Mac Miller, Ariana Grande, and Stan Culture Gone Awry
Derived from rapper Eminem’s hit 2000 song of the same name, “stan” can mean a multitude of things, from a successful fan account that posts photos, news, and updates about an artist almost religiously, to a troll with intentions of bullying anyone who criticizes their icon of choice. Stan culture has grown and changed significantly with the aid of Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and other social media websites. Unfortunately, the latter situation has often taken charge, as bullying, “dragging,” or calling out certain celebrities has gained popularity and thousands of retweets, shares, and likes.
These fans continue to dominate the internet, even in times of mourning. On Sept. 7, one of the most beloved and respected rappers in the industry passed away at age 26: Malcolm McCormick, better known as Mac Miller. Across all social media networks, fans, fellow artists, and regular people paid their respects with videos, pictures, or 280-character tweets. However, lurking behind the outpour of love and pain were fans who blamed Miller’s death on the one person who “could have helped him”: Ariana Grande.
Ariana Grande, a highly successful pop icon, faced the wrath of trolls the second her split with Mac Miller was announced back in May 2018. Most notably, a tweet by Twitter user Elijah Flint went viral with nearly 20,000 retweets and 83,000 likes. The tweeter insinuated that Grande should not have left Miller—especially because he wrote an entire album devoted to her—because the split “caused” Miller to get a DUI. Just hours later, Grande gave a response to the double standard presented by Flint: a woman should not be expected to magically heal her significant other, especially when the situation becomes toxic—she is another human, not his savior.
Again, the argument that Grande should have “saved him” came to light following the passing of Mac Miller. The negative comments notably came from Instagram, as users accused her of “killing him,” of being “evil,” and of ignoring her “responsibility” to speak out. The stream of comments grew so cruel and overbearing that Grande had no choice but to disable her Instagram comments. For a week following the death of a man she once truly loved, Ariana Grande mourned peacefully and independently, without the poisonous influence of stans.
This past Friday, Grande broke her silence and wrote an emotional, moving tribute to Mac Miller—someone that made a significant impact in her life for two years—on Instagram, along with a video of them together. Her words were heartfelt and honest, not bitter or mean. She was praised for her tribute across social media platforms for its equally heartwarming and saddening nature.
This issue is deeply rooted in the double standard placed on women to help, heal, and tend to men; but when a woman is in trouble, she is at fault and responsible for caring for herself. What we need to do as a society is to stop placing the burden of one’s mental health and life problems on a single person, whether it is a friend, a family member, or a romantic partner. Ariana Grande is not, and never will be, a man’s manic pixie dream girl, a fairy who can heal him with the snap of her fingers. This expectation, however is not to be confused with the genuine care of loved ones in need of mental help; the “savior” expectation, in contrast, can become toxic and emotionally draining. In actuality, refuting the claims of stans, Grande stated that she prayed incredibly hard for Mac Miller’s sobriety—even when their time together had come to an end.
Social media will always be influential, powerful, and unstoppable. The stan culture that has emerged from social media has had its positives, whether it entails worshipping and appreciating artists, or creating a space for people to interact and share their respect of a celebrity. With this positivity, however, comes a dark side that consists of bullying, trolling, and biting fights between two fandoms, two opposing beliefs, or two people. There is a line that is crossed when mourning a celebrity death online, especially one as significant and painful as the passing of Pittsburgh native Mac Miller. This time it was crossed. But in the end, we lost a highly respected, talented, and beautiful man. May Mac Miller rest in peace.