I feel weirdly detached from all the drama right now, as if I’m just watching it all unfold from the outside. The way that the structure of this fandom has been continually reshaped over the most recent part of 5H’s career is fascinating (and disturbing). Having read that post about the Sony boss who discussed how they analyse and manipulate fanbases, I want to try and sum up the 5H story and recent events from that perspective.
For around 3 years there were just five girls who were cute and sung together and the fandom just bonded over loving 5H. Of course there were faves and fandom-bickering and shippers, but nothing out of the ordinary for a modern pop group. Then the seeds were planted for Camila’s solo career and she was given opportunities that separated her from the group. Hence the birth of the Camilizers vs OT4 battle. For over a year it seemed that the people in charge encouraged and reinforced this separation - effectively building two separate fanbases ready for when the split would happen.
Meanwhile, as time went on, ‘faving’ someone increasingly became about aggressively stanning one girl at the expense of the others. This came to define the 5H fandom. I’m sure other fandoms have similar issues, but this hateful problematic kind of stanning became so woven into the fabric of Fifth Harmony that its hard to even imagine a time when the fandom was normal.
And while all this was going on, the battle between shippers and non-shippers grew to new heights. A large portion of the fan-base were young LGBT fans who sought solace in ‘camren’, but as time went on and the shipping became more and more of an inconvenience to the girls personally, and to the label’s mainstream marketing strategy, ‘camren’ became elusive. Luckily for the label, a large portion of the LGBT shipping fanbase was maintained as many jumped ship to ‘laucy’ which was becoming ever more publicised each day. Then finally, with the help of ‘Laucy’, Lauren was able to come out without it affecting Camila or the mainstream appeal of the group too much. From a personal and moral perspective Lauren’s coming out was a brave and commendable move (something no-one can take away from her). But from a PR perspective, Lauren became an LGBT icon and her individual public persona was strengthened. The loyal LGBT fanbase who were originally drawn in by camren, were now encouraged to stick with 5H just for the representation they found in Lauren alone.
The problem is, this was a lot of pressure to put on Lauren’s shoulders. She never asked to be a sex symbol or an LGBT icon. Only a short while after coming out, both of Lauren’s big ships have been killed. This means they are running the risk of losing a large portion of the fanbase that feeds on Lauren’s relationships and personal life. I have already seen multiple big accounts leaving the fanbase or distancing themselves from the situation. Yet again, a few small events and pointed moves have radically restructured the fan base.
So here is where we are now in the story. A state of limbo. If a large portion of the fanbase are sailers without a ship, then a void has been left. This is what worries me. How are they going to fill the void? i honestly don’t think they can afford to lose this huge portion of the 5H fanbase. How are they going to keep this part of the fanbase interested in Lauren and 5H? Are they going to fill it through PR relationships? Stunts? Drama? Or just sexualising Lauren even more? In any case it’s going to be a lot of PR pressure all put onto Lauren. I just feel like they must have something big up their sleeves and they have proven that they are not afraid to feed info about her personal life to the media. I don’t know what’s going to happen next but I just know that they have to feed the fandom something big and juicy if they want to retain the core fanbase, and this is what worries me. All I want is for Lauren and the other 4 girls to be able to live their private lives without having to navigate all the PR strategies that are used to manipulate the fanbase for business purposes. i imagine meeting rooms where business people discuss the different categories of the fanbase (Queer, Straight, Young, old, camren shippers, laucy shippers, camilizers, OT4s, Laurenizers etc.. etc…) and move the pieces around on the metaphorical chess board. Even though I‘m sure some of the events we witness do unfold naturally, I still think most of the time they know exactly what they’re doing, and they always have the next move in mind.
I just want the girls to be happy, and I hope they find ways to not get too caught up in all this bullshit.