The Psychology of Fandom and its affect on Britney Spears
A documentary by The New York Times, now streaming on Hulu, examines what the public might not know about the pop star’s court battle for control of her estate. And while it may be obvious that members of Britney’s family along with the paparazzi have played an influential role in her mental and emotional woes, fandom or one’s commitment to the consumption of the intimate details of Britney’s life may have also played a major role.
Fandom studies define fans as: a person with a relatively deep, positive emotional conviction about someone or something famous, usually expressed through recognition of style or creativity. He/she/they are also a person driven to explore and participate in fannish practices. Fans find their identities wrapped up with the pleasures connected to popular culture. They inhabit social roles marked up as fandom. (Duffett, 2013)
Why The Emotional Attachment?
The question becomes, “Why are we so emotionally connected to some celebrities?” The closeness one might feel toward their favorite celebrity is a ‘parasocial attachment’, i.e. a one-way relationship resulting from a false sense of intimacy created during media consumption (Horton and Wohl 1956). Many of Britney’s fans feel as though they grew up alongside her and can relate to her humble beginnings. Therefore, parasocial attachments aren’t necessarily a bad thing. What it does suggest is that human perceptions do not differentiate between those from the real world and those from media.
Being Famous & Mental Health
If nothing else, the #FreeBritney movement has shed light on the importance of celebrity mental health. Being famous is often described as leaving the person feeling “lonely; not secure; you have a bubble over you; family space is violated; a sense of being watched; living in a fishbowl; like a locked room; and, familiarity that breeds inappropriate closeness.” This suggests that fans do, in fact, contribute to the well-being of their favorite celebrities. The incessant need to know everything about Britney Spears and others like her is what drives the paparazzi and news outlets. So, you see, we too, have to take responsibility for “freeing Britney.” Looking for ways to continue supporting Britney but in a less intrusive way? Buy her music! Don’t just stream it. And when she’s on tour, buy tickets! To #FreeBritney is to honor her desire to be happy.