On Hanson, fandom, and the sexual desire of teenage girls

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News Media Commentary
Title: On Hanson, fandom, and the sexual desire of teenage girls
Commentator: Cate Sevilla
Date(s): 25 FEBRUARY 2019
Venue: newstatesman.com
Fandom: Music RPF
External Links: On Hanson, fandom, and the sexual desire of teenage girls
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On Hanson, fandom, and the sexual desire of teenage girls is a 2019 article about Hanson fandom, focusing on their appeal to teenage girls. The headline is "Where the world looks at throngs of girls screaming at a boy band and sees teenage hysteria, I see thousands finding joy in one of the most complicated phases of their lives."

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Exerpts

Since the band first saw commercial success in 1997, at just 17, 14 and 12 years old, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson were made fun of, quite a lot – as were their equally young fans. The butt of jokes everywhere from Letterman,[1] to SNL; the grown-ups just didn’t seem to get it. They look like girls! They sound like girls! What the fuck is an MMMbop? Their fans were always pictured with tears streaming down their face and/or screaming (but mostly screaming). The decibels of said screaming fans at concerts breaking records seemed more interesting than their actual record sales (upwards of ten million worldwide).

This fandom, before anyone really knew what a fandom was, has never been cool. But, predominantly female fandoms [are never considered as such are never considered as such]. And, as is tradition, male journalists in particular do not understand the loyal female fans of boy bands.

Whether it’s critiques of fans of the Beatles in the ‘60s (“the dull, the idle, the failures”) or fans of One Direction in 2013 (“rabid, knicker-wetting banshee”) the message to teenage girls from the more refined, more cultured mainstream has always been one of bewildered pity and disgust, a sentiment captured perfectly in the Guardian when Zayn Malik left One Direction: “Our thoughts must surely go out to anybody unlucky enough to have given birth to a female child between seven and 14 years ago, for their lives are a mess.”

But where the world looks at throngs of teenage girls screaming at a boy band concert and sees teenage hysteria – a horrifying cocktail of hormones, niche obsession and an apparent abhorrent taste in music – I see thousands of girls who are managing to find joy and delight during one of the most difficult and complicated phases of their lives.

And I know this about them, because this is what my teenage love (OK, my feverish obsession) for Hanson in the late ‘90s did for me.

Prior to falling in love with Taylor Hanson on 14 March 1998 while at the birthday party thrown for him by my Hanson super-fan friend Sara, I previously had only had feelings for classmates (Adam) the occasional cartoon (Prince Eric) or muppet (Kermit). But my feelings for Taylor Hanson (known by fans and pretend girlfriends as “Tay” and to the wider public as “the middle one”) were...different. It was his voice, his fingers on that Yamaha keyboard, his palms smacking against the bongos (he played the bongos!) the curl of his lip, the curl of his long, blonde hair, the blue of his eyes, the necklaces he wore, the weird breathy way he sang. It all just...did something to me.

Now, I know that “something” was a frenzied sexual desire – then, I only knew that I liked to be left to listen to his music and stare out the window ALONE. I wanted to watch the Hanson documentary ALONE. I wanted to be left ALONE to THINK about TAYLOR. The exception to the rule was for when I wanted to spend three hours talking on the phone about him with my friends Sara and Linda who also loved Hanson (and conveniently liked the other Hanson brothers, not mine).

One of my other favourite pastimes during this period was gathering a stack of ruled paper, a specific light-blue pen (Tay’s favourite colour) and writing my special stories. My friends and I delighted in creating these incredible works of fiction that featured each of us paired with our favourite Hanson brother. What I didn’t know at the time, was that these stories were what one would now call fan fiction, and I certainly didn’t know this was a thing that other people did, too.

Fan-fic in particular really scares non-fandom civilians – especially because it does not shy away from the sexual desire element of fandoms – and it’s not just any kind of sexual desire, but the sexual desire of young women, which as we all know is the single greatest threat to modern society and civilisation as we know it. Which is also why female-prominent fandoms are so easy for others to dismiss and put down: the desires of young women are not valid, and somehow perverted.

Because of this, some people try to separate desire or sexuality from fandoms and insist that’s not all it’s about (“I just really love their music! They’re so talented!”) – and it isn’t – but it’s also really important to acknowledge that it exists and is a big part of it, and that that’s OK. The sexual desire of women and girls of all ages and of all orientations is important and complicated, it’s a part of our identity and overall being, and for young women, fandoms give us not just a physical space to go scream at a concert, but a psychic space where we can work out elements of our own identity, and who we really are, including our sexual desires and preferences.