What The Hell Is A 'Stan' And Where Does The Name Come From

"Are we all just all on the stanwagon?"
Huffpost / Chris Paine

"Wait," Ansel Elgort innocently wrote on Twitter last week, "does 'Stan' come from the Eminem song??"

Since posting, the tweet has had over 300 responses, many with eye-rolling reaction GIFs or taunts like "where have you been living?"

But buried in those responses are the few brave people asking the simple question, "what do you mean by 'stan'?"

The term has become synonymous with hardcore fans of a celebrity, very commonly associated with female musicians whose fan bases have been given or have given themselves names. Mariah Carey was one of the first, dubbing her fans "Lambs", Lady Gaga has her "Little Monsters", there's the "Beyhive" or "Rihanna's Navy", Justin Biebers "Beliebers"; even the star of 'The Leftovers', Amy Brenneman, has the "Brennemaniacs".

Despite most commonly being associated with musicians and often most visibly women in pop, the limits of standom are your imagination. There are Food Network stans, sports stans, Pennywise the clown from 'IT' stans, YouTubers have stans, K-Pop stans, there are tons of stans for the young cast of Netflix's 'Stranger Things'.

These aren't just people who enjoy or the music or content put out by these celebrities, they're dedicated, diehard fans. They're obsessed and they know it.

They're on "stan Twitter" a very different side of the social network to, say, politics and breaking news Twitter. It's a whole different world, a whole different language.

So how did stans get their name?

Well, Ansel Elgort wasn't wrong. It all stems back to Eminem's 2000 single of the same name.

The song is kinda dark to have inspired a whole culture. But if you haven't listened to a 'SO FRESH' recently you can be forgiven for forgetting the finer details. Stan is an Eminem super fan; he sends obsessive letters to the rapper before eventually tying up his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk of a car and driving into a river killing them both.

Like we said, it gets dark.

In a 2013 'Rolling Stone' interview, Eminem found out his song had become popular parlance to his enjoyment.

You know "Stan" has long since entered the lexicon? People say, "I'm an Eminem Stan" or "I Stan for Katy Perry."

Wow, that's crazy. Oh, that's funny.

It's a little scary because Stan is insane.

Right....And Stan's dead! He actually died on that record. But I always had his little brother in the back of my mind. He just needed time to grow up. And come and kill me.

- 'Rolling Stone': Eminem Reborn: The Second Coming of Marshall Mathers.

There's a gut instinct to write-off stans, to class them as "screaming teens" which, based on the amount of times "I'm screaming" is tweeted, isn't entirely false. But it does look past the real inner workings of how stans engage with celebrities.

Stans are volcanic.

In 2016 Fifth Harmony's Normani Kordei quit Twitter briefly due to ongoing harassment and abuse... from Fifth Harmony stans.

In a video talking about her bandmates Kordei listed positive attributes about each, stumbling before describing Camila Cabello as, "...she is... let's see. Camilla, very quirky. Yeah, very quirky. Cute".

The innocuous comment earned Korei so much scorn from within the Fifth Harmony fandom that those "Harmonizers" who were Cabello stans began to troll the other member of the group, driving her off Twitter for a period of time -- just as Eminem's Stan drove off into a river.

More recently the cast of 'Stranger Things' had to navigate this intense relationship with fans after actor Finn Wolfhard failed to say hello to a crowd that were waiting for him outside his hotel. 'Game of Thrones' actor Sophie Turner came to Wolfhard's defense after fans began to attack him for being "heartless".

Wolfhard himself even tweeted about it, obviously attempting to navigate the strange relationship between his irascible fanbase.

There's a fine, fine line stans tread between fanatic and troll, a line which makes the adoption of Eminem's crazed fan's title more appropriate when they're expressing their love through hate.

Through the popularisation of social media like Twitter and Tumblr, stans were thrown into an gladiator's arena of fan bases. Mariah stans clashed with Ariana Grande's or Rihanna's Navy and the Beyhive famously refusing to get along. It was the rise of "stan wars".

In the early days, prior to the rise of sites like Tumblr and Twitter where stanning became outward facing, fan sites and forums were dedicated to particular celebrities. Fans could exist in an isolated space where they could revel in their favourite icons without tension from other fandoms.

The shift from forums to social media also created the advent of accessibility. With the rise of Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Facebook, fans are able to communicate directly with celebrities. This has given rise to an intimacy, the chance that your fave could be reading your tweets when you hurl ironic abuse or over-the-top praise at them encourages fans to dedicate their accounts to celebrities.

Bebe Rexha told 'EW' in an interview she loves having the ability to communicate directly with fans. "I get yelled at! I'm like, 'I'm sorry!'". They'll send me pictures with knives. I'm like, 'You guys are too much!'"

It may sound like stans are a group of overly involved individuals, the kind that old dudes would roll their eyes at, casting aspersions on the frivolity of being too involved in pop culture while simultaneously taking days off from work to watch football games.

Sure, old dudes, cast all the aspersions you want.

Aside from the drama and chaos of stans, there's organisation and action. The purest form of standom is wanting a celebrity to succeed, usually above all others.

When Lady Gaga was releasing her single 'Perfect Illusion', Little Monsters were role-playing as soccer mums and older women in order to convince radio stations diverse crowds wanted to request the song.

BuzzFeed uncovered the trend of these accounts of stations announcing her new music would be debuting in an attempt to drum up more airtime for the single.

"My children let out the loudest scream," one account wrote, "I dropped my casserole tray in the kitchen!"

Stans are organised, they're dedicated and -- at times -- completely unhinged.

In early 2016 Carly Rae Jepsen was inundated with stans responding to every Instagram and Tweet with a formulaic "queen of X". In an Instagram Jepsen uploaded of a meal at her grandma's house comments ranged from "Queen of old people", "queen of food", "queen of humble beginnings" to "queen of leaving prescriptions out on the counter".


It is often a one-sided relationship but where there's not always reciprocation from the celebrity, there's a whole web of other like-minded fans.

Being a stan is to be part of a community that's in on the joke, even if the artist may not be.

Some of Britney Spears' stans refer to their idol as "Knee", not just as a shortening of her name but in honour of her 2004 knee injury. It's not cruel so much as lovingly tongue in cheek.

Similarly the phrase "skinny legend" gets thrown around, which an Urban Dictionary definition describes as a celebrity, animal or even inanimate object "glamorous and talented, no matter their weight".

Scan any story about theories or decoding messages and themes within an artist's work and at the core of it are stans. When Taylor Swift wiped her entire social media presence in the lead-up to announcing her upcoming album 'Reputation' her stans went into overdrive with theories.

From scanning Swift's website for hints within the code to becoming experts in ancient mythology, the fandom dug deep to try and uncover and clues they could find.

Stans aren't just superfans, they're a community of like-minded souls coming together, unified under the banner of wanting to see their chosen celebrity flourish. Friendships are made, bonding over a shared love of an artist, their work, their achievements.

Even after the glitz and glamour of standom fades, those relationships are what remains. To be a stan is to felt seen, to have something to anchor yourself to.

And what's life without a little passion?

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