In 2000, rapper Eminem released “Stan,” one of his most iconic tracks featuring Dido. The music video featured Devon Sawa as an obsessed fan who went to extreme lengths to get the attention of his favorite rapper. The success of the song coined the term “Stan” to refer to anyone being a huge fan of something, but fandom culture is something that has always been there. Women would scream at the twist of Elvis’ hips, people would faint just at the sight of Michael Jackson taking the stage to perform, and I’ve camped on the New York City streets just to get a glimpse of my favorite actors from the Twilight franchise.
Some encounters with celebrities are genuine exchanges of admiration, but in recent years the obsession with an artist has reached new heights that have led to aggressive social media exchanges defending their fav. The Prime Video series Swarm takes that notion and adds a violent retrospect to fandom.
Created by Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, Swarm, which premiered on March 17, stars Dominique Fishback as Dre, a misguided young woman whose obsession with pop star Ni’Jah (played by Nirine S. Brown) takes her on a deadly cross-countryexpedition while eliminating anyone who dares to diss Ni’Jah. Damson Idris, Rory Culkin, Chloe Bailey, Leon, Kiersey Clemons, Karen Rodriguez, Loretta Greene, Paris Jackson, Cree Summer, and Billie Eilish in her acting debut also appear in the series in crucial episodes telling Dre’s story.
Swarm opens with the quote “This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.” The 7-episode dark comedy explores the delusions fandom culture can encompass and although never explicitly mentioned by name, uses Beyoncé and salacious moments from her personal and professional life along with her fans known as the Beyhive for inspiration. Dre’s story starts in Houston, Texas in April 2016 and goes through June 2018 ending in Atlanta, Georgia.
From the trailer and synopsis of the series, I thought Swarm was going to focus heavily on Dre killing people to showcase her devotion to her favorite pop star, and while there is blood and gore, Swarm goes beyond the horror genre. The story dove into many various themes that never connected in a way that made sense to me. In one instance, Dre’s sexuality is at the forefront of the narrative then takes a back seat to her mental stability and her compulsion of food, then switches to a deep dive into her backstory and her foster upbringings, but the show failed to tell a cohesive plot unless I missed something.
There are many comical moments throughout Swarm which expertly uses satire to expose the extremes of fandom culture. “Who’s your favorite artist” is a question Dre often asks to get into the mind of the people around her as she quickly rattles off why it should be Ni’Jah and internally plots their demise if they utter a harmful word against her fav. Dre’s infamous question can be the new age “What’s your favorite scary movie” in the way when you hear that question asked you know something sinister is on the horizon.
Despite the flaws in the storyline, one thing that doesn’t fall short is Dominique Fishback’s performance. In each episode Dominique transforms into a more sinister version of herself taking on different aliases and jobs to advance her trek to Ni’Jah. Dre is unhinged yet controlled in her dedication to gaining access to her favorite artist and she can be vulnerable then deranged in the same scene which is elevated by Dominique’s take on the character. She can be compared to the likes of Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Heddy from Single White Female, Joe Goldberg from You, or even Ingrid from Ingrid Goes West in the way Dre uses social media to locate her pending victims. But the thing that sets Dre apart from serial killers before her is the deeply rooted reality of her story.
There have been countless social media interactions between fans who have pledged allegiance to a particular artist and will use their dying breathe to defend any actions, good or bad, and the artistry of their deemed ruler. While many have never been in the proximity of ever knowing the said person on a true intimate level, the connection through a medium can be powerful. Art forms like music and cinema can be very transformative. They can be the source of inspiration or perseverance, and that’s the beauty of art. No matter how different we can be, these mediums ground us and help find common ground in a shared love for something.
Swarm ended on a melancholy note that warrants a second season to further flesh out the root of Dre’s obsession, how she can move beyond it, and dig deeper into the effects of extreme levels of fandom.
All 7 episodes of Swarm are available to stream on Prime Video.
Keep up-to-date with us on all of our channels and social media accounts:
Apple Podcasts: https://goo.gl/y6tbA9