Monday , May 27 2024

Stan for nothing, fall for anything

Cafe Giảng is the home of Hà Nội’s beloved egg coffee. Photo courtesy of Alex Reeves

By Alex Reeves – @afreeves23

Popular local coffee shop, Cafe Giảng, are genuine pioneers. The original proprietor of this beloved institution invented egg-coffee and in doing so created a wave, adding a modern classic to Vietnamese Cafe menus. Yet recently they came under intense criticism due to a post by an employee on social media, but why?

“Stan – to exhibit fandom to an extreme or excessive degree : to be an extremely devoted and enthusiastic fan of someone or something.” First, a thanks to anyone out there ‘stanning’ for Việt Nam News. This one’s for you!

All jokes aside, the topic at hand is a symptom of a modern, digitised society where readers are netizens and pop stars are gods. A little too much? Perhaps. However dig a little further and the impact of the ‘fandoms’ is there for all to see. The modern idols are just that; idols. With loyal, bordering on fanatical, groups of followers dedicated to supporting their every action and word.

Support is one thing. We all have our heroes and in a world rife with cancel-culture our allegiances are challenged more than ever. A like on Facebook? A retweet on ‘X’ (the artist formerly known as Twitter)? and we are forever tied to these individuals and what they stand for. In a world as technologically uncertain as it is physical, our permanent records exist in eternity.

Far be it a philosophical warning piece on the dangers of our cyber conduct, this is an observational concern. Being part of an online community is a wonderful thing, we’re more connected than we ever have been and, would you believe it? We have more in common than ever before.

My question is far simpler, when does fandom become fanaticism? When do we abandon our critical thinking skills and ethical codes to defend or in some cases attack on behalf of our heroes?

We are surely now all too aware of the dangers that come with criticising Taylor Swift online. The ‘Swifties’ would be all over you in no time. In years prior it was One Direction with what are now commonly known as ‘armies’ of followers, dedicated to the ‘cause’. If someone can coherently explain such unwavering dedication to me, my ears are open.

Go a bit further back and we find The Beatles, regularly mobbed by fans, it would have taken a braver man than I to give them anything other than praise in the presence of their disciples. This is not a new phenomena, it’s age old. We have always abandoned our capacity for reason in the face of criticism we take personally.

Back to Cafe Giảng, the off-the-cuff comment online sent a K-Pop fan group into meltdown. Next came the flood of one-star reviews from people who had never even visited the place. A reputation as old as the grandparents of their idols was at risk of ruin, due to the collective power of those hysterical at the slightest nudge towards their modern god.

Is this what we want? A fictional fan favourite once uttered the words “with great power, comes great responsibility”. Our collective power comes with a collective responsibility. Let us ‘stan’ our social heroes with foresight. No idol is false if you are a true ‘Belieber’, however they’re no more real than a creamy cup of egg coffee and we could sometimes do well to remember that. VNS

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