The mystery of obsession

Twenty-four hours ago, I was stood in a clearing in a wood watching a boyband singing to a group of their fans around a campfire. Fake snow lay on the ground and Christmas was being celebrated, albeit nearly two months early. I can’t say much more about the event as I’m sworn to secrecy until a TV broadcast at Christmas, but suffice to say that I wasn’t amongst the groups of fans. Instead, it was a case of “have CRB, have random adventures”. This was a very random adventure. Not only was there fake snow and a campfire, but a night under a tipi’s canvas chaperoning boyband fans.

This is probably the extent of the photos I can currently post of our escapades. 
That’s the tipi lighting & heating systems.

There is much I could write about the last couple of days, but much of what occurred is subjected to the darned embargo. However, what did intrigue me and is more of a general concept, is the nature of fanhood and the obsession it creates.

When I first got offered this bizarre chaperoning gig, I assumed that I’d be responsible for some teeny-boppers – the kind of boyband fans whose obsession is largely financed by their parents and amounts to little more than over-priced concert tickets; endless watching of anything the band has appeared on; learning the choreography for every single song; and buying anything with the bands name or faces on it. I never went through that particularly phase of life, but my sister did – buying multiple versions of the same Boyzone single owing to different B-sides; having a Boyzone themed 12th birthday party; and occasionally dreaming that the band had turned up at our house bearing gifts of savoury pastries.

However, the fans we were in charge of were all over 16. Most were over 18. My tipi of six winners included four who were all in their 20s and who spent most of their time (and money) following the boyband around the country. (As well as memorising songs, dance routines and customising clothes in the band’s honour.) They were so dedicated in their passion that the band’s members knew each one of their names.

While I expected to meet die-hard fans, I was unprepared for exactly what ‘die-hard’ would consist of, and it really made me think…

Psychologists are generally agreed that teenage girls go through crush phases so that they can learn how to be attracted to men, practicing safely on totally unattainable men. Most of us go through such phases to a greater or lesser extent – my teenage crushes of choice were Dean Cain (the Clark Kent in between the Superman movies and Smallville), Keanu Reeves, Brad Pitt and Damon Albarn/Alex James from Blur (depending on my mood). I was only reasonably likely to see the latter in the flesh and despite occasional rumours that Albarn was at a gig at Gloucester’s Guildhall, it never happened.

However, several of the girls we met this week were past this stage of life. The girls in their 20s could have been having relationships with real men, but instead chose to spend their time waiting in the cold for a glimpse of the objects of their desire, fantasising over their next conversation with them, or conducting post-mortems over their last conversation with them. They were so angry about one band member’s new relationship I actually wondered if they’d do her physical harm given half the chance. In some ways, it was terrifying.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not passing judgement on their choices. But I do wonder if they realise what they’re missing out on? It’s great to be fans of stuff and it’s absolutely fine to have moments of geekiness or obsession (my own passion for musical theatre and particular actors was highlighted by my friends during our conversations on this topic), but surely there’s a point where a line needs to be drawn and reality faced? These girls will almost certainly not spend the rest of their lives with their idols, yet some of them genuinely believe that they will. Is it fair to encourage or allow them to persist with their unrealistic expectations?

The world of the obsessed fan is a truly scary one. Tonight I will be thanking my lucky stars that I’m on my own in the flat, rather than supervising several of them in an extremely chilly tipi.


  1. I came across your post while researching boy band obsession in general as I think people don’t pay enough attantion to the impact it’s having on young women’s lives, such as the group you mentioned. I also covered this topic on my blog. There aren’t enough testimonies online (most people are probably embarassed to discuss it)regarding its hold on some people. I think the issue should be brought to public attention and the industry producing and promoting these bands should be exposed for what it is.

    • I think you have a point.
      The fact that this even was created for ‘super-fans’ did make me wonder if the filming was only serving to exacerbate things with girls who were already clearly obsessed. When you think about the amount of money an obsession like this can involve, it’s shocking what marketing can do!

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