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Arts & Culture

Fever Pitch

February 15, 2012 | by

Morgan and Taylor, a collage.

Have you seen this video of a three-year-old weeping over Justin Bieber? It became an Internet phenomenon, culminating in Jimmy Kimmel flying the toddler to his show so she could sit on Bieber’s lap. A lot of people thought it was pretty cute. Others found it disturbing, lumping it in with the broader societal problem of the sexualization of increasingly young girls.

This particular example may be a little extreme: she’s three. But there’s a general feeling out that girls are crushing way too hard, way too young, on the boys they see in magazines. Look around, and you’ll find no shortage of six-, eight-, ten-year-olds in the grip of a pretty serious Bieber fever.

I’m here to tell you: don’t worry about it.

Remember Hanson? For about five years of my life, they were my life. Them, and another band, The Moffatts. The Moffatts were the Canadian Hanson: an all-brother band that sang and played instruments and had hundreds of thousands of utterly rabid, scarily desperate young girls tearing their hair out over them. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I spent the years between the ages of thirteen and seventeen doing very little aside from obsessing over these two bands. Or that between 1996 and 2000 I went to more than a hundred of their concerts, television spots, autograph sessions, radio interviews, and other public appearances. That I followed them around most of Canada and a good part of the United States. Or that I spent, in total, probably about sixty nights sleeping in parking lots, on sidewalks, in decrepit motels, and in the back of a minivan. My friends and I once spent four nights in a Walmart parking lot, in the rain, just to be first in an autograph line.

Yes, I had friends. I had a posse, and we were famous in the world of band fans. We were interviewed in newspapers and by radio and television stations everywhere we went. The Life Network did a special on us called The Things We Do for Love. When we showed up at the Sally Jesse Raphael show in New York, to see The Moffatts, the fans waiting outside the studio screamed for us, asked us for our autographs. We were famous for loving famous people.

Membership in our posse rotated, but generally there were five of us, and like any good reality show, we covered the type spectrum: on any given road trip we’d have the planner, the comedian, two divas, and the crazy one. (I was one of the divas; when we’d arrive in a new town, looking for a motel, I’d jump out of the van and go ask the person at the reception if there was an iron in the room.)

People ask how we did what we did—we were in high school, we didn’t have driver’s licenses—and my answer is: we had Sue. Sue was the communal mom (she was also an actual mother to one of us), and she drove us around in what practically functioned as our home for those years: the Van, a forest-green Astro. We went to some pretty random places.

On one leg of a Canadian tour, we covered Vaughn, Toronto, Hamilton, Brockville, Hanover, Sarnia, Thunder Bay, and Winnipeg, with an emergency, rain-induced overnight at the Sportsman Motel in Wawa, Ontario. Have you seen a map of Canada? Winnipeg is not close to Toronto. But we’d go anywhere, by any means. I distinctly remember driving over the U.S.-Canadian border with someone hiding on the floor of the van because we didn’t have enough seats.

Toronto was ground zero, and we owned the scene there. City TV reported live from inside our tent when we camped out for shows. When I was interviewed outside one Walmart show, I looked directly into the camera and said, “We will follow The Moffatts all over the world. They’re our boyfriends, they just don’t know yet.”

(Subsequently, when the band attempted to play inside the store, the fans rioted and trashed the place, utterly destroying the entire Walmart. Management had attempted use boxes of Tide to form a blockade around the makeshift stage ... because they thought we wouldn’t tear through the boxes like rabid wolves in two seconds flat. It was front-page news the next day, and Walmart was forced to cancel the rest of the scheduled in-store appearances.)

All we cared about was seeing the band. I don’t remember my favorite class in high school, but I remember that I carried around a framed picture of Taylor Hanson to put on my desk in each class. I remember being literally breathless, waiting for the bell to ring, on the day a new album was released or a new video was being debuted. My friends and I once took a ten-hour bus ride to Monroeville, Pennnsylvania, and spent thirty hours in a mall parking lot with no sleep, to see Hanson talk into microphones for less than two minutes—from a balcony.

But why? Why did I do this?

The truth is that there’s no explaining it. Fans are fanatical, and fanaticism isn’t rational. At the time, we told ourselves (and justified it this way to others, because, I can assure you, there was no shortage of ridicule directed at us) that it was all about the music. That was the refrain, the mantra, the verbal talisman we wielded to ward off haters: It’s All About the Music. MMMBOP, motherfuckers.

But of course, that wasn’t exactly true. I mean, we did love the music. Those songs were catchy! We loved the shit out of that music, and it was the only thing we’d listen to. But because of our age, it would be hard to deny that sex was a big part of it.

Okay, it was mostly about sex. It was about Taylor Hanson grinding those beautiful hips of his into the keyboards. OH MY GOD, we would think, clearly and explicitly imagining being pulverized by that same pelvis, imagining our bodies as the instrument that Taylor would play into the ground in a phantasmagoria of erotic-melodic fuckrock. I’m just being honest.

