The History of Fangirling
BY PHOEBE SEIDMAN '25
Boy band aficionados worldwide have obsessed, cried, and in some cases, even tattooed their favorite bands’ names on various body parts to display their passion for the stars. But while these scenarios (as seen in Twitter posts of screaming fangirls) are plastered all over the Internet now, getting up close and personal with pop idols is no new trend. It’s been around since the ’60s with The Beatles, but it reemerged in the 2010s with One Direction and surged again later that decade with BTS. So how did fangirling, this timeless habit, emerge?
As a wise person once said, the past holds answers to the present. When the Beatles crossed the Atlantic in 1964, Americans were overcome with hysteria upon hearing their ground-breaking music. These fans, dubbed Beatlemaniacs, lined up for blocks outside airports awaiting the band’s arrival. Fans fainted at Beatle shows and pelted the four singers with treats called Jelly Babies after George said he liked the candy. However, fan obsession took a sharp turn when a stalker shot and killed John Lennon on December 5, 1980. Though the group had disbanded ten years prior, the remaining members, Paul, Ringo, and George, mourned the loss of their lifelong friend.
The trend of overly obsessive fans continued with the next boy group sensation: One Direction.
In 2010, members of One Direction separately auditioned for the British reality show “The X Factor,” but judge Simon Cowell grouped them together. Their debut single “What Makes You Beautiful” skyrocketed them to fame, but with their popularity came the rumors.
Fans, called Directioners, became consumed with the possibility of band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson having romantic relations. Directioners scrounged through the band’s social media platforms trying to find evidence of the two dating. Next, they spun imaginary scenarios of the suspected couple's life. Using online storytelling applications and websites, fans were able to create an entire multiverse dedicated to the dating theory circulating Styles and Tomlinson. By immersing themselves in these fake worlds, fans felt a connection (however unhealthy) to their idols that they would otherwise not receive and also forged a community among themselves.
Finally, BTS became the first K-pop global sensation, though some fans tend to know too much about them. These fans, called “sasaengs,” meaning “private life” in Korean, track cell phone numbers to contact the stars. According to TeenVogue, BTS member Jungkook received a phone call from a fan during a live broadcast. The fan shouted: “This is a call from a fan. You’re doing a V-Live and I just called to check.” Jungkook remarked, “I actually get a lot of calls from sasaeng fans.” Some “sasaengs” are oblivious to their actions infringing on their idols in any way. They see their overstepping actions as a form of expressing love, which aligns with a natural human desire to get what you give. Some fans just can’t accept that stalking isn’t okay.
With modern technology, fan-celebrity connections will definitely evolve. But as life goes on, fans will always possess the same desire to be noticed, even if it makes them take absurd measures.