Confessions of a Bad Clay Fan

I love Clay Aiken. But sometimes I screw up on the rest of it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Would a note from my mother be good enough?

So there's a new picture of Clay today? From what I saw from the avatar made by the person who's limiting access to the picture so that others won't make avatars from it, it's pretty darn hot.

Unfortunately, that little avi is all I'm going to see since I don't have the requisite decoder ring to gain entrance to club. That's fine. I respect someone's right to restrict when and how a picture they have is distributed. That’s her choice. If I possessed pictures I didn't own the rights to publish, I'd be careful too.

What I don't, like, however, is how this incident has highlighted one of the ugly parts of this fandom. No, I don't mean the fact that there are insiders and outsiders, although that's been blatant. There have been enough posts this morning that go along the lines of "Well, I have access, and so do lots of my friends (subtext: so you must be a nobody if you don't)." I'm not sure why members of the one board that has access feel the need to post about the picture on boards across the fandom where fans can't see it, other than to publicly declare their insider status and to make sure that people know that they are special fans.

But irritating as that behavior is, that's not my complaint. These divisions and perceptions will happen in any group of more than two people. There will always be those who feel that others have more connections or greater visibility, and they probably do. And some of those who do will do everything to protect and make visible their status. That's the nature of human social behavior. We're much like dogs in this way.

No, what I find distasteful is that in order to become part of this insider group, one must establish one's credentials as a good fan. I thought at first that all one needed to do was join Clayversity and then ask for permission to see the picture. That seems reasonable, although if that was the case and anyone could see it, why not just share it in the first place? But then I read that one must give a mod the name of a Clayversity member who can be a reference for you.

So if I joined Clayversity, could I get someone to vouch for me? Do I know the right people? Have I done enough to prove that I really am a good Clay Aiken fan? What if they knew I wrote this blog and was a self-proclaimed bad fan?

I don't care about the picture. Actually, that's not true. I'd love to see it, but that's not the point. The problem with this system is that it assumes fans to be bad until they can be certified as acceptable by someone on the approved list. I think that's a board I'd rather not belong to.

Enjoy the picture. I'd rather be a bad fan and not have to prove myself to anyone.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

ATDW stands for EEEEE!!!!

I admit it. For months I've tuned out the ongoing debate about the contents of Clay Aiken's next CD. I've yawned at all the detailed calculations and projections for the CD release date. I even found the acronym contest to be tedious. (Spreadsheets? Seriously? Have I not mentioned how lazy I am?)

I may not be patient enough to put the thought and effort into this fandom that some fans do, but now that all the hard work has been done (by others), I'm ready and waiting to join in the fun.

So, unless Clay is pulling our collective legs, there's a title for the CD. A real title. For a real CD. September, October, who cares? We're getting a new CD!!! EEEEE!!!!!

Onward Clayton's Soldiers

My daily Clay devotions are simple. I scan 4 or 5 different boards looking for news and following links to pictures, articles, or funny bits of fan creativity. I've recently expanded this routine to checking out blogs. I avoid ones that obviously are written for the sole purpose of baiting fans because why should I give those pathetic people any of my time? But I enjoy reading a variety of fan blogs. It's interesting to see oneself as part of a larger community of Clay Aiken fans.

However, I've been noticing a new category of blog that gives me pause, with entries like this:
If you little gay men want to bitch fight with real women who love them some Clay, you'd better bring a bigger can O' WHUP ASS. We were like Soldier Ants doing our own investigations, tapping into friends' talents, and calling in favors.

I suspect that these bloggers and those cheering them on would consider themselves "good" fans, unlike lazy old me who can't work up the energy to submit a freaking acronym let alone organize a holy crusade to defend Clay's honor. Private investigations? Calling in favors? Why am I picturing gossip columnists waking up to find horseheads in their beds?

Clay, I love you and enjoy being your fan, but I hope being a fan doesn't require me to swear my allegiance and vow to destroy the "little gay men" and their ilk. First of all, I'm too lazy. Secondly, I find that type of behavior to be not only utterly ineffectual, but also embarrassing and even a little frightening.

