It was interesting that, in the aftermath of the 2020 US elections, the celebrations seemed to centre more on Donald Trump’s defeat and less on Biden and Harris’ victory. It seems that, after the win of ‘less than adequate’
candidate, we are being fed an illusion of hope…while shamelessly obsessing over political figures.
Politicians were once people who proposed and implemented laws and policies that governed states. But, over time, they’ve essentially become glorified celebrities for the young to ‘stan’ (which means ‘to aggressively
obsess over fiercely defend’).
This type of engagement is especially vital for the younger generation. It has resulted in them becoming more politically active, actually going out to vote, and researching the political climate. Having said that, we are
starting to distort our reality. We are putting on rose-tinted glasses when we look at these leaders now.
The online world is soaked in ‘stan culture’, which has fandoms evolving into intense social media following and idolisation. Stan culture has now slipped into the political landscape too. It has had a great number of benefits and a large impact on the younger generation. This can be seen when celebrities use their platforms.
Musicians with ‘big fandoms’ like Cardi B and Taylor Swift have been participating in live streams with Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. This brings awareness about the importance of voting to their vast young audiences.
Another recent example is of congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez playing a very popular internet game ‘Among Us’ in order to get people to get out and vote. There are generally perceived as positive uses of stan
culture but the power they have is no joke. Over 400,000 people ended up watching the latter.
One wonders if there’s a point where it crosses from simple positive action to political indoctrination. Should we be looking towards other people to spoon-feed us? Should we allow these figures to tell us what to do? Should we blindly believe everything they say just because we idolize them?
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to have started a new wave of politician engagement with the voter base, being not only widely-loved and appreciated but also becoming a part of stan culture. Perhaps
she has successfully cultivated what no politician in American history previously had: a genuine connection with the public.
In a way, AOC was the first of many to finally come across as normal and ‘relatable’ to her young audience, almost becoming a type of friend to them rather than a serious leader. This could simply be due to
her current ‘newcomer’ status.
She has, however, slowly built up a foundation of trust and a feeling of genuine love amongst the youth who now adore her, unlike any other politician before.
A Latina woman from the Bronx who was a waitress just two years ago and worked hard to keep her family afloat; her story appealed to everyone.
Since becoming a congresswoman, everything she has done has made
headlines: from her fashion to her relationship to her policies. This idolisation and ‘does no wrong’ image of hers means it’s not unlikely that the public would simply turn a blind eye even if she was to abuse her power.
Joe Biden has certainly never received such love from the public. He has never really been a part of such “Stan culture or media hype”. The words ‘settled for’ come to mind when people think of Biden.
Although he doesn’t have that effect on the public, a lot of his actions are also excused by Stan culture. If Biden ends up being just as bad as Trump, there are many who will not be able to acknowledge it. Biden is frequently
called ‘the lesser of two evils’. Is this really the case? Or is this the image painted by America?
Biden is far from a perfect, gleaming beacon of hope. His previous involvement in the Middle East is common knowledge, and, like Trump, he has also had allegations of sexual assault levelled at him. Despite this, it
seems as though the public are trying to sugarcoat his actions and reassure themselves that he is not as bad as Trump, and never could be.
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris is the prime example of the toxic effects of idolising politicians. In a very short period of time, she has already garnered a significant amount of praise…but not for anything particularly
It is all about her being a symbol: as not only the first female Vice President but a female, black, Indian origin one. Stan culture has labelled her as a ‘boss’; an inspiration to all women. Social media is flooded
with video-edits of her, and her quotes are going viral everywhere. She is now more praised for being a celebrity and an icon than for what she actually is: a ruthless prosecutor.
And so, the toxic underbelly of Stan culture starts to show itself. Kamala Harris’ failings never seem to make it into the main narrative, whether it’s the prosecution of countless black men for minor drug violations, her pro-Israel stance, or her transphobia. Instead, we are given this false wishy-washy image of a new future and a new America, when it’s really just a new disguise. Where will this Stan culture lead us? Perhaps we could soon
be mindless puppets, checking our social media for only the posts of these ‘politicians’, with no idea of their policies.
It seems more possible than ever.
Inaya Khan is a 17 yr old student currently doing her A levels. She is a staunch feminist.
Her areas of interest are History & Psychology. She mainly writes about the exploitation of human behaviour in politics.