It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the internet splintered into competing overzealous fandoms, but somewhere along the way we started looking to the Eminem song “Stan” to help us understand it.
At least that’s the origin story the Oxford Dictionary gives for “stan”—a word many of us now use to declare our unchill obsessions on social media. According to the Outline, stan made its pejorative debut on a Nas diss track in 2001, then was reclaimed as a self-deprecating verb years later.
“I stan for santogold. I may even like her more than MIA,” reads an April 2008 tweet, arguably the first usage of its kind. What started as a super violent cautionary tale became a funny way to shout out your faves. We’ve been stanning legends and queens ever since.
As the actor who played Stan in Eminem’s 2000 music video, Devon Sawa has embodied the rabid energy of a thousand stan accounts. He’s made major appearances in Final Destination, Wild America, SLC Punk and other big titles, but he still counts the rap video among his most memorable roles.
I reached out to him to ask how he feels about his contribution to stan discourse, who he stans in 2018, and his own experience with creepy stalker-slash-fans.
VICE: Now that 'Stan' just turned 18 in November, it's basically a legal adult. How do you look back on that role?
Devon Sawa: It's one of the only projects I did that long ago that I still kind of brag about. Whenever somebody asks me what I've done, it's still the one from back then that I'll be like "Oh, I was in an Eminem video." It was iconic, Dr. Dre directed it, Eminem was there and it was early days. I’m just so proud to say I played some small part of it.
You think it's a small part? You're Stan!
I’m the face of the video, but that song is such a great song, and it all came out of Eminem's mind—he wrote it and Dre had the vision for the video and luckily they let me go crazy on that set, but yeah I'm fortunate to be a part of it.
You recently tweeted Eminem still hasn't called or wrote... do you get a lot of Stan stuff in your mentions?
I get "Can I keep you?" and I get Eminem references probably the most. At least every day I get some Eminem reference on Instagram or Twitter. And then of course I get Casper references—those are the only two projects that I have a lot less to do with than people give me credit for. Especially Casper—I was in that movie for like 45 seconds.
What do you think of the “stan” discourse, now that we all stan for legends on Twitter?
I love it, I joke about it. The problem with Twitter is there's no sarcasm font on there. I've gotten into trouble by writing something that was clearly sarcastic, but people didn't read it that way. I wrote I had no idea what "stan" meant, and I think Entertainment Tonight or somebody wrote a story that I didn’t even know what it meant, and that's completely untrue. I've known what it meant since people started using it. My brother was the first one who sent me the article when it was added to the Oxford English dictionary.
It's good that the word's official now. Although I can’t say words like "lit" or "stan" or any of those and not feel like I'm an old dad. Like "I totally stan that movie?" Nah, it doesn’t work for me, I'm too old.
It's December, which means it's time for best-of-2018 lists. I wanna know who you stan in 2018. Let's start with music?
This particular year, I mean Eminem's new record coincidentally was phenomenal. I like anything Kendrick Lamar puts out, I liked Lil Wayne's CD this year. I’m still into old hip-hop, all the greats—Nas, Biggie, Pac, Jay Z, KRS-One. But I think Eminem's is the greatest that came out this year. I might be biased, but I loved it.
Wow, so you really stan Eminem.
Oh yeah. When I did Stan, my agent who I'm still with to this very day advised against it. It was like "Eminem? C'mon Dev, I dunno about doing a music video." Nobody was really on board with doing it on my team, and I was the only one who was like "Oh my god, this guy’s really, really good." So I did it anyways.
Any queens on your stan list, maybe Ariana or Cardi?
I think Ariana for me it’s a little too clubby top 40, but I do love Cardi. If I'm gonna go to female hip-hop of all time it would have to be back to Lil Kim and Missy Elliott.
How bout the Pusha vs. Drake beef, do you have a team?
Nah, I don’t. I like Drake because he's from Toronto, other than that, it's alright. Like Ariana, it’s a little clubby for me. But maybe I'm getting too old. I'm getting too old!
Anything you're watching? Movies, performances, shows?
Anything Tom Hardy does I'm a big fan of right now. I watched GLOW, I liked that. There's the new Ken Burns series on Vietnam. I went to Vietnam a couple times, I had seen all the big Hollywood movies like Platoon, but if you go to the museums and crawl through the tunnels and whatnot you see it differently. The Ken Burns documentary is a very bipartisan documentary, he speaks to everybody—people from the north, the south, US soldiers and politics, it was just very interesting.
I get the sense from Twitter you're into MMA fights.
I’ve fallen off of UFC for the last year a little bit. It started to get less exciting but it's picking up again. I'm a Conor McGregor fan. Women’s MMA is taking off huge, ever since Ronda Rousey came in it exploded. Cyborg, she's fighting again soon. I'm a big Cris Cyborg fan. Yeah, I'm a big MMA guy.
I imagine as a dad you also have opinions on kids stuff?
You know, I didn’t realize I was going to enjoy being a father so much, as probably mushy as it sounds. It’s been ups and downs of course, but it's a wild ride. What do they like—the typical stuff, Spider-Man, Barbies, My Little Pony, whatever cartoon.
Right on. I think My Little Pony is still made here in Vancouver. Are there any Canadian things you wanna shout out?
I think I was a voice on My Little Pony back when I was like nine years old.
I did an episode, it was in Vancouver. My first job ever was in Vancouver on 21 Jump Street, the original series.
That's a long ass career, are there any parts of it you look back on less fondly?
There was a point after Final Destination, I did a few movies after that I didn’t like so much, and that made me quit for a while. I quit acting for five years. I went back to Vancouver and bought a little building in Gastown and fixed it up. There's a little restaurant called the Revel Room, I used to own that building.
Interesting, but you decided to go back?
No, it was an accident. I got a script snail mail for a Mark Wahlberg movie. I got it registered mail. And I just auditioned for it, and all of a sudden casting wanted me to come down and I had a new manager and I was back in acting again. I loved it and I missed it, or I wouldn't have auditioned in the first place. I just needed a little break.
I wanted to talk about the weird side of fandom, like maybe you’ve had some obsessed stans of your own?
You know, when I was in the Bop and Teen Beat magazines, that’s when things were the weirdest, but they were kind of innocent weird? Like, someone sent me a picture of my house, that they had taken outside from across the street. But it was probably most likely from a teenage girl who thought it wasn’t the worst thing to do. Just sending me weird things. I got a fairly large bra in the mail once and I guess she put a lock of her hair in as well, so when I took the bra out it was covered in hair.
This is probably an awkward time to confess that when you followed me back on Twitter, I told people about it. I even posted about it on Facebook. Is that weird?
No, I don’t think so, it doesn't weird me out. It’s flattering (laughs) I'm kind of speechless.
OK (laughs). Cause I guess I could say I stan for you, if that's not too embarrassing to admit.
No, that's very sweet. Very flattering (laughs).
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