• lauralouisemolloy

TEENAGE girls: trailblazers of pop culture

Despite their existence in different millenniums and a noticeable contrast in fashion, the growing popularity of One Direction in 2013 resulted in an onslaught in comparisons to the Beatles. Many would argue that this was simply due to their shared origin in the United Kingdom, however one underlying similarity was their fanbase: young girls.

Ignoring the differences in attire (the sixteen year olds screaming for John Lennon sporting mod haircuts and cat eye glasses, while One Direction fans cry wearing crop tops and skinny jeans) images from both eras are virtually identical. Fifty years later and teenage obsession still looks the same; an aura of hysteria combined with a crazed look, present in the eyes of each and every girl in those photos.

But it is not how fashion has evolved throughout the years, or if One Direction are actually talented that is up for debate in this circumstance. What’s fascinating is that even fifty years later, the interests of teenage girls are still mocked by society. The trend of ridiculing whatever happens to be the current subject of pre-teen attention in popular culture remains prominent today. Justin Bieber, the Twilight Saga and One Direction are all fairly recent example of teenage ‘crazes’ that have been derided by, mostly adult male, media figures and comedians. Admittedly, they’re not exactly critically acclaimed, but since when was it necessary to satirise something purely because of the target demographic?

The Beatles are now considered the founders of modern music, yet without the initial support from adolescent girls, their success would never have occurred. With their critical acclaim in mind, it’s difficult to imagine a time when those involved in Beatlemania were thought of in the same manner as ‘Beliebers’ or ‘Directioners’, yet a 1964 ‘New Statesman’ essay by Paul Johnson demonstrates that the belittling of female interests has always existed. Within the article he states “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.”

Today, Beatlemania is deemed almost revolutionary, as young women abandoned the rigid standards of the generations before them in regards to how they should behave. As a 1992 essay titled ‘Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun states “To abandon control – to scream, faint, dash about in mobs – was, in form if not in conscious intent, to protest the sexual repressiveness, the rigid double standard of female teen culture."

The fact is, teenage girls are responsible for the majority of popular culture, yet are mocked relentlessly. What is the problem with children harmlessly expressing their interest in something? Artists popular among this demographic are dismissed as being trivial, only able to become “real artists” when they begin to attempt to appeal to an adult audience. Essentially, it is uncool to appreciate pop music, purely because teenage girls like it. They’re deemed simply mindless consumers, basing their musical taste on the appearance of the artist rather than their songs, while their male peers are free to express similar passions for sports stars or bands without the same mass judgement.

By enabling this attitude, we as a society tell girls that their interests are inferior to boys. After all, nobody’s calling them ‘crazy’ or ‘hormonal’ for shouting at their favourite football team. While boys are allowed to embrace typically masculine hobbies, girls are attacked for taking pride in their femininity. Makeup and fashion are viewed as trivial, with women being disregarded as “superficial” or “stupid” for taking interest in them. Teenage girls have often been a target of satire, from their clothing choices to the way they speak. Any sign of femininity is deemed “weak” or “stupid,” preventing women from expressing their traditionally feminine interests. However, this doesn’t mean they’re encourage to adopt ‘masculine’ hobbies, as female sports teams are typically less supported and viewed as 'butch'. Women are also pushed out of other male dominated past times, a notable example being the sci-fi genre, as organisations such as ComicCon result in over sexualisation and harassment of women who choose to take part, or the dismissal of their blatant interest.

Most recently, Teen Vogue’s attempts at introducing ‘serious’ news topics into their usual stream of fashion and make up advice, has been criticised by many in the media industry, including Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson” who stated that the journalists should “stick to the thigh high boots” rather than writing about politics. It is possible for girls to embrace their femininity without being stupid or conceited, and Teen Vogue has represented this flawlessly. While Vogue itself strays from serious topics, the younger audiences are demanding political coverage that illustrates how the leaders of their country and their decisions will ultimately affect their lives. for example, the most popular article of 2016 was titled “Donald Trump is Gaslighting America”, closely followed by “How to apply glitter nail polish the right way”.

Yes, everybody has rolled their eyes at young women screaming over Justin Bieber’s new hair cut, or their excessive use of the word “like”, but beneath the surface is an enviable characteristic; they possess the ability to lose their inhibitions and be completely, unapologetically passionate about something they love, and in doing so they ultimately shape pop culture and thus, society. Although the interests of teenage girls may seem trivial, it’s crucial to consider that throughout history they’ve been directly responsible for the success of some of the most famous figures, such as Elvis, The Beatles and even Frank Sinatra.

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