What is 'Stan Culture?'
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
If you’re an active user of social media, you’ve probably heard the word ‘stan’ before. Whether it’s because you’ve seen Loona stans (who are called Orbits) uploading fancams under just about every single tweet on Twitter, witnessed internet beef with stans of legendary musicians comparing who is the better artist, Harry Potter stans refusing to let go of the series and make everyone else aware of how much they loved it, or even seen stans of different sports teams discussing stats and achievements. But, what IS a stan exactly and what does it mean to stan someone?
Let's dive in.
WHAT IS A ‘STAN?’
WELL, the term ‘stan’ actually comes from the Eminem song from 2000 called ‘Stan.’ The song was about a stalker fan who was obsessed with Eminem, repeatedly wrote him letters, and then eventually killed himself and his pregnant girlfriend in retaliation to Eminem not responding to him in time because he believed that Eminem didn’t care for him the way Stan did for him.
Here is a link to the music video:
So, in reality, a stan is a hardcore fan who deeply admires a celebrity, sports team, or some sort of element of pop culture (like a book series), so there are many kinds of dedicated stans.
Even though the most popular kinds of stans are those who support musicians - especially female musicians, there are MANY other kinds of stans that may seem odd to someone who’s never been exposed to stan culture before. There are Vine celebrity stans, makeup influencer stans, Quentin Tarantino stans (for whatever reason), comic book hero stans, and the list goes on. Just about anyone or anything that has influenced pop culture in anyway can have stans - even if they are fictional.
IS STAN CULTURE BENEFICIAL?
Stan culture is beneficial because it allows people to come together in an online (or offline) community in support of something or someone that they are passionate about. It allows them to be in an environment where they are allowed to speak unapologetically about what they love, with other people who agree with them. Within stan culture, people are able to share content about whoever they’re stanning (whether it’s the latest news and updates on them, bond over their admiration for them, or turn them into internet memes and/or reaction videos).
Additionally, because of the power of stan culture – especially for musicians, people are able to come together and mass support whatever their bias (the person they’re stanning) has released. So, if it’s music, stans usually make a goal for how many times they would like to stream that new content in hopes of promoting that artist, boosting them up the charts, and improving their status within the music industry.
A good example of this is how ARMYs made a goal of breaking the Youtube viewership record in under 24 hours. ARMYs is the name of BTS’ stans. BTS are the global phenomena, record breaking, show stopping, jaw dropping, wig snatching, Grammy presenting Korean boyband that debuted in 2013 and have been shaking the table since. BTS dropped their comeback music video, ‘Idol’ on August 24th of 2018 for the latest album, ‘Love Yourself: Answer.’ ARMYs decided to make the goal of breaking the previous record held by Taylor Swift and stream the IDOL music video as much as humanly possible to help BTS achieve the record they RIGHTFULLY deserved (yes, I am a BTS stan). Because of ARMYs dedicated and tireless efforts, BTS was able to receive more than 45 MILLION views in 24 hours and received an award for doing just that. This is just one of the few examples of how powerful stans are and how much influence they can have if they put their brain power, internet access, and dedication together on behalf of the person they’re stanning.
Here is a link to the IDOL music video:
Another example of how beneficial stan culture can be is, and yes, this will be ANOTHER BTS example, how ARMYs are able to come together, choose a specific charity to support, and donate as much as they can afford to it. The biggest mass donations usually occur when it’s a member of one of BTS’ birthdays, but this is something that happens sporadically all year round. They do this to show how inspired by BTS’ positive and socially conscious related messages that are often found within BTS’ lyrics which is not common in an industry where musical artists often stray away from discussing social justice issues.
Whether it’s about the rich taking advantage of and disenfranchising the poor as found in the song ‘Baespae/Silver Spoon’, people struggling with the trials and tribulations that come with everyday living and why they should pursue their dreams anyways as found in the song ‘So What,’ people searching for satisfaction through consumerism like in ‘Go Go’ rather than through themselves, or addressing the societal issues found in the South Korean society as found in ‘No More Dream,’ ‘Dope,’ ‘Am I Wrong,’ and many more. Outside of being a group of multifaceted and talented musicians, composers, and producers, BTS are very socially and politically aware and it shows through the lyrics found in their songs and the messages that they deliver to their fans. This is what encourages fans to want to do more for society, give back to charities and organizations in need, and try to be a more active citizen. BTS has set the example of even having their own Love Yourself campaign and speaking with UNICEF and at the UN to host campaigns against violence against the youth, so they THEMSELVES – have contributed to stan culture because they want to show that they are not only a positive influence, but that the BTS ARMY make the active effort to make a positive impact on society and aren’t just a bunch of ‘fangirls’ as people commonly perceive stans to be.
