“Stan”: A Lesson in Webspeak

By Joshua Morrison
Blog Content Contributor

In 2016, it seems like everybody has their own deep, dark corner of the internet that they crawl into after a long day. These enclaves each have their own unique features and their inhabitants are able to speak a specialized language that isn’t quite accessible to outsiders. We often find ourselves having to give vocabulary lessons to the uninitiated before we can tell them about something hilarious we read on our favorite message board.

One of my favorite corners of the internet are music forums dedicated to popstars and heavily populated by gay men. I spend a lot of time on Pulse Music Boards and I’ve added quite a few new terms to my parlance as a result. One of my favorites is the term “stan.”

Photo by See-ming Lee via Flickr
Photo by See-ming Lee via Flickr

A stan is a delusional, obsessive fan and it’s a reference to the Eminem song of the same title. The song tells the tale of an obsessive fan, named Stan, who writes letters to Eminem. Stan’s letters become increasingly deranged as his frustration over not hearing back from his idol grows. In the song’s climax, Stan ends up driving himself and his pregnant girlfriend into a lake.

People, many of them queer, on internet forums use the term to refer to people whose fandom for a particular celebrity, usually a popstar, is so intense that they seem as unstable as the titular character in Eminem’s song. Of course, the term is used with humor and a knowing wink. There’s an understanding that whoever is being called a stan isn’t actually likely to commit any action as heinous as the song describes. The term is also employed as an adjective, so someone might call another person a stan or accuse them of stanning.

Given the grandness of the scale on which gay fandom operates, it comes as no surprise that the term isn’t completely pejorative. Indeed, many people online identify themselves as stans. I would certainly say that I stan for my favorites, or, as people often say online, my “faves.”

At this point you might be wondering what stanning actually looks like? Well, this video provides a pretty good example of some extreme stanning. A stan knows everything about their fave. A stan won’t stand for criticism of their fave and will often display a willful blindness toward their flaws. A stan never forgets harsh words spoken about their idol and will come for someone else’s fave if they dare to suggest their superiority. A stan will find a way to work their fave into any conversation. A stan is a model of loyalty and obsession.

That’s it for today’s vocabulary lesson. If you found it intriguing and you’d like to hear a bit more about it the term stan, it is the topic of the latest installment of my original segment “A Curriculum of Divas.” The segment airs each Wednesday at 5:10 p.m. as part of Other Side Drive. You can also check it out on my SoundCloud.

While I’m writing about “A Curriculum of Divas,” I’d like to take the opportunity to encourage anybody on campus who is interested in divas, gay icons and/or gay fandom to reach out to me on Twitter. I’m always looking for guests to have on the show and I’d love to talk with people about what they’d like to hear. My handle is @JoshNotJim, and I’ll be on the lookout.

Holly Henrichsen

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