Saturday, 29 October 2016

On Belonging and the Fan Phenomenon.

I discovered two interesting facts tonight:

1. The Lenny the Lion Fan Club was started by David Bowie’s father.

2. Tang Shiyi is not only one of the most brilliant dancers I’ve ever seen, she’s also pretty damn good looking as well!

But to begin at the beginning:

I occasionally wonder when I stopped being a belonger and became a non-belonger. As a kid I joined lots of things, like the Cub Scouts, the Boys Brigade, the local church, and the Lenny the Lion Fan Club. (The Lenny the Lion Fan Club is a very distant memory from early childhood. I remember I was sent a black and white picture of the famous feline and was very proud of it until I came of age – probably at around 10.)

But at some point in my life the notion began to ooze into my consciousness that belonging to something nearly always involves accepting some sort of consensus. By then I must have grown suspicious of accepting any kind of consensus, and so I stopped joining things. I just don’t remember when it was.

I also have serious misgivings about being anybody’s fan. That’s a difficult one because it depends on how you define fan status. I will admit that there are certain people for whom I entertain a more than passing level of respect (like the brilliant Tang Shiyi, for example), but I could never be a fan in the sense of waiting at the stage door to ‘meet’ my hero. Such people don’t actually meet their hero, do they? It’s more a process of paying obeisance while the hero figure looks down from a high place and smiles indulgently. That kind of fan simply accepts a subservient position for the delusional reward of a few seconds of fake orgasm. Not for me.

On the other hand, if the Lady Tang Shiyi were to approach me in the street and say ‘Excuse me, most esteemed English gentleman with a face that looks lived in, would you grace me with your company and allow me to practice my English in return for a cup of fine coffee and a piece of expensive cake?’ I would reply: ‘Certainly, madam, it would be my pleasure. Aren’t you Tang Shiyi, the well known Chinese dancer? Thought so. You’re impressive.’ That would strike me as achieving a certain degree of respectable parity, and I don’t mind being that kind of fan.

And just to prove that I did once join things, here’s a picture of me in my Cub Scout uniform. It was around the start of my Four Years as a Fat Kid. 

When the fat (‘puppy fat’ as one of my mother’s friends called it) dropped off, I was very confused to discover that I could sprint faster than almost every other kid in the school. The other kids and the teachers were confused as well, but they still left me languishing in the front row of the school rugby team, a fact which conferred upon me a negative body image for the rest of my life to date.

And I suppose it would be no more than properly gallant to balance the picture of the ugly fat kid with a rather more pleasing one of the Lady Tang Shiyi in performance.

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