Teen girls: unlike teen boys

World-famous Twitter trending topic, Justin Bieber, arrived in NZ for a one-day visit and lots of girls screamed. The frenzy was much like that welcoming the Beatles when they arrived here in 1964


I wonder, about the screaming and the hyperventilating etc etc. It’s clearly a social game, a kind of ritualistic process to achieve a heightened state of arousal (Justin Bieber as narcotic influence). But is this behaviour present in all cultures? How far back in history does it go?

Anyone know anything?

13 thoughts on “Teen girls: unlike teen boys”

  1. It’s been quite the ride going from being completely unaware of Justin Bieber to being in a city completely in the throes of Bieber-Fever.

    I’m not saying though that it’s been a good or enjoyable ride. However it has allowed me to do more than a few “hat-watch” updates on Facebook…

  2. I believe that some cave drawings have been discovered that appear to show clusters of teen girls screaming and fainting over a young male figure with a distinctive hairdo that sets him apart from other less scream-worthy males of his time.

  3. Definitely stories about Liszt getting that kind of adulation (Ken Russell’s film Lisztomania starred Roger Daltrey to drive the point home).

    Ripped from wikipedia: “After 1842 “Lisztomania” swept across Europe. The reception Liszt enjoyed as a result can only be described as hysterical. Women fought over his silk handkerchiefs and velvet gloves, which they ripped to shreds as souvenirs. Helping fuel this atmosphere was the artist’s mesmeric personality and stage presence. Many witnesses later testified that Liszt’s playing raised the mood of audiences to a level of mystical ecstasy.” (source: Alan Walker’s “The Virtuoso Years”, p.289, not online)

  4. We didn’t get to see Lisztomania at one of the Wellington movie marathons because it apparently drove the Auckland crowd to near-homicidal frenzy.

  5. I’m curious about how localized it is in the “teen girl” demographic, though. In my brain, the people screaming for Elvis were women, but that may just be because of the rhinestone years – were 12yo girls wailing for him when he was a young hunk? And the Beatles – didn’t they skew a bunch of years older than the Bieber folk? I wonder about Lisztomania, too.

    I do suspect there’s some confluence of cultural factors that mean this happens now when it has never happened *quite* like this before; but I also tend to agree with y’all that the general phenom on display is likely very old indeed. Maybe there’s an evol psych explanation for it, they do like their just so stories in that subdiscipline, and sometimes without tongue in cheek…

  6. From the useless information dept. The airliner at the start of the Beatles clip is a Lockheed Electra, operated by Air New Zealand predecessor Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL). If anyone thinks, ‘Hey that looks like an Air Force Orion like what we use to find things lost at sea’ its because the Orion was developed from the Electra.
    Admit it, you were all wondering that 🙂

  7. Hrm. Ok. This may be rambly, but here goes…

    I feel bad for teen girls. When other groups display similar behaviour to them, they get taken more seriously. Our culture has a tendency to automatically devalue anything teen girls are really into as being worth less than what other groups are interested in. It really sucks.
    Teen girls invade an airport to greet a singer they’re into, and the reaction tends to be to talk about hysteria. Yet, I’ve seen news reports which expressed disappointment at the lack of an excited crowd to greet returning sports stars. Likewise, teen girls line up all night for tickets to a concert, and everyone regards them as silly – but here in NZ, sports fans who line up for tickets are regarded with far more tolerance. They’re just dedicated fans. There’s a degree of bias going on here. We only see the crazy behaviour when teen girls are the ones doing it.

    That said, it does seem (without doing research to confirm this) that the girls are displaying a more extreme version of reactions than other groups. I’m just not quite sure, whether it really has much to do with female biology or not.

    On the one hand, there is no denying that the emergence of girly hormones can make you act crazy. Teen girls are a bundle of flaring hormone levels that they really haven’t had a chance to learn to live with yet. It’s certainly conceivable that these are playing a part in their behaviour.

    At the same time, the appearance of mass hysteria has a distinctly female demographic skew – but if you put any group under enough stress, you’ll see it. Females simply have a crappier time of it, and end up showing it more. I think the reaction of teen girls to their idol-figures has started as something very similar to mass hysteria. A bit like the outbreaks around exam-time in some places, the arrival of their idol acts as a trigger for extreme behaviour that has been building up below the surface for some time – And once one or two fans have shown it, it spreads by suggestion, same as mass hysteria.

    Which is fine for the reaction to the Beatles, or, even earlier, Byron, or Liszt. I think that what we’re looking at with Justin Bieber, though, is just as much a product of our expectation, as a society, that teen girls will be silly and shriek at teen idols. We’ve effectively created the idea that this is how you act when you’re a fan and a teen girl. Not surprisingly, the girls oblige us – shrieking, jumping up and down, feeling like a part of a cohesive, bonded group, generally going a bit mad – well, it is kinda fun. Can you blame them for taking advantage of the societal permission to be crazy? They don’t get it very often…

  8. samm: thanks for settling that, we had all been wondering.

    evie: yeah, that sounds like wisdom to me. Personally I doubt it has much to do with biology. I think you hit the nail on the head right at the end – we’ve got this expectation/permission to go a bit mad, and it’s fun to go a bit mad, so why not? Thanks.

  9. I have to agree with Evie.

    Think about the reaction teenaged boys have to othet teenaged boys getting excited about anything. Peer pressure kills the joy. Girls/women are simply allowed to be emotional in a way that boys/men are not.

    It’s much like how I’ve always thought that women make better protagonists in horror movies than men. If a woman character screams, cries, hides in a corner, then rallies and kicks ass, everyone cheers. If a male character screams, cries and hides in a corner, he is branded as a wimp, so that if he then rallies and kicks ass, it is taken as inconsistent characterisation.

    People simply seem to accept this behaviour more from women than from men, with the plusses and the minuses that this incurs.

  10. It’s FUN for a teenage girl to get screaming with her friends! And yes Evie, it’s permissible to be outrageous, but you know your Grannie wouldn’t like it, and you have to have friends to do it. Sigh. Those were the days.

    On a tangent, what do they SEE in JB? He can’t sing, he’s sullen when his hat is taken….

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