Film / TVOpinion

Swarm: Be A Fan, But Don’t Spill The Milk

March 30, 2023

If you’ve spent any time online, particularly in discussion with any given fandom, you know just how intense virtual discourse can get. Whether it’s people threatening to show up at your home or job, fans dragging your looks for filth, or in more extreme cases threatening you with death, everybody knows that certain fandoms are more unhinged than others. 

Amazon Prime recently released Swarm, a seven episode series that follows the story of a super fan with a penchant for murder. Created by Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, Swarm draws heavily on Beyoncé‘s fandom the Beyhive. While the series is nowhere near a biopic, it’s very clear to see where art imitates life with this production. Having engaged the subject material, a second season definitely seems plausible, but more importantly this series highlights the dangers of parasocial relationships and stan culture.

Swarm on-screen vs IRL

Without giving away too much of the plot, Dre (played by Dominique Fishback) is a troubled young woman who goes on to commit heinous crimes in the name of her favorite artist Ni’jah (played by Nirine Brown). Are we to believe that stans in real life would commit similar crimes? Technically it’s already happened, just look at entertainers like John Lennon, Selena, Gianni Versace, and more. Celebrities who have experienced stalking can attest to believing their lives are at risk. One such stalking experience happened to Rihanna when Eduardo Leon entered her home with the intention to have sex with her. 

Swarm portrays Dre’s parasocial relationship with Ni’jah in such a way that her motive for killing is yet to be made known to the public. However, viewers can discern that Ni’jah is aware of the online discourse of her fandom. This begs the question, is it the responsibility of the celebrity to reign in their fandom? For example, Nicki Minaj is often criticized for weaponizing her Barbz where her husband, Kenneth Petty’s criminal record is concerned. Diehard Beyoncé fans have shared that a reason behind their defense and protection of Beyoncé is because of how much unwarranted criticism she receives in the media. More painfully, we see this extreme defense and protection of celebrities from fans of disgraced entertainment royalty. Take the supporters of Robert Kelly and Bill Cosby for example.

In my opinion, stans are known to do what they want regardless of what their beloved celebrity believes. Swarm does a good job of depicting how far a parasocial relationship can go in a satirical and creepy way. In the end, it’s true that art imitates life, but in this instance let’s hope that nobody “spills the milk” in real life.