Here is the full speech to see BTS visit the United Nations to launch the new #GenUnlimited Youth Strategy:
And, here is a link to the most recent birthday campaign for Min Yoongi who is turning 26 on March 9th. The campaign is in support of the PFC Foundation who offer creative opportunities for marginalized youth in Patagonia:
So….. stan BTS.
IS STAN CULTURE DANGEROUS?
Just about too much of anything is dangerous. Unfortunately, stan culture is one of those things that can turn chaotic QUICK too. It could be angry sports fans rioting in the streets, burning down police cars, and smashing local business windows. It could be internet stans stalking and violating the privacy of the people they are stanning by following them, leaking personal information, or threatening their life. It could be people unnecessarily dragging, exposing, and/or wishing death on others just because they don’t share the same opinions or stan the same people.
All in all, it can get real messy real quick which is unfortunate because people should be channeling their passion towards something for the greater good rather than making other people feel unsafe and uncomfortable because they don’t like the same things as them. However, stan culture being dangerous is nothing new if we look at how people literally lost all semblance of self control during The Beatles’ era (which is why it was literally called BeatleMANIA). But, the way stan culture can dip down into the depths of hell for no reason at all is embarrassing, to be honest. How are you a grown adult causing havoc on the Internet because someone said they don’t like Lady Gaga? At your big age??
It’s nonsensical how goofy people can become when they have too much access to something that they love and thanks to social media, there really is no veil separating stans from whoever they’re stanning (unless who they stan is Beyoncé because Beyoncé is the queen of ensuring that NO ONE knows anything about her unless she WANTS them to).
A quick example of how scary stan culture can become is when a member of a South Korean boy group, 2PM, named Taec-yeon Lo received a letter from a fan. What’s messed up about this is that this letter was written entirely in MENSTRUAL BLOOD! I don’t even have anything to say about that level of grossness. There are no words.
(WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE BELOW)
Another example is how stans of the late XXXTentacion bullied and harassed his ex-girlfriend off of Twitter after she created a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/2ubv19w) asking for donations for an orbital surgery after XXXTentacion viciously attacked her.
Lastly, we see time and time again how vicious online stans can be. This has been shown through how the Beyhive, Barbs, and Little Monsters are notorious online for being unnecessarily ruthless and cutthroat to people who say literally ANYTHING about Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, or Lady Gaga. This isn't a generalization about ALL members of the Beyhive, Barbs, or Little Monsters, but those three fandoms are well-known for being the biggest and most powerful bullies online, which is unfortunate for those within those fandoms who aren't like that at all.
LET’S MAKE STAN CULTURE LESS TOXIC
Nonetheless, I think people need to draw the line between admiration and obsession. It’s totally okay to find support and encouragement amongst a fandom of other stans who like the same things as you. It’s exciting to know that there is an online community out there that enjoy what you enjoy and are willing to exchange and share content online about this topic. This also helps to provide people with a sense of genuine joy, the chance at making internet friends, and excitement in their lives that they might not be experiencing elsewhere, especially if they feel like an outlier in what they’re passionate about. However – once you start feeling like you can no longer survive or be your own individual person without obsessing over the whereabouts, updates, and stats of whatever you’re stanning, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate what’s going on in your life.
People need to understand that even though you can be a part of an interesting and fun-loving community on the internet, it can become claustrophobic and weird if people don’t make the effort to do and be BETTER. Just calm down. I am not trying to down play your passion for something or someone, but please make sure to take a break sometimes. Understand that dedicating your entire livelihood to another person, a sports team, or a movie/book series is not healthy if you’re not giving yourself time to experience life outside of the internet. Interact with other people, better your mental health, find other hobbies, combat your toxic personality traits, pursue different passions, and try to develop more as a human being.
The things that we find solace in should be sparking joy in our lives rather than causing us to delve even deeper into darkness. This world is already a messy place. Don’t make things worse because you want to engage in hateful or spiteful behaviour online or make other people (including who you’re stanning) uncomfortable by your behaviour. Let’s leave a toxic stan culture behind in this big year of 2019. I know we are capable of at least doing that.