Photo courtesy of Darkana Kat
Over the last several weeks, the symphonic metal/femme-metal community has been abuzz with talk about the recent “open letter” posted online by Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen, in response to negative incidents with fans during a recent tour with her band ReVamp in South America. To give a quick rundown, Floor basically pleads her case as to why she feels she must put up certain boundaries when it comes to interacting with fans, and defends herself against accusations that she is a “bitch” or a “diva”. In short, it is a message from a woman asking that other people respect her space; something that any human being has a right to expect.
Upon the publication of this letter, understandably, reactions on both sides of the argument have been heated. Some fans believe Floor should not have ever had to make a public statement about something that should be so obvious to everyone. Others felt that hey, if you don't want to be mobbed by fans, don't be a rock star and go find some other line of work. Still others were so outraged that they suggested that Floor should resign as Nightwish vocalist, if she cannot handle meeting with fans or cannot make herself available to sign autographs or take photos. Seems like Floor has been in a position of “damned if you do, damned if you don't” from the very start.
Reading this letter and discussing this with fellow fans, in turn, opens up the age-old topic of fan interaction; of meeting with “famous people” or our “idols” in music, movies, or art. It's a discussion that anyone who is a fan of anything never tires of talking about, and people have strong opinions on either side. Do we have a right to expect certain things from those we consider famous? What are the boundaries, and what is considered “crossing the line” when it comes to interacting with them? Do we have a right to be angry or to take it personally when someone doesn't come out to sign autographs or take pictures? Does an artist have the right to shun their audience and ignore them completely when, in essence, it is the fanbase who provides them their lifestyle of fame and fortune to begin with? Do public figures have a sort of moral obligation to be role models for society? Should stars just “suck it up” and accept that dealing with fans was something they signed up for when they took on the job?
In the world of celebrity, there are those who are very fan-friendly; people who are always happy to stop and pose for a picture or shake someone's hand, even if they are clearly busy or in the middle of doing something. In return, it makes us feel good to know that as fans, we are appreciated by them and that they recognize our enthusiasm for whatever it is they are doing. For most of us, that's all we really want; just to be able to have a moment to say thanks to that person for giving us something that brings us so much joy, and for them to know that their hard work has made people happy.
However, there are those fans out there who can be pushy and are known to expect more out of these celebrities than just a few moments of their time. The more harmless of these sorts of people can be labeled as “groupies”; but in the most extreme cases they can be outright stalkers. Those who are not content to just get an autograph or to talk to the object of their affection for just a few minutes. These people oftentimes view the celebrity almost as an inanimate object; as their personal property to use as they see fit. These are the people who cannot discern the artist from the art, and feel that because they relate to the artist's work, that somehow they have a claim on the artist themselves.
This can be a lot of the reason why some public figures are clearly not “fan-friendly”; those who go out of their way to avoid fan interaction at any and all costs (think the celebs who travel with intimidating-looking bodyguards, or hide their faces under their coats as they exit from a car or a building). Whether the label is completely deserved or not, they are accused of being “jerks” or “assholes” for not wanting to meet their public. Sure, some stars might actually not be so nice, and maybe their lack of interest in meeting their fans does come solely from an egotistical place. However, there are some out there who have good reasons for not wanting to put themselves in such a position.
To give an example, in the world of rock and metal, the one person who is most known for keeping his fanbase at arm's length is Rush drummer/lyricist Neil Peart. He has made it very clear, both in interviews and by way of his lyrics, that he has no desire to make himself readily available to fans. He has also stressed time and again that it is not because he is a “jerk”; but because the adulation that often comes from fans makes him feel uncomfortable, and he is by nature a shy and introverted person. Because he has been so honest about his reasons, most Rush fans accept that this is the way he is and do not try to seek him out after the shows; nor do they ever expect that he will turn up at meet-and-greets where the other two members of the band connect with fans so that he doesn't have to. In Neil Peart's own words: “People have a fantasy; I don't want to trample on it, but I also don't want to live it.”
