Starlust: love, hate and celebrity fantasies
Obscenity law stops fans thinking Aloud
Guest Column I first noticed Girls Aloud in my local Sainsbury’s. Lingering at the newsstand to scan the papers I registered their sustained PR campaign focused on crotch and upskirt shots.
No accident that. Not day after day, week after week. More like a set-up between paparazzi and popstars. That’s showbiz! And I support Girls Aloud’s right to stuff their privates in the face of the breakfasting public. Just as I uphold Madonna’s to advertise her wares with a promo photo of her licking a man’s arsehole. Or Eminem’s Superman vid in which he frolics with an accredited porn star, writhes on a sea of naked bods, assaults groupies and snarls, “put anthrax on a Tampax and slap you till you can't stand.” Or Snoop Dogg’s collaboration with porn mogul, Larry Flynt, for the hardcore vid, Doggystyle. Commented Flynt, "Like myself, Snoop has had to battle for his First Amendment rights to say what he wants."
But what happens when fans take such invitations literally? Step from the shadows and play mind games themselves?
That’s a theme I first explored some years back in the book Starlust: the secret life of fans - a compilation of interviews, fantasies, groupies' diaries, dream journals, and letters – to stars and between fans.
It caused a shock. Punky Adam Ant, who launched himself in SM leathers brandishing a bullwhip on stage was horrified to read this imagery played back (but better) through a fan’s fantasy. The rock writer, Greil Marcus, wrote that seen through Starlust, “The state of fandom… begins to seem at once like a disease and a marketplace of hysteria commercially promoted for sound commercial reasons: a commercially promoted disease.” Another reviewer shrilled, "There were some bits that were so sick I had to read them three times".
Some refused to believe these fans were real. Alleging I’d made it all up. Which was put to rest after a BBC documentary interviewed some of the fans in the book. Truth is always weirder – and scarier - than fiction.
Some of the material shocked even me. Especially the hostility shown by fans to stars. A recurring subtext of apparent devotion was resentment, even rage. Freud called it “ambivalence”: love bordering on hatred. Hence, the fan who imagined pop stars in acute pain and fantasized spanking Boy George. The Bowie fan who, frustrated in her plan to befriend Bowie, angrily thought of killing him, “Then at last he’ll be mine – like that guy that got JFK.” Or the scores of implied or explicit threats (some of them death threats) I found in the (usually unopened) fan letters addressed to stars.
These fans were not pathological. Just honestly exploring the contradictions inherent in fanhood. How else respond to the incessant invitations the celebritariat sends our way? We give these “intimate strangers” - the stars who populate our imaginations and conversations - so much. And what do they give in return? Why, the fuckers won’t even reply to our letters.
After Starlust the action moved to the Internet. I followed it there for a (still unfinished) sequel.
The first band with a major online fan presence was Hanson. Three cherubic boys, aged when they kicked off in 1991: eleven, nine and six. The Hanson gospel was spread fan to fan through thousands of chat groups, NGs and amateur sites. This allowed fans to create their own agenda:
“She traced her fingers along his rippling lower back muscles, and slid her small hands down the back of his loose jeans. until they rested on top of his round - What the hell???? my hands CANNOT be on top of Taylor Hanson's ASS right now!!!!! I can't believe this!!!! It sure is perfect though... She noticed the really small details, like how soft his cotton boxers felt, and how muscular yet round it was. I wonder what he feels like underneath these cute undies… She decided to find out…”
As erotic and disconcerting with suggestions of paedophilia and androgyny, were the Hanson fan art pinups posted on the Net.
Around this time too, an associated genre began to mainstream. This was hardcore fantasy about celebrities. Migrating onto the Internet, this became rampant on archive sites like asstr.org.
The motives were as subversive as erotic. Like the anti-authoritarian rants the Marquis de Sade inserted into his gargantuan orgies, these fantasies often derisively subvert the codes and phoney promises of the celebritariat. It makes perversely satisfying sense to read on asstr.org about the globally televised flagellation and dildo buggering of Britney Spears by Madonna on a chat show where both stars had been obliged to suck the host’s dick in close-up. Hadn’t we actually seen that somewhere? Maybe in our dreams? Soon at a screen near you!
Fantasy gets too close?
So, to Girls Aloud.
The Crown Prosecution Service is threatening to prosecute Darryn Walker, who posted a seven page fantasy, Girls (Scream) Aloud on asstr.org. This imagines the kidnap, rape, torture and murder of Cheryl, Nadine, Sarah, Nicola and Kimberley, with a finale in which their body parts end up on eBay. Nasty, no doubt. Unsettling. The blackest of black humour. But no more so than the works of de Sade, or the queer junkie ravings of William Burroughs, or Brett Easton’s American Psycho, which forensically itemises the thrills of a serial killer. All of which might be issued by a bespectacled librarian in a beige cardie.
To answer a question
I have, during a previous incarnation of online chatland life (now happily buried long in the past) been the target of insults and lies and so on and so forth, a fictional persona created by my 'enemies' (oh dear) and have even been cyberstalked (hahahahaha)...but it sails over my head....if someone were to publish such a thing about me and it became 'public domain' I'd give it exactly the degree of attention it needs, absolutely none....I'd be disgusted, appalled and slightly soiled feeling but I'd get on with life and correctly classify said person (unless it was someone I knew, then I'd deal different with it) as a nutter...just like these 'famous' people should have done...just like the majority of Non-Z-Listers appear to do
I dunno about rape, murder, dismemberment and post-mortem limb auctions, but hanging's definitely too good for 'em.
<<<---- Joke Alert in case that moron Jaqui Smith wants to put me on a one of her lists. Hanging's too good for her, too.
Clarifications on Freud
"Freud called it “ambivalence: love bordering on hatred".
For Freud, ambivalence is the experiencing of two contradictory feelings at the same time (or in rapid succession.) Love does not border on hatred, they both are different sides of the same coin. When narcissism is frustrated in its aim (I can't have him), hatred immediately succeeds love (I hate him). Hatred can also be unconscious. You are not aware of it, while it still motivates your conscious thoughts and actions. Sheakspeare's Romeo & Juliet is a good exemple of the unconscious hatred which always accompanies love.
The legislator can regulate all he wants, it will not stop unconscious thoughst to exist. A great deal of unconscious thoughts are "criminal", as anyone who has been in analysis can testify.
With the positivist slant to govening inherited from his nip Mr Blair Tony, I would not be surprised if the current attempts at regulating the psychonalytic profession made a provision for psychoanalysts being obliged to report any such "criminal" thoughts as expressed on the analytic couch!
The will for governements to regulate even more each and every aspect of citizens behaviour can be seen as the outpouring of the Death drive (Thanatos), in its inscription on the social body. The predicted disasters by the climate change lobby are nothing compared to what such a large outpouring of hatred (disguised at law) can do to our psychological and physical survival. Freud's imagery for such a phenomenon was that of a tyranic father who'd reserved for himself all the pleasures, the sons being strictly forbidden any kind of gratification.
As for "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", that's Voltaire.