Is Being a Fangirl Cool Now?

Image Credit: Esther Tuttle on Unsplash

OTwo Co-Editor Isabella Ambrosio wishes she could fondly look back at her time as a fangirl. Despite her best efforts, she really, really, can’t.

Nothing quite epitomises the phrase “you had to be there.” like fangirl culture. 

Being a fangirl means being submerged in a culture where everyone is as obsessed with a  specific artist as you are. Inherently, that is fertile ground for unity and camaraderie. Back in my Tumblr days, mutuals congratulated each other when someone was noticed by their favourite artists, we reblogged our friends’ newest works, and we lived entire lives online – and no one else around us seemed to be doing it. 

Fangirls are notoriously utterly passionate; as such, I was seen as a bit strange, driven by my undying love for a band. I was poked fun at, shamed for my enthusiasm and criticised for my taste. I won’t lie, with enough criticism, my love for being utterly consumed by music died out. I was disconnected from what I felt was an escape that I no longer deserved. Yet in that online space I had curated for myself, I was embraced, I was celebrated, I had a following, I was somebody. Being a fangirl wasn’t cool offline, and it wasn’t cool online unless you found the right people. I eventually came back to my fangirl roots once I realised it was a significant part of my identity and my love for music and artists was nothing to be ashamed of. When writing an article for Alternative Press on 5 Seconds of Summer, I remember telling the editor I didn’t want to come across too fangirl-y, to which she responded: “There’s nothing wrong with being a fangirl. I think that being a fangirl means that you’re knowledgeable.” 

Fangirls are notoriously utterly passionate; as such, I was seen as a bit strange, driven by my undying love for a band.

However, fangirl culture comes with its downsides. Notably, these spaces often perpetuate the same social structures and hierarchies that many fangirls go online to escape from. We’ve all seen them from afar – One Direction, BTS, TØP – the kinds of fangirls that quite literally make an outsider go ‘No, thanks!’ and move on to the next new artist. The rabid, fully-obsessed, mean-girl who will hate on you if your fave is her fave. The petulant and juvenile social structures found in secondary and high schools have migrated from physically exclusive to virtually exclusive. And the virtually exclusive all know each other – they create groups and form the popular girl ‘cliqués’ we all know and hate.

Fangirl culture comes with its downsides. Notably, these spaces often perpetuate the same social structures and hierarchies that many fangirls go online to escape from.

For example, I was queuing for the 5 Seconds of Summer show at a UK date. As we all waited to be allowed inside the venue, I was introduced to two girls, who were at least in their mid-to-late twenties. They appeared nice at first, offering me a seat, asking the typical questions of ‘Who’s your fave?’ and ‘Where are you from?’. They happily recounted their attendance at nearly every date on the American leg of the tour and were continuing to follow the band around Europe – with a VIP package for nearly every date. And then, it got to the dreaded question: ‘What time did you start queuing at?.’ As I replied, “8 am”, one of them snickered and the other just said, ‘Oh. Well, we’ve been here all night.’ And then, the cold shoulder. They still let me wait with them but told me that others would be joining. The queuing etiquette says that you can leave your spot for a maximum of two hours – to shower and change, and then go back. Yet the dozen girls that joined the American girls were nowhere to be found in the queue that morning. Or the night before. Not only did these girls shun me and isolate me for not camping out, but they allowed others, who had not been queuing, to join them. 

The entire situation put such a sour taste in my mouth, especially after seeing the same girls on barricade. Knowing that they had been on barricade at every show they had already been to, they still robbed the opportunities from others. And while I was bordering the second and third row of people, it felt like high school again – where the “cool girls” got what they wanted, and the “weird girls” were excluded. A juvenile feeling – but their behaviour was nothing more than juvenile. I never wanted to queue for another 5SOS, or any other gig, again.

Most fangirls go online to find refuge from the social hierarchies in schools – where they can find like-minded people and interact with them. Yet, these same social hierarchies have penetrated what was once a haven. Now, fangirls are ranked on a trifecta of factors: financial resources, beauty capital and social talent. 

Oftentimes, fangirls who attend the most concert dates and show the most physical dedication to the band are worshipped online by other fangirls, as they appear to be one degree closer to the band than the average fan. And, because they’re that much closer to the band, they’re much cooler. These fans can even use their financial resources to host ‘giveaways’ of the artist’s merchandise, where they ask a fan to follow and retweet to enter the giveaway, gaining popularity that way. And suddenly, the same structures that we were trying to escape from have followed us in this new community.

Perhaps it’s inherent, as humans, that we feel the need to classify and rank others. I don’t quite understand it – everyone is at different points in their lives, everyone has different resources, and everyone has different feelings, desires, needs. It’s impossible for us to be on the same level, at any given point in time, so why do we accentuate these differences? Even more so, in spaces where we ought to abolish them? 

If anything, it is the love we have for an artist that should bring us closer together – rather than the select few who have the resources to proclaim or show their undying dedication. This could start an entire conversation about how numb and disconnected social media has made us, but I digress. One thing for sure is, however, the new standard fangirl behaviour isn’t cool; if participating in fangirl culture is uncool to outsiders, insiders could say the same for those who perpetuate such behaviours.