Swarm Knows the Paradox of Fandom

Swarm is like the shag haircut in reverse—the celebration is within the entrance, and substitute blossoms within the attend. Prime Video’s most up-to-date series is transparently enjoyable and quirky, presenting the intelligent saga of Dre, a twenty-something Houston native, whose childlike obsession with Ni’Jah, a Beyoncé-like pop superstar, is brass-tacks brutal.

No longer unless the penultimate episode of this Donald Glover-produced thriller, which debuts on the present time (and raises the stakes on his groundbreaking series Atlanta‘s surreality), will we search a solemn interrogation, within the form of rush-of-the-mill whodunnits, of the horrors inflicted on the service of fandom. That acknowledged, merely about all seven episodes are like one immoral orgy of scathing reads recommended by scintillating suspense. It’s like Zola crossed with Abolish Bill—if The Bride got intel on her opponents from bloodthirsty sycophants.

Though nothing referring to the series feels frail, assaults against opinionated forms by staunch loyalists are all too long-established this characterize day. In case your generation’s letter matches the number on Kawhi Leonard’s jersey, you know that “Stanning” persists in our tradition. From the “Leave Britney Alone!” crier to the ever-zealous Barbz, proselytizers are as prevalent as crowdfunding for The Renaissance Tour. On the identical time, the sadism displayed on our socials can trudge by plan of to valid lifestyles, like some sneaky SVU suspect. Insecure by Ni’Jah, Dre loses contact with actuality: her loyalty leads her down a rage-stuffed direction, wherein she targets Ni’Jah haters, exhibiting at their dwellings with blunt words (and instruments!) in her arsenal.

Maybe her valid deeds are now not premeditated. However Dre’s batty, us-against-the-world rancor no doubt is. (In one scene, she reads a particular person’s petty tweets about Ni’Jah—who’s every thing—attend to him as he pleads on the bottom.) Kudos to showrunner Janine Nabers for hauntingly toeing the road between obsession and demonstrable enrage. Nabers lets the unhealthy air surrounding Dre, played by a fierce Dominique Fishback, seep into the intense meatspace of Houston, Texas, circa 2016. There, Ni’Jah’s number-one fan and her pals work a unimaginative-cease gig on the native mall. Dre splits the rent with her sister Marissa (played tenderly by Chloe Bailey) and runs up bank cards to ranking tickets for Ni’Jah concert events. However Marissa suffers an inescapable bout of dejected whereas Dre is at—await it—a Ni’Jah pageant.

Can celeb obsession derange you to the purpose where you change into rattling near sociopathic?

Dre appears to be like to be responsible herself for now not having Marissa’s attend. By the cease of Episode One, she’s on the retailer, squeezing the broken glass from a dropped Coke bottle in her palm and staring baldly whereas the blood gushes. Dre becomes more and more delinquent—mark her a ratchet Raskolnikov. In preference to hibernating, like Dostoevsky’s sadistic antihero, Dre hangs out at food courts, letting her unhealthy aura ooze for the length of that mediated milieu. She howls like a banshee when out for blood, and every thing about her persona is ravenous. After every blood-curdling deed, she consumes junk food. (Subsequent to Dre, those sergeants slurping takeout beside corpses in earlier police procedurals appear to be milquetoast novices.) Factual because the flipped coin in No Nation for Former Men foreshadowed a brutal extinguish, a swallowed sandwich in Swarm foreshadows an unspeakable misdeed. There is barely any accountability. However Fishback’s native charms invent Dre’s ambiance seem coolly rebellious. She’s blithely smooth—and her clapbacks derive strategy of a unimaginative-eyed search.

How did Dre get hang of like this? Can celeb obsession derange you to the purpose where you change into rattling near sociopathic? Swarm is design too artful to counsel that. The disclaimer firstly of every episode publicizes that “that is now not a piece of fiction” and “any similarity to valid persons, living or unimaginative, or valid events, is intentional.” It appears to be like to be like a lustrous nod to the “disclaimer” we take into story 79 pages into David Foster Wallace’s posthumous original The Light King, which publicizes that the book is utterly lawful. Whereas early on, we uncover out that Dre is adopted, there’s little else we know about her. Whatever rage she harbors is roofed with a smile when she (like most of us) logs onto social media first element within the morning. In other words, Dre wakened like this. By sharing the identical inanimate object we stare into, we get hang of her—even though we recoil at her fucked-up mentality.

Swarm offers us enough backstory to decipher Dre’s decline. Right here, boredom (as it was in The Light King) is the boogie monster. The characterize’s characters wearily drone about Non secular Awakenings and Moments of Transcendence as if they were preset moods of their Apple Watches. Happily, Swarm aspects out the paradoxes of fandom. It underscores how americans say their individuality by plan of their fealty to pop stars, surrounding themselves with others who allotment the identical opinions, epitomizing the very essence of groupthink.


In Swarm, boredom (as it was in The Light King) is the boogie monster.

Amazon Prime

However the characterize’s creators don’t allow them to off the hook. Removed from it. Glover, who’s addressed the demanding appeal to of meme tradition (on the Atlanta episode, “Crank Dat Killer”), was presumably inspired by the minor outrages that seem on our timelines 24/7. The Hive assaults any individual with a dissenting observe against their Queen. It’s now not a long way-fetched to deem that the sprawling nest Dre envisions in Swarm references her IRL equals—consistently ready to invent even the most thick-skinned forms make investments in anti-bullying machine. Our stylish Hatfields and McCoys don’t brandish muskets; they tote debilitating tweets.

Anyway, lifestyles is all loose ends. However every thing on the Cyber web feels as valid and subject-of-truth as a hair-trigger dismissal (or now not-so-thinly-veiled risk). I totally dug this morbid ranking on the classic Twitter binary: “Classic or Trash?” Cherish the Cyber web, Swarm is a pugilistic funhouse that makes the total specter of offed individuality—within the name of social media addiction—seem as thrilling, if now not unsettling, as a joyride.

Headshot of Will Dukes

Will Dukes


Will Dukes is a Fresh York Metropolis–primarily based writer. He has a weird and wonderful affinity for English truffles, Shark Tank marathons, and each Kendrick Lamar album. His work would possibly possibly moreover be characterize in Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and other publications.

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