“I Used to be Normal – A Boyband Fangirl Story” Bite-Sized Review

The boy band is a strange organism, carefully constructed by the music-biz-powers-that-be to represent everything a girl could want. If you like bad boys, they’ve got one in the group. If you like understated, charming nice guys, they’ve got that too. It’s a business model that is surprisingly effective at pushing ear-worm tunes.

This doc starts to explore the true nature of the ‘boy band’ and the psychology behind the phenomenon, but doesn’t quite unearth the core of the subject. Although getting a first hand glimpse into the lives of the most fanatical fan-girls was interesting, I never felt like I truly understood the roots of their obsession. I would have appreciated a little more cynicism in the filmmaker’s approach to the topic, since to me the fervent fandom seems like it could be a coping mechanism masking some underlying  struggles. I would have also liked to get a closer look at the bands themselves. Even with my very basic knowledge of the music industry, I’m aware that there is a dark underside to the formation and exploitation of these musicians. Predatory producers, oppressive publicity campaigns, overexposure and demanding schedules can degrade the musicians well-being. There is a mildly insidious nature to the music industry’s PR machine that I would have liked to have seen explored in more depth to create some tonal contrast. The attitude of the film suggests to me that the filmmaker didn’t want to shatter their idealistic view of the bands, which I think led to a missed opportunity because there’s a lot more to this story.

All that being said, as casual viewing, the film is fun, lighthearted and nostalgic. If you were ever into any of the bands showcased in the doc, you’ll probably have a fun trip down memory lane. It focuses mostly on the ‘boy-band’ phase as a rite-of-passage through adolescence, which is a life experience many remember fondly.

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