Although inspired by a specifically disturbing interview I saw on my TL (that I’ve since been told was heavily falsified, which I can believe because the writer sounded like an ass), this thread isn’t based on any singular band or artist, whether a former teen idol or pop rock group.
The issue weaves its way through decades of music industry misogyny, from one side to the other. While this “anti-teen girl” sentiment might be felt more heavily in certain genres, it’s pervasive enough for me to speak of the industry as a whole.
I will acknowledge that the pressure to meet certain expectations in a bid to be taken seriously is hard. I can also offer praise where there’s a genuine attempt at growth and moving on from problematic behaviors. So no, this isn’t a hit piece. However, I may make observations that name names, and that might sting if you’re a fan of culpable artists or individuals.
All that said, on with the thread!
When it comes to how the public views young, impressionable fangirls, the 1962 Paul Anka documentary “Lonely Boy” often springs to mind. Specifically, how those filmakers chose to represent the fans to the viewer. There are times when things feel too intimate, voyeuristic, and yet somehow judgemental. Even a tad sleazy.
Despite how we may be expected to remark on the slew of mainly young girls, they share their heartfelt adoration to the film crew with an earnest, steadfast sincerity that has long been the hallmark of teenage girls.
The torrent of adoration reaches its peak during a performance of Paul Anka’s hit teen idol anthem, “Put Your Head On My Shoulder.” And so too does that creeping sensation of judgment and bewilderment as the camera distorts Anka’s teen girl fans.
Only the music and Paul Anka’s singing is audible in the scene, but there are sweaty, screaming fangirls aplenty, one of whom gets pulled onstage. As Anka towers over the stunned fangirl, you can almost feel the director is saying something about the absurdness of (teen) idol worship.
Whatever Paul Anka envisioned for his fame and career with the release of this docufilm, it was soon after interrupted by the arrival of Beatlemania. And although there had previously been some eye-rolling and annoyance at teenage female music fans before this—in the 1940s, they called them “bobby soxers“—The screaming fangirl is largely tied to the arrival of the Beatles. And thereafter, every boy group that manages to draw eardrum-shattering screams gets compared to this group specifically.
Such comparisons often come with derogatory assumptions about the musicians in question, yet the contempt is more pointedly aimed at the teenage girls who love them.
Decades after Beatlemania, the open derision of teenage girls and their adoration of boys and men in music endures, thanks in large part to the kind of people who insist the best way for male musicians to get taken in the business is to eventually distance themselves from any young female fans as quickly as possible.
What’s especially annoying about this behavior and attitude is that it’s a script-flip. These people never admit that this behavior only happens *after* the teenage girls (and their disposable income) were purposely chased down in the first place!
LOVE THEM, THEN LEAVE THEM: TEENAGE GIRLS AS A DISPOSABLE SOURCE OF MONEY & STARDOM
There’s absolutely nothing accidental about how the teen idols and the label PR that pushes them finds its young female fans. For instance, Lee Soo Man polled teenage girls to get an idea of what they like before putting together the successful Gen 1 boy group H.O.T.
Related receipt from an old thread:
The music industry pays close attention to what teenage girls like and goes out of its way to hurl all sorts of groups their way. Often, these groups are dressed a certain way, meant to behave a certain way (clean-cut good boys, dangerous bad boys, etc.) to get the attention of as many teenage girls as possible. As these guys are under contract and often wide-eyed industry noobs themselves, they may have very little power in how they’re marketed and to whom, but ultimately they go along.
And so these groups are aimed at teenage girls and fired, usually accompanied by a slew of super sweet love songs, all to excite these new fans who are eager to learn more about these good-looking young guys, and with music written especially for them.
Things are great for a few years as the idol or group gets all the fame and fortune they can stand. But then things get problematic, or so the idol/group is led to believe. If they didn’t already know, they’re informed that those teenage girl fan s are crazy, stupid, and cringe. That no self-respecting (male) artist would have a fandom mostly made up of these disgusting creatures.
It’s one thing to be a macho music god with sexual conquests at your feet; it’s another entirely to treat young female music fans like they’re people with thoughts and feelings. Certainly not with agency, oh heaven forbid!
No, it doesn’t matter how stable a platform their teenage female fans provide. These idols and groups get made to understand that teenage girls’ adoration is inherently icky, bad, and plain old not good enough. Want a future in the business? Then it’s time to start distancing one’s self in words, action, and their future music projects.