For many celebrities, it is this blind idolization that makes them wary of meeting with fans. Some of them do not see themselves as superstars or as anything special; they are just doing a job and cannot wrap their minds around the idea that their work somehow raises them to a level greater than that of anyone else. Still others have social anxiety issues that stem as far back as childhood; after all, it is no coincidence that many artists were bullied as kids or considered “nerds”, social outcasts, or misfits. Just as it is no different for any of us to shake off some of the negative things we learned in childhood; it is not easy for any of them to go from one day being looked at as a nonentity, to all of a sudden being the center of attention.
Another example of the metamorphosis that a person goes through upon achieving fame is the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. While I do not claim to know anything about Kurt personally, it is common knowledge that Kurt Cobain was a child of divorce, shuffled around the homes of various relatives throughout his childhood, and was taunted mercilessly in school. There were periods in Kurt's young life where he was homeless and slept under the bridge in his hometown. No doubt this has got to wear on a person's sense of stability and sense of self-worth. One can understand how music became his refuge and why a lot of his lyrics can be considered “dark and depressing”.
So then, when you go from living this way almost all your life and knowing nothing else, imagine when virtually overnight, everyone's perception changes of you. When Nevermind reached the top of the charts and Nirvana became a household name, this elevated Kurt from a homeless nobody to a rock star that everyone wanted to be seen with. To go from one day being looked at as a “loser” or a “piece of shit” to almost the next day being called a genius and being hailed as the “spokesman” or “voice” of your generation has got to be heavy stuff even for the most self-confident of people; so it probably was even more difficult for Kurt, who was not always known for having the highest of self-esteem. Perhaps it was not exactly these things that led to him taking his own life, but certainly those things could not have made his life easier towards the end.
Then there are the pressures that come with fame; all of a sudden, your life is no longer your own anymore, and your public demands that your private life is laid bare for all to see because somehow you now belong to the people because of your art. It's not enough anymore to watch the movies or listen to the music; now people want to know who you're dating in your private life, what you plan on naming your next baby, or what kind of food you've been eating to make you gain those 10 pounds that make you look fat. People demand of public personalities the very things they would consider rude by anyone else if it were expected of them. From the star's perspective, they feel a sort of burden to live up to these expectations. As we are a society that loves to build up our idols only to watch them fall, it is understandable why celebrities experience stress over their public image; they could easily lose what was just as quickly achieved. All it takes is one interview taken out of context or an article written out of bias, and your audience turns into an angry mob over something they think you have said or done.
That being said, people somehow get this idea that public figures are supposed to be above us in a sense that they should be role models or pillars of the community. When a star is caught doing something like, say, dancing in a suggestive way at the club, or smoking a joint, people get into an uproar and demand that the celebrity's new TV show or latest album be boycotted and that people stop supporting them; because after all, these people are role models for children and they should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us. But is that really true? I'm sorry, but if you expect your children to model their lives after an athlete or a pop star, then maybe the problem is not so much with the celebrity as it is with the parents who should be looking to themselves to be role models for their own children.
Yet on the same token, this now shifts the perspective from that of the celebrity to that of the fan. All of us are fans of someone or something; even the famous are fans of other famous people. All of us at one time—whether as kids playing make-believe or teenagers dressing up like our favorite rock stars—we all had some superstar that we looked at and felt we could relate to. Understandably, this gives the fan a sort of feeling of kinship with the celebrity; it makes them feel as if the celebrity understands them, and that they understand the celebrity and the deeper meaning behind their lyrics or the roles they play. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, because relating to others is part of human nature. It validates our feelings to know that there are those like us who have gone through the same experiences we have or who enjoy the same things that we do.
At the same time, it can also sour our feelings towards these same people when, for whatever reason, they don't live up to the image we have of them in our minds. Everyone has a preconceived notion of what these celebrities are (whether positive or negative), and there's nothing wrong with that either. After all, we don't know these people personally and all we have to go on is what information is made available to us, so of course we are going to form our own opinions of who we think they are. Just as we have our favorite musicians, actors, and writers; there are also those personalities we don't like, whether it's because we are turned off by their public persona, or maybe we don't care for their artistic style. Whether it's out of bias towards or against the celebrity, we judge them as being good or bad people based on whether we consider their form of art to be good or bad. So when a celebrity we like does something we don't approve of, we almost feel personally insulted; as if they have betrayed our trust by not being the person we thought they were. On the other hand, when a public figure we dislike does something we consider good, we almost don't want to believe it; as though it must be some sort of mistake, or that the person must have a secret underhanded reason for it.
