Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Swarm: Donald Glover's new show is a dark meditation on fan culture

24/03/2023

Swarm: Donald Glover's new show is a dark meditation on fan cultureSwarm, a new show from Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, exposes the very real dangers of obsessive fandoms.

by The Conversation

24-03-2023 14:59

in Entertainment

Dre is a messy and unlikeable character but that's how she's supposed to be. Warrick Page/Prime Video

Swarm, a new show from Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, exposes the very real dangers of obsessive fandoms. Each episode begins with a series of title cards that let the audience know that this is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.

--

A horror-comedy, the show depicts a young Black woman, Andrea Dre Greene (Dominique Fishback), as a superfan of fictional pop star Ni'Jah (blatantly based on Beyonce) and obsessive member of her online fandom, the Swarm (Beyonc 's is called the BeyHive). Dre falls deeper into her obsession after the death of her foster sister and roommate, Marissa (Chloe Bailey), which sends Dre on a two-year murderous rampage to defend Ni'Jah.

Shows about obsessive fans aren't new, but Swarm is the first to take this concept and centre Black womanhood and contemporary Black popular fan culture.

ALSO READ: Streaming TODAY: New streaming releases on 24 March 2023

--

Online fandoms have arguably become more extreme since the 2010s, when social media changed how we interact with celebrities, allowing people to form intimate but one-sided connections called parasocial relationships .

Fans who display obsessive, dangerous behaviour are called stans . The name came from the 2000 Eminem song that portrays stalker fan, Stan, who, failing to get a reply to his fan letters, kills himself and his girlfriend.

The term stan has evolved to describe a fan with an unreasonable obsession that is not inherently dangerous and more people are using it to describe themselves. Swarm, however, does explore the darkest side of this culture and how, for some people, being a stan can be an emotional blanket under which deeper issues lie.

--

ALSO READ: Isibaya' stars Linda Mtoba and Thandeka Qwabe join Isifiso'

WHEN A FAN BECOMES A STAN' Most fans are not pathological or extreme, but for some social media users hate has more power than pure devotion. As such, it's become a common occurrence for fans to show support for the people they idolise by attacking anyone who might be seen as criticising them.

Incidents like this have been seen many times in the Beyhive. For instance in 2019, Beyhive stans levelled death threats at Nicole Curran, wife of Golden State Warriors basketball team owner Joe Lacob, for leaning over Beyonc to talk to the singer's husband, Jay-Z. In response, Beyonc 's publicist posted a message on Instagram asking that the fanbase not spew hate in the name of their idol.

This is a real-life example that Swarm dramatises, with the offending party suffering a grisly end as Dre defends Ni'Jah. In these hyperbolic representations, Swarm forces audiences to think about how we interact with the artists we love.

Ni'Jah does not drink or do drugs. Her addiction, however, is to Ni'Jah and the way she makes her feel. That feeling is of belonging.

In a pivotal scene, Dre manages to get into the VIP section of a club where Ni'Jah is. She picks up a plum as she ogles the artist dancing.

In a close-up shot, we see her grotesquely devour the fruit. This is intercut with a shot of her teeth moving closer to something. This dream-like sequence is abruptly ended, as the closeup cuts to a standard full shot, and we learn that Dre bit Ni'Jah's face.

ALSO READ: Queen Charlotte': Netflix releases trailer for Bridgerton' prequel

Again, Nabers and Glover have taken a real rumour about Beyonc being bitten and turned it into a critique of our sometimes dangerous treatment of celebrities. Her consumption of the plum is unsettling and greedy. Nothing else exists in that moment or matters. She has lost total control. Reality has given way to fantasy and Ni'Jah becomes the plum to Dre.

Biting may be extreme, but it isn't far off from fans' attempts to grope their favourite artists as if they are a piece of fruit or a doll.

