Since the wee age of 7, the Beatles-fan part of my brain has been active and whirring away merrily. The one thing that has been a constant source of annoyance and confusion is what was commonly referred to as “Beatlemania” — a polite word for a stadium full of mostly girls, going completely batsh*t for the Beatles.
“Shut up!” I would think to myself, because I’m so eloquent and expressive.
“No one can hear the band! Sit down!” I would muse at those young whippersnappers while I complained of my rheumatics.
For a long time I resented these girls, not so much because I wanted to get through one screening of a ‘Hard Day’s Night’ where the audience didn’t make me nervous and trample-weary, but because I just couldn’t get my comfort zone around the idea of an endless sea of women putting a handful of men on such an intense pedestal. The feminist in me cringed at the sight of how these girls let themselves get completely dragged away from sanity by their affection for boys they hardly knew. It was a cocktail made of the most frustrating aspect of celebrity culture and patriarchal gender roles that ever flicked the veins in my temple.
And then the other day my brain rolled over, and a new theory surfaced! Mind you, it’s just a theory, so feel free to rail at me in the comments (just try to keep it classy, you guys).
Okay. So. This is my theory.
You know how for centuries and centuries women were oppressed, and how the words “hysteria” and “mania” were applied to women in the Victorian age who so much as blinked energetically? And then how in the 60s a lot of these gender oppressions broke down and that whole sexual revolution thing happened and then women could make (some) choices about their lives and education and happiness and all that? Maybe Beatlemania wasn’t putting dudes on a pedestal.
Maybe Elvis was a preview. Maybe it was just time — time for girls to let it all out. All the pent up emotions, all the frustrations, everything that came with being a girl teetering on the possibility of change and opportunity. Corsets were barely off, higher education was still relatively new for women, and while everyone on TV was a Betty Draper, there were a lot more Peggy Olsens running around, just waiting for an excuse to throw their typewriters at the wall and start writing some damn copy already. Opportunities were dangling in front of girls, weighed down by the knowledge that they would be filled with burdens that men wouldn’t have to contend with.
Maybe this is totally obvious to everyone. Maybe I’m just immensely cynical and that’s why what I saw was a sea of women idolizing men. Maybe I just really like typing the word “maybe”. But I’m really excited about the idea of Beatlemania being a stepping stone to cultural revolution in a way that benefited women. And I’m really excited to think that maybe, just maybe (maybe!) I’m getting less cynical in my old age. I’m not sure how it’s transformed into pop and boy bands today, or rather, the way girls react to them, but that’s definitely a whole other bag of radishes to explore.