Media Representations of Fandom: Groupies (1970 Documentary)

A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Kitty, posted, on Facebook, the youtube to link to the full 1970 documentary on Groupies.  I didn’t have time to watch it at the time, but did save it to watch later.  After all, our book does discuss groupies, to some extent.  I will go so far as to say that this is one term that fans, especially female fans, get labeled.  There are a lot of definitions of the term out there and, for most people, fans and non-fans alike, the term is not necessarily one that is positive.  Often, when non-fans say it to fans it is said as judgement, as criticism, as insult.  Of course, I have also heard it said or written about fans from other fans.  Now, of course, there is a long history behind the term and one that has been written about in a variety of sources from magazines to books to personal memoirs.  So, what does this documentary show?  Is there judgment given?  Who is telling the story, so to speak?  Is it accurate from other research I have completed?  Here is the youtube clip, if you, too, want to watch it for yourself.

It seems very clear to me that the makers of this documentary did not want to have anyone except for the people directly involved to tell the story.  Instead, they wanted to film, often in a real time scenarios, and just see what happened.  There was no storyline or agenda.  It seemed to be a let’s film and see what life was like for the groupies and the men around the groupies.  Now, before I go any further, let me be clear.  These groupies fit the definition of people who have sex with male musicians/rock stars.  They do mention that there are male groupies, especially in San Francisco, but they are not filmed.  So, how did it work to have the camera just on without a script or plan?  On one hand, there was no judgement given by this method.  They simply showed and allowed the people involved to see and do what they would, normally, or so we, as viewers, can assume.  I like that there wasn’t an agenda to either prove that they are terribly immoral people or to prove that they are cool beyond belief.  The viewers could decide that for themselves.  Yet, at the same time, I wonder if there was enough information given for the random viewer.  I know quite a bit as I have done plenty of research so I was able to put what I saw in context and it gave life to many of things I read about.  Would others be able to follow as easily?  For example, the documentary mentions the “Plaster Casters” but truly doesn’t give enough information until the end about what that was.  (It was a group of women who made plaster casts out of the anatomy of male rock stars.)

Despite not having an organized flow, there were certain aspects of the groupie lifestyle that the viewer could conclude.  First, it showed that “groupies” often hung out with other “groupies”.  It seemed common for them to live together and spend the majority of their time together.  Second, it showed that the lifestyle had both its ups and downs, its positives and negatives.  On one hand, groupies might get with rock stars who have a lot of money and then can stay with them for weeks in super nice hotels and party all the time.  There was a sense of superiority in women in those situations.  They viewed it as a challenge to get the best rock stars and if they made it, then it felt very glamorous.  It was like they were the top of a very exclusive club.  On the other hand, they might also find themselves in tough spots.  They might be in gross hotel rooms or apartments.  It is possible for the men to abuse them or just use them.  This seemed particularly problematic for underage girls, especially under the influence of drugs.  There was plenty of alcohol and drug use shown as well.   Underage girls also faced difficulties with parents who described them as “immoral” and “embarrassments”.

Did the documentary give enough information for the viewer to determine why someone would want to be a groupie?  I’m not sure.  Yes, it presented the competition aspect and even the social scene aspect.  It presented the idea that they wanted to be around their heroes, their idols and they wanted to be surrounded by music.  Yet, what it didn’t explain is why the sexual aspect.  Certainly, there are a lot of fans who want to be around their idols and want to be around music but don’t perform any sort of sexual act.  Why did they?  Is that superior feeling of being in an “exclusive” situation really all that?  Is the social scene and belonging that significant?  I found myself asking more questions after having viewed the documentary.  Perhaps, if there was more of an organized format, I would have had my questions answered.

-A

 

5 thoughts on “Media Representations of Fandom: Groupies (1970 Documentary)”

  1. Although 4 decades passed by and the world we live in isn’t the one in the 70s, “groupie” in the fandom is still something negative and spregiative.
    I loved reading something about the Seventies by Pamela DesBarres not long ago: if I find the link on the web I’ll email you.
    PS. have you thought of the term “regular”? A regular is seen as someone one step below the groupie and two steps below the stalker.

      1. well the information on the term “regular” hasn’t any official source yet, but in fact there is a sort of hierachy in the fandoms where the regulars are placed just in the way I described. For instance, I’m a “regular”.

        1. Okay, so you mean that a regular is someone who regularly or often participates in the fan community. The difference is that someone who is thought of a regular is not deemed negative like stalker or groupie, at least not within the fandom. Would the general public who does not understand fandom, put a “regular” in the negative column? It is possible. That said, it is not anywhere near the stigma as the terms groupie and stalker.

          -A

          1. I took the term “regular” to mean someone who is around a lot. I wouldn’t call it a negative term – but on the same token, I participate in fandom. The problem comes into play with people who do not participate in ANY fandom, because they see any of it, especially of people our age, as a negative – and the term they most often use? Groupie or stalker. In fact, I was talking to friends this weekend, and what is truly fascinating is that to them, they think being a fan at all equates with the term “groupie”. They don’t even MEAN it to be the type of groupie that hangs outside the backstage door, they just think it means being a fan! To be fair to my friends – I think the term has become so diluted and watered down due to misuse as well as overuse, that has become the case with many if not most people. Nonetheless, they were properly edumacated. 😀 -R

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