Of all the latest phenomena the internet has created, stan culture is one of the most concerning, according to the Daily Beast. A “stan” is someone who is a “hyper-devoted” fan. The Urban Dictionary describes the term as based on the 2000 song “Stan,” in which the central character was obsessed with rapper Eminem. The word is also a portmanteau, combining the words “stalker” and “fan.”
Though the term is often used glibly, the effects of stan culture has led many to block commenters on social media, cite them for harassment, and even remove themselves from social media altogether. Writer Stereo Williams addresses stan culture in an article for the Daily Beast, saying that though most stans are “insufferable little disciples” who constantly fawn over their favorite celebrity or source of entertainment, “the worst kind of stans wield their fandom like a sword, ready to cut down anyone that crosses their fave.”
A recent example of toxic stan culture has been the numerous incidents with Nicki Minaj fans, known as “The Barbz.” When blogger Wanna Thompson tweeted that she thought it would be good for Nicki Minaj to “put out mature content.”
“Just reflecting on past relationships, being a boss, hardships, etc. She’s touching 40 soon, a new direction is needed,” Thompson said. After Nicki unleashed a litany of DMs in response to Thompson — calling her ugly, saying she is jealous, and urging her to leave her genitals alone — The Barbz attacked Thompson.
“Hello, unemployed dark skin black guttersnipe b**ch. Why is it that it’s always the dark b**ches that are so jealous and full of bitterness. I think the only solution for you is to kill yourself. You are too toxic for the world and for your baby,” said one stan.
Thompson addressed the incident in an interview with Newsweek.
“You have these stans camped out on Twitter and IG with someone else’s face in their avi/header hurling insults because they can. They know there’s no real consequences that come with it. It’s a never-ending cycle of abuse, and for what? To ride for celebrities who rarely notice or recognize them? Is it really worth it? Still, after this abuse, I encourage writers and journalists to stand by their words and voice their opinions.”
She added that all the backlash she received could have been stopped if Minaj had just posted a message for The Barbz to reel it in. Minaj never addressed the incident again.
But it’s not just musicians whose stans are constantly ready to pounce. Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran faced massive backlash after she was harassed for months, as Esquire reported, by die-hard Star Wars fans who were angered by the diverse casting in the latest iterations of the franchise. In addition to some fans writing a petition on Change.org, the Wikipedia page for Tran’s Star Wars character had been changed to say something incredibly offensive, both racially and socially.
Other instances of harassment include, according to The Daily Beast, the “teen stars of a live-action Kim Possible reboot were harassed for not matching the cartoon characters’ physical attributes to some fans’ liking.”
Often, the simplest way to prevent the online bullying from occurring is to have the artists or stars at the source of the stanning address the harassment. But, as long as stan culture remains a mix of “wish-fulfillment and mob mentality that has become normalized,” more and more incidents like the one with Thompson and Tran will occur.