Exploring the Idol/ the Fans Relationship

Halina Brunning, 2018

Whilst exploring the Idol / Fan relationship it is possible that to see remarkable similarities with the type of relatedness that also exists in the Mother/ the Baby pair.

I will try to highlight the similarities noticed in the two sets of pairs.

The joy of recognition

There are many ways for the baby to express the joy of recognition when the Mother enters the room. This is similarly expressed by the crowd of Fans in the anticipation of and at the very moment their Idol enters the stage.The sheer joy of recognition and welcome is accompanied by noises and excitability not dissimilar to the sheer joy and excitation of the baby when mother enters the room.

The crowd is acting out their unconscious attachments and longing for total fusion with the star whom they cast in the role of the omnipotent loving mother. The baby acts as if it can swallow the mother whole. The crowds also devour their Idol. Often the physical proximity of the fan to the star must be denied just for this reason alone.

The mirroring

The mirroring of the voice and the gestures comes next. Mother’s mimicking and cooing now becomes the baby’s own cooing mirrored and repeated numerous times. This bonds the pair closer. It is quite a spectacle to watch when it occurs in the nursery, as well as in the stadium during the pop concerts. The same eroticized symmetrical feeding and inter-dependency, surprise and sheer joy on both sides. The star needs the fans to sing her own words, to return them back to her, words the adoring crowd knows by heart. Just like the mother who needs the baby to smile and repeat her own noises back to her. This feeds their mutual hunger for recognition and belonging, confirms that they are an exclusive invincible pair…

This feeding on riches of mirroring and cooing is not gender specific. What better example than Freddy Mercury singing Radio Gaga to the adoring crowds of several thousands fans singing with one voice Radio Gaga back to the star at Wembley Stadium at the Live Aid in 1985?

Who belongs to whom?

After this feeding frenzy the fans then behave as if they had invented the Star, the Mother, altogether with her songs and her words and thus the oceanic fusion without boundaries is completed. The space between the performer and the fans is fused and in their minds may well not exist at all, to the point that there is no clear answer as to where one ends and the other begins, is the umbilical cord still attached?

Who created whom?

Did the Star create the Fans or did the Fans create the Star? Did the Baby invent the Mother or did the Mother create the Baby?

Growing pains and separation processes

This separation pain might explain why it is so risky for a Star to change their customary style associated with the initial success and fame. The Fans may react violently, rejecting the Star for performing new material which is seen as a treachery of their original bonding, breaking some kind of unwritten contract, leading them to feel expelled from a temporary heaven…Here lies the real tension: between wanting to see the Star develop her own career but a desire to hold on to the old attachment which created the initial adoration and familiarity is very strong.

As in childhood, a variety of transitional objects are being used to bridge the gap between different parts of reality stretched between familiarity and newness, presence and absence. Fans seek images,  CDs, records, DVDs or other memorabilia to hold on to their Star in her absence..

The Normal and the Extreme

The process of growth and maturation separation and individuation has its natural rhythm.  There is the pulling of growth and separation on the one hand and the investment in things staying familiar, unchanged. With time this is usually resolved amicably between the Mother and the Child.

Unsurprisingly, there are also examples of extreme obsessionality and stalking of a Star by her Fan, a pathology representing the extreme end of this spectrum of adoration and dependency.

When the Star dies…

… a process of mourning melancholia and memorialization begins and carries similarities, though one hopes with lesser intensity as with the death of a Mother.

What can be said at the end of these  reflections?

That perhaps the music business offers us all a chance to relive our childhood attachments via remarkably similar libidinal forces of bonding, dependency and the powerful shaping of an exclusive relationship, whilst at the same time it does make a mockery of these promises?