I first knew I wanted to be a journalist after watching "Almost Famous" in the fifth grade at my friend Whitney's house. I loved the movie because it combined two of my favorite things: Writing and music. I loved Penny Lane's (Kate Hudson) free spirit, Frances McDormand as the hilariously protective mother, and that iconic, magical moment when the band, Stillwater, sings "Tiny Dancer" in unison on the tour bus. I loved that the story was about a teenage rock journalist, who proved that there are no age limits when it comes to storytelling.
I could spend hours waxing poetic about what makes this movie so special. With phenomenal casting, a stellar soundtrack and the most quotable of quotes (“FECK YOU”), you don't have to be a fan of ‘70s classic rock to appreciate the movie. It’s about falling in love, losing your virginity, experimentation, friendship and independence. Other than the John Hughes era, there are few films in recent memory that truly capture these coming of age experiences in an authentic, real way (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” being exceptions).
When director Cameron Crowe set out to make “Almost Famous” 15 years ago -- a film inspired from his days as a teen reporter for Rolling Stone -- he said it was a love letter to music. And it is. But it’s also a tribute to fangirls.
Before the Beliebers, Directioners and the Swifties, there were the Band-Aids. In "Almost Famous," the Band-Aids traveled with Stillwater, inspired the music and most of all, unabashedly loved it with no expectations in return. I recently rewatched the film, and there was one line in particular that lingered in my brain after the credits rolled. It's a scene where Sapphire, one of the Band-Aids, leans into guitarist Russell Hammond and says, “They [the groupies] don't even know what it is to be a fan. Y'know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts.”
We can all relate to that feeling, whether it's a song, band, sports team or piece of writing. Yet one of the biggest differences between a fangirl at a One Direction concert and Literally Anyone Else Who Loves Something is that if a teen girl likes it, it's automatically dismissed. If you type the phrase "fangirls are" into Google search, the first terms that appear are "annoying," "scary" and "stupid." However, fangirls are shaping communities in ways that weren't possible 10 years ago. Thanks to platforms like Tumblr and Twitter, teens are able to connect like never before, creating an environment where they can talk about mental illness, race and body image. In a world where so many teens feel dismissed and that they don’t have a voice, these communities are helping them to find that voice and value. Instead of adults complaining that teens today are “entitled” or “oblivious,” if they took the time to listen, they would see that teens are the ones not only disrupting the technological landscape, but also are helping to fuel billion-dollar industries and more importantly, meaningful conversations.
They are the ones who responsible for helping “The Hunger Games” -- a “silly” dystopian YA novel-turned-movie-turned-franchise with a female protagonist -- gross $152.5 million its opening weekend. Gleeks helped to shine a brighter spotlight on LGBTQ character storylines. Young girls are using Tumblr to teach each other about feminism.
When adults don’t take the ideas, passions and dreams of fangirls seriously, they’re missing out. They’re missing out on finding possible solutions to major social problems. They’re missing out on the opportunity to ask important questions. They’re missing out on the chance to view the world through a different lens and in doing so, are missing the voices that have the potential to change it.
Music can’t exist without fans and fans can’t exist without teenage girls. Cameron Crowe understood this, and on the 15th anniversary of "Almost Famous," I can appreciate the film that much more. As a Spice Girls-obsessed 11 year-old girl in 2000, Crowe’s message was just as clear then as it now: Music matters. Teens matter. The Penny Lanes of the world matter.
As Stillwater’s lead singer Jeff Bebe tells 15-year-old William Miller in his Rolling Stone interview, “Rock ‘n’ roll can save the world.” And fangirls can, too.