Why Fangirls Can Teach Us Lessons of Love, Passion and Activism

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Squealing, crying and obsessing over boy bands are the hallmarks of a fangirl.

Their love and dedication is truly unparalleled and it’s not a modern phenomena, in fact we can trace the origins of fangirls way back to the 1800s.

However when it comes to talking about fangirls or looking at how they’re represented, they’re often drenched in connotations of hysteria or frivolity, which isn’t placed onto boys of a similar same age who may be utterly obsessed with their local footy team.

Over the past few years we’ve seen fangirls have their energy spill over into politics and social causes as activism becomes another feather in the cap of what a fan girl can do.

So why do we still underestimate the power of a fan girl?

“When I think about the word fangirl I like to think about it as a verb,” says writer Yve Blake.

“I like to think about fangirling, which is something that anyone can do and it’s expressing enthusiasm for something that you love without apology.”

Fangirls became broadly popularised at around the same time that televisions started becoming a staple in our lounge rooms, broadcasting music icons like Elvis Presely and The Beatles directly into our homes.

Footage of girls from this era going weak at the knees and being almost hypnotised with Elvis’ swinging hips is synonymous with the image of an OG fan girl.

But the origins go back much further, in fact as far as we can tell it really kicks off with composer Franz Liszt who had the 1880s Austrian ladies whooping and screaming over his classical compositions.

Liszt’s fangirls became so obsessed with him that they started wanting locks of his hair. However the problem with that was that Liszt only had so many locks to go round, so he went out and bought a little dog to ship fur clippings instead of his real hair to adoring fans.

The obsession with Franz Liszt has been dubbed ‘lisztomania,’ which is a combination of the two words Liszt and mania.

Mania is a diagnosable mood disorder and buried within this word is where we find the origins of how we perceive the behaviour of fangirls today.

Yve met a 13 year old fangirl who changed her life when she confessed that she already knew the man she was going to marry. That man was One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles.

“I laughed at her and she said, “don’t laugh at me. I love him so much.” And that’s when I knew I had to know more.”

“I hit on this thing, actually to talk about fangirls is to talk about a microcosm of how we use different language to describe the behaviours of men and women,” Yve said.

“I just remember being a teenage girl and the world yelling at me.”

Fangirls for BTS and One Direction have shown the transformative power of their fandom by mobilising and becoming activists.

BTS fans have shut down a Dallas Police Department app and donated more than $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Yve shared a story about Rainbow Direction, a group of One Direction fans dedicated to ensuring that queer fans at One Direction concerts are safe.

The group placed little pieces of different coloured cellophane on every single seat in a stadium and during a song asked the entire concert to put their phone flashlights on the cellophane. This created a perfect rainbow which looked like the queer flag around the stadium.

Inspired by these events, Yve has created a musical in defence of the fangirl which is dedicated to rewriting the narrative around fangirls’ joy and power.

“I think that we grow up and we define ourselves by our scepticism and what we disagree with, and Fansgirls is about a group of 14 year olds who just love stuff without apology,” says Yve.

Fangirls runs at the Sydney Opera House from the 28th July – 4th September.