We’d get our jollies wherever we could. There was this fan-fiction blog that we were addicted to; we’d print out the new installment every morning and take it to school, carry it around like a religious tome. It was called DevilAngel and it was an X-rated homoerotic love story starring Hanson and The Moffatts. MIND IMPLOSION. My friends (and thousands of girls like us) were sexually hypnotized by this story, written by a fan who was herself sixteen at the time. And it was dirty. I can name at least two sexual acts I heard about for the first time from this blog.

But what the wary moms forget is that idolizing pop stars is a way for adolescent girls to explore sexuality—without having to actually have sex. My friends and I weren’t ready to have sex, like some of our peers, but we could have sleepovers in my basement and stay up all night talking about the things we’d do to those Hanson boys, if only we could get our hands on them. Which of course, we couldn’t, which was the whole point. The innocence inherent in this type of boy worship is also pretty obvious when you look at the boys themselves: they look like girls. There was nothing threatening about these guys. It was this epicene quality that made it possible for my friends and me to say such vulgar, sexually aggressive things about them. I actually held up a sign that said RIDE ME at a Moffatts concert. Had Bob Moffatt looked like Kid Rock, rather than an emaciated, puppy-faced, silky-haired version of myself, I probably wouldn’t have been so bold.

Still, that’s the difference between my friends, back then, and my six-year-old Bieber-crazed niece and her friends now. Our sexuality was inchoate, but it was real. We knew exactly what we wanted: while Taylor sang about holding hands, we dreamed about being dominated by him. My niece and her friends may look like they’re in the throes of some seriously disturbing mega-lust, but they’re not. So what’s the driving force behind their passion?

Here’s my theory: some girls just want to go apeshit. They want to scream and jump up and down and go absolutely fucking bananas over something. Pop stars are catnip for a girl who wants to go bananas. Pop concerts are an evangelical experience. There is, undeniably, something of the pentecostal in them, and I think it is this kind of energy that these girls are looking to expel. I’ve read about taking ecstasy and going to raves, and I’ve seen videos of seemingly normal people collapsing into a writhing pile of Jesus-love and hysterical gibberish, and while I’ve not experienced either of those, I can imagine it’s pretty intoxicating to surrender like that. I can imagine it because I’ve felt it, too. It may sound ridiculous, but I’ll telling you, singing “Where’s the Love?” in a hysterical crowd of twenty-thousand girls while your personal idol is banging away on the keyboards right there in front of you is heady, friends. You can lose yourself, and we did.

The vast majority of these young girls swooning for Justin Bieber don’t want to have sex with him. They just want something to love, something to go crazy over. And in our culture, we go crazy over celebrities. So I say that if you’re a young girl in the throes of this kind of worship, the kind that makes you fall to your knees in a state of absolute reverence for Justin Bieber—this cute kid with a fantastic voice and some pretty sick dance moves—you could be doing a lot worse.

I say, let the girls do their thing. Go nuts. It’s when they start weeping over the teenage alcoholics on The Real World that we’re in trouble. But for the Bieb? Let em weep.

Morgan Macgregor is a reader and writer living in Los Angeles. She reviews fiction, blogs at Reading in LA, and is working on a novel. She plans to open a bookstore.

19 COMMENTS

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17 Comments

  1. Sharanya Manivannan | February 15, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Very interesting! I had no idea there was a Hanson-Moffatt slash fic thing going. One of my sisters was heavily into both these bands. Wonder how she’d have reacted back then if she knew. *Grin*

  2. Nicole | February 15, 2012 at 11:10 am

    i would read tulsa74312 over and over and over and over. and over. and we followed them EVERYWHERE. some of my friends still do. that was such a great story, and so fun to relive that! we were nutty!

  3. Chelsea | February 15, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Don’t know what else to say beyond, Thank You.

    Thank you for reminding me of some seriously awesome memories–bathing in fast food restaurants before shows, hiding homoerotic fan fiction in my desk drawer–and thank you for introducing me to the phrase, “erotic-melodic fxckrock” I shall use it forever.

  4. Laura | February 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I love you for this. Thank you.

  5. Keiki | February 15, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I am having flashbacks to my own teenager years. Love this.

  6. Andrea | February 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Loved this. I grew up an hour away from Monroeville and wanted to go to that mall appearance so badly, but I didn’t have a Sue.

  7. Morgan Macgregor | February 15, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Andrea, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. After the first fans in line stormed the autograph table, they whisked the guys away in a van and canceled everything. I think two people out of two-thousand got autographs. Classic!

    Thanks for all the kind words, everyone! Glad I could invoke a little nostalgia on this Wednesday!

  8. Phee Farnsworth | February 16, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Speechless. This is superb and I’m laughing in Starbucks.