While most of us have a fairly rational viewpoint about the famous and where they fit into the grand scheme of our lives, there is a fine line that can very easily be crossed under certain circumstances. Sure, we all joke about that one celebrity that we would be completely star-struck over if we were ever to meet them; but there are actually people out there who go a little further than just being star-struck. Coming back to the point made earlier in this article, there are those who do not know when enough is enough, and can become downright aggressive when in close proximity to their favorite celebrities. Some of them do not just want to shake hands; they want to grab them inappropriately. Some of them do not just want an autograph; they want to rip off an article of clothing. Some of them do not just want a picture; they want a key to the star's hotel room. At best, fans like these can be thought of as passionate; but at worst, fans like this can be considered obsessive, and therefore dangerous.
For those of us who can remember a time before the internet existed (which was actually not as long ago as you young'uns out there like to think it was!), the gap separating the famous from the rest of us was a lot wider than it is nowadays. Back in the pre-internet days, communication with celebrities or public figures was pretty limited. If you were lucky enough to run into one at a random place or had the stroke of good fortune to have a unique set of circumstances that put you in proximity to one, then that was basically the only way to meet them. The only things we knew about our favorite stars was whatever we learned from interviews, magazine articles, or second-hand stories (i.e., “I have a friend of a friend who knows so-and-so...”). Even then not everything could be taken as truth; because we didn't have things like Wikipedia or Google back in those days, it was easy to make up stories or rumors about famous people, and no one really had a way to verify or dispute those tales. There are some living legends out there who have such stories following them to this day!
Likewise, celebrities were able to live in their ivory towers by not having a way in which to hear a negative opinion about their latest work; unless an admirer was lucky enough to get close to them and share their thoughts, oftentimes famous people could live in their own little bubble, surrounded by yes-men who told them everything they liked to hear and convince them that everyone out there loves what they are doing. Even if there were opportunities for fans to offer their honest opinions, it was easy enough to brush them off as someone who “just doesn't get it”. Their public personas could be carefully crafted by PR agents; we never knew any more about a famous person's private life than they wanted us to know. Whether it was the teen idols of yesteryear having to keep marriages or relationships under wraps for fear of losing their female fans; or movie stars being photographed at charity events or children's hospitals in order to live up to their reputation of being a beloved icon, celebrities could pretty much create their own characters and we were never the wiser as to whether or not those personalities represented who they were in real life.
But times have changed, and the line between regular folks and celebrities has become somewhat blurred. Nowadays fans can reach out to their favorite musicians or actors on Facebook and Twitter; they can become “Friends” with these people and get in touch with them as they would any other person. While this is a very cool thing in many respects, this has also opened up a new can of worms that neither fan or celebrity has had enough experience to know how to deal with just yet. Because we live in a world of online social media these days, we now have a vehicle in which to express our opinions as loudly as we want. You couple that with the mentality that stars somehow “belong” to their public, and this can be a recipe for disaster. A post on a celebrity's wall asking honest opinions from fans about something can turn into an all-out flame war; people feel that because they can express an opinion, that somehow that means they can also be rude or inconsiderate. Posts can range from snarky or sarcastic to outright brutal honesty (emphasis on the “brutal”); not just giving insight on what the artist can do to improve their work, but making personal attacks on them because past works happen to not live up to the standard that has been put upon them by said person.
This sort of thing also works just as badly in reverse; sometimes the famous can get a little punch-drunk off their own hype and start to believe it when people deem them as role models, and that it is their duty as a celebrity to “raise public awareness” for the personal causes they believe in. Case in point: the actress Jenny McCarthy, who has gone on record as to say that childhood vaccines cause autism (despite that there has been no concrete scientific evidence of this). As a result, things like this get around; and like the game of Telephone, people mistake opinion for fact, and suddenly there are parents out there who are not giving their kids vaccines because somehow the opinion of one celebrity has overtaken the inclination to seek out factual evidence for themselves.