I also hope that being a fan doesn't put me in jeopardy of ending up on the wrong side of their crusade some day. I fear that I may naively say something that one of the Defenders of the Clay will interpret as evidence of an evil agenda and next thing you know I'll be branded with the mark of the Anti-Clay. Like maybe I'll make the mistake of using the word "if" and find myself as the star attraction at a bonfire.

Please, Clay. Throw another contest. Soon.*

*Real soon, not Clay soon.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Regarding THE question

I'm such a pathetic excuse for a fan, I don't even have a definitive choice for My Favorite Clay Aiken Hair of All Time.

I love the pre-AI experiments. The braids, the Prince Valiant, the Perm. Sure, they were unattractive as all get out, but they were so Clay! They are living proof in embarrassing photographs that this man is not the bland vanilla performer he's often pegged as. The man who committed those follicular atrocities is someone who likes to explore, to press boundaries, to experiment, to be different, and who doesn't give a damn what other people think.

I loved the AI spikes. They gave us so many up close and personals of him getting his hair done. I enjoyed seeing those.

I did not love the floppy, overgrown spikes of the IT tour, but I loved that he would go on stage looking like such a disaster. Again, this is a man whose self-esteem does not depend on other people's opinions.

The AI3 mini-mullet? Not my favorite style, but so much hair to grab onto!

The NAT hair was gorgeous, especially in the later NC concerts. Beautiful. That may have been his hair at its prettiest. The highlights, the styling, all were model-perfect.

The JBT short 'n' natural look was so darn touchable. I just wanted to ruffle it with my fingers, it looked so soft and plush.

And now there's the Emo hair. It's beautiful. I love the way it highlights his eyes. I almost don't even see the hair because my eyes are drawn to his beautiful eyes.

I love that he used his hair to make such a big statement. "I'm the New Clay now. See, my hair is different!"

I'm betting in a year we'll have a whole different look. And I'll like it just as much as all the rest.

I refuse to choose. I want them all.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Worshipping False Idols

I like American Idol. I liked it in 2003 when it brought me Clay. I still like it. I enjoy watching it every season. I don't think the show is now pointless and irrelevant since it already discovered the biggest bestest idol the world will ever know. I don’t think that the entire 19 empire is at the head of a world-wide conspiracy to bring down Clay Aiken and all the good that he stands for.

In 2003, I thought AI was fun, cheesy entertainment. In 2006, I still think it is fun, cheesy entertainment.

Do I think there's a possibility the results could be manipulated? Sure. It's a reality television show on FOX. Not exactly my touchstone for ethical standards. Does it matter? Not really. It's a reality television show on FOX. It's not like they're electing the president. (Although sadly, I suspect that FOX may be more accurate and above board than our presidential elections are.)

I like several Idol contestants. I'll root for Kelly and Ruben and Fantasia and Taylor and Elliott to be successful because I like them and their success takes nothing away from Clay. There is success enough to go around. I love Clay. He doesn't need to prove anything to me by becoming the biggest bestest Idol ever.

I've always enjoyed Ryan Seacrest. I think he's cute and funny and personable, which is really all he needs to be. I never thought he was Clay's best friend. I didn't think he was Clay's lover (although they were awfully cute together). And I don't think he’s now Clay's sworn enemy on a vendetta to bring him down because he is a) secretly in love with Clay, b) trying to deflect rumors about his own sexuality, c) jealous of Clay’s success, or d) a pawn in the vast 19E conspiracy to crush Clay Aiken.

I've always thought Paula Abdul was a drug-addled, small-talent has-been. I thought this when she was praising Clay with glowing but inane comments. I thought this when she was denying sleeping with the skeeviest contestant AI has ever seen. I'm certainly not going to let her opinion of Clay—-positive or negative--affect mine, and likewise, I'm not going to change my opinion of her based on whether or not I agree with her judgments. So she said some not nice things about Clay. It's Paula Abdul. Does anyone take her seriously?

