Every once in a while a film comes along that seems custom made for you. Whether it’s a documentary or narrative, some movies just feels so personal and familiar. While my film and cultural tastes vary between everything from politics all the way to hard core splatter films, I would be a big fat liar if I didn’t admit that I also went through a hardcore boyband phase in my early teenage years. Yes, I already fully aware know that this kind of admission isn’t exactly considered cool, but now that I’m well past the obsession, I fully own the mania that took over every waking second of my early adolescence. Needless to say, when I heard about Jessica Leski’s documentary I USED TO BE NORMAL: A BOYBAND FANGIRL STORY, I jumped on the chance to to go down that frenzied memory lane.
The story focuses on four women and their boyband of choice- in this case The Beatles, Take That, Backstreet Boys, and One Direction. Though there is, ahem, the glaring omission of my personal fave, NKOTB, the choice of these particular bands represents specific eras of the cultural phenomenon.
Rather than delving into the history of boybands, the film really focuses on each of the women and how their fangirl-dom informed their lives and helped them grow as individuals and helped them cope with some of their personal tribulations. Aside from the impact the boybands had on their lives, the film also focuses on the pure unabashed joy the women experience through their love of their guys. This aspect creates a super fun vibe and balances out the inherent drama that is also important to the overall story.
Though my personal boyband sadly wasn’t included, I still thoroughly enjoyed the many similarities these women share with my experiences as an NKOTB fanatic. I think in many ways this enthusiasm translates to all forms of fandom and not just that of frenzied pubescent girls. Though I’m sure I’ll get killed in talkback for saying this, getting all worked up about cute, famous boys is not all that different than geeking out about comic book heros or the latest Sam Raimi release. I USED TO BE NORMAL: A BOYBAND FANGIRL STORY.
One of my only disappointments with the doc was my unrealized hope that they would ultimately connect the fans with the guys they worship. Though some of the fans had their own moments with their favorites at concerts and events, my inner fangirl was dying to see them meet up with their obsessions in the context of the doc. Aside from that, an epilogue for each character got a bit tiresome and seemed kind of extraneous to the boyband theme. I understand that the film is ultimately about the fangirls, but their individual stories were perfectly illustrated in the main body of the film making their follow up stories seem unnecessary.
Despite these few gripes I USED TO BE NORMAL: A BOYBAND FANGIRL STORY is a terrific doc that analyzes the curious phenomenon of fandom from the point of view of one of its more extreme facets. The film definitely spoke to my 14 year old self and was a fun nostalgic blast. Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Aka Annette Kellerman