Last summer, Harry Styles was pelted by some (presumably overpriced) chicken nuggets while performing as part of his 2022 residency at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The moment inspired a humorous interaction between Styles and the food tosser, and soon went viral – as many an exchange with the “Satellite” crooner has amid his multi-year “Love on Tour.” The conversation played out from various angles across TikTok For You pages, and eventually got news pick-up – including by this outlet. It was just the latest in interesting items that fans have tossed at Styles while he performs. What started as vibrant plastic sunglasses, plushes, and flags making their way onto the stage, had morphed into the bizarre. And now, it’s inexplicably gotten downright dangerous for Styles and many of his contemporaries.
Earlier this month, headlines were made as Bebe Rexha was hospitalized after a fan pelted her with a cell phone during her concert at NYC’s Pier 17. Rexha wound up requiring medical care, and the man was arrested. He told police he threw the phone because he thought it “would be funny,” NBC News reported. Days later, Ava Max tweeted that a fan got onstage and physically assaulted her while she was performing at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles. Wrote Max, “He slapped me so hard that he scratched the inside of my eye. He’s never coming to a show again 😡😡thank you to the fans for being spectacular tonight in LA though!!❤️”
The onslaught of line-toeing fan behavior continued, though. This week, country singer Kelsea Ballerini left her stage in Boise, Idaho, after she was struck in the eye by a friendship bracelet flung at her from the crowd. She wrote on her Instagram Story that the moment “more so just scared me than hurt me.” Pink’s two-night run in London this month inspired even more odd concertgoer offerings: a wheel of cheese (smelly, but okay) and, seemingly, an attendee’s mother’s ashes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
None of these instances were, understandably, well received by the performer. And it should be obvious why. Wrote Charlie Puth on Twitter this week: “This trend of throwing things at performers while they are on stage must come to an end. (Bebe, Ava, AND NOW Kelsea Ballerini…) It’s so disrespectful and very dangerous. Please just enjoy the music I beg of you.”
Of course, misbehavior at concerts is not a new thing. Neither is throwing things: the joke about a bra-tossing fan exists for a reason. But, it’s certainly a thing that’s becoming a dominant trend. It’s hard, exactly, to pinpoint what’s prompting people to pelt performers. Many of my peers have been using their platforms to posit the same question this week. I mean, for one, it’s not cheap to see a concert these days. Taylor Swift fans, notably, have spent thousands for a coveted ticket to her Eras tour. Why, then, risk a performer’s safety and ability to continue the show you’ve spent your paycheck on?
There’s, of course, the pandemic factor. Years without live performances have, clearly, affected people’s understanding of concert etiquiette. And we can’t ignore the onset of parasocial relationships thanks to the acess the internet gives the layman to their favorite stars. In USA Today‘s own exploration of these performer attacks, Maryanne Fisher, a psychology professor at St. Mary’s University in Canada, says, “The only explanation that makes sense is the influence of social media. What exacerbates this effect, though, is that celebrities often post their personal lives and details on social media – more than ever before – and fans feel like they actually know them.”
Hours spent scrolling through an artist’s social media profiles creates an inflated sense of familiarity with the star.
Hours spent scrolling through an artist’s social media profiles creates an inflated sense of familiarity with the star. “Why wouldn’t Ballerini want this bracelet, right now? I know she loves them,” might be the wavelength? Many seem to forget that while Pink isn’t a stranger to you, you are a stranger to Pink.
We can’t forget, too, the constant quest for virality. As always, people are seeking their 15 minutes of fame – now it just comes in the form of a 10-second video with 1 million views. In a 2018 interview with CNN, Yalda T. Uhls, at the time an author and assistant adjunct professor of psychology at UCLA, noted that this new type of fame is measurable. Said Uhls, in “today’s world, you can measure it by how many likes and how many followers and how many retweets.” A survey given to freshman UCLA students yearly showed, at the time, that youth cared increasingly about achieving fame. A viral video of a concert interaction isn’t just proof that one’s favorite performer noticed them – it’s also the opportunity to keep getting noticed.
Regardless of motivation, maybe it needs to be explained like this: you’re at work, sitting in front of your computer, dutifly typing away from the safety of your cubicle. As you work, someone – a stranger – begins to toss an array of objects at you. Some hurt upon impact. Would you remain focused on your screen? Likely not. Even more likely is that you’d begin to lose any sense of safety you felt sitting down in that cubicle every day, trying to do your job.
I won’t mince words in my conclusion: stop throwing things at performers. Crocheted hats, t-shirts, water bottles, human remains, cell phones – it doesn’t matter what the item is, they stay with you once you step into a musician’s place of work. If fans continue to put artists in these unsafe situations, I anticipate we’ll start to lose any access to them, altogether.