“Do it like the Beatles!” demand the dinosaurs of the music journalism world. “Sure, they sailed to America on the loving tears of teenage girls, but wasn’t their hasty exit into the arms of egotistical college-aged men iconic? Do what they did!” In a growing number of interviews, articles, etc., the male idol(s) are informed that if they ever want a shot at being appreciated as serious artists, they must find a way to broom their teen girl demographic out the door.
And it’s the teenage girls specifically that they are expected and encouraged to rid themselves of. Gaining a lot of male fans! That’s great! That’s a sign you’re on the road to being a better and more prolific artist. At least as far as these disgusting misogynists and the brainwashed enablers of this hateful garbage are concerned.
Now, I will say that young teenage girls are often mocked for their alleged bad music tastes and encouraged to outgrow them and let adult men guide them in the ways of music quality. Never mind that it was teenage girls that gave the world Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson/The Jackson 5, and so on.
You know what? Pop music and especially rock and roll wouldn’t be much of anything if not for the “bad tastes” of teenage girls, a group of music listeners who still have yet to be properly credited for shaping the entire world’s tastes for *decades.*
And having loads of fun while doing so!
COURTING & DUMPING TEEN GIRL FANS IS A STUPID, SEXIST STRATEGY THAT ALMOST NEVER WORKS!
While it’s true that groups aimed primarily at teenage girls experience a high turnover rate, not enough gets said about why that is. Imagine what would happen if teen fangirls were free to love whatever the hell they want without a bunch of a-holes telling them they’re stupid and childish for doing so. Maybe they wouldn’t bend to pressure to “outgrow” these groups, and their faves could have longer and stabler music careers.
Although some teenage girl fans try to hold onto their faves no matter what, it’s a sad fact that often their faves don’t hold onto them. These men go through a predictable series of changes and antics to shake off the young girl demographic.
Whether it’s the label trying to get extra mileage out of the idol/group with an image overhaul or the person/group is now desperate to escape an image they can no longer stand, it usually ends in tears as fangirls read articles that reveal their on-camera personality was a complete farce, that they want to be taken seriously (as if their teenage girl fans aren’t constantly going to bat for them…), and, the real kick in the teeth, how much happier they are to finally be getting male fans. Though not said, it’s that rising male demographic that they pin their future success on.
Sure these people might not come out and say these exact words, but teenage girls aren’t as stupid as people often want them to be. They can read between the lines and see “rid of you” in the fine print. Yes, some teenage fangirls give into the anticipated process of outgrowing their teenage idol loves. Other times, it’s the heart-breaking disillusion that drives them away.
Hold that second outcome in your mind and then recall, one more time, that these fans were COURTED IN THE FIRST PLACE before getting treated as a disposable inconvenience by various parties in the music industry and related media.
In any case, the “treating your teenage female fans like tissue paper” strategy rarely works. You can say that the artists who managed to go on to experience legendary fame never intended to limit themselves to one demographic or were so ridiculously talented that the mainstream audience had no choice but to take them seriously.
At least once those pesky “hysterical” teenage girls were out of the picture!
But for most idols who burnout on the idea of appealing to teenage girls and do all they can to get rid of them, it’s not until the rug gets pulled out from under them, and then they fall off the “relevancy cliff.” If they have any self-awareness and aren’t a cringy narcissist, it’s at this point they realize they were duped into trading the unconditional love of one group for the non-existent support of another.
In short, crapping all over and driving away your main support system is a dumb plan. It’s also, as BTS has shown from day one, completely unnecessary. But I suppose the trick is to have a genuine love and appreciation of your fans rather than see them as a means to an end. That way, when the media tries to get you to throw them under the bus, you resist this cynical ploy at every turn.
Credit to ex-One Direction member Harry Styles for going to bat for teenage girls in his 2017 Rolling Stone interview:
“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future.”Harry Styles
Far too much gets made about the gender and age of female music listeners, often in an ugly attempt to harm their self-worth. The music industry is but one of many dedicated to exploiting young girls’ perceived vulnerabilities for money. And yet, somehow, none of this toxic behavior is meant to be seen as anywhere near irritating as a teenage girl daring to scream her lungs out in unadulterated pleasure. I mean, how DARE she?
I am glad that female music fans of all ages are challenging crusty haters who continue to put forth condescending opinions nobody asked for. One thing I love as an ARMY is getting to see teenage girls fully appreciated by a great group of guys who give love back fully and sincerely. It’s such a healthy and wonderful connection that they get the opportunity to make. I’m only sad that it’s still currently a rare one.
I’ll close by saying that it’s okay to be a little girl or a teenage girl and hold onto what makes you truly happy. Enjoy your music tastes. No time limit or permission is needed. /THREAD