A week or so ago I stumbled across a link to the Kickstarter page for a documentary called “I Used To Be Normal – A Boy Band Fangirl Story” and I got the most excited I’d been about a film project since “Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of”.
Scheduled for release in 2017, “I Used To Be Normal” is the work of Australian filmmakers (and self-confessed fangirls) Jessica Leski and Rita Walsh and watching the Kickstarter campaign clip was like looking in a mirror. A magical, time-traveling mirror that took me back to 1997 but a mirror all the same.
In 1997 I was 15 and a full-blown Backstreet Boys fangirl. I’d run out of wall space for my posters and I went to sleep every night with the Boys smiling down at me from the ceiling as well. In 2015 that is creepy to me on so many levels but in 1997 it made perfect sense. In 1997 I would have absolutely lost my freakin’ mind if Kevin had married anyone but me. Luckily for everyone in a five-mile radius, I had a better grip on reality by the time he married Kristin and now those two… talk about relationship goals.
But I digress.
The four-minute campaign video for “I Used To Be Normal” features all the screaming, crying and chasing after tour buses you’d expect from a film covering fandoms from The Beatles to the Backstreet Boys and from NKOTB to 1D. There are also soundbites from interviews with fans at all stages of fangirlism – a teen in the throes of 1D obsession, a BSB fan questioning whether her fangirling fits with her wider world view and a Beatles fan carefully sifting through her collection of newspaper clippings from the band’s heyday. It’s a snapshot of what we can expect from the finished film and it’s a snapshot of our lives.
Because this is a film by, for and about fans like us. If you cut class to see the Boys on TRL or to get your hands on the latest album (“School? Are you crazy? “Millennium” comes out today!”), this is a film for you. If you wrote fan fiction or drew fan art when you should have been studying or if you do it now when you should be working, you’re going to want to see this film. And if you got down on your knees and prayed when Brian had surgery, AJ went to rehab or Nick went off the rails, this film is about you. Because our fandom runs deep, you guys, and what excites me most about this project is that Leski and Walsh have plumbed those depths.
They’ve spoken to psychologists, neurologists, educators and music industry experts to find out why some of us are so strongly affected by pop music and by the people who deliver it to us. They’ve dissected the teenage brain (only figuratively, I hope, otherwise I will NOT make it through the film) and they’ve found actual scientific reasons for that impulse you have to yell “They never broke up!” when someone dares refer to Nick as a ‘former Backstreet Boy’. (Now you can also yell “Stop judging me! It’s SCIENCE!”)
Personally, that fascinates me to the point where I couldn’t not back this project. I backed it because my mother never understood what was going on in my teenage brain and because my own adult mind boggles when I look back at my teenage self. I backed it because I want to know more about why I am the way I am, why you are the way you are and why we’re all here now, bound together by a “bunch of dorks, jumping around on stage, singing and dancing” (AJ’s words, not mine).
And I backed it because with “Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of” the Boys told us their story and with “I Used To Be Normal”, we can tell them ours. Let’s make sure they hear it.
- The Kickstarter campaign for “I Used To Be Normal” has just a week left to run so if you can pledge, please visit boybandfangirl.com. You can also read Karah-Leigh’s interview with Jessica Leski here.