A celebrity's influence can be just as equally dangerous to their public as a rabid fan can be, and this is one of many examples. When a star expresses a viewpoint about politics or current events, our first reaction is to say, “what do they know? They're just an actor and should shut up and stick to making movies!” Yet these people are voters and taxpayers just like we are, and have just as much a right to an opinion as we do (besides, when has our lack of knowledge about something ever stopped any of us from expressing an opinion if we have a mind to?). Why should their viewpoints be dismissed just because they have access to a larger group of people to hear those ideas? But as proven with the incident mentioned above, all it takes is for one bit of misinformation to be made public, and one celebrity can change the course of an election or put companies out of business all from a seemingly innocent offhand comment. This comes back to that feeling of relating to celebrities that we like, and feeling that because we know their work, that we somehow know them, and our friends wouldn't lie to us, would they?
It is that feeling of knowing a star or feeling an affinity with them that can create the “psycho fan” mentality; the people who make it to where celebrities must travel with bodyguards or an entourage, and the type of fans that make the rest look bad. It is a measure of safety to always take in the worst-case scenario, and if a celebrity judges their fanbase by the worst of the bunch, then it's a bit of a buzzkill for everyone who has good intentions and does not want to follow the artist home. In short, these behaviors ruin it for everyone else who has honest motives and mean no harm towards the celebrity. But stars have a right to their safety and their privacy, so it's to be expected that they are going to keep their public at a reasonable distance when dealing with them; because when they don't, the worst can happen.
There are so many examples of what happens when celebrities become a little too trusting or are friendlier than basic common courtesy requires; I would be here all day naming just the ones that come off the top of my head, so I might as well just get to the point and name some of the most extreme cases. The most well-known one is probably that of John Lennon, who was killed when stopping to sign an autograph for an obsessed fan.
But not all celebrities killed by fans are done so by way of being friendly or generous; sometimes all the star has to do is be in the same vicinity as a crazed fan, and such incidents can still happen. Considering that my blog is read predominantly by rockers and metalheads, the first example that likely comes to mind among my readers is the brutal onstage murder of Dimebag Darrell (former guitarist of Pantera) nearly 10 years ago. Not only was he callously shot in the head while performing in front of fans with his new band Damageplan, but he was killed by a fan who somehow believed that Dime was at fault for the breakup of Pantera and that the band's music was “stealing his thoughts”. It's obvious the guy had mental issues, and certainly this is where the difference lies between the average fan and the stalker-type fan. Very rarely, if ever, do we hear about cases like this where the person is diagnosed as being mentally stable.
However, if it were that easy to discern the insane from everyone else, then there wouldn't be cases like this in the first place, and celebrities would know who to avoid. Since mental instability comes in all shapes and forms, some people can pass themselves off as being completely level-headed and by all other accounts seem totally normal; so much so that even the celebrity themselves can be tricked enough to believe that the person is sincere. Some may even go so far as to invite this person into their lives and cross over that line from a fan-celebrity relationship into actual friendship.
One of the most horrifying examples of what happens in these situations is probably the story of Selena, the Tejano singer who was just about to cross over into American pop music stardom when she was senselessly shot and killed by the president of her fan club just weeks before her 24th birthday. Her murderer was not only someone that Selena came to trust, but everyone in Selena's family and inner circle also considered her a friend and part of their extended family. Yet when it was discovered that Selena's fan club president was stealing money from fan club funds behind their backs and was not all she seemed to be, it triggered a domino effect that led to disastrous results. In a classic case of “if I can't have you, no one else can”, Selena was fatally shot in the back when it became clear that the woman's days of hobnobbing with her idol had come to an end.
