By Joshua Morrison
Other Side Drive Segment Producer
Morrison: Here on “A Curriculum of Divas,” I, as you know, strive to give you the lowdown on gay icons and fandom. Last time I talked a bit about what makes a diva and why gay men are so attracted to them. I also touched a bit on how lavish and outsized diva worship tends to look, and today I’m going to take us a bit further down that path. Today’s lesson in the curriculum of divas is one in vocabulary, and the term we’ll be discussing is “stan.”
To help me out a bit with the discussion I’ve brought in a fellow practitioner of diva worship, the wonderful Austin Litzler, who you should all check out on Twitter.
Hello Austin, and welcome. Glad to have you here!
Litzler: Thanks for having me, I’m happy to be here.
M: So let’s begin by giving a brief history and definition of the term stan. I’m sure you’ll all recall back in 2000 there was a song by that name released by Eminem featuring Dido (beat plays in background). The song told the story of an obsessive fan, named Stan, who writes letters to Eminem. When he doesn’t get a response the letter become gradually more unhinged and the song culminates in with Stan, in his scorned-fan rage, driving himself and his pregnant girlfriend into a lake.
The word stan, as it’s used by so many gay men, is a reference to the song and is humorously used to refer to fans so obsessed with their quote “fave”, short for favorite, that it seems like they might be deranged. People use the term as both a noun and a verb, so they might call someone a stan, or say that they are stanning. And many people even invoke the term to describe themselves!
So, Austin, I mean, there’s obviously some level of humor going on. I talked a bit last week about the importance of camp in gay fandom. Do you see any of that going on here?
L: I do think there’s something a little bit campy going on there. I think first and foremost um to take a term so steeped in the 2000s,which is an era that has something uh essentially campy to it in and of itself is an interesting idea, and then also to of course take a character created by one of the most misogynistic, aggressive rappers of our generation and find almost a humor in that, almost a self-ridiculing irony, to take that term and and make it into what it has become I think there’s definitely at least layers of humor there if not outright camp.
M: Absolutely, absolutely. And I, you know, I wonder about the queerness of the term. I don’t know exactly where or by who the term was used first, but I know that when I encounter the term it is often alongside other important pieces of gay lingo, some of which I talked a bit about last week. It tends to be people who would be called or even identify as stans who say that a particular star slays, or gives them life, or is the queen of one thing or another. So, given the term’s proximity to all of these words in gay lingo, how queer of a term do you think stan is?
L: I don’t know that I would say that it’s exclusively a queer term, I definitely think there are some strong queer associations with that particular phrase, uh, one of the reasons being is that one of the largest realms where you see this term in frequent use is online and I think that space has a tendency to be a safe haven for a lot of queer individuals, especially young ones. So I think while queer people do definitely make up a large portion of the category that would maybe represent that term stan I don’t necessarily think that that’s exclusive to um you know queer diva worship necessarily.
M: Right, so it’s a term that is definitely highly relevant to queer communities even if they don’t hold exclusive rights to it or anything. I know that I definitely have people that I would say I stan for and it feels very gay when I say that, and on top of that, the people I would say that about are definitely people with strong gay followings. As the show goes on I’m absolutely positive that anyone listening will hear a lot about the people I stan for, but before we sign off for today I wonder if you could tell us if you stan, and if so, who do you stan for?
L: I typically only tend to associate that term with myself in humorous contexts, um, however, I have been known to have a particularly zealous love of certain singers, uh, lesser-known entertainers you may not have heard of such as Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, um, I-I don’t know that I would use the term stan to refer to myself but there are those that have definitely used the term to refer to me.
M: Well, I guess that really speaks to the terms status as both a bit of a taunt and a label that people can claim as sort of a winking acknowledgement of their own wild, uncontainable love for their fave. Hey thanks so much for talking with us here on “A Curriculum of Divas” today, it’s been a real pleasure.
L: Thanks again for having me it’s been great.
M: Alright, and don’t forget to check Austin out on Twitter where he dishes a lot of great discussion about a lot of gay icons. His handle again is @Litzwich. And while you’re at it check me out on there. I go by @JoshNotJim. I’d love to have some people on the show to talk about their favorite divas or aspects of gay fandom, so get at me!