From the opening credits of delightful documentary I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story, you’ll find yourself laughing. It'll be the uninhibited joyous laughter born not from mockery, but from recognition of the raw, unfiltered emotions that arise from being a dedicated member of any fandom. Although the focus is exclusively on girls and their love of boy bands, the universal beats of their stories could be mapped onto anyone.
Elif, Sadia, Dara, and Susan may be separated by age, distance, and strikingly different backgrounds, but they are kindred spirits when it comes to their deep abiding love for boy bands. Having reached expert-level status after a lifetime of fangirling over One Direction, the Backstreet Boys, Take That, and the Beatles, respectively, these four women share a similar journey that will resonate with anyone who has ever identified as a number one fan.
One of the most striking things these women have in common is how they each felt the need to hide or restrain their love of boy bands to avoid judgment from their peers. Yet at the same time, their passion introduced and bonded them to lifelong friends who shared their interests and accepted their extreme obsession. I Used To Be Normal embraces the typically misunderstood mania surrounding adolescent obsessions, and refreshingly condemns the notion that young people – especially girls – should be labeled unintelligent for falling for boy bands.
The beauty of this documentary lies in the fact that the filmmakers are never dismissive or judgmental of the girls’ feelings. Instead of shaming them, they revel in exploring every aspect of their fandom, listening to why they have this underlying psychological and emotional need to immerse themselves in something so completely. Agreeing that music fandom in particular is a cathartic and natural part of growing up, each account raises and attempts to answer questions about burgeoning sexuality and the empowering effects of music. Following each story from innocent adolescent fantasies to the mature acceptance that they won’t be marrying Nick Carter or Harry Styles, the message is to never be afraid of expressing yourself through your passions - and to never allow others to shame you for them.
I Used To Be Normal is a rousing and heartwarming account of the universal need to connect with something larger than ourselves. It inspires and encourages fans of all ages and genders to embrace positivity wherever they can find it, in a world that so often discourages it. It asks: Who cares about being normal when it’s so much more fun to be yourself? Keep screaming about the things that you love.
If you’re at Fantastic Fest this week, don’t miss the second screening of I Used To Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story on Wednesday, September 26th!