
” Everything truly started back in April, when I arbitrarily posted that ‘Hannah Montana’ scene, which we can see Miley’s character leaving her youth home. … And today it’s generally, in a very subtle method, among the greatest Miley stan accounts on Twitter,” De Sousa informed NBC News.
Even as the account’s momentum gathered this spring, De Sousa never anticipated it would end up being a lorry for activism and political engagement.
This year though, as political and social problems dominated the discourse in the United States while the pandemic ravaged nations around the world and forced more people into digital spaces, stan accounts– accounts dedicated to a pop star or celeb– both in the U.S. and abroad used their platforms to support or affect problems like Black Lives Matter and the 2020 U.S. governmental election.
On Twitter, stan accounts like De Sousa’s are respected, serving as unofficial press agents, de facto PR teams and crowdsourced chatter columns for the stars they follow. At any given minute, there are dozens of accounts dedicated to a specific singer, rapper or star, with these incredibly fans attempting to suss out the artist’s next appearance, when a new album will drop, sharing their favorite images and carefully tracking and comparing sales and chart positions of albums and tunes.
Of the half-dozen stan account supervisors who consulted with NBC News, most said having a big, mainly like-minded audience enabled them to mobilize their followers to take part in social and political concerns this year. They also credited the pandemic with pressing individuals online, where they were most likely to encounter stan accounts.
The expression “stan” is usually credited to the 2000 Eminem song “Stan,” in which the rapper portrays a fan who is consumed with him to the point of insanity.
Like De Sousa’s status as a Smiler, stans also typically have a sobriquet connected with the star they follow. Girl Gaga stans are Little Monsters, Taylor Swift stans are Swifties, Ariana Grande stans are Arianators, Nicki Minaj stans are Barbz (brief for Barbies), BTS stans are called Army and Beyoncé stans identify as part of the Beyhive.
However the relationship in between stan and star goes both methods, with stans mobilizing to the point of in some cases affecting celeb behavior.This mobilization around stars and stars can often go too far and result in bullying and even bigotry in the community. Stans have actually likewise been critiqued for appropriating Black culture such as African American Vernacular English, or AAVE.
The summer of stans
Prior to the pandemic and the social discontent of the summer season, 2020 began with stan accounts behaving as normal.
Little Monsters handled to leakage “Foolish Love,” the lead single from Lady Gaga’s album “Chromatica,” weeks ahead of the tune’s main release. Rihanna Navy, fans of the vocalist Rihanna, hunted for ideas about if and when the artist would launch her ninth studio album. Swifties celebrated the singer making the cover of the January 2020 edition of British Style
However after the death of George Floyd in Might, stan Twitter rallied behind Black Lives Matter and the demonstrations versus anti-Black bigotry.
” Naturally I took part in a great deal of motions this year, especially the Black Lives Matter movement. I remember my account taking an entirely different meaning throughout these days, throughout that time. … Although I’m French and from Paris, I truly felt worried about these motions,” De Sousa said. “So throughout, I remember thinking, ‘I do not want to share my normal content in such a crisis.'”
Although all different kinds of stans joined together to support those fighting for equality, oftentimes, K-pop stans, fans of Korean pop music, helmed the assistance by trolling those who stood in opposition to the motion.
” Fandoms are built on these attributes that make them perfect activists and creators for change,” stated Nicole Santero, 28, a sociology doctoral trainee at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, studying the culture and social structure of the BTS Army fandom, perhaps one of the most prominent stan groups on the planet. Santero is likewise a fan of BTS and runs the Twitter account ResearchBTS, which has more than 90,000 followers.
This year, K-pop stans hijacked racist hashtags, flooding hashtags like #whitelivesmatter with rubbish or unrelated images. Online cops suggestion lines were flooded, in part, with images of K-pop groups and in many cases had to be closed down. Later on in the year, K-pop stans went on to flood the #MillionMAGAMarch hashtag, a presentation in support of President Donald Trump after his not successful bid for re-election, with images of pancakes.
” Mobilizing on social media is very simple for fans,” Santero stated. “They basically do this every day. Taking over these racist hashtags and trolling politicians, it’s kind of this super small example in comparison to larger, genuine world, positive impacts that fans in fact make.
In June, BTS and their record label Big Hit Home entertainment contributed $1 million to support the Black Lives Matter campaign. In approximately one day, their fans matched that amount.
— One in an ARMY ⁷ Charity Project (@OneInAnARMY) June 8, 2020
” Word spreads out so rapidly in these networks. We actually see how rapidly fans can come together and take collective action. In regards to what we saw this year, K-pop fans and BTS fans certainly got a great deal of attention, especially with their involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement,” Santero said. “They’re extremely aware of the power they have.”