When asked over the years about the woman who needlessly took her life, Selena's family, friends, and husband have all echoed the same statement: they never would have expected this to happen and never considered her, of all people, to have done something like this. (Yes, I did do my research and know the name of the person who killed her; but out of respect for her fan community, who has sort of made it a pact not to ever mention that person's name, I am doing the same here.) For someone who saw herself an artist of the people, was known to never turn down an autograph and always wanted to make herself available to her audience, Selena's tragic death only makes it harder to bear for both her loved ones and her fans; for all it took was one person to abuse the trust that Selena had so easily given. It is a bitter irony that the thing Selena loved most—her fans—was ultimately the cause of her demise.
Considering that the majority of this article has been written from a perspective of trying to put ourselves in the celebrity's shoes, what about the fans; the average, everyday people? After all, most of the people reading this are probably going to be just regular folks and not considered famous. Maybe this is why I tried to write from a viewpoint of putting ourselves in the star's shoes, because oftentimes we are so blinded by the glitz and glamour of what their lives seem to be that we can forget the pitfalls and perils of what that lifestyle entails. It is too easy for us to sit back and look at these people and say that they have it so great; how nice it must be to have a life that is, from all appearances, virtually trouble-free. But with fame and fortune comes a new set of responsibilities and worries that none of us could possibly begin to understand; any more that some of these wealthy superstars can understand the trials of our everyday lives.
Even so, there are those who desire the life of celebrity, and will do anything to achieve it. If they can't become famous themselves, they will do anything to get close to someone who is. In a humorous light, try to think of those old episodes of I Love Lucy where the gang visits Hollywood, and Lucy becomes so star-struck that she goes to extreme measures to meet anyone who is remotely famous. Sure, watching someone climb over a movie star's fence, stare at them at a restaurant, or steal their cement block from the Walk of Fame all looks hilarious when it's on a sitcom; but if Lucy's character actually did some of these things in real life, the celebrities would file a restraining order on her, or she would still be sitting in jail to this day for some of the things she did in order to get close to her favorite movie stars!
However, there are those people out there, as already mentioned, that will go to great lengths to be close to their favorite celebrity. While I've touched on the incidents that led to terrible results; not everyone is malicious in their pursuit or intends harm to the celebrity, but strange things happen just the same. Sometimes people can make a request of a star that doesn't seem extreme to them, but is to most other people (think of that person who asks for a lock of hair, for example). Sometimes people cross the line of civility and do not think twice of imposing on someone in situations when it's probably not a good time to ask for an autograph (think of that person who corners someone in the bathroom stall, or while eating at a restaurant with their families). Even among fans, there is an unspoken code of etiquette that is different for each person, but boils down to their own ideas of common courtesy and respect.
To give an example from my own experiences in meeting musicians (both as a fan and in my years as a review writer), one cardinal rule I have always kept to is not to go near the band's tour bus. Over the years I have seen people hang on the side of the tour bus, knock on the windows or the doors to entice the artists to come out, and I have just always found this to be very rude. Again, each person's code of conduct is different, and what I may consider rude or inconsiderate may not be a big deal to them. But for me, I have always viewed a band's tour bus as the one place that is a “safe haven” for them. For a touring band, the tour bus is their one area where I feel they have a right to expect privacy and shut out the world. When they are out there in public, it is expected that they are going to be mobbed by fans wherever they go; so to me, once they go into the tour bus, that is the equivalent of going into your house and shutting the door behind you. But that is just my own personal line that I do not cross; not everyone feels the same way, nor do I expect them to.
Because everyone has their own idea of what is within limits and what is not, this can result in incidents such as those that prompt someone like Floor Jansen to address the issue. While not all fans mean to do harm when meeting with their favorite stars, sometimes people can easily get caught up in the heat of the moment where the heart can take over the head, so to speak. Sometimes people can get so overwhelmed by being in the presence of someone they have longed to meet that what starts out as a friendly gesture could easily cross over into getting too close into the personal space of the other person. Things can get out of hand very quickly, without any intention to do so from the fan towards the artist.
