On Doja Cat & Her Kittenz: How To Leave A Parasocial Relationship

July 27, 2023

Today’s music industry is predicated on artists developing a pseudo-personal relationship with their audience members. In many instances this looks like naming their fans or keeping in constant communication with them via social media.

Even when an artist does not regularly interact via social media or have a fandom that is organised, a deeper connection with an artist’s audience is established through strategic media engagements.

In recent weeks, Doja Cat has come under fire, once again, for comments she has made online. This comes after Doja expressed her intention to leave the music industry, noting that her experience has not been pleasant.

How should fandoms be engaged in 2023?

The unwavering support that super fans have for their favourite artist can be seen in musicians like Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Doja Cat. Yet, the latter of these artists has been engaging the public in a way that places additional distance between herself and her listeners.

At the same time, it is important to manage the parasocial nature of relationships artists have with their fans. Regardless of how much a fandom supports and buys into an artists creative output, it is important to highlight that this relationship is predominantly one-sided. As such, there is naturally distance between the artist and their fans.

After an awkward Coachella performance, I noted that much like artists, fans needed grace as needed grace as well. While it is unfair to burden a single person with the sentiments of thousands, if not millions of people, it is equally unfair to dismiss the support of those people folly.

Navigating the Artist/fan relationship

The argument to separate our feelings about the art from the artist has always been a point of contention in the entertainment industry. A great example of this is how polarising Kanye West has been. Over the years, we have watched Kanye grow and redefine the soundscapes of our lives, while simultaneously behaving in ways that leave many questioning his character.

Yet it seems that 2023 was the year when his anti-Semitic and anti-Black comments struck in enough of a nerve for brand partners to divest from his brand. Granted, his fans have still maintained him as an artist they love, albeit there is less focus on his musical exports now that he is focused on business and politics.

As her Instagram following decreases, Doja Cat fans are communicating their stance on how she engages them and what that means for their parasocial relationship with her. “Is this the beginning of the end for Doja Cat,” some may ask. It’s not that simple, to be honest. Ultimately, people love a redemption ark, especially for the individuals whom they identify with so keenly.

Without purporting to know the inner workings of Doja Cat’s mind, it is still fair to note that she has more life ahead of her; and, for that reason, might need grace in the future. At the same time, much like the relationships we maintain in our personal, professional, and romantic lives, knowing when to divest from even a parasocial relationship is just as important as knowing why we invested at all.