As for Simon, he gets paid to be the jerk. That's his schtick. Most of the time on AI I actually agree with what he says. He has made some pretty accurate observations about contestants. But he also has had some big misses in understanding what the American public likes. And he has made ridiculous comments to manipulate the voters. That is what AI is all about. Do I think he "gets" Clay? No. Do I think he hates Clay because Clay made him look like a fool by becoming the biggest bestest idol ever? No.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe every negative thing that has ever happened to Clay can be traced back to AI and Simon Cowell's waldo envy. Maybe Simon Fuller is part of the Bilderberg Group. Maybe 19E is a front for the Queen of England's drug running. Maybe Taylor Hicks is a killer robot that Nigel Lythgoe has unleashed to wreak mayhem and destruction on a Clay-loving world. Maybe Clay is our only hope against an evil empire that will destroy civilization as we know it and subjugate all mankind by forcing us to listen to the Spice Girls 24/7.

Or maybe it's just an entertaining, cheesy reality show that gave Clay Aiken his start and continues to provide me with entertainment.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Hear us roar

I’m not just a bad fan. Sometimes I’m a bad feminist, too.

You see, I’m often embarrassed by Clay Aiken fans. When the press portrays Claymates as overweight, Bible-toting grandmas, my first response is to scream (silently) THAT’S NOT ME!

It’s not me.

But why is that my reaction? Why do I join in with the misogynistic culture that devalues woman over a certain age? Why should fans be dismissed simply because of gender or age? Why are they worth less than that much coveted 18-40 male demographic?

I hate that I have been so enculturated by our patriarchal society that I join in my own oppression. I’m a woman, too. How can I be so quick to separate myself from other women? Why do I doom myself to decreasing worth as I age?

It can be difficult to step outside this pre-programmed bias, but if I want to be accepted for who I am, I need to not judge others for who they are. Blinkies and homemade tshirts not withstanding. Clay fans should not be mocked or despised (especially by other fans) for being women of a certain age, and Clay should not be mocked for having fans from this demographic.

The fact that so much of the public participates in this prejudice, and the fact that we as fans often do as well, is testament to how pervasive this bias is. But, on the postive side, seeing it in action can make us more aware of it and better equipped to resist it.

I need to train myself to react to generalizations about Clay fans not to separate myself by shouting “That’s not me!” which only reinforces the idea that there’s something wrong with these women, but by saying, “Yes, isn’t it great that so many women of all ages are enjoying themselves and exercising their power to have fun and spend money?” Clay has a powerful group of women behind him. That should be applauded rather than mocked.

That being said, I also think there’s great value in breaking down the stereotype of the average Claymate. No, there’s nothing wrong with being a white, middle-aged, overweight, conservative, Christian woman. Some of my best friends are white, middle-aged, overweight, conservative, Christian women. *g* But when the press lumps us all into that category, or when groups of fans who fit that description assume that these are Clay’s real fans and the only ones who truly "get" him, we all lose.

I’ve met enough fans, both in real life and online, to know how inaccurate this portrayal is. One of the things I find fascinating about Clay is how he attracts such a wide variety of fans. There are fans of all belief systems and from different cultures around the world. There are African-American fans and gay fans. There are young fans who are into goth and older fans who spent their music-listening youth in the haze of illicit drugs.

When fans who break the stereotype aren’t acknowledged, we lose out on their unique perspectives. Yeah, it’s obvious to see why a Southern Baptist would identify with Clay, but what makes an atheist go gaga over “Oh Holy Night”? Or, similarly, why does a lesbian get turned on by Clay? How does the experience of African-American fans widen our perspective of the fandom? What do male fans see in Clay?

I want to hear these voices.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In the darkness of the confessional

I’d forgotten this feeling. The freedom to be found in the dark quiet solitude of the confessional.

The Clay Aiken fandom is a fun place. Most of the time. I've made friends here. I've enjoyed being part of the community. But friendship and community can be oppressive sometimes as well. Like a lot of women, I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I don't want to blatantly disagree. I go along with others so that they'll like me. And think that I'm a good fan.

But in the darkness of the confessional, I can speak aloud the devil inside.

So can you.

The Breakfast Club

Sometimes I hate being part of this fandom.

