I Used To Be Normal - A Delightful Love Letter to the Fangirl
Written by Katie Shanahan
Teenage girls have long been the punching bag of pop culture critics. As soon as something becomes associated with this demographic, it is immediately seen as “tainted” and expressing an interest in it equates to social suicide. Being all too familiar with the constant barrage of ridicule these young women receive, I was somewhat nervous to watch a documentary about fangirls, but I Used To Be Normal subverts the misogynistic narrative completely.
The documentary follows the journeys of four women who are avid followers of the boybands of their respective adolescent years, the oldest being a woman who came of age during the Beatles era and the youngest being a high school student swept up in the One Direction craze of the 2010s. The film chronicles how these women’s obsessions with the bands helped them navigate tumultuous teenage years, discover lifelong passions, and make peace with their identity. There is a recurring theme of finding liberation through their fanhood, whether that be sexual or social. The adorable animation during the fantasy sequences really put you in the head of the subject and help you empathize with their experiences.
The one glaring flaw with the film, however, was the classification of the Jonas Brothers as “not a boyband” because they’re family. Twelve year old me didn’t spend hours destroying the paint on my walls with shitty poster tape to hang up every photo of Kevin, Nick, and Joe that I could cut out of a magazine just to be told that they aren’t a boyband! Though I do kind of see their point that they aren’t necessarily one if you analyze the boyband as a commercial venture, that still stung a bit.
I Used To Be Normal is definitely a must-watch for anyone who is/was ever a boyband fan, however I really recommend it for those who aren’t as well. Too often we write off these interests as trivial obsessions, but this documentary showcases how they can be tools for self-discovery and liberation that stick with people throughout their lives.
I Used to Be Normal is streaming now on Amazon, inDemand, DirecTV, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, AT&T, FlixFing, Vudu, FANDANGO, and Sling/Dish.