Growing up, there were two things that I loved more than anything: music and sports.
At three years old, I had a poster of Jon Bon Jovi on my wall and told anyone who would listen that “Livin’ on a Prayer” (or as I called it, “the woah woah song”) was my jam. I also attended my first baseball game that year, where I fell in love with the live sports atmosphere.
As I got older and started to think about what I wanted to do with my life, it became clear that I wanted music and/or sports to be a part of it. I spent my high school years working towards that dream.
Now that I’m at Quinnipiac University, I’ve had the chance to work toward that dream and even make it a reality. I feel so lucky to say that I’ve been able to turn two things I’m a huge fan of into a potential career.
However, my experience isn’t unique. Fans have been trying to break into the industries they’ve been obsessing over for years and they’re finally getting recognition for it, for better or worse.
The fangirl to entertainment industry pipeline has been growing in popularity over the past few years, especially since the pandemic. With so many job openings, fans have been stepping up to help their favorite brands improve their fan engagement strategies.
Some defend this trend, saying that the skills used to become a fan of something can be utilized in a business setting. For example, if you helped plan a meet-up in your city to bond with other fans of your favorite band, you could have what it takes to be a professional event planner.
Another example would be using skills that are required to run a fan account on social media to become a social media manager or content creator. Even just the passion required to be a superfan can be an asset.
When I first heard about this trend, I was ecstatic. It makes sense that fans should be working in the entertainment industry; they understand fan engagement the best. According to Amplify Her Voice, an organization advocating for gender equality in the music industry, superfans make up 50-80% of an artist’s revenue on average and women make up an overwhelming majority of sales and streaming numbers.
Unfortunately, many people have negative feelings toward fangirls, or anyone who shows extreme passion for what they love. From the rise of Beatlemania in the 60s to the boy band and girl group obsession in the 90s to “Justin Bieber Fever” and “One Direction Infection” in the 2010s, young women have always shown how much they love their favorite artists, but at the same time, they have received backlash for it.
GQ writer Jonathan Heaf described One Direction fangirls as “rabid, knicker-wetting banshee(s) who will tear off (their) own ears in hysterical fervor when presented with the objects of (their) fascinations” in a controversial cover story about the band in 2010. It’s ironic, because Harry Styles, a member of One Direction, thinks quite the opposite.
“How can you say young girls don’t get it?” Styles told Billboard. “They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going.”
Sexism is clearly at the root of this issue. When a girl cries at a Taylor Swift concert or while seeing her favorite hockey player for the first time, she is melodramatic and insane. When a man gets emotional watching his favorite sports team win a championship, he’s just passionate. It’s a double standard and it’s frustrating.
While the “fangirl to industry pipeline” is beneficial since it empowers young girls to chase their dreams and turn their interests into a career, it can romanticize industries that can be harmful places for women to work in. Looking at the entertainment industry with rose-colored glasses does not properly prepare young women for the bigotry they may face and could help them develop a toxically positive attitude.
There’s nothing black-and-white about this debate and there’s certainly a greater discussion to be had about the nuances of turning something you are a fan of into a career. Until then, I urge anyone trying to make their entertainment industry dreams come true to keep pushing and not let the critics get them down. You are just as powerful in a company meeting as you are screaming your lungs out to your favorite song.