I originally was going to compare ClayNation to the Borg, because sometimes it feels like drones are trying to strip me of my individuality and shove bionic parts onto my body, but I have enough self-awareness to realize that would be overdramatizing my case. The drive for conformity in the fandom is not that simple or direct.

It’s more like high school (and when I think about it, I'd take a Borg cube over returning to high school any day). It’s ironic, because I think a lot of Clay’s fans would have considered themselves misfits in high school (that’s part of his appeal, right? Triumph of the Nerd), but left to create our own society, we’ve set up a system of cliques to rival any high school.

This is nowhere more evident than at the OFC, where we’ll all brought together in one big, dysfunctional homeroom. The Christians for Clay are having a before-school prayer meeting to join hands and praise the Lord for sending Clay Aiken to fight all that is evil in our world. The AV club is in the AV room watching concert videos on a working computer they built from some pipe cleaners and a tissue box. The FBLA are huddled over a spreadsheet charting every dollar spent in the US music industry in the past 10 years (with a special addendum to cover activity in the international market). The “easy” girls are in the bathroom recounting in explicit detail last night’s Clay fantasies. And the bad girls are outside smoking and laughing as they plot ways to shock the other groups.

Of course, there are individual characters as well. The class clown, who unites the others in laughter. The class president/valedictorian who manages to gain the respect--as well as fear and envy--of the entire school. The creepy kid who sits hunched over in the corner writing names in a notebook and plotting horrible deaths for anyone who speaks ill of Clay.

And then there are the misfits. Those of us who are part of the community, but not part of it.

I thought I had left behind this feeling years ago. But once again I’m the awkward tomboy, drifting around the margins, afraid of saying the wrong thing and having others shun me or jump on me because of it

But now that I’m older, I realize that even bigger than the fear of exclusion is the fear of inclusion. The fear that by saying the wrong thing I will automatically be labelled as part of one group or another, and all their views will be attributed to me.

I don’t want that.

I want to be able to say that hearing Clay sing religious songs brings joy to my heart without it being assumed that I pray for him every night and have joined his alleged crusade against smut and filth in popular culture.

I want to be able to say that the recent talk of Clay and Anderson Cooper has conjured up some very pretty pictures in my mind, without being seen as part of some agenda about Clay’s sexual orientation.

I want to be able to say his fan club sucks without people thinking that I live to pick on Clay and am never satisfied with anything.

I want to be able to gush about him in the fangirliest way without being labeled as uncritical and unthinking.

But instead I let myself be silenced except to say those things that I know won't ruffle any feathers or set off a battle for my soul between the various factions.

I wonder how many other fans hold back on saying what they feel out of fear of being shunned, or conversely, of being affiliated with a group they do not identify with.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I've been a bad, bad girl

Who knew when I joined this fandom there would be so many rules! Like any society, ClayNation has it's own complex set of written and unwritten rules, such as:

  1. Clay Aiken is the biggest, bestest singer in the world. You shall have no singers before him.
  2. If you make graven images of Clay, you shall not post them on the Official Fan Club.
  3. You shall not take the name of Clay in vain, or laugh when comedians make jokes about him.
  4. Honor Clay's mother. She is a saint who can do no wrong (or, if you belong to a different sect, an evil witch who can do no right. Pick a side and stick to it.)

And so on. I'm not going to do them all because I'm too lazy to try to come up with a cute parallel for keeping the Sabbath. Besides, I've already broken one of the rules by making a sacrilegious joke about Clay.

So I guess I better begin my confession. Clay, forgive me, for I have sinned.

  • I didn't read your last 2 blogs.
  • I've been so disinterested in the behind-the-scenes maneuvering about your new CD that I've lost track of which version we're up to now. Is this still the Clive's Revenge version, or the Clay Triumphs set?
  • I don't think it's my job to defend you against crazy green berets, gossip columnists, or DJs.
  • I will not call radio stations to request your single when it comes out.
  • I will not keep a running list of good guys, bad guys, and questionable fans.
  • I will eat burritos and beets with abandon.

That's a start. There will be more. The day is young. There's lots more sinning to do before nightfall.

Edited: Yay! Someone did my work for me and came up with a Sabbath parallel. Thanks, BadFan #101.