Teen idols and frenzied females
I saw a documentary this morning on Trio called "The Scream Heard 'round the World" about a phenemenon that amuses the hell out of me--teen idols and the hysteria they induce in their female fans. I've said before that I think that the frantic screaming and wailing that followed the Beatles and their ilk all the way up to N'Sync is just so much sexual repression finally finding an outlet. The whole thing reminds me of a watered-down Bacchanalia with Paul or Justin or whatever filling the role of Bacchus for these teenage girls, and that impression was strengthened hearing these teenage idols all grown up and reflecting on the past and the fear that if they let the hoardes of girls at them they would be ripped from limb to limb. I doubt anyone was in real danger of that happening, but there is a precedent of sorts, so I guess you never know.
The whole thing would be merely amusing to me if it was just a matter of a bunch of girls finding a socially sanctioned space to blow off a little sexual steam in a culture that denies that they even have such steamy feelings. But of course it's not. The interviews with Maurice Starr and Lou Pearlman, the managers of New Kids on the Block and N'Sync, destroyed any illusions one might have that this is an innocent phenemenon. Pearlman in particular seems hellbent on mining the childish fantasies of teenage girls and turning them into a formula he can feed back to them over and over again until he dies a fat, bloated millionaire. I'm afraid that the cyclical nature of these things has thwarted him for the time being, but I wouldn't be surprised if he manages to jump on the bandwagon again in the future.
The whole thing did cause me to wander off and think about the nature of these teenage fantasies. I can see why someone like Pearlman would see the whole thing in reductionist terms--the things that all teen idols from the Beatles until now have in common are pretty easy to figure out from a quick perusal. Get some young, pretty boys together and write them some song with over-the-top lyrics glorifying the charms of a female love object in such general terms than any girl can project herself into the role of the object, and there you go. A lifetime of crushing disappointment when you find out that no one is willing to compromise his/her pride that much on your behalf is all ready to go.
Is that why these young girls feel compelled to embarrass themselves by screaming and crying? Is it a sort of compensation, a way of telling the boy that is prostrate before them in their fantasy worlds that they return the feeling? The more I think about it, the likelier that seems to be the case. Boy bands really do fit into the chivalrous mode, with the songs about begging for affection a precursor to the ritual of proposal-engagement-wedding where a young man defers to his bride by asking her for marriage on one knee and in exchange he gets an elaborate ceremony where she is delivered to him by her father.
I think more than anything, the lack of ambition in the fantasy the teen idols provides is what saddens me. In the interviews with adult women who were swooning teenage girls once, they repeatedly said that they dreamed night and day that they would one day be Mrs. Paul McCartney, David Cassidy, whatever. There's a naked honesty in that fantasy, and it shows that girls are still absorbing the cultural message that a woman's value is measured only in relation to men.