Clinical researchers Randy and Lori Sansone have developed what they call the number one fan phenomenon. Their research has found that celebrity worshippers are more likely to have poor mental health and exhibit symptoms of anxiety, addictive behaviour and depression. Throughout the series, we can see a lot of this in Dre, for whom the fantasy of Ni'Jah makes her feel alive and not repressed.

UNCOMFORTABLE BLACK REPRESENTATIONS It would be a shame to dismiss the series as a shallow portrayal of extreme fandom, as some critics have. Swarm is a satire of the darker elements of fandom but also a meditation on Black characters and Black popular culture.

The character of Dre, in particular, has made a few uncomfortable. As one Twitter user put it: R we supposed to like Dre? Root for her? Or hate her? She went on to name other serial killer characters from popular shows who she liked, including (the fictionalised) Jeffrey Dahmer and Dexter, stressing she wasn't sure she could like Dre.

ALSO READ: Kiefer Sutherland will never' say no' to Jack Bauer return on '24'

I don't blame this viewer because characters like Dre are extremely rare on TV. When was the last time you saw a Black queer female serial killer as opposed to a white male one?

Dre is a messy and unlikeable character but that's how she's supposed to be. Warrick Page/Prime Video The show's representation of stans is purposefully dark and offers a Black female perspective. Co-creator Donald Glover said that the idea for the show was inspired by a tweet
LINK: https://www.thesouthafrican.com/culture/entertainment/swarm-donald-glo...
See more stories from thesouthafrican

Africa Stories

19/05/2024

House of Zwide' June Spoiler: The Zwides recover their millions

House of Zwide' June Spoiler: The Zwides recover their millions The House of Zwide' June teasers reveal that Funani and Nkosi will recover a share of t...

18/05/2024

Skeem Saam: Friday's episode, 17 May 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Friday's episode, 17 May 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African soapi...

18/05/2024

Shaka Ilembe' approved for season three

Shaka Ilembe' approved for season threeMzansi Magic's hit series Shaka Ilembe' which stars Nomzama Mbatha has been commissioned for a third season....

17/05/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Lehasa gets a rude awakening when Kgosi blackmails him

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Lehasa gets a rude awakening when Kgosi blackmails himDon't miss Friday, 17 May's riveting episode of South African soapie Skeem ...

17/05/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Dorothy is blown away by Ona's sketches for her wedding dress

Tonight on House of Zwide: Dorothy is blown away by Ona's sketches for her w...

17/05/2024

Tonight on Scandal: Dintle has a visit from her past that leaves her very unsettled

Tonight on Scandal: Dintle has a visit from her past that leaves her very unsett...

17/05/2024

Skeem Saam: Thursday's episode, 16 May 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Thursday's episode, 16 May 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African soa...

17/05/2024

Prison Journalism: Letter to my mothers

Prison Journalism: Letter to my mothersThabo Mthembu was incarcerated in Pollsmoor Prison from 2014 to 2019. Read Thabo's story by Thabo Mthembu 17-05-20...

17/05/2024

Paul McCartney becomes UK's first billionaire musician

Paul McCartney becomes UK's first billionaire musicianMusic icon Paul McCartney has become the UK's first billionaire musician, according to the Sunday ...

17/05/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Sakhile advises Tiny against sabotaging Petunia

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Sakhile advises Tiny against sabotaging PetuniaDon't miss Friday, 17 May's riveting episode of South African soapie Smoke ...

16/05/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Nkosi is angry and accuses Shoki of keeping secrets from him

Tonight on House of Zwide: Nkosi is angry and accuses Shoki of keeping secrets f...

16/05/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Phakathi examines the CCTV coverage and questions Jaxon

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Phakathi examines the CCTV coverage and questions ...

16/05/2024

Tonight on Scandal: A terrifying story pushes Dintle into making a life-altering decision

Tonight on Scandal: A terrifying story pushes Dintle into making a life-altering...

