There’s an entire culture of young girls growing up with their teen idols at their fingertips through social media. Liza Mandelup’s Fangirl gives us a glimpse into the minds of these teenage girls and their obsession with the famous boys that they will never know personally, but love nonetheless. Mandelup reveals their romantic yet disturbing illusions, while somehow making them seem more human in their desire for connection—something we all intrinsically seek.
Mandelup elaborates: “I wanted to explore what the modern teenage girl obsession looks like in our hyper connected society. The phenomenon of obsessing over idols is age old but celebrities have never been more accessible than they are now allowing for a new kind of relationship to emerge. This is a film about what that new relationship looks like and how emotionally connected these fans can be to someone they’ve never met.”
More powerful is how Mandelup captures human nature in a world growing increasingly dependent on technology to feel connected. Adolescence is hard, but “fangirls” have found solace and companionship in the people they follow on a daily basis whether through Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter. These social apps are like star-curated versions of the 1998 film The Truman Show and allow these girls to escape their own worlds and jump headlong into someone else’s perfect life. They fall in love innocently and unintentionally with the people that provide them with such a seemingly strong connection—no matter if it’s falsely so.
Fangirl takes us past the pink love notes and photoshopped pictures on the walls and into why these print-outs mean the world to them. We can see first hand that this is more than just an obsession. It’s an innocent indulgence of escape, specifically the difficulties of growing up. “Fangirls” never have to feel alone again and that’s perhaps the most poignant thing you can take from Mandelup’s film.
While “Fangirls” grapple with feeling like they’ve been best friends with these social media stars for years, they’ll sadly never become friends IRL. Mandelup leaves us with a dreamy impression of a lonely truth.
Mandelup is fittingly working on a larger project about hyper-connectivity and a digital series.