And as already elaborated on, there are always going to be those who feel that they have a personal right to the artist or celebrity, and have no qualms about crossing the line even when they know it's socially unacceptable. I remember going to a concert once for a band who is normally not considered the type to attract a large female audience, nor have any of the bandmembers ever been considered sexy or fodder for a teenage girl's bedroom walls. However, the woman next to me at this concert made me feel as if I had stumbled into a boy band performance, whenever she would boldly reach up and grab the private area of whichever bandmember would walk to our side of the stage. I do not mean just a quick moment where her hand grazed the general area; I am talking a full-on grope as if she were intimately involved with these men. Not only did I find this to be terribly bold and disrespectful, but the woman's boyfriend was standing right there with her and seemed to have no problem with this, which was almost just as offensive! The band tried to make a joke out of it by changing the words of one of their songs to make reference to this incident, but I wonder how they must have felt; being married men and probably not used to women grabbing at them in this way. Out of respect to their privacy and the privacy of their spouses, I will not say which band this was; but needless to say it was not someone normally known for these sorts of things happening at their shows. But I could not help but feel embarrassed not only for the band, but for myself as a fan, having been subjected to this and to wonder what goes through a person's mind to where they think this is something that is OK to do? In all honesty, what kind of man would approve of his wife or girlfriend carrying on like this right in front of him? I'm pretty certain that this woman and her boyfriend do not go to restaurants and start reaching down the waiters' pants, so why is this different when it is a rock band performing onstage? Why is the level of consideration towards someone's personal boundaries suddenly lowered or thrown out the window entirely when the person involved happens to have any kind of “celebrity” status?
What, then, are the guidelines (if any) on how to approach a celebrity when meeting them? I guess there really are none, other than to go with what you think is right. But maybe we can afford to change our way of thinking on some things too. Perhaps we can get over this sense of entitlement that celebrities “owe” us something simply for being famous. Or maybe we can stop looking at them as a plaything whose sole purpose is to bring us entertainment. Yes, that's what they get paid for, but that does not mean they must be “on” or “in character” at all times. If you have a friend who works at the Olive Garden, you certainly do not expect him to start whipping up spaghetti every time you see him just because he happens to do that for a living, do you? (In fact, usually it works in reverse; we do not normally take our friend out for an Italian dinner once he has some time off from working at the Olive Garden, because we know he is probably sick of the sight of Italian food.) Why is it so different when it's a movie star or an artist? (OK, so maybe that's a terrible analogy, but on the other hand, if you are that person working at Olive Garden, ask yourself how you would feel if every time you stepped outside, people stopped you to ask if you could make them some fettuccine? Or waited outside your house in the hopes that you would come out and give them a loaf of garlic bread?)
The rules should apply to them as much as it should to anyone else: if a star feels comfortable with giving an autograph or taking a picture, and they seem as though they want to (or are not too put out or bothered by doing so), then fine. But if they are not, we shouldn't take it as an affront to us, or feel as though they are ungrateful or unappreciative of what their fans have given them. Does that mean you shouldn't be disappointed if they are outwardly rude or mean to you? Of course not! But if they have treated you this way, then it is probably par for the course for them and it won't make one bit of difference if you are insulted by it. They are going to go along their merry way (off in their sportscars with their model wives/girlfriends in tow) and not give you another thought. So maybe you shouldn't either.
As the saying goes, hit them where it hurts most: in the pocketbook. If you are disgusted with the behavior of a celebrity, don't buy into what they're selling anymore. Don't go to their movies, don't buy their albums, don't watch their latest reality show. You have power as a consumer, if you really feel that strongly. But you can't have your cake and eat it too: you can't approach a celebrity as if they were a piece of meat, and then become offended when they have rightfully backed away from you and do not give you the autograph you were seeking.