16/05/2024

Irma Stern's 1930 portrait Cape Girl with Fruit headlines SA art auction

Irma Stern's 1930 portrait Cape Girl with Fruit headlines SA art auctionAn Irma Stern painting from 1930 leads Strauss & Co's diverse catalogue of moder...

16/05/2024

Prison Journalism: The role my mother played in my life

Prison Journalism: The role my mother played in my lifeWesley Leong was incarcerated at the age of 15 in 1996 at Pollsmoor Prison. He is currently part of Resto...

16/05/2024

Actress Sibongokuhle Cele joins Muvhango'

Actress Sibongokuhle Cele joins Muvhango'Model and former Durban Gen' actress Sibongokuhle Cele has secured a role in SABC2's soapie Muvhango'...

16/05/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Carol sees Ntswaki getting up to no good with Toby

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Carol sees Ntswaki getting up to no good with TobyDon't miss Thursday, 16 May's riveting episode of South African soapie Skeem Sa...

16/05/2024

Skeem Saam: Wednesday's episode, 15 May 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Wednesday's episode, 15 May 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African so...

16/05/2024

Monet painting fetches R640 million at New York auction

Monet painting fetches R640 million at New York auctionA Monet has sold for nearly R640 million at auction, Sotheby's said, marking a solid start to New Yor...

15/05/2024

Eminem killing off Slim Shady' with new album

Eminem killing off Slim Shady' with new albumEminem is announcing a new album, called The Death of Slim Shady' killing off his controversial, crazy ps...

15/05/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Zanele's baby's heart is not beating

Tonight on House of Zwide: Zanele's baby's heart is not beatingDon't miss Wednesday, 15 May's riveting episode of South African soapie House of ...

15/05/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Mr Kgomo is forced to defend his decision to hire Eunice

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Mr Kgomo is forced to defend his decision to hire EuniceDon't miss Wednesday, 15 May's riveting episode of South African soapie S...

15/05/2024

Afrikaans words nobody learned at school

Afrikaans words nobody learned at schoolAfrikaans has some interesting words, which nobody might have learned at school. What about koeksisters' and panto...

15/05/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Tiny is intimidated by Petunia and tries to have her removed from the hotel

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Tiny is intimidated by Petunia and tries to have h...

14/05/2024

Radio Mzansi: Nine Proudly South African stations

Radio Mzansi: Nine Proudly South African stationsRadio stations are everywhere, but limited to area Or are they? You can listen to these proudly South African ...

14/05/2024

Leon Schuster: Five of the comedian's favourites

Leon Schuster: Five of the comedian's favouritesLeon Schuster is one of South Africa's favourite comedians. What's your comedy movie of choice? Watc...

14/05/2024

Skeem Saam: Tuesday's episode, 14 May 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Tuesday's episode, 14 May 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African soap...

14/05/2024

Tonight on Scandal: Phakamile lies to protect Jojo

Tonight on Scandal: Phakamile lies to protect JojoDon't miss Wednesday, 15 May's riveting episode of South African soapie Scandal! on e.tv on DStv chann...

14/05/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Nkosi expresses his anger and frustration over his continued failure to track and find Kopano

Tonight on House of Zwide: Nkosi expresses his anger and frustration over his co...

14/05/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Virginia arrested by Phakathi as she is trying to escape

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Virginia arrested by Phakathi as she is trying to ...

14/05/2024

Skeem Saam: Monday's episode, 13 May 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Monday's episode, 13 May 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African soapi...

14/05/2024

Same wig': Skeem Saam' fans react to Flo Masebe's debut

Same wig': Skeem Saam' fans react to Flo Masebe's debut Skeem Saam' viewers react to legendary actress Florence Flo' Masebe's debut as...

14/05/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Melita is surprised when Eunice arrives to interview for her old job

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Melita is surprised when Eunice arrives to interview for ...

13/05/2024

Tonight on Scandal: Tlhogi makes a radical decision which freaks Taps out

Tonight on Scandal: Tlhogi makes a radical decision which freaks Taps outDon't miss Monday, 13 May's riveting episode of South African soapie Scandal! o...

