The concept of “fangirling” is a phenomenon that has existed for decades. It is a phenomenon that is often misunderstood, looked down upon, and mocked. But in I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story, the fangirls get their moment in the spotlight to tell their own stories.
In 2015, the film’s director Jessica Leski and producer Rita Walsh launched a successful campaign on Kickstarter to help fund the beginning stages of editing the film.
The documentary introduces us to four fangirls:
- Elif, a 16-year-old from Long Island, NY, USA in love with One Direction
- Dara, a 33-year-old Take That enthusiast from Sydney, Australia
- Sadia, a 25-year-old Backstreet Boys devotee from San Francisco, CA, USA
- Susan, a 64-year-old lifelong Beatles fan from Melbourne, Australia
Each of these women can be seen in the trailer:
The film gives its four subjects the time and space to tell their stories and explain why fangirling has made an important impact on their lives. In fact, Leski and Walsh took several years to film each of their subjects; one young woman in particular goes through a lot in that time span. Each woman in the film has a deep emotional attachment to her favorite boyband.
The storytelling, which ranges from lighthearted daydreams to heartbreaking moments, is often accompanied by adorable and colorful illustrations, giving the production a unique look.
One of the most amusing sequences occurs when Dara, one of the subjects of the documentary, creates a diagram and calls it “Boyband Theory”. She posts pictures of numerous groups and lists out characteristics of boybands, like age range, song themes, and personalities. When it’s all mapped out like that, it makes total sense.
It’s easy to see that I Used to Be Normal is a labor of love. Director Jessica Leski is a self-described fangirl, which is apparent in how lovingly she frames her subjects. She treats each woman as legitimate music fans, which is how it should be.
On the Kickstarter page, Leski described exactly why she wanted—needed—to make this film: “Three years ago, I accidentally fell in love with One Direction. My friends and family didn’t get it, so I went online and found others who, like me, were obsessed. It wasn’t long until I found myself falling for the fangirls too. These girls were funny, creative, and they looked out for each other. This was something unexpected. I wanted to explore more about what was really going on here. I wanted to meet these amazing women and girls in real life, and find out their stories…”
Also, according to the Kickstarter page, Leski and Walsh filmed interviews with more than ninety people in order to get the best information possible on their journey to research the subject of fangirling. Some of these people included experts in various areas, including adolescent psychologists and music therapists.
This documentary is fun, touching, and thought-provoking. And it pulls at the heartstrings. Anyone who’s ever been a fangirl and anyone interested in fangirl culture will likely enjoy this and may even relate to it.
Long live the fangirl!
I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story will be available to watch on the following digital platforms: Amazon, iTunes, DirecTV, AT&T, FlixFing, InDemand, Vudu, Fandango, and Sling/Dish on September 17.