Celebrities experience frequent harassment from fans, many of whom have invested emotionally in the complete strangers. (Image via Wetpaint)

A Friendly Reminder to Crazed Fans: Celebrities Are Not Your Friends

A recent incident at ACE Comic Con in Seattle is just the latest result of what social scientists are calling ‘parasocial relationships.’

Thoughts x

A recent incident at ACE Comic Con in Seattle is just the latest result of what social scientists are calling ‘parasocial relationships.’

The cultural focus on celebrities in the U.S. is a reality that can’t be denied. Paparazzi stake out ways to get the best photos of the most popular celebrities, fans stop them in public and some conventions are designed specifically for people to pay hundreds of dollars to meet their favorites. Lately, however, admiration seems to have turned into blatant harassment.

ACE Comic-Con was recently held in Seattle, Washington, featuring the cast of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. During the second day of the convention, Tom Holland, Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie were in a panel together when some members of the audience, purportedly fans of the MCU, disrespected both Stan and Mackie when provided with a microphone.

The footage from the panel suggests the girls might have just been attempting to joke around with the group — the cast made similar jokes about each other throughout the panel — but, not everyone seemed to be having a good time. In fact, Stan and Mackie appeared mildly offended by the commentary from their alleged fans.

Fans being rude to actors at ACE Comic Con from marvelstudios

Panel incident aside, some fans have taken things even further during interactions with their favorite celebrities. Actress and singer Selena Gomez has been caught in a mob of fans, singer Shawn Mendes has been chased in a parking lot and Kylie Jenner and Fifth Harmony member Ally Hernandez, to name a few, have been grabbed by fans trying to take selfies with them.

Although such behavior should not be excused, a psychological explanation exists for why fans become so emotionally attached to celebrities. Some fans might be in a parasocial relationship with celebrities — a relationship where an individual invests significant emotional energy into someone who lacks any knowledge of their life — and might truly feel as if they know them.

However, with the rise of conventions and social media, a variety of opportunities exist for emotionally invested fans to interact with celebrities, which has led to an alarming lack of physical and emotional respect toward them.

Many fans seem to expect a sort of friendly bond to exist between them and their favorite celebrities as a result of their love and knowledge of them. But engaging in physical contact and playful teasing are frequent tactics which definitively work against fans and the celebrities they are targeting.

In reality, a fan who idolizes and knows a lot about a celebrity oftentimes does not actually know the person. Celebrities still have personal boundaries which no one, even the most die-hard fan, deserves to cross without their consent. A job in the public eye does not negate a person’s right to privacy.

The act of teasing or touching a celebrity is completely inappropriate, regardless of intentions. At first glance, celebrities approached in some regard by others have no way of knowing if they are actually fans, which could result in their intentions appearing somewhat insidious.

So, remember: If you ever have the opportunity to meet a celebrity you admire, please be respectful of their time and space, because they do not owe you anything.

Writer Profile

Kate Maxwell

NC State University
Political Science


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