Serena is a 17-year-old from New York City. She occupies her time by reading, laughing, and chasing her dreams. She hopes to be a writer someday.
Potterphiles. Twihards. Bieber Fever. These are just a few examples of terms used to describe very specific groups of individuals from around the world who epitomize the word “fanatic”. But what exactly causes teenagers to devote their lives to a boy wizard or a vampire clan, or to a young musician? Dr. Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist and author of The Female Brain and of The Male Brain, provides the scientific explanation. According to Dr. Brizendine, when a fan girl sees her pop culture idol, the chemical dopamine is released in the girl’s brain. This euphoric feeling can be likened to that following being injected with heroin! Dr. Brizendine explains a kind of domino effect, which starts with one screaming fan and ricochets off other fan girls. Along with dopamine is the release of oxytocin, a love hormone. The estrogen levels in teenage girls combined with dopamine and oxytocin creates an atmosphere of hysteria. In the words of Dr. Brizendine, “It truly is a state of ecstatic love.”
Pop culture is a dominating presence in the lives of teenagers. The Internet, the television, and magazines all contribute to the teenage fascination with all things that relate to the celebrity status quo. It is only natural for teens to become attached to a pop culture icon. Whether the attachment is due to physical attraction or just the intrigue that a person or story instills in teens does not matter, because either way teenagers become enthralled by this figure; they become devotees. They become fans.
Take the Harry Potter series, for example. The story and the characters are entirely fictional, and yet hundreds and thousands of fans camped outside for days at the venues of the London and New York City premieres for the final installment, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. This particular story has followed fans for a decade; the fans have grown with the characters in the story, whether through the books or through the movies. The Harry Potter generation exclusively refers to teens and young adults. Our generation has been captivated by magic in a way that no one thought possible when the books were first published in the late nineties. The characters developed over the years, and this generation of teenagers experienced a similar growth as Harry and Co. transformed into mature young adults.
A similar mania that has erupted is that of the Twilight series. A more recent franchise to reach today’s teenagers, the Twilight series is also a fictional tale about a clumsy, shy girl who falls in love with a romantic, heartthrob vampire. The Twilight series puts a spin on the classic story of Romeo and Juliet, modernizing it and creating a fantastical tale. Fans grow to love, or hate, characters in the series, but nevertheless the infatuation that teens feel towards the characters, the storyline, and the actors who star in the films is as fierce as any other teen obsession.
Justin Bieber. The name automatically conjures images of screaming teenage girls and his hair flipping before he shortened his locks. At seventeen years old, this Canadian native is extremely popular among teenagers. Is it his physical appearance that makes girls go crazy, or is it his voice crooning love songs? He has the fan base to fill stadiums across the globe, and the ability to cause a security risk by stepping into a mall in Long Island, NY. He can sing, dance, perform, and entertain, satisfying his flock of teenage fans, who would do anything to get a picture or an autograph, or even a hug. He has managed to inspire a following of teenagers that has not been seen since the height of the Jonas Brothers’ fame a couple of years ago.
Pop culture is somewhat of a necessity for teenagers. Being a fan of someone or something is a passionate devotion, a journey that a teen embarks on along with an overwhelming amount of fellow fans. To be able to open a book, or watch a movie, or listen to music and feel a strong, relatable, true connection: that is what being a teenage fan is all about! During the course of several years filled with angst, emotions, and physical changes, teenagers find comfort in discovering characters, actors, and musicians with whom teens can identify with. Such is the reasoning behind these moonstruck teens.
Photo: Kate Ter Haar from Flickr