On the same token, a celebrity does have the “right to refuse service to anyone” if they see fit. You can be the nicest person in the world and approach them with all the good manners you can muster up, and they can still politely decline your request. Do you have the right to be angry about it? Sure. But do you have the right to jump online and put the celebrity on blast about what a terrible person they are? Well, I suppose that's up to you. But it probably won't win you any points, should you ever meet up with this person again and get a second chance. After all, just as much as they have a right to turn away autographs or pictures, they also have a prerogative to change their minds and be generous with these things at another time. And even if they don't, well, consider it their loss! ;)
Through all of this, as a fan, I still think that it is part of the job for celebrities to expect that fans will ask for autographs and pictures, and that they should try to be as accommodating to their public as possible. But I also do agree that when certain fans get out line, that the artists have a right to back away and put up a reasonable boundary between themselves and their audience. Maybe it is because I have had nothing but positive experiences when meeting with people who are considered famous, that I want the same experience for everyone else who feels the same way I do. But it should never be at a cost to the person doing the giving. After all, the relationship between an artist and their public should be inter-dependent; realizing that neither can exist without the other. A celebrity cannot be famous without fans, and those who can appreciate the creativity of another makes it possible for artists to find success. But it should never be co-dependent, and I think that is the key behind all of this here. A celebrity should not live for their fans, and fans should certainly not live for celebrities. It no longer becomes fun for either party when one or the other has to put themselves in an awkward situation in order to appease someone.
How much of a fan can you really be if you expect your favorite celebrity to compromise all the things that you claim to love about them as an artist by expecting them to pretend to be something they are not in order to please you? And how appreciative can your favorite star really be of you or of fellow fans when all they see are people making demands of their time and attention, simply due to the fact that they are entertainers? I wouldn't think either side would be very happy with that sort of interaction.
Coming back to my reference to Neil Peart earlier in this blog entry; would I love to meet Neil Peart? For me, the answer is no, and I will explain why. Quite simply it is because Neil does not want to meet me. I am not saying this in a sarcastic manner or in a haughty tone; I'm saying it just the way it means. Sure, Neil is one of my biggest influences as a writer (after all, not only do I write about music, but I also listen to music when I write, so a lot of my influences as a writer are more from lyricists and musicians than from actual authors or writers). So naturally it would be great to be able to shake his hand and simply say “thank you”. That is all; I would not ask for anything else. But I do not want it because I know, as someone who appreciates his music and actually takes the time to listen to what he says in regards to this very subject, that it is not something he feels comfortable with; and the last thing I would ever want to do is make someone feel uncomfortable. Now, if he ever reads my blog posts or liked my writing and asked to meet me, that would be another story (figuratively speaking). But I would never impose myself on someone who did not want to be bothered. If I were ever to run into the guy in a public place, I would probably do as I do with any other stranger I passed on the street: go on my merry way.
Since this article is called “Open Letter to an Open Letter”, I suppose I should end it by directly addressing the people out there who seem to slap these labels on celebrities; the ones who call people like Floor “divas” or people like Neil “snobs”. These people do not exist for you; nor are they a pawn on a chessboard for you to move around however way you like. They do not owe us anything; they give a moment of their time because they want to. So don't ruin it for them, or the fans who will come along afterwards, by souring what could be a good experience by treating them like an inanimate object. The money you have invested into their art does not turn these people into your personal property. They owe their livelihood to you, not their lives. Just because they do not come at your beck and call or do not cater to your whims does not mean they are stuck-up and it does not mean they can't handle their celebrity status. They have just as much a right to courtesy and respect as you do.
So this brings us full circle to the Floor Jansen open letter. Perhaps after reading the various worries and concerns that celebrities face when meeting with their public, we can gain a greater understanding of what they go through, and perhaps we can appreciate what they do a little better. When thinking of all these possible dangers that stars face on a daily basis, maybe Floor's request for space does not seem too much to ask after all. In many ways, as fans, to give the artist enough respect to keep your distance might be the greatest gift you can give back to them. As I was once told by someone very close to me (who worked in rock radio and met his share of celebrities), it's as simple as this: “Treat regular folks like superstars, and superstars like regular folks.” Couldn't have said it better myself.
—Special thanks to Oceansouls of America for providing links and information regarding Floor Jansen and Nightwish.
—Special thanks to Darkana Kat Music Photography for providing photo of Floor Jansen.
—Special thanks to Texas Johnny and the Selena Forever site for providing research materials.