During a meet and greet in Japan on Sunday for popular music group AKB48, a crazed fan managed to attack two members of the group, as well as a male staff member. The 24-year-old attacker was carrying a 20-inch knife. It was said to be unnoticed due to the lack of security checks, which many have admitted are a common occurrence at events for the group. Overall, most security checks in Japan are said to be light, due to strict laws regarding guns and a low amount of violent incidents. However, this one incident shed a harsh light on the fact that not only can moments like this happen, but most pop musicians are dealing with almost fanatic behavior from their fan bases.
Although massive crowds surrounding music groups like AKB48 is not such a new situation, things have undoubtedly changed since many went through the stage of adoring a pop star or two. Groups like the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC had a female group of fans who would seemingly do anything to get close to their favorite member. However, there was always somewhat of an invisible wall between a young girl and a person like Justin Timberlake. The closest a fan could get to their idols was usually through a television screen or if they were lucky enough, a sold-out concert or even a ticket to get inside Total Request Live. The hysteria may have always been there, but there was still a partition-like section that people could not cross, sometimes a literal one.
Many people feel that with the advancement of social media and pop stars using these sites to connect to their fans, that invisible block is now gone. Most personal moments in the lives of these idols become public and it makes their fans feel closer to them than ever before. A good case in point comes from one of the most famous pop groups currently in music, One Direction. The group account for the band currently has 19 million followers connected to it. The most popular member of that group, at least in the media, is Harry Styles. He has almost 2 million more followers than the One Direction account. Personal moments shared by the band have led to some pretty invasive times, with some fans turning up at hotels the boys stay in while they are making public appearances. The adoration becomes frenzied and all moments of privacy are broken. Unlike AKB48, nothing truly tragic has occurred to any member of One Direction. Also, not all fans use social media to overstep their boundaries. However, there have been moments for other pop stars where the fanatic behavior of their fans get completely out of control.
In 2013 during a live concert in Dubai, a young man ran onto a stage where Justin Bieber was performing. Somehow making his way past security guards in front of the stage as well as backstage, the fan nearly tackled the young star to the ground as he sat at a piano. Luckily, Bieber was able to get out of the way. Bodyguards stepped in, grabbed the young man and escorted him off the stage. In 2009, another over excited fan ran onstage as Britney Spears performed during the Connecticut stop of her Welcome to the Circus tour. That fan was also escorted off the stage and later arrested.
Other singers such as Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Rihanna have dealt with dangerous stalkers, with Gomez dealing with the same person on a repeated basis. These fans seem to have a tough time understanding that celebrities are human beings too and there is a barrier that should not be crossed. The obsession over musicians like AKB48 can have some dangerous consequences for these stars. There have been times when moments like these have turned deadly.
In 1989, a young actress by the name of Rebecca Schaeffer was shot and killed by her stalker, Robert John Bardo. The 21-year-old actress had appeared on a television series, My Sister Sam, which was cancelled after two seasons. Bardo, previously obsessed with another child actress, set his sights on the young star and stalked her for three years. He had attempted to contact her repeatedly, showed up at sound stages where she worked and eventually found his way to her home address, with the help of a private investigator. Although nothing truly life threatening has occurred to most pop stars, the story of Schaeffer is a scary look into how some people truly feel connected to their idols in such a passionate and sometimes fearful way. They may feel that getting close to these stars in a dream come true and will stop at nothing to have that “special” moment. But just like them, these stars deserve to have a space and time to feel safe. When they perform or act or make an appearance, they deserve to have things go smoothly so everyone can enjoy the experience, including the celebrities themselves.
The experience in Japan calls for stronger safety measures when it comes to celebrities. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying their music, their dance moves or just the way they look, they should feel safe with what they do and be protected as they do so. With what occurred to the members of AKB48 and other pop stars, fanatic behavior is becoming a dangerous part of what these celebrities do. These manic fans will stop at nothing to get close to them and sometimes, it ends up being for the wrong reasons.
Opinion by Jonathan Brown