On October 20, 2020, over five million viewers watched Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) stream the re-popularized game Among Us on Twitch. From hunting down alien imposters, completing tasks as a crewmate, and critiquing a futuristic spaceship running on a combustion engine (which is sus), AOC’s livestream signaled a convergence of gaming, fandom, and political participation. Not only did AOC’s livestream advocate for the Get Out the Vote initiative, but it also highlighted the various aspects of stan culture blending with political and participatory cultures on TikTok.
Stan is attributed to Eminem’s 2000 song “Stan,” which combines the attributes of a stalker and fan. This generates negative connotations. However, in contemporary media platform cultures, being a stan often generates positive affective value that is cultivated through political support and cultural productions. In other words, being a stan is an active, political role. For instance, after being killed by popular Minecraft streamer HBomb, AOC exclaimed, “after everything we’ve been through” to showcase her dismay at a comrade whom she saved from ejection previously (reference video). This became one of the most memorable sounds on TikTok to promote disappointment; for instance, one AOC stan has over 700,000 likes showcasing the projected disappointment among Gen Z when AOC does not run for President in 2024.
To crystallize, the convergence of stan culture and the strategic, community use of sounds, art, and critique on TikTok allowed stans to sabotage a Trump rally and for AOC’s memorable Among Us stream and voting initiative to circulate for weeks on TikTok. Politicians are now idolized as Internet celebrities who champion policies for their constituents. Stanning a politician involves a fandom community forming, creation of a sobriquet or hashtag (e.g. KHive for Vice President Harris or #AOCStan for AOC), and creative works circulating on social media. AOC’s Among Us stream highlighted this shift when the fandom shipped the low-voice Corpse with AOC after he flirtatiously asked how her day was. Indeed, politicians are now expected to create moments that are relatable to millennial and Gen Z strife in order to form cultural resonance among them.