13/05/2024

Q&A with Kai Luke Brmmer as he prepares for Moffie his latest theatrical endeavour

Q&A with Kai Luke Br mmer as he prepares for Moffie his latest theatrical endeav...

13/05/2024

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Mthetho's funeral gets underway, and Thandiswa finds herself trapped inside his casket

Tonight on Smoke and Mirrors: Mthetho's funeral gets underway, and Thandiswa...

12/05/2024

WATCH: Empini' trailer with star-studded cast

WATCH: Empini' trailer with star-studded castThe all-star Empini' cast includes Nambitha Ben-Mazwi, Siyabonga Thwala, Nqobile Sipamla, Owen Sejake and...

12/05/2024

Smoke and Mirrors' fans stunned by Leeroy's funeral outfit

Smoke and Mirrors' fans stunned by Leeroy's funeral outfit Smoke and Mirrors' fans were surprised when Leeroy wore a wedding outfit' to his lat...

12/05/2024

Skeem Saam' fans criticise Sthoko and Babeile's abusive storyline

Skeem Saam' fans criticise Sthoko and Babeile's abusive storyline Skeem Saam' viewers are disappointed with Sthoko and Babeile's abusive storyli...

12/05/2024

Nqobile Sipamla portrays Masasa in Showmax's Empini'

Nqobile Sipamla portrays Masasa in Showmax's Empini'Talented actress Nqobile Sipamla discusses portraying an older woman, Masasa in Showmax's upcom...

11/05/2024

Mlungisi Ndebele says he's not like his jailbird role in Generations'

Mlungisi Ndebele says he's not like his jailbird role in Generations' Actor Mlungisi Ndebele opens up about his jailbird character, Bra Sol in SABC1...

10/05/2024

Thabisile Zikhali returns to Uzalo', joins Isitha: The Enemy'

Thabisile Zikhali returns to Uzalo', joins Isitha: The Enemy'Talented actress Thabisile Zikhali joins e.tv's telenovela, Isitha: The Enemy' a...

10/05/2024

Owen Sejake portrays General Moeti in Showmax's Empini'

Owen Sejake portrays General Moeti in Showmax's Empini'Veteran actor Owen Sejake portrays General Moeti in Showmax's upcoming series, Empini' ...

10/05/2024

Nomzamo Mbatha discusses working with Bruce Willis in Assassin'

Nomzamo Mbatha discusses working with Bruce Willis in Assassin'Actress Nomzamo Mbatha opens up about her role as Alexa in sci-fi thriller Assassin' al...

10/05/2024

Tonight on Scandal: Dintle stumbles upon a dangerous gift

Tonight on Scandal: Dintle stumbles upon a dangerous giftDon't miss Friday, 10 May's riveting episode of South African soapie Scandal! on e.tv on DStv c...

10/05/2024

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Mr Kgomo considers rehiring a former employer despite their rocky history

Tonight on Skeem Saam: Mr. Kgomo considers rehiring a former employer despite th...

10/05/2024

Skeem Saam: Friday's episode, 10 May 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Friday's episode, 10 May 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African soapi...

10/05/2024

Tonight on House of Zwide: Mampho is hurt after catching Ona and Soka chilling in his car together

Tonight on House of Zwide: Mampho is hurt after catching Ona and Soka chilling i...

10/05/2024

Skeem Saam: Thursday's episode, 9 May 2024 [video]

Skeem Saam: Thursday's episode, 9 May 2024 [video]Missed an episode of Skeem Saam? No problem! Watch the latest episode of your favourite South African soap...

10/05/2024

Prison Journalism: You think the streets are crazy?

Prison Journalism: You think the streets are crazy?Wesley Leong was incarcerated at the age of 15 in 1996 at Pollsmoor Prison. He is currently part of Restore&#...