I recently read a somewhat funny story that got me thinking about the concept of being a fan, a die-hard fan at that. The story might sound a bit confusing at first, pretty much like trying to explain to someone how you are related to a distant relative, but stay with me, it will make sense.
South African actress Genevieve Howard, who plays the role of spoilt brat Grace Mashaba in the much-loved soapie Generations got the shock of her life when two crazed fans slapped her across the face, revenging their much loved Karabo Moroka, also a character in Generations played by Connie Ferguson.
Howard was in North West province with other South African celebrities on a road show. The fans were convinced Howard and Grace were one and the same person.
Now, Howard’s character Grace is unhappy that her dad Paul Mashaba has started dating again, according to her, it’s too soon after his divorce from her beloved mother, the mentally unstable Rachel. To make matters worse, her dad is dating Karabo, a beautiful media mogul, who also happens to be his dad’s co-host at MM live, a current-affairs radio show.
Grace has done everything in her power to break up her dad’s relationship with Karabo, including moving out of his home to live with “Uncle Kenny” whom she knows her father hates, and quitting her university studies.
Karabo, out of frustration, tries to reason with Grace that she is not trying to take her mother’s place and that for the sake of peace; they should try and get along. Grace is livid, how dare she try to compare herself to her mother, her father will never love her like he loved her mother! In a fit of rage, Grace slaps Karabo in front of Uncle Kenny and his wife Dineo, or “my little Dini” as he calls her.
Howard remarks after the rather unfortunate incident, that it’s quite surprising that there are still people who don’t know the difference between a fictional TV story and reality, but to be honest, its not that surprising to me.
It’s the nature of the beast. The fan beast.
After much deliberation about the concept of being a “fan” I’ve realised that it’s steeped in adulation really. We idolise men and women, who seem to have it all. Looks, intelligence, talent, charm, fame and wealth.
Think about the Hollywood phenomenon. I’m convinced it thrives on the “fan-o-meter”. What would the status of heartthrobs like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Will Smith or Denzel Washington be without the screaming female fans?
Or who would care about Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry (who was recently voted the sexiest woman alive by Esquire Magazine) or Scarlett Johannson if there weren’t a number of men getting endless free mileage just by looking at those fine specimens? The more popular you are, it seems, the more movies you get cast in, the more you work – the more you earn, the more you move up the social ladder (from D-list to A-list celebrity) and unfortunately, the more the paparazzi hound you and want to know the most intimate details of your life.
Sounds fantastic, almost magical doesn’t it? Not all the time. I lay no claim to having even the remotest amount of fame, but I have been stalked, twice.
The first time I was stalked by a “fan” happened a few years ago, when I worked for YFM, a youth radio station based in Johannesburg. I was a news anchor and a features writer for the stations youth magazine, Ymag. As with most, if not all stalkers, he had my personal details.
He had my cellphone number and would write to me as if we were old, familiar friends. Even addressed me by my surname. He did however, make it clear that he is aware of the fact that I don’t know him personally, but I would know him “very soon”. This perturbed me, but I chose to ignore it, thinking that if I didn’t answer his messages, he would soon get the message and stop bothering me.
My silence only seemed to flare his efforts. Even though I never met him face-to-face, he would SMS me non-stop. I refused to change my number. Eventually, I sought the help of my cousin, a former intelligence operative, who was familiar with the “spying” business.
My cousin advised me to let him continue a little longer, until we establish his level of seriousness. Then and only then, would we take action. I think he also called me – I tend to block such memories out of my mind, but the day it stopped, was the day I finally decided to name and shame him live on air.
I knew he was listening; he was after all, my number one fan. After that, he never contacted me again.
Just when I thought I had “been there, done that” with stalkers, its started again. This time, I’m on a different radio station, presenting a gospel music show every Sunday. My “brother in the Lord” also managed to solicit my private cellphone number and got in touch, telling me how much he loved my voice and my show.
He would share bible scriptures with me at all odd hours of the night, and he would constantly send me “please call me” messages, so that I could use my airtime to facilitate his warped endeavours… Imagine that.
This time, I thought, I would respond. One day, when he least expected it, I called him back. All I remember about that conversation, was me trying to explain to him the discomfort he was causing me, how his actions had crossed the line and that he was now intruding on my privacy. I don’t even remember a word he said, I don’t think I cared to remember at all.
But fortunately, it stopped relatively soon after that conversation.
Then I had to think about it seriously, is there anyone that I would do the same thing to?
Of all the musicians and actors that I adore and respect, would I really call myself their “fan” maybe even to the point of stalking them? Maybe I’m too vain to be a fan or maybe I know where to draw a line between appreciation and being a nuisance.
Either way, I’m weary of fans or being a fan. That’s why I’m a writer and I work in radio. Even if you happen to recognise me after seeing my face on the top right hand corner of this column, don’t approach me, don’t be fan, I find it awkward and uncomfortable.
Khanyi Magubane is a journalist, published poet, radio broadcaster and fiction writer. She writes for MediaClubSouth Africa, and brings with her an eclectic mix of media experience. She’s worked as a radio journalist for stations including Talk Radio &702 and the youth station YFM, where she was also a news anchor. She’s been a contributing features writer in a number of magazines titles including O magazine and Y mag. She’s also a book reviewer and literary essayist, published in the literary journal Wordsetc. Magubane is also a radio presenter at SAfm, where she hosts a Sunday show. She’s currently also in the process of completing the manuscript of her first novel, an extract of which has been published in Wordsetc.