In what world is stalking a research “subject” acceptable? I would hope that you agree that such a “methodology” is never acceptable. As academic researchers, we must ensure that the privacy of our research participants is never invaded, that their identity is never revealed (at least so far as possible), and they we never do them any harm. When you stalk someone, you invade their privacy and you certainly do them harm. One would hope that the “researcher” who conducted this study would have known that. Maybe he did and just didn’t care.
In the numerous research projects I have conducted to date, ensuring that I am ethical with my research participants is always a priority for me. I am confident that I never did anything in any study to compromise the safety of a participant, or to cause them harm. I ask you again: In what world is stalking a research “subject” acceptable? Let’s ask the author of this article. It’s called: “Saved!” by Jena Malone: An introspective study of a consumer’s fan relationship with a film actress.
I think you all know what you’re about to read here.
For the “study”, the “researcher” developed an obsession with this woman, built a shrine to her in his home, spent several hours of his life devouring her films, had numerous pictures of her (included in the article), delved very deeply into her private life, and kept a diary and a “contemporaneous dataset” about his “relationship” with her – which, incidentally, stacked up to nearly 200,000 words.
He started off his description of this “relationship” with the following statement:
I still remember the day in April 2005, when I saw Jena Malone for the very first time. Her lovely smile and her beautiful eyes captivated me so much that my entire body was filled with the same prickling warmth that I feel each time I fancy a particular girl/woman.
If you, too, are picturing the archetypal peeping tom in a trench-coat, then you’re in good company here. He goes on to say:
Though I felt sexually attracted to her, my initial interest and admiration for Jena Malone was mainly based on her work and achievement as an actress. But the nature of my emotional attachment to her changed after suffering another major disappointment in my private life. As I hadn’t been on a date for a long time, I was filled with an enjoyable and arousing feeling of excitement, anticipation, happiness and nervousness mixed together, when a nice girl finally agreed to go out with me.
What the actual fuck is wrong with you?! Is anyone feeling sick yet? Yes, you’re still in good company.
The whole narrative reads as if it were complied by a confused and horny teenage boy indulging his fantasy. But it wasn’t; this is a “study” by a grown man whose obsession is being passed off a piece of academic research. It is published in a respected academic journal. I’m finding it difficult to express just how unbelievable it all is.
OK, let’s breathe and start again.
So he never actually met the woman, and presumably he wasn’t hiding in the bushes outside her house with a flask and pair of binoculars, but that does not make his obsession any less disturbing. Stalking as a activity takes many different forms, particularly now with the increase in internet use and our unlimited access to other people’s lives (if you know where to look, wink, wink). This case qualifies as stalking just as much as any other. Perhaps she didn’t know she was being stalked (many women don’t, as it happens) but she was. This man knows everything about her life – intimate details about her past, her finances, her family and her upbringing. He’s no “fan”; he’s a repulsive obsessive. That he attempted to disguise this obsession as academic endeavour, and cynically used a theoretical framework to “explore consumerism”, does not make his obsession any less reprehensible. For crying out loud, he doesn’t even try to mask his motivations half the time!
Anyway, frustrated with having to live my lonely life as an involuntary single again, I started to seek romance and love from a very different source — Jena Malone.
My mind is well and truly boggled. But creepiness, aside, this “study” has been published as a piece of academic research. That is incredibly damaging to the academic research community. Cataloguing teenage masturbatory fantasies is not academic research. That is not what we do. Using theoretical terms to “introspect” on your teenage masturbatory fantasises is not academic research. That is not data. And stalking someone, whether in person, on the telly, online, or anywhere else, is not academic research. People like this give the rest of us a very bad name and I for one would like to see the publication of that article challenged.
The article ends:
This experienced ‘bond of emotional closeness’ can at times be strong enough to elicit a feeling of ‘personal friendship’ within the consumer or, in some way, even a feeling of ‘love’ towards the admired celebrity … that can express itself in a parasocial relationship. It also provides an explanation as to why fans sometimes feel enormously disappointed, when their most desired dream of actually meeting the adored celebrity in person comes true, because the celebrity turns out to be a different person in private life or just can’t live up to the (perhaps unrealistic) imaginary person that the consumer has created in one’s own mind.
Jena Malone, are you scared? I would be.