Girl Talk

The Beatles Blow My Mind — Again

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.


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  • Jenn Kriscunas

    Haha – great theory! When my mother was 14 (’64), the biggest highlight of her life up to that point was going to Detroit to see the Beatles. The biggest disappointment? That she couldn’t hear one. damn. note of what they were playing, on account of all the screaming.

  • Ashley DeFrancesco

    I think you’re really on to something. I do believe that some of those girls were just typically teenagers who love every new, young boy on the music scene (much like today), but I am certain that Beatlemania could have been a stepping stone to so much more. I wish I could have seen them perform live but alas, I wasn’t even a thought to my mother who was barely a child then!
    Great article! Really has got me thinking.

  • Kristal Milazzo

    I thinks its a good theory, but what about the bobby-soxers and Frank Sintra, or the mass hysteria after the death of Rudolph Valentino? I think things like Beatlemania or Biebermania are part of a girls movement into sexual maturity. (in Western Culture) Its a peak into real love and attraction that comes post-adolescence. It just seemed so huge in the 60’s because there was a huge population of young people.

  • Katherine Book

    I would have to disagree with Kristal: it was so much more than just adolesent love that was going on. Even when considering Sinatra or Valentino, no one had seen anything like Beatlemania, especially its scale and intensity. This type of explanation is too simple and often leads to people marginalizing teenage girls and their role in popular culture and changes in societal structure. Again that is why a lot of people look down on or marginalize pop music (especially the girl groups) in the early 60’s before the Beatles as vapid and feminine, even though that music also had its place in reflecting and subverting contemporary American society For anyone interested in a very cogent and thorough analysis of Beatlemania and growing up in the 60’s, I suggest they read Susan Douglas’ “Where the Girls Are: Growing up Female with the Mass Media.” You will find a lot of really interesting ideas on gender, sexuality, and the Beatles as a reflection of the fusion between traditional perceptions of “male” and female” sexuality”.

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