Wednesday, 30 September 2015

The Path to Hanson Nirvana or: The Art of Not Giving a Damn

It all started in 2012, when a friend sheepishly admitted to liking the band Hanson. ‘Really?’ I said. ‘I have one their albums too!’. My friend, who had braced herself for a negative reaction, was stunned. When I told her that the album in question was the indie release ‘Underneath’ and not the 1997 multi-platinum success ‘Middle of Nowhere’, my friend was ready to faint. Soon, the evangelisation process began, and by April 2012 I had become a legitimate member of the fanclub.

Initially, I kept things quiet. But in January 2013 friends convinced me to join the Street Team, which involved a lot of sharing on social media: it was the equivalent of standing in a community hall in front of a bunch of strangers and announcing ‘Hi, my name is Paola, and I’m a Hanson fan’.

And then, BANG.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t think that, all of a sudden, even long-standing Facebook friends would act so outraged at the sight of Hanson cropping up on their feed. It didn’t go down well at all, no, quite the opposite: had I announced a newly-found interest in the slaughtering of baby seals, I am sure the news would have been better received.  
I had committed a crime, a heinous crime: I had become a fan of the three blonde kids who sang ‘Mmmbop’.

Let’s take a step back for a second - back to my B.H. (Before Hanson) years. I’ve been a music fan since I can remember and I’ve always had a very diverse music taste. I grew up with 80’s British New Romantic, dabbled with goth, found angst in The Smiths, became obsessed with U2 and fell in love with the ruggedy poetry of Springsteen. In the 90’s, after flirting with Britpop, the Seattle grunge sound stole my soul and gave me a taste for heavier music. In my music collection you’ll find Mozart next to Nirvana, Madonna next to Slayer, Sonny Rollins next to Henry Rollins. Someone once said to me, ‘it doesn’t matter what music genre you’re into, as long as the music you listen to has soul’. He was right.

But people don’t like it when they can’t quite figure you out, and my social media friends were unable to come to terms with the fact that I enjoyed listening to seemingly incompatible music genres. And when they realised that they couldn’t pigeonhole me into their neatly prefabricated categories, some of these ‘friends’ reacted in that true-and-tested playground manner which can be easily described as ‘point and laugh’.

My first few months in the Street Team were strange times: I felt that I had just ‘come out’ with a dark, shocking secret. I wasn’t ashamed, but I was made to feel as if I should be.  And to make things worse, the whole world and his dog had an opinion on it. There were the Facebook acquaintances who felt it appropriate to send me personal messages telling me to ‘stop all that Hanson stuff’. There was the real life friend who tweeted me to let me know he’d ‘muted’ my Hanson hashtag on Twitter. Interestingly, in my years of Twitter activism, during which I regularly took part in ‘Tweetstorms’, said friend had never felt it necessary to express his annoyance.
(Since then, to spare myself unnecessary grief and to avoid alienating my followers, I do any intense #Hanson tweeting with the Hanson Italian Fanpage account that I share with two friends).
More recently, a friend of a friend asked me for a tarot reading; when I said I didn’t have time to do it, she bitterly pointed out that maybe one day, when I wasn’t so busy with Hanson, I’d find the time for her (to give her a free tarot reading: get it?).

Oh, oh, wait, and what about my hairdresser, who, one day out of the blue told me ‘So, I hear you’re into Hanson now!’ after another client, a former colleague, had felt it newsworthy to report that to him during a visit to the salon. Whatever happened to gossiping about cheating husbands and boob jobs?

The hostility I encountered was a sort of social-media orchestrated ‘Cease and Desist’, and a weaker person would have probably been pushed back inside their dark cave of shame - a cave plastered with Hanson posters, a happy bubble of guilt-free pleasure . But alas, I’m notoriously stubborn, and have a very sharp tongue. It had become a matter of principle to me: I don’t take kindly to being told what I can and can’t do, think or like. I carried on, and I can only guess that a lot of so-called Facebook ‘friends’ unfollowed me. No complaint from me there.

Fast forward two years. I’ve long stopped trying to win the hearts and minds of people who won’t try to overcome their preconceptions. I’ve customised my Facebook privacy settings so that the intended recipients of most of my Hanson related posts are other fans. But occasionally I’ll let a post slip to my ‘general audience’ - it’s only fair, after all, when everybody else won’t think twice about posting endless updates about their children, holidays, cats, fairy-tale weddings and iPhone upgrades. Maybe, one day, someone will click on a post and learn something. Most likely, they won’t. It’s okay. They’re the ones missing out.

If there’s one Great Big Truth I learnt in this three-year long journey, it’s that there’s one thing all Hanson fans appear to have in common: they don’t give a damn about what other people think about their band. They, no, we have all had an idiot sing ‘Mmmbop’ to us as we line up outside a venue before a Hanson concert. And we’ve all had at least one male friend confess to us that he used to think that Taylor was a girl (newsflash: we don’t care if that left you emotionally scarred and sexually confused). And as sure as hell we’ve noticed (but chosen to ignore) the condescending tone that some ‘friends’ use when they tag us in yet another pointless post along the lines of ‘Hanson: Where Are They Now’ in the hope of eliciting some kind of reaction.

We. Have. Seen. And. Heard. It. All.

So what’s the strategy for a happy life as a Hanson fan? I like to think of it as Hanson nirvana. You ignore the inevitable jokes and ‘hilarious’ comments and carry on regardless, safe in the knowledge that you’re right, and they’re wrong. The majority of Hanson fans have been perfecting this blissful state of ‘not-caring’ since 1997, so as you can imagine, they’ve had a lot of practice. I’ve had to take an accelerated course, but I graduated successfully. Becoming a Hanson fan might have ruined my street-cred (if I ever had any) and lost me some so-called friendships, but in the process I’ve learnt that not to give a damn is a really good way to live.


  1. Only one thing to say: AMAZING! I totally relate to everything 💙

    1. Thank you, I'm glad my experience resonates with other fans!

  2. Great post! You've really brought out what it's like to be a Hanson fan, and I hope you share this blog with your general FB audience. Those outside of the Hanson community don't realize that their jokes about MMMBop or Taylor being a girl are 18 years old at this point. I don't understand why Hanson is so taboo - blame Finster is the best I can come up with. I've gotten the Hanson guilt from friends and family, too, but the thing is, Hanson's music is my happy place when those very relationships get strained.

    1. I don't understand why Hanson is taboo - it makes zero sense. Would it be different if the guys were ugly? I honestly can't think of a reason.
      And by the way, I shared the link under my 'open' settings ;)

  3. Yup, your experiences are my experiences. I'm glad that there's so many of us so we can not give a damn together. An army of Not give a Damners.

  4. I think your end point is spot-on. As fans, we have seen and heard it all. And at this point, you HAVE to let it go. You have to understand that people are going to stick with their preconceived notions about a "one hit wonder" band that annoyed them many moons ago. And you just have to shrug and keep loving them because the music has soul.

    At the end of the day, that's all that should matter.

    Fantastic post. <3