Marie (a pseudonym), 28 years old, reminds when she was a fan of Mylène Farmer. Being a fan is being in love with a star, sharing intimacy and being part of a community. The star, her fans and the media, form a love triangle in which mystery plays an important part in building a gay icon.
The Love Triangle
As the television show Absolument fan claims, Mylène Farmer is the third best paid singer in France in 2012, with a €3 million income. She is quite discrete in the media, but she has been very active in the music world since the 1980s. For the promotion of her new album Monkey Me, she will go on a music tour called Timeless, which was sold out in a few hours time.
In her TV news show, anchor Claire Chazal when interviewing Mylène Farmer underlined the total public frenzy for each one of her always sold-out concerts. After all these years, Mylène Farmer is still very successful and her fans very faithful. Talking about her fans, the very sensitive singer says: I am also faithful to them. Thus as observed by sociologist Alain Chenu, there is a triangular relation between personalities, the audience and media. Indeed, a star cannot exist without its fans and the media.
The media play an important part in spreading the image of the star that will feed the admiration of fans points Nathalie Heinich. The Internet increases the possibilities of seeing their star.
Being a Fan is Sharing Intimacy
Fans try their best to get intimate with the star they admire. They not only go to concerts, they ask for autographs, get personal effects, or they go to the places the celebrity attends. They also keep precious « relics » of the star, such as CD collectors, DVDs, vinyls and posters. Marie describes these objects as the most precious things [she] ever had. Sometimes such intimacy expresses itself in sexual terms. Thus, Marie compares herself to a lover.
Being a fan is sometimes unexplainable and crazy. To be a fan, it is to be unreasonable. It means spending too much money. It also means sleeping in front of the concert hall the day before the show. I was not reasonable. I had posters of her everywhere in my room. I listened to her music all day long. It was almost all my life, says Marie. Indeed, Mylène Farmer sells so many by-products that the catalog is regularly edited to establish the quotation: T-shirts, pendants, lighters, posters, programs of show, collectors, everything related to her.
In his book A New Kind of Star. Rock and Roll and the Politicization of Stardom, David Shumway explains that the belief of intimacy is encouraged by the media. The fan desires intimacy with the star, and photographs or other objects give the illusion of such intimacy. The fan letters become the materiel objects of an imagined relationship. Thus, in collecting material objects related to the star, fans want to have the star for themselves or to be the star.
Being Part of a Community
Alone, a fan is only one among the crowd. Thus, a fan feels the need to join a fan community, as Marie did via a dedicated forum and chats on the Internet. These social interactions are essential in a fan’s life. They give rise to specific fan-created and fan-oriented activities. For instance, for the promotion of the new album Monkey Me, a special night is organized to unify all the fans. The party is quite expensive – 25 euro – but 900 persons are expected.
Natalie Heinich, in La culture de la célébrité en France et dans les pays anglophones, highlights that fans are active in the formation of fan communities, also called fan clubs. The fans of Mylène Farmer meet in front of her house in Paris to share their common admiration for the star. In this fan community, Marie met people who became “real friends” and after several years she is still in contact with them.
Marie was searching for people who could understand her: I was a fan because I needed to relate to something. It helped me to live when I was feeling down. After a while, Marie met Samuel a member of the fan community. He wanted to be Mylène Farmer’s biggest fan. He wanted to have every object that related to her. Even if he did not have any money, his priority was Mylène. Samuel became Marie’s boyfriend. Her love life was dictated by her dedication to Mylène Farmer.
Mylène Farmer: a Gay Icon
A gay icon is a cult object, adulated by the LGBT community, and a living being which fascinates crowds states Muse and Out, a lesbian magazine. The magazine lists three reasons for the success of gay icons: aestheticism, ambiguity and image. Gay icons are generally beautiful, sensual and feminine, all feathers and glitter. They might be kitsch, but the gays adore it! All of this is embodied in Mylène Farmer.
Mylène Farmer disguises herself, she is ambiguous, and like in the song Sans contrefaçon je suis un garcon, dresses as a boy. Moreover, the topics of her songs, as Marie said, are rooted in profound discontent, suicidal tendency, particularly present in gay environment. According to gay magazine Tétu, gay people like the glitter and great shows which they find in the rich staging of Mylène Farmers’ concerts. As a gay icon, every newspaper expected Mylène Farmer to say something about the topic that hit the headlines: gay marriage. The values, […] are in a way the fuel which allows the creation of a social link, says Chenu.
A Mysterious Star
Mylène Farmer always wants to be mysterious, she makes a minimum of concerts, a minimum of passages on the TV, says Marie. The cult of the image is also important in the construction of a star. Mylène Farmer controls her image.
In creating the characters they present to their audiences, stars look for typicality, while trying to offer fans the means to identify to them or what they represent. A bit of mystery helps them do that. Mylène Farmer works on her mysteriousness and conjures up the dark universe of eroticism. Professor Shumway highlights that a star is defined by and admired for its attractiveness, personal magnetism and sexual attraction. The star becomes more than just a singer: It is a life model.
Mylène Farmer definitely plays with it and to some extent this explains how she mesmerizes her fans.