  9. Annie | February 16, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Wondering if this is the same Morgan I think I met a few times, back when I was a “Nutley Girl.” This article brought back some memories, thanks :)

  10. michelle | February 17, 2012 at 11:24 am

    as a 25 year old woman who attended her 85th hanson concert in 15 years last night in sayreville, nj – i can personally attest that all of this is accurate. and hilarious.

  11. TD | February 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Growing up, it was hard for me to make friends. It lead to a lot of time spent alone in my room listening to music and watching tv. Until one day I heard MMMBop. Such a silly little word changed my entire life. I fell hard for these three Oklahoma boys music, and other people did too. I now had something to relate with people to. They were my first love and when everyone else dwindled down, I was still there.
    After high school I moved to the Hanson mecca of the world- Tulsa, Oklahoma. I met even more people who had moved here for the same reason. I went to college, got a degree, found an fantastic career and made a better life for myself than I could have imagined. I even met a good old Tulsa boy, who I eventually made my husband, at Hanson concert- he was there with his now ex-girlfriend. I have been to well over 200 Hanson concerts and events. I have seen the world thanks to following their tours. I have made the best of friends through the love of this bands music.
    It makes me smile to know I’m not the only one.

  12. JL | May 3, 2012 at 9:32 am

    This was great. I saw myself in it. For me, it was all New Kids on the Block at age 12,13,14. Many times, I’ve wondered why I was so swept up in all that back then, and you nailed it. I think it’s why, when the group reunited a few years ago, it meant way more to me than it probably should have. Because they were my first boyfriends. Not really. But in my eyes at age 13, they were. I was an adolescent, and in no way did I want to direct those adolescent feelings toward creepy, immature little 13-year-old boys. So instead I directed them toward the pinnacle of perfection – well-dressed, talented, charming, gorgeous older teenage guys who were completely “safe” for me to love. Like you said, heady stuff. Glad I stumbled across your post!

  13. Chris Roberts | May 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    The Paris Review reduced to Justin Bieber coverage…credibility fades… staff looking for work with National Enquirer and yes, here’s me laughing…Ha. Ha.Ha. as the Review devours itself…HA!

  14. John Sebastian Maxwell | September 24, 2012 at 6:54 am

    The only connection I can make over all this dribble,is Winnipeg. I lost my virginty aged 17, to a 27 year old truck driver. The year was January 1977, 2 days before my 18th birthday.
    Pembina HWY was buried in snow as I looked out from my older brother’s apartment window, “Queen” was on the airways with “Can anybody find me somebody to love” and a commercial for “Ice capades” crackled and Hissed.
    Marilyn, her name was, she was sexy,Vicarious,beautiful and fun, and man she knew how to drive that truck!
    To my brother Tony Hatt, who set the wheels turning and to Marilyn, who in all her Sensuoustivity, liberated me from my youth, and to the winter of Winnipeg 1977. Cheers. John Sebastian Maxwell.

  15. Nicole B. | June 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Classic Morgan! I remember that photo of you and have to say it still makes me laugh to this day!
    Even though it was all innocent back then not sure its the same with todays adolescent.

  16. Nicole | October 17, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    I was like this about Savage Garden from 1996-2001! (Gawd I feel old! Almost 30 now!) that fair like yesterday. Ahhhh the Savage Gardwn “Fan Fics” I would read for the same reasons. At 14 hormones were wild and this article is spot on how it was in my ‘Savage Garden obsessed years.’ *waves* Hi ow Canadian Morgan! I was born and raised just outside of Vancouver. Where did you grow up? If you were ever into Savage Garden at any point more than likely we met somewhere. I was SO obsessed. I basically did everything you did to see your favorites :D This article makes me feel less weird about my growing up years. THANKYOU, Morgan! X
    Nicole

  17. Nicole | October 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Sorry for all my typos! I’m typing on a small iPhone keyboard :-( Not so good at it lol
    Love you Morgan!! A fantastic Canadian who has gone from a love sick for celebrity teen to a well respected writer and book critic. (You two make a beautiful couple btw..wink)
    Canadian girls rock. What can I say about us? :-)
    Nicole

2 Pingbacks

  1. [...] “I say, let the girls do their thing. Go nuts. It’s when they start weeping over the teenage alcoholics on ‘The Real World ’that we’re in trouble. But for the Bieb? Let em weep.” Morgan Macgregor On Girls’ Boy-Musician Love Objects [...]

  2. [...] Remember when Hanson were awesome? Me too. As a tween, I was obsessed. I Mmmbopped my way merrily through life. Seeing them live was all I wanted, the ultimate goal. Finally, I did. You know what? It was pretty crap. Their glossy locks were way less glossy, their vocals awkwardly becoming adult and Taylor didn’t look at me once. I stopped planting to find out which one might grow. Happiness is a bit like that. We spend so much time obsessively waiting for it to strike like the release of a new ipad, that the actuality can’t compete with anticipation. Listen to Pascal Bruckner yap about it. Just like those blonde haired angels warbled, you have so many relationships in this life, only one or two will last through the pain and strife. [...]

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