Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs wrote an article to explain a phenomenon called Beatlemania. The authors presented several theories why American teenage girls screamed and fainted at the sight of the Beatles. When the British music group visited the United States in 1964, a great number of American teenage girls were reduced to helpless fanatics. These theories were simplified as follows:
We will write a custom Essay on The Beatlemania Phenomenon Concept specifically for you
301 certified writers online
- The Jitterbug phenomenon;
- Beatlemania was an indirect byproduct of the race riots of the 1960s;
- Beatlemania was an outlet for teenagers’ repressed sexual feelings;
- Beatlemania was a rebellion against the status quo;
- Beatlemania was a mechanism to express sexual yearnings without the consequences that usually accompany illicit sexual acts;
- Beatlemania was the end product of consumer manipulation.
The authors expounded the meaning and the implications of the theory, and as they went along, they gave hints on the ideas that they believed were the more likely explanation for the emergence of Beatlemania.
The Anthropological and Psychosexual Explanations
Ehrenreich, Hess and Jacobs presented first the least likely explanation to the Beatlemania phenomenon. The Jitterbug theory was created from an anthropological point of view. The core idea blamed mass hysteria to the teenage girls’ desperate need to conform. According to the authors, the proponent of the said theory lost credibility when he presented a racist response to rock and roll. In other words, he blamed the music of the Beatles. He said that the music had a hypnotic effect similar to the sound created by native villagers in Africa.
The alternative explanation came from an iconic magazine called Variety, and the author said that Beatlemania was the indirect result of race riots in the 1960s. Beatlemania was seen as a form of protest against certain social controls. This assertion was based on documented behavior of teenage girls, especially the violence against law enforcers given the task to secure the Beatles. In some cases, girls assaulted law enforcement personnel in order to get near John, Paul, Ringo, and George.
The third explanation delved into the world of sexual repression. The authors alluded to the influence of Sigmund Freud in the study of repressed sexual feelings. Nevertheless, the authors Ehrenreich, Hess, and Jacobs shoot down the argument as an incomplete framework that could help explain the marvel that was Beatlemania. They pointed out that repressed sexual energy could not explain the girls’ ability to scream and cry out for several hours while attending a Beatles concert. Nevertheless, they did not deny the impact of certain sexual elements in Beatlemania.
Rebellion, Repressed Sexual Yearnings, and Consumer Manipulation
The fourth theory viewed Beatlemania as the need to speak against the status quo. Ehrenreich, Hess, and Jacobs devoted a great deal of space to explain the American teenagers’ struggles against the mores and social controls associated with marriage and sexual purity. Teenage girls were expected to remain chaste until they get married in their early twenties.
American teenagers in the 1960s struggled against conventional wisdom on sexual purity, because a different reality exists in the social world that they interacted with on a daily basis. Although, certain social standards must be upheld by teenage girls, they also knew that strict adherence to the said rules will never make them one of the popular girls in campus. In addition, a significant number of teenagers were unhappy at the kind of lifestyle that awaits them when they become adults. A considerable number of Beatlemaniacs are not sold out to the idea of spending the rest of their lives as plain housewives.
The fifth theory viewed Beatlemania as a mechanism that enabled teenage girls to express sexual yearnings without the consequences that usually accompany sexual acts. They were able to express their deepest longings without any social backlash. John, Paul, Ringo, and George will never propose to them, and they will never end up as their wives. Thus, the fantasy they created in their heads allowed them to express emotions that were off limits to them in their respective families and communities.
The sixth theory explains the emergence of Beatlemania through the use of mass media techniques. The proponent of the theory argued that the target market for the promoters and organizers were teenagers. A frenzied medial blitz preceded the arrival of the Beatles. At least five million posters and stickers were used to promote their U.S. tour. The airwaves were filled with their music, as well as personal information about the group members to assure greater exposure to the target audience.
After Ehrenreich, Hess, and Jacobs expounded on the different theories created to explain Beatlemania, the authors discussed other aspects of the sexual repression and sexual identity issues. They forwarded the idea that Beatlemaniacs were unsure of themselves, especially when it comes to the topic of sexual intercourse. Thus, there was a struggle to understand and appreciate conventional ideas regarding the opposite sex.
They found comfort in the alternative image of the masculine male offered by the Beatles. In a time when men were measured according to their toughness, the Beatles provided an alternative image of heterosexual men who were like women in terms of appearance and sensitivity. They wore long hair as opposed to the crew cut hairstyle of the average American male. They were playful as opposed to the stern authority figure that characterized the typical American man.
The authors delved deeper into other issues regarding the phenomenal appeal of the Beatles. They asserted that a major explanation to the Beatle’s success was due to the alternative lifestyle that they modeled to the world. John, Paul, Ringo and George need not slave away behind a desk or work all day inside a factory. These men have the power to stay in their hotel rooms the whole day, and they never bother on what they need to eat or wear. Therefore, the fans perceived them as powerful individuals. The Beatles were popular role models, because people knew their humble origins. The Fab Four paid their dues, and they worked hard to attain global success. In the minds of their numerous fans, the success of the Beatles gave them hope, and they dare to believe that dreams come true.