The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 87 : 87


arts & letters — music frenzy directed at the young, talented, dishy Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, a phenomenon known at the time as Lisztomani­a. But, as Leski followed her subjects over more than three years, she came to realise “that what was more unique was allowing these girls and women a chance to tell their stories”. Her fans speak for themselves, and often with the kind of insight into their own fandom that it is generally assumed obsessive fans could not possibly possess. becomes undiscipli­ned. She lets herself go. Her consumptio­n of pop music opens up a maw of feeling that, in turn, threatens to consume and, finally – horror of horrors – is poised to annihilate the music’s very makers. Who drove The Beatles offstage? Oh, we all know who: it was the girls. It is an old, old fear, this one, of the male artist consumed, in the most violent way, by female enthusiast­s. It’s Orpheus torn to shreds by the Maenads, his severed head floating in the Hebrus. “The danger for artists, for geniuses … is woman,” wrote Nietzsche, in reference to the work of the composer Richard Wagner, his popular contempora­ry. “Adoring women confront them with corruption.” The love of girls drags men from the rarefied heights of artistic creation down into the muck of feminine feeling. “Directione­rs own them, in a certain way,” observes Elif, of the dynamic that exists between fans of One Direction and the band. “They” – the band members – “just don’t know it.” But they do, the risk and the sublimity of worship being a chief reason why a certain kind of young man pursues a certain kind of musical ambition in the first place, even if they later deny it. Leski’s film follows four fans – two in Australia, two in the United States – of various ages. Each adores a different boy band. Elif, the youngest, from Long Island, is a high school student when the film begins. Sadia, in her twenties, lives in San Francisco and is devoted to the Backstreet Boys, while Dara, in her thirties, is based in Sydney and worships at the church of Take That. Lastly there’s Susan, who was there amid “The Great Beatle Crush”, as newspaper described it at the time, when The Beatles hit Melbourne in 1964, and 10,000 or more fans thronged outside the Southern Cross Hotel to try to catch a glimpse of them. is more observatio­nal than expository. Occasional­ly we hear Leski, off camera, ask a question of her subjects, but there’s no narrative voiceover, nor are there any “talking heads” in the form of musicians, sociologis­ts, psychologi­sts or (god forbid) critics. “There was a version of the film where I would have loved to do the anthropolo­gical exploratio­n of fandom,” Leski tells me. She researched the ancient popularity of Roman gladiators and the mid-19th-century fan her, The fandom of girls and women has driven every superstar phenomenon in pop music, from 1940s Sinatra mania on. “I needed to be the best fan,” comments Sadia, of her long-term devotion to the Backstreet Boys, “because I sort of always knew that their success was tied to my involvemen­t. I’m making this happen.” She’s right. The fandom of girls and women has driven every superstar phenomenon in pop music, from 1940s Sinatra mania on. The scandal is just how often that fandom has been disavowed. On the one hand, if girls like it, it’s probably “bad”: silly music for shallow minds. But on those occasions where the music itself cannot be so easily dismissed, as with The Beatles, then it must be the case that the girls don’t get it, not really. Their fandom, rather than the music, becomes the problem; they are fans in the wrong way. “I’ve made enemies – mostly men, I guess – who don’t want to think The Beatles are a boy band,” says Leski. “And with the distance of time, and their full catalogue, of course they evolved to be something else. But it’s teenage girls who were driving their career largely, who were being laughed at for liking this repetitive, cheesy pop music about wanting to hold your hand.” The disavowal of female fandom can run so deep that it shapes the very artefacts made for these fans to consume in the first place. One of the most illustrati­ve examples of this is an episode from the first season of The Sun I Used To Be Normal The Monkees, 2019 ADELAIDE // INTERNATIO­NAL Saturday 2 March to Friday 5 April, 2019 A series of four solo exhibition­s and a forum program for the Adelaide Festival: Brook Andrew: Eugenia Lim: Lisa Reihana: Ming Wong: Room A The Ambassador in Pursuit of Venus [infected] In Love for the Mood­eum 85

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