The phenomenon of the ‘Fangirl’ has arisen throughout pop culture and the music industry, and has been met by a sense of prevalent snobbery from a large majority of the alternative rock fanbase – a fanbase renowned for turning its nose up at the mainstream. The rejection of once unconditionally loved Arctic Monkeys after their 2013 album, AM, is a prime example of this. As soon as a surge of teenage girls, clad in ebay bought AM merchandise turned up to the fanbase, older fans took a ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’ attitude as they screamed: “Get off the bandwagon! Put down the handbook!”. But there’s more to the ostracism of the teenage fanbase than a musically puritan mind: Sexism.
What many Feminists would refer to as the demonisation of passionate women (Think Lady Macbeth or Zelda Fitzgerald), is present throughout musical history also; it’s not just a modern opposition to 13 year old girls and their excessive use of hashtags. Beatlemania was arguably the birthing place of the modern day Fangirl and was said to be perplexing to psychologists at the time of the 1960s and ironically created a hysteria that puzzled the ideology of a ‘Fangirl’.
Essays criticised the assemble of dedicated fans, with Paul Johnson’s New Statesman essay (widely thought of by feminists as iniquitous) jibing:”Those who flock round the Beatles, who scream themselves into hysteria, whose vacant faces flicker over the TV screen, are the least fortunate of their generation, the dull, the idle, the failures.” However harsh (and somewhat miserable) Johnson’s opinion, he does introduce us to the idea of ‘Groupies’ who do much of the ‘flocking’ toward band members; the infamous assembles that with their absence would leave a discussion about Fangirls incomplete. It’s difficult to say where the fine line lies between a squabble of falsely infatuated pre-teens and women who make the conscious decision to sleep with band members.
So what is it about engrossed and passionate teenage girls that justifies a rejection of the art they appreciate? For many it could be the screams, the wide-eyed longing accompanied by a mass of ardent tweets. Or the modern day example of a literary nightmare – ‘Fanfiction’- that could make anyone want to disassociate themselves from anything they represent. The objectification and idealisation of the artists by the fans themselves create an ‘us and them’ atmosphere around a medium that is supposed to bring people together. The music industry has been seemingly reduced to the stock model of a glorified musician protagonist pursued relentlessly by the delirious but dedicated fangirl. And, the bigger the power gap, the bigger the opportunity for exploitation and publicity stunts, and the higher the capital gain.
The mockery of Fangirls nowadays is essentially the mockery of the corporately manipulated. Bands who were once considered ‘legends’ by alternative rock fans lose all reverence one associated with the mainstream as a way to make money. Yet armed with a smartphone and an adoration that can outlast the sneers and jibes of others, the Fangirl manages to create a sense of elated commotion in an ever more cynical world. And that deserves some kind of recognition.
Words by Lizzy Fox