I’ve never quite understood superfans

    I’ve never quite understood superfans.
    Superfans, for the majority of you who probably haven’t encountered them, are people who are so enamored of a particular entertainer that a big chunk of their life is structured around that artist.
    I’m talking about adults here. Everybody knows a teenage girl who has posters of Taylor Swift all over her bedroom and talks about little else. Teenagers get emotional and obsessive about things.
    Superfans are the kind of people who, when a celebrity dies, show up at the gates of their mansion, weeping as though they’d lost a best friend and leaving bushels of flowers.
    They manage to get so emotionally attached to someone they never met that I just don’t get it.
    Michael Jackson superfans have been coming out of the woodwork in the last few weeks because of “Leaving Neverland,” the documentary featuring two men who say Jackson sexually abused them as children.
    The documentary has been described with words like “shattering” and “devastating,” and believe me, those aren’t exaggerations. The men describe the abuse in explicit detail, but they also describe the process by which Jackson groomed not just them, but their families, and the aftermath. And all of it has the ring of truth. It’s pretty hard to finish watching it and not believe the guys (although, it should be noted, one of the two testified for Jackson at his trial, saying the singer never abused him).
    But as convincing as it is, some folks still don’t believe it. And they’ve responded with an astonishing level of anger.
    During an interview the two men and the film’s director did with Oprah Winfrey after the show, they played some of the hate comments the two guys have gotten. There was a level of vitriol that would scare any sane person.
    Apparently, although Jackson is long in his grave, the emotional tie with some of his more extreme fans remains strong as ever.
    Some things about it, I understand. Art touches us. Everyone has a song or a movie or a show that is, for very personal reasons, very meaningful. I’m no different.
    Karon is a big Bob Seger fan and I once took her to a Seger concert. I always liked his music, but she’s a much bigger fan. Still, every time he sang one of his hits, I was transported back to my past. It was a really good concert, and part of that was the flood of memories he gave his audience.
    Likewise, there are pieces of art that have meaning because they signify something in particular. Karon and I have “our song,” Van Morrison’s “Someone Like You,” and it means a lot to us. Both lyrically and musically, it perfectly captures our feelings about each other.
    If Van Morrison or Bob Seger died, I might note it with some distress. But it wouldn’t ruin my life. I wouldn’t show up with flowers and cry for hours. I’d think, “Gee, that’s too bad,” but I’d go on with my day.
    And if someone said something disparaging about them, I really wouldn’t care. As the old saying goes, there’s no accounting for taste. (Although anybody who doesn’t like Van Morrison is just plain wrong.)
    I’ve been a professional critic and that’s one of the hazards of that job. If you write a negative review, you’re sure to hear from one or two people you’ve really honked off.
    I once reviewed a concert by the Beach Boys, whom I’ve always really liked. The show stank. To be fair, there’s only one guy who was part of the original Beach Boys, and he can call the band that only because he won a lawsuit allowing him to do so. I wrote a review saying it was time to pack it in.
    Boy, did I catch grief about that. For a year. From friends. You would have thought I burned the flag at noon on main street.
    But that’s part of the job. I never let it bother me.
    Still, some of the email I got was just weird. I once reviewed the Rolling Stones and it was one of the best two or three concerts I’ve ever seen. One thing about the show struck me as funny, which was that the drummer, Charlie Watts, wore a polo shirt and khakis and when he walked onstage, it looked like somebody’s dad had just wandered in. I got a long email from a Charlie Watts fan taking me to task for that comment. I wanted to write him back and tell him to take a deep breath, but it was my policy never to respond to complaints about my reviews. I’d had my say,
    Somebody might dip their pen in sunshine and write me about this, using all the arguments Jackson’s defenders are using. They might be very angry.
    If you’re tempted to write a letter to me, I’d advise only two things: Sign your name, because I ignore anonymous letters. And take deep breaths.
Tom Pantera is the news editor at the Wauneta Breeze. He has a passion for storytelling, obscure trivia and family. Email: breeze.editor@jpipapers.com

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