While Santero stated K-pop stans weren’t attempting to be political in their advocacy, some experts say the act of participating in an issue like Black Lives Matter, though outside the common U.S. political binary of left and right, is inherently a political act.
” Whatever you do that is personal is political, suggesting that everything you do is informed by some systemic or political ideology,” said Casidy Campbell, a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan who studies the web, technology and Black women. “If I as a Black person or anyone can use a review to what you do, there is something political in what you did.”
Politics and stans
As the protests marched through the nation in June and the coronavirus continued to ravage the country, Trump was preparing to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma
His advocates who prepared to attend were motivated to reserve tickets online. As soon as corners of the internet like stan Twitter got word that tickets could be scheduled for free, they took on the chance for a troll.
oh no! I simply reserved my tickets for 45’s rally on JUNETEENTH in TULSA and totally forgot that I have to mop my windows that day! now my seats will be EMPTY! I hope that everyone who sees this does not make the very same error I did! We want to see all 19,000 seats full! pic.twitter.com/R9xVM3BXay
— ♏ (@dianafrompluto) June 12, 2020
As the election approached, stan accounts used their platforms to promote for certain prospects.
” We were actively tweeting ‘vote blue,’ so people were engaged,” stated Moyin Sekoni, 17, who assists run Doja Crave, a stan represent singer and rapper Doja Cat. “And that was just the icing on top, when Doja placed on her Instagram story that she voted.”
In many cases, the political leaning of a stan account will take its cues from the worths and public stances of the star the account is stanning.
” It just shows our fan base, the stans, we can all rally behind Gaga and discuss her music, but we can likewise rally behind the exact same causes because Gaga is passionate about them, too,” said Jake Phillips, 19, of Los Angeles, who runs a Woman Gaga updates Twitter account. “I think it’s important due to the fact that I have this little following that other people can find these resources from my account, too.”
Stans in 2020 utilized their influence for causes they believe in and have earned appreciation from some for their role in assisting move social problems forward. Stan culture itself has long wrestled with toxic and problematic habits, which consist of racism, appropriation of Black culture and bullying.
Under a microscope in the mainstream
Although stan culture made the leap from an online specific niche group to the mainstream after its participation in the social and political issues of 2020, the spotlight of this year has likewise laid bare the issues that have actually long plagued stan culture– especially on social media.
Moyin stated she’s witnessed bigotry and bigotry in the stan neighborhood, in some cases in the form of “troll accounts,” which are accounts produced just to prompt a mob against those who a stan feels has wronged their favorite icon.
” They’ll put Lady Gaga as their profile image and then they tweet out mean things, racist, xenophobic things so people be mad at Girl Gaga,” Moyin said, describing an example of the impersonation and racism that occurs in the stan neighborhood.
Santero discussed that numerous K-pop fans in fact choose not to be recognized as stans because of the often unfavorable undertone stans have actually earned over time.
K-pop has been afflicted by accusations of appropriating Black culture, for example, wearing Black hairdos like braids and cornrows, “talking Black” and even wearing blackface, according to Vox
In recent months, white and non-POC stans in the community have likewise been inspected for appropriating African American Vernacular English, or AAVE.
” The language gets appropriated, and frequently there’s no sort of recognition of where it comes from. It ends up being gimmicky. It can nearly come off as a caricature of Black folk,” Campbell said. “On top of that … you get access to various opportunities or you’re believed to be amusing when actually your concept of how you utilize language actually isn’t that original.”
Campbell said there is a Catch-22 when it concerns stan culture, particularly as stan culture moved into the political world this year.
Stans supporting movements that are promoting equality and an end to systemic injustice is appreciated, but the effort has to be more than a one-time occasion– specifically when a lot of the culture is rooted in Black culture.
” There’s a line you have to know that you’re crossing. When are you being influenced and when are you taking on too much?” Campbell said.
All of the account supervisors who talked to NBC News acknowledged the toxicity that exists in the stan community. However lots of said they wanted to find ways to continue to advocate for causes they believe in, stating their participation in social and political problems will not end in 2020.
” I prepare to use my account to support political activities again in the future. That’s something that I truly want to do. That’s still something that I still do right now, when I see something that I don’t feel is right, or that I truly wish to lay the stress on, like a social problem or anything,” De Sousa said. “I simply wish to use my account to lay the stress on that and simply to make more people knowledgeable about what’s going on.”