Tweetle-Mania: Inside Beatles Stan Twitter

The Fab Four's legacy permeates digital communities...

“Everyone loves the boys so we all just feel like family,” says 18-year-old Marina, reflecting on the Twitter fan community she’s been a proud member of since May 2022. It’s a sentiment that weaves the various spheres of Stan Twitter together, despite frequent bitter rifts and rivalries. Only in this case, the ‘boys’ in question are a band formed over half a century ago, and the surviving members are both in their 80s.

Beatles Stan Twitter is the latