Described (rather harshly) in Urban Dictionary as “a rabid breed of human female who is obsessed with either a fictional character or an actor. Have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obsessions.”
The concept of the modern fan girll tends to have negative connotations, in an era where boy band obsessions in young girls sprout fake social media accounts, bizarre rants on YouTube and all manner of art shared far and wide. Surely more extreme than when we were young, right?
But is today’s fan girl really so different from us? We had the same obsessions, just without the means to so rapidly (and thoroughly) obsess over our idols via the internet.
One woman challenging the perception of fan girls is filmmaker Jessica Leski, whose latest project is a feature documentary called I Used to Be Normal, which explores the phenomenon in Australia and internationally, and crosses the generations from Beatledom to 1D.
The project came about when Jessica, aged 31, quite unexpectedly found herself in love with One Direction. “I hadn’t liked a boy band before, even though I was at school during Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block and Hanson. So it took me over in way that was surprising to me.” Her favourite member? “It was Harry Styles”, she says, giggling.
So how do you know if you were actually a fan girl? If you relate to a few of these, then chances are you were. (And maybe deep down somewhere inside, still are…)
- Your bedroom resembled a merchandise stand.
Posters, doona covers, magazines, dolls, anything else? Serious and dedicated fangirldom expresses itself through innate objects paying homage to the Object of Your Affection. You had at least three of these in your room at one time? Fan girl.
These days if fan girls don’t connect to merchandise on offer, they often create their own. Take Nadia (@cyrilliart on Instagram) who creates such amazing portraits of One Direction, she’s amassed over 75 thousand followers, and now has her own fans.
- You wrote a letter to your idol.
Ok, hands up who’s guilty of this? You took the time to write a (detailed, over the top) letter to your idol and actually posted it. The choice of stationery was important. There may have been a spray of perfume involved. Yep. Fan girl.
- You could only talk to certain friends about the object of your affections.
Jessica explains that when she first discovered her penchant for One Direction, she was restricted to speaking to a few friends about it, as they ‘understood’, and perhaps others didn’t or might have judged her. Did you find yourself sharing your obsession with a select few for fear or exposure?
- You thought that when your idol looked your way at a concert, it meant something.
I think all female concertgoers have been guilty of this. You think at the concert that when the boy band member looks your way, he’s actually looking at you. Looking into your eyes isn’t a stretch, is it? Connecting with you? He probably is. He definitely is. You just had a moment with him and it’s just you and him in the crowded room…
- You held on to an object that had somehow encountered your idol.
Were you wearing a certain item of clothing when you encountered your idol? And you’ve superstitiously never thrown it away. How could you, right? Or was it something you bought at the concert, or lucky you, something he touched? Never to be washed, possible framed.
- You thought you knew your idol, and that if only you could spend some time together, they’d get to know you too.
Jessica assures me if she were to sit down and meet a certain Mr Styles, ahem, she would be calm and sensible. “You feel like you know them, and you want to be able to sit down and have this proper conversation with them, because you know everything about them,” she explains. No, that doesn’t sound creepy at all.
Jokes aside, Jessica wants to celebrate the passion and creativity of the fan girls in the film, without devaluing their experiences. “The experiences you have as a teenager are so seminal in forming who you become as an adult.”
“What’s so amazing about being a fan is that you’re allowed to let go, and the older that we get we’re told you can’t feel things that deeply, you can’t show your emotions that much.”
And it’s true. All I have to do is watch Jamiroquai’s Half the Man video clip again and I am transported to a time when I when I was struck down with glandular fever on the cusp of year 11, and watched it, oh, about 157 times in row. Mesmorised. The jaw/the hair/his eyes. Sigh. Just don’t tell my husband please.
The filmmakers called on fangirls past and present to help get this film finished and screened in cinemas through a Kickstarter campaign – they met their target and are progressing the film as we speak. Keep in touch with the Facebook page here.
What things did you do when you were younger that tipped you into fan girl territory?