On Saturday night, Cardi B took to Instagram to address the viral fiasco during her set at the Rolling Loud Festival in Los Angeles earlier that evening, where her estranged husband Offset surprised her with a dramatic, public gesture in an attempt to win her back.
It did not work. Cardi B had Offset removed from the stage, but her Instagram videos gave further insight into the situation. Namely, she had a problem — with some of her fans.
“The whole coming at my baby father bullshit, that doesn’t make me feel any better,” she said, calling out the legion of commenters posting anti-Offset takedowns across the internet and tapping into one of the most contentious developments around celebrity in recent years: stan culture.
Stanning has likely existed for as long as celebrities have (so, always) but the internet has allowed fans to take their devotion to the next level, building communities around their shared interests and promoting their favourite artists’ work. The term itself goes back to a 2000 song by Eminem, where he combined the words “stalker” and “fan” to create a rather terrifying, macabre story of a fan whose obsession with the rapper went too far. From this meta-narrative, the word “Stan” entered our cultural lexicon — the Oxford English Dictionary even formally entered the word into its database last year, defining it as an “overzealous or obsessive fan of a particular celebrity.”
Some fan bases are so huge, and so vocal, that they even have names: the Beyhive, the Barbz, the Arianators. They ride hard for their faves — but that can have a dark side.
As Cardi B pointed out, cyberbullying and harassment can be a nasty side effect of angering rabid, impassioned fan bases. A perceived allegiance to one artist can push some of their more intense, devoted fans to lash out against other public figures on their behalf (or on their behest), and with social media, it has never been easier. But it takes a toll when millions of people attack you online, and anyone barraged by these waves of hate and anger, public figure or not, can be driven to some dark, negative places.
“I just don’t like that bashing online thing,” Cardi B said in another video. She referenced Pete Davidson, who appears to have deleted his Instagram account over the weekend after an alarming post hinting at suicidal thoughts. His post went up following an almost-feud between Ariana Grande and Kanye West, who had a back and forth on Twitter after Grande critiqued West’s tweetstorm about Drake. West shot back, telling Grande not to belittle his mental health. Davidson posted a Notes app screenshot on Instagram in support of West, bringing attention to the detrimental effects that living online, in the public eye, can have on one’s mental health.
A number of celebrities including Machine Gun Kelly, Nicki Minaj (who commands a rabid fanbase of her own), and Grande herself swiftly rallied on Davidson’s behalf. Minaj even called out Grande’s fans directly for trolling Davidson and Mac Miller, tweeting, “Y’all did the same thing to Mac Miller until he died. The #FakeBandWagonHate.” (She later clarified that there’s no bad blood between her and Grande directly.)
Stan culture, and the intense scrutiny that comes with it, comes to the fore whenever a major project drops, or there’s a noteworthy feud, or a someone goes through a high-profile breakup. Stanning encourages fans to take sides, often in situations that are extremely personal and that we, as outsiders, can’t fully understand — and that can make it downright toxic.
“I don’t like that bullshit because I know how painful it is when you have millions of people bashing you every single day,” Cardi B told her #BardiGang on Saturday. “I don’t like that. And it doesn’t make me feel any better. Period.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, please contact Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566. All calls will be answered in confidence.