'Swarm,' Superfandom, and Murder

5 days ago 34

At its most untamed, fandom poisons. It contorts logic into blind worship. It bites and stings and slices anything in its path. It gnaws on tendon meat, a wide ruby-red smile, unkind and uncaring about its target, its prey. Fandom crushes whole and curdles into cancel culture. It’s all mob instincts. It’s collective brute force. It’s “Stand on our side or get whacked,” Soprano style. It’s us or them. In the most extreme cases online, fandom asks: What won’t you do for the person or group or thing you love the most? 

For Dre (Dominique Fishback), the answer is a no-brainer. She’ll do whatever she has to. Go to whatever lengths she needs. Everything is in service of Ni’jah, the Beyoncé-level pop star she can’t live without. Dre is Ni’jah’s most-everything fan: most devoted, most knowledgeable, most deserving. She runs a popular stan account with an impressive half a million followers. But her online reality doesn't match her lived experience. Dre prefers the labyrinth of her own mind, where things are easier to control. As we find out, she is a honeycomb of sticky traumas.

How those traumas spring to the surface, well, that’s where Swarm—the new limited series from Janine Nabers and Donald Glover, just released on Amazon Prime Video—is keenly focused. It is a portrait of superfandom in kamikaze form. Self-destructive. Savage. Illogical. That it happens to be inspired by the BeyHive—perhaps the internet’s most notorious legion of superfan—do with that what you will. (A disclaimer before each episode cautions: “This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is intentional.”) I have a feeling that Hive members won’t be too happy about the characterization, but don’t let the framing impede what treats Swarm has to offer. It’s pretty fun.   

This being a Glover vehicle, the show is as much a character study as it is an appraisal of a place. Atlanta was all inertia. With the exception of season 3—the most ambitious season or the worst, depending on who you ask—it never left the boundaries of the city, its hidden treasures and trapdoors.&nbsp...

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