Friday, September 07, 2007

The Fury of the Fan(atic) Scorned

I've been a fanatic three times in my life. First, I was obsessed with the Osmonds (you have permission to laugh until you choke on your bodily fluids) as a pre-teen. Second, I was obsessed with KISS well in my teens and early twenties. Third, I was obsessed with Apple and the Macintosh in my twenties and thirties.

My Osmonds fanaticism wilted naturally as my short attention span and growing concern with puberty and its painful effects squeezed it from the forefront of my attention. My KISS fanaticism, on the other hand, died a hard, lingering death of bitter disillusionment after the group revealed themselves for what everyone who wasn't enamored of them already knew them to be, a crass commercial enterprise exploiting their fans for every dime they could squeeze out of them.

The way in which KISS "lost" me was through waning creative releases and focusing on peddling various "greatest hits" (which contained few hits) with one or two re-mixes or new songs and live albums which were nothing more than an excuse to trot out the same songs in a marginally different format. Creatively speaking, they were exhausted and it was clear that they never had a really full tank of creativity to draw from in the first place.

It didn't help that they became increasingly antagonistic toward their fan base as the Internet loomed as a competitor for the fans' dollars and attention. They had lawyers telling fan sites and fan magazines that they could not use their logo and would sue them if they continued to use it. They complained about the sales of second-hand collectibles because they weren't getting a cut of the money from them and felt they were being cheated. (I guess they wanted 10 cents from the quarter you sold your old KISS puzzle for at your yard sale.) They also started saturating the market with goods of questionable taste (coffins) with their likenesses plastered on it, though this happened long after I'd lost that lovin' feeling for them.

One thing which happened when my disillusionment was sprouting was that I became increasingly bitter and negative when I talked about them. I found it very hard to post to newsgroups and forums and find anything good to say. I hated the fact that they were changing their music and look to match whatever fad was going on in hard rock or metal at the time of an album's release. The proposed album cover designs were things I regarded scornfully. Other fans participating in these forums started getting mad at me and wouldn't take my opinions seriously because I was so relentlessly negative.

Fast-forward to now when I've grown into a disillusioned Apple fan. Given my past experience, I've done the best that I can to reign in my negative feelings though I've certainly not held them back entirely by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I'm acutely aware that the vast majority of my Apple-related comments and posts are critical and the previous article was one I in which tried intentionally to be neutral.

Unfortunately, Apple has tested me beyond the limit with the iPod price reduction fiasco. For anyone living under a rock, I'll say that they lowered the price from $600 to $400 two months after its release. This was obviously planned from the start as a means of milking the hard-core during the initial hoopla then roping in the less die-hard with a more reasonable price. Steve Jobs had an apology at the ready and a plan to mollify the masses with a $100 Apple store credit so that those who already put $600 into Apple's bank account can use the "rebate" to buy more Apple crap. I'm guessing that Apple will get back at least 50% of that store credit or even make more money off those who apply it toward Apple goods exceeding the value of the credit.

The fans who purchased iPhones and who were initially outraged are cooing about how wonderful Apple and Steve are for this consideration but it seems to me like Apple is the attractive boyfriend who treats his girlfriend like dirt. She puts up with it because she's so infatuated but just when she looks like she's going to finally gather up some self-esteem and dump his ass, he buys her a bauble and apologizes and she's back to staring up at him in abject adoration. Now that she's been re-hooked, he can go back to treating her like a dog again. Mind you, I don't have a problem with what Apple did because they're a business and, as this proves, a manipulative and savvy one at that, but let's not give them props for "generosity" when this was all so clearly calculated. I also don't have a problem with it because my expectations are now those of a normal consumer rather than a drooling fan girl.

My inability to resist this sort of negative commentary got me thinking about why disillusionment doesn't fade into indifference. I still regard KISS with muted contempt when they pop into my consciousness (which honestly isn't all that often) and I haven't had any interest in them for years. My Apple contempt is fresh and fiery since "the love" bought the farm relatively recently. I guess one of the reasons is that fanaticism is like a love affair, albeit an imaginary one with an entity which has no feelings for you. What is worse is that it's like a love affair where the object of your affection was never what you initially though it was and now you feel pretty stupid about having ever been infatuated with it in the first place. Maybe all that anger is not completely directed toward the thing that let you down but is also directed at yourself for being so gullible and foolish in the first place or maybe you just need to tear down that which let you down as an act of petty vengeance.


Luis said...

I guess it helps to be cynical. I never saw Apple as anything but a company trying to make money. That doesn't mean I can't admire good design, cool products, and better-than-average customer service when they come from such a source. I expect that Apple will milk me for all they can get from me, or try to manipulate me to gain customer loyalty. They're a business, not my best friend. I can't think of a business that wouldn't try the same calculating ploys if they had the talent for them.

It's kind of like tigers. They're beautiful, graceful, impressive creatures. You can see that and appreciate them even while understanding that they would eat you for lunch if they could. So you keep your distance and get from them what you can.

Emsk said...

I once had a boyfriend like Kiss - his name was Metallica and it was quite a serious and long-term relationship. But I grew weary of the way they treated the other adorers who'd ballooned them in the first place. Alas now nothing much remains now.

But the Osmonds - oh well, now that's a whole different kettle of fish! The embarrassing first boyfriend that everyone else wanted, but when you meet him years later you realise that he was simply a very nice guy, if not a bit naff.

CMUwriter said...

I agree Shari, but they didn't have to offer the people who paid $600 bones anything after they lowered the price.

Luis has a good point, everyone should see the forest for the trees and realize that at the end of the day Apple is out to make a buck. I don't agree with their tactics and although I like most of their products I can see how this is becoming excessive.

I think the iPod was good because it wasn't that glitzy and glamourous, but it was damn funtional, and designed well. The iPhone is the anti-iPod and what could mark the downfall of the company.

Shari said...

Luis: I think it helps to think of them as a business when you've invested heavily in Apple stock. However, I think this is an issue of ethics, not of thinking of someone as your "best friend". What Apple did was bad business and I'm thinking it'll come back to bite them in the ass next time they release an over-priced gadget and hope for a lot of early adopters. Customer service isn't only about fixing people's problems. It's also about respecting your customers and rewarding their loyalty with good deals, not figuring out how to get them to bend over so you can royally screw them.

emsk: lol!

cmuwriter: I'm not one of those people who thinks that companies should be excused for anything they do so long as it makes money. It's the sort of thinking that rewards the Wal-Marts of the world and keeps the stockholders of company's like Costco whining about how it treats its employees too well.

That may not be the way things work but that's the way it ought to be.

Shari said...

Some may not be that companies operate ethically and profitably but that's the way it ought to what I meant!