IS YOUR #MCM RUINING YOUR LOVE LIFE?
it’s time to take a good hard look at your celebrity loves.
It was January 2013, and the Twitter community was in uproar—positioned at the top of the Worldwide Trends list was an alarming three-word hashtag. One click and you were assaulted by the sight of forearms sliced open, posted online as proof of some kind of demented blood pact. Why were teenagers in nearly every major city in the world cutting themselves? It was a bid to get their hero, Justin Bieber, to stop smoking marijuana. The hashtag #Cutforbieber started out as a cruel prank by trolls, but by the time they tried to explain, blood had already been shed. This isn’t the first time celebrity obsession has driven fans to psychotic lengths—from Beatlemania in the 1960s to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West getting tackled to the ground at Paris Fashion Week in 2014, diehards will stop at nothing to bask in the presence of their idols.
The thing is, fan relationships always start out innocuously. You notice the hype and want to understand it, embark on a quick Google search, and before you know it, you’re neck-deep into what’s referred to as a ‘fandom’— a dedicated group of people who devote the same kind
of time, money, and energy one would on an actual significant other. Fans shell out thousands on tickets, merchandise, and collaborations, camp out on the streets to be first in line for exclusive events, and manage separate social media accounts to post updates about their idols and interact with fellow fans. When the integrity of their beloved is challenged by rival fandoms, they don’t hesitate to declare war. There’s a word for this typically female-normative excitement: lisz
tomania. Outsiders to this culture might find this level of commitment utterly baffling, if not disturbing. After all, how could one possibly give so much to a distant public figure— someone who says they love them all the time, but never truly does?
“At its most extreme, [obsession] is ruminative—it can take on a life of its own,” explains Maria Sherman, author of Truly, Madly, Deeply: Exploring the Relationship Between
Fandom and Mental Health. “[One can be] ‘love-obsessional’: [to believe] that there’s a personal relationship that doesn’t really exist. There’s ‘erotomanic,’ which is where the fan believes the subject is actually in love with them. ‘Intense-personal’ is [where you’d hear things like], ‘[He’s] my soul mate.’ The last is personality-disorder level, the borderline pathological: ‘If someone gave me ten thousand pesos, I would consider spending it on a napkin used by [ him].’” Susceptibility to this culture is predominant among youths, while fans from an older age bracket might view their participation as a way to feel ‘ young’ and ‘alive’ again ( yes, Directioners in their 40s are a thriving demographic). However, this pseudo-relationship with celebrities runs a very real risk in terms of how young people view love and modern unions.
All superstars, whether they’re boy bands, actresses, or Billboard charttopping pop singers, capitalize on the identity that they project onto the public sphere. Their no-makeup selfies, supposedly ‘candid’ videos, and ‘off-the-cuff’ tweets are carefully calculated to give fans the illusion of close, genuine connection. Nobody is asserting that celebrities don’t actually love and appreciate their fans—but the only type of love they can realistically give is towards a collective, never to one specific person. You might know what Charlie Puth is allergic to or what Harry Styles’ fondest childhood memories are, but in a real relationship, to know and love someone calls for much more than a militant familiarity with details. Fandom culture, at its worst, becomes problematic when the individual fails to learn how to grapple with loving flawed people. It sets an impossible standard for reallife relationships, and it’s unfair to a partner who, by virtue of their regularness, could never match up to the established persona of your not-perfect-but-practically-perfect idol.
The negative implications become more apparent when one realizes that celebrity obsession is often used as a crutch by the lonely or recently heartbroken. “Belonging, while a psychological motive for all humans, is particularly apparent in fan groups,” explains Sarah Sloat of Inverse Entertainment. “[It’s a] ‘psychological construct’ that includes a feeling of involvement and identification.” When the qualities fans search for and fail to find from the men they date manifest themselves in celebrities, unhealthy projection occurs, making it even harder for a fan to cope with the highs and lows of a typical relationship.
So how can one go about loving their favorite celebs without going off the deep end? For starters, you can channel obsessive feelings towards productive discussions that help you understand yourself and society better... and make it a point to be critical of your own idols. “Fans want to make the things they love better, so they find something that they don’t agree with—a problematic representation or a social issue that could be highlighted—and they talk about it,” says Paul Booth, author of Playing Fans: Negotiating Fandom and Media in the Digital Age.
The key is to understand that our objects of affection are more than just objects; they’re living, breathing human beings. And by coming to terms with that reality, one can move on to pursue healthy, mutually beneficial romantic relationships—no hashtags necessary.
Obsession is ruminative and can take on a life of its own.