The Politics and Sociology of Fan Clubs
Any one interested in the politics of Tamil film fans are quickly attracted to the burgeoning number of fan clubs the leading stars of the present and past have spawned. Thanks to the spirit of rivalry the fans cultivate assidously against each other in the names of their stars, fan clubs have emerged as the alternative spheres for the stars to thrash out their opponents in the words and deeds of their fans. In some cases, these fan clubs have also emerged as the requisite interfaces between the potential vote banks, political parties and the stars-turned-politicians.
The politics of fan clubs in Tamil Nadu hides more than it reveals if one does not take a sociological approach. Fan clubs in Tamil Nadu are the typical microcosms of the social divisions and tensions of the Tamil society. They are as riddled by the factors of caste, religion and gender bias as any other institution. Despite their seemingly mainstreaming function, I think, these factors are at work in the formation and sustenance of fan clubs. What is striking is the unidimensional character of all fan clubs as public sites where males articulate their social and political affiliations in the guise of film fans. Females, barring those belonging to the lower rungs of the society, rarely seek to express themselves outside their private spheres of families, neighbourhood friends etc.,
The imprint of the political game fan clubs are expected to play is writ large in their activities. They are the sites where the message of social welfare for political gains takes roots. They are the sites where the message of populism takes flight. They are also the sites where the cult of personality politics is invented in as many ways as there are stars. The deification of the stars is a necessary precondition for their integration into the larger political process where minor and major stars emerge as leaders or Gods of the masses.