It’s official, TanaCon is going down in history as one of the worst conventions ever held. If you’re anything like me, you may have already binge-watched Shane Dawson’s three-part video series and are currently deep in the rabbithole of conspiracies about the fiasco. However, if you’re completely unfamiliar, and in fact trying to decipher what on earth a “TanaCon” is, let me break down all aspects of this hot mess.
First, I must introduce you to Tana Mongeau. Tana is a 20-year-old YouTuber infamous for her wildly obscene storytime videos, blatant use of profanity, and subscribers in the millions. Like many other YouTubers, Mongeau has been hit hard with demonetisation and is now forced to open new avenues of revenue.
VidCon, once an event for content creators to come together and interact with fans, also featured its fair share of controversy following their 2017 convention. Mongeau herself felt slighted by the convention, which she outlines in her hour-long rant, but I’ll save you the time and break it down for you. Basically, VidCon denied Mongeau a featured creator’s pass in both 2016 and 2017, despite making promises to her management team and asking Mongeau to promote the event. To no one’s surprise, fans of Mongeau (who currently boasts a whopping 3.7 million subscriber count) mobbed around her as she attempted to maneuver through crowds to get to panels and events she was featured in.
This leads us to the founding of Tana’s rival convention – TanaCon – a convention where fans can meet their favourite creators without needing to purchase tickets costing hundreds of dollars. However, as the event unfolded, we learnt that this was not the case. In fact, it was revealed that out of the 5,108 tickets sold only around 200-300 were free. What’s worse, all those totally-not-free tickets were supposed to be VIP tickets that ensured a fast pass into the convention, a goodie bags valued at four times the price of the ticket (which was $65) and a meet-and-greet opportunity with TanaCon’s featured creators.
This was not the only disaster: fans were waiting outside the convention with no food or water for 5+ hours, some claiming they suffered third-degree burns from the heat. To top it off, many were entering the venue without sufficient security checks only to find that the venue was way over capacity. Although Tana and Good Times wanted everyone to believe that 15,000 people ~randomly~ showed up to the event, this was not the case. The real truth is that the venue could only hold a maximum of 1,150, and TanaCon oversold. It’s hardly surprising that after the first day, the convention was cancelled for the remainder of the weekend.
*depiction of fans waiting outside TanaCon for 5 hours after paying $65*
This whole debacle has given a very real picture of fan culture and the extremes many will go to in order to meet their icons. As Wanna Thompson put it, “…the line between appreciation and obsession has been blurred”, something we saw in TanaCon.
If fans are willing to wait over five hours and suffer third degree burns just for the chance to meet their favourite celebrity or internet personality, it begs the question of whether the responsibility is placed on the fans or the celebrity. Some believe that, while the influence of celebrity culture is paramount in forming self-identity, celebrities shouldn’t be held accountable to the public. While I would normally align with this train of thought, in the case of TanaCon I must disagree. This was an organised event that was unsafe and had major capacity issues – and is even being compared to the disastrous Fyre Festival.
Many blame Mongeau, and others blame Michael Weist – the CEO of Good Times Entertainment – yet no one has stopped to question why fans willingly endangered themselves by continuing to stay in these unsafe conditions. Fan culture and the hysteria of younger audiences is not a new concept – from The Beatles to Justin Bieber – many celebrities have attracted monumental teenage fan cultures throughout the ages.
It was, and still is, not uncommon to witness extremist fan behaviour and hysteria. The word hysteria itself describes a state where emotions run so strong that one behaves in an uncontrolled way. Was this the case for TanaCon? Were so many overcome with excitement to meet an internet personality that they braved the Southern California heat and disregarded their health and safety?
This might not be so surprising when noting that for some, participating in fan culture is an integral part of constructing self-identity and exploring new emotions, allowing for an escape from “your boring normal world”. Typically this notion of hysteria is centered around music fan communities, yet as we delve further into the 21st century we’re seeing a swift incline of fan culture with YouTubers and other online personalities. Some even believe that YouTubers are more influential to young audiences than more traditional celebrities, as these creators are seen as more relatable and more engaging. We can see this when people like Tana get blasted into the spotlight for literally just ranting about her life online. Many argue that the “degree of intimacy” is so much stronger with YouTube creators than with traditional celebrities because often videos are filmed in their own home or in a ‘vlog’ format where the creator shares their daily life for the entire world to see.
Perhaps this relatability forges even stronger fan cultures than the traditional celebrity, as YouTube media is much more two-way and participatory than traditional media. It’s also important to note that the YouTube community and it’s creators come from remarkably diverse backgrounds, an area that Hollywood is still struggling with. Ultimately, what this means is audiences are identifying more strongly with YouTube stars, as they can relate to specific experiences or cultures that are simply not represented sufficiently in Hollywood.
Pictured: Hollywood continues to grapple with the idea that non-white people exist
Whatever the case, I think we can all agree that TanaCon was a major flop, and that fans will go to ridiculous lengths in order to meet their icons. Whether it be waiting 5+ hours to get inside a YouTube convention, or screaming their hearts out in a truly Beatlemania-like fashion, youthful fan culture will continue to baffle adults.
You know what they say, teens will be teens.