How to Support Artists
Some artists are free to speak out about the struggles they’re having. But that requires having a country and company that lets you have the freedom to do so, or being an indie artist. Unfortunately, as stated earlier, artists tend to suffer backlash for even speaking out about the pressures fandom and fame itself gives them, much less expressing that they are actually unhappy and suffering because of it.
Many people see them as ungrateful to fans that have supported them, or oversensitive, weak, or not working hard enough, or any number of things. With the kind of fandom culture that currently exists, artists are not allowed to defend themselves without facing some kind of backlash, period. The irony of the matter is that if this kind of entitled fan culture full of pressure did not exist, artists wouldn’t have fandom complaints to talk about in the first place, and wouldn’t have any reason to defend themselves against their own fans.
So the choices are: 1. Create/perform in a tenuous, high-pressure environment that may become hostile at any time if you slip up (which is entirely at the discretion and in the opinion of each individual), then attempt to maintain everyone’s expectations that you have set no matter what happens, or how you feel until you literally cannot anymore. Or 2. Establish boundaries and respect with your fans and do whatever you want. Unfortunately, choice number #1 tends to end tragically and choice number #2 is a concept that fans are literally hostile to right now, and can be difficult to actually DO thanks to harsh criticism.
Artists are pretty thoroughly stuck in one of these two positions at the moment, enhanced by social media allowing masses of people to come together and bully and criticize them if they so desire…and let’s face it, no one wants that happening to them.
What can you do, as a genuine fan?
Well, you can treat the person you admire as a human being with emotions, worries, and needs. You can think about them as a human first, and an artist second, and understand that they are doing their best. They may need to take breaks, or have grumpy or irritable days, or may not want to act in the manner you think they should at all. It sounds like I’m talking about a cat and mayhaps I am - artists are sensitive, finicky souls and they are very strongly themselves. They don’t tend to be rule followers, or they wouldn’t be creating or performing at all.
Basically, give them the same amount of leeway as you would give yourself or even better. And give it in all aspects. How they look, how they work, how they live their personal lives…That should all be something they get to decide as much as you do. Because artists are human beings first and foremost. They’re just weird ones that want to show you beautiful things and make you feel emotions and work really hard to do that. That’s really the only difference between you and the people you admire.
Don’t criticize them unless they ask for your critique, as enjoying people’s art is really a privilege. Don’t make fun of them, don’t sexualize them, don’t do anything you wouldn’t do to a random person on a street…You can do whatever you want in your head, but if it’s in public, then you’re actively participating in culture and creating that environment for them. That’s why it’s important to make it one they can feel comfortable and safe to continue sharing themselves and their work with you. I guarantee you most artists (that are not narcissists) do not want to be worshiped, and would rather share a genuine bond with you and enjoy their work together than to feel pressured into being a perfect being.
And perhaps most importantly, listen to the artists that can’t speak for themselves. Many of them are hurting, and sending out signs for help long before those tragedies occur. But if your eyes are closed to the truth and only seeing what you want to see, then you will miss them until it is too late.
If you see the signs, speak up for those who aren’t allowed to use their voice for themselves. Do what you can to change the fandom and social culture to one in which they can one day express all of their worries, pains, dreams for the future without it being judged, criticized, and twisted around into something it’s not. I know how difficult it is thanks to the bullying that can be present in fandom culture, but you will need to be brave to help protect artists.
Be the change you wish to see.
What can you do, as an artist?
If you are also an artist, then I would challenge you to change the environment yourself. Establish your boundaries early, and however it is that you choose to work. Put health (physical and mental) first. Keep your stress low no matter what, because stress kills. Be straight up anti-capitalist. Put health before art and art before money. We can’t wait for others to change the game for us.
I don’t want the headlines to happen anymore. I don’t want to hear from my favorite artists that they quit because the fandom was too toxic, hear that someone died due an overdose or suicide because they were dealing with undiagnosed mental illnesses.
As creators and performers, we are responsible for most of culture itself. We are people’s inspiration, comfort, and art saves lives. No matter what society would have you think, we have an important role to fulfill, and I think we all feel that need and desire to do it from childhood.
I’m fully aware that it’ll take one or two articles to make a huge change like I am proposing. So, I am planning to start writing regular blogs from now on about how to live a healthy lifestyle as an artist. Then, I’ll list out those ways and challenge artists to follow the same lifestyle.
I am still learning how exactly to do that too, but after the recent events with Jungkook, I realized that protecting and helping artists is a passion of mine that I want to advocate. Perhaps it’s idealistic, but I want to save the people I admire, and I want to also live and create happily and healthily. And I want to give voices to the voiceless. To the used and abused that started with a dream and passion for art, but somewhere along the way, it got all twisted.
I am just one person who is trying to figure out all of this herself, but I hope to start a movement, maybe an organization one day, of creatives around the world who want to advocate for being treated as humans before all else, and who want to put health in all forms first. That way artists won’t have to feel alone when they stand up for themselves. When they make a stand for their health and basic human rights, whether it be their right to privacy or to express their honest thoughts.
That way, someday in the future, when someone is sick or injured, they won’t be praised for continuing to work anyway. Instead, we’ll be encouraging them to rest, telling them it’s okay to be healthy, and questioning anyone who thinks keeping up an image or making money is more important than personal happiness.
It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight, but I believe change in the way people treat creators and performers can and will happen one day, as long as each of us do our part to help.