GUESTFRESH: philed by paul.
getting swarmed by SWARM, the dark side of stan culture and more
welcome back to FRESH! find us on insta @freshbywing ♡ take a second to feel your breath in your chest.
GUESTFRESH is our dedicated guest writer section - we invite a featured writer to take over the reins of an entire issue, to share their freshest discoveries and recommendations! all previous GUESTFRESHes are available for you to reread right here.
if you are interested in writing your own GUESTFRESH, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or a message on Instagram.
finally, here is the the long-awaited FRESH debut of Paul from!
Paul K. Barnes is a music journalist with an English degree from Bridgewater College. With bylines ranging from reviews, think pieces and other forms of commentary, he has committed to using his skills to share and speak on multiple facets of the music world. However, he enjoys doing the same thing for movies and television shows too. If he’s not listening to music, he’s probably watching a video essay about it on YouTube or watching a movie. Between gaming, reading and cooking he still manages to find time to be an editor for two music publications - and make sure his dog gets all the head rubs she wants.
Hey y’all! wing asked me if I wanted to come over here to talk about something and naturally I was honored! Hope you all enjoy hearing my two cents on something that may (or may not) have been all over your TLs.
trigger warning: death, murder
FRESH: getting swarmed by ‘SWARM’
A short overview
When SWARM was first announced I anticipated it for three reasons: the creators, the lead and the plot. Donald Glover (AKA Childish Gambino of course) is a modern Renaissance Man and I have enjoyed several creative outputs from him across the years. His previous Emmy winning show Atlanta was amazing for several reasons so naturally I was hype for what he had in store for us next. He is the co-creator of the show along with Janine Nabers who also was a writer on Atlanta. Dominique Fishback had the lead role and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen her in so far.
SWARM is a show about Stan Culture - among other things. All but one episode is preceded by a message we often see at the end of shows and movies with a small but important change: “Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely intentional.” This is followed by “This is not a work of fiction”.
SWARM wants audience members to point at the TV like Leo did.
Many things happened!
The show follows Dre (Dominique Fishback) after she loses her sister Marisa (Chloe Bailey) who takes her own life. Dre is a Stan for an artist named Nijah who strongly resembles Beyonce. As the series progresses, Dre ends up in a variety of unique situations. She causes some of them on her own by murdering people - mainly because of things they said online about Nijah.
As I watched the show, I found myself frozen in silence during many scenes. The cinematography, music and acting throughout the series was that impactful for me. I know some people like to have shows on in the background as they do laundry, cook etc. This is not the show for that unless you want burnt food or a pile of unfolded clothes to mock you for a week. The makers of the show had a message to send and they sent it with the perfect blend of truth and exaggeration.
I Didn’t “See Myself” in Dre But…
There’s only a handful of artists I would say I am a Stan for. But, I have never argued with anyone online about them. Or, defended them like I personally know them. I don’t argue with anyone online about anything because I just view it as unnecessary. For artists I love, I enjoy discussing their music with people actually interested in hearing about it. This works out even better when the person becomes a fan of them too.
When I truly love an artist, naturally I consume more media for them than other artists. This includes watching all their interviews during a promo run, their performances on shows etc. Because of this, I end up hearing the stories about the album multiple times. At first it made me think “Why do they keep bringing this up?” but each time they are sharing it with a different audience. This repetition is how I think superfans become “experts” on the project's themes and concepts. We hear it so much - and listen to the album itself - it becomes hard to forget.
SWARM is an (exaggerated) accurate depiction of what it’s like to be (an overly) dedicated fan of a music artist in 2023. Many moments of the show depict Dre scrolling through social media and various posts pop up on the screen. The way these sequences are edited show just how overwhelming this can be. As someone who frequently will scroll through an album’s hashtag on the night of its release - I know it can be a lot. The artist’s subreddit can have even more as people will type paragraphs about the project. However, fortunately (at least as far as I can tell) the accounts I come across are never obsessed with the artist…
For me, SWARM is an excellent example of a show made for 2023 that doesn’t make us roll our eyes. It combines the realities of things we have come across with enough drama and intense situations that it still is entertaining. Understandably, it may be a little too intense for some viewers. But for those who think they can handle it, they’re in for a ride that will certainly prompt conversations with other viewers.
[editor’s note: we had some interesting discussion in the comments after reading through Paul’s piece, they now are here also for additional context]
FRESH by wing: am i right in thinking that the creators took inspiration from real life events and extended the story past what happened IRL? just cautious of the implications of such a statement if it isn't entirely true
Paul Barnes: Based on what I've read the creator(s) say in interviews, every major situation the lead character got into was directly inspired by an IRL event.
FRESH by wing: do you think this is justified? [re: Dre’s murdering spree]
Paul Barnes: Definitely not
FRESH by wing: personally curious: after watching, do you think SWARM depicts stan culture in a negative light by over-exaggerating and dramatizing events? in a "look what these crazy fans are willing to do" way?
Paul Barnes: Hmmm...can I say yes and no? I think it's a show for those well aware of how serious Stan Culture is to some people. I think it can act as a telescope and a mirror to viewers in terms of the depiction. Not to go full #musicnerd but the music video/song "Stan" is pretty grim and extreme to begin with. It all stems from that initial moment of extremism. The social media aspect adds multiple layers that are unfortunately quite accurate. I DON'T think it's a show someone (likely not in our age range) should watch to "understand" Stan Culture though.
thank you for taking us through SWARM, Paul! whilst psychological horror definitely isn’t in my usual ballpark, SWARM certainly has my curiousity piqued - especially on the reality versus fiction side of things. breaking that fourth wall, when done tastefully, makes for some intriguing, thought-provoking art.
stay tuned for our next GUESTFRESH, and drop us a message to get your writing juices flowing!
love and stans,
alright, over to you now - reply to this email with your thoughts! if you enjoy a little prompting:
what is your current take on stan culture?
who or what do you identify as a stan for? why are they important to you?
what are some meta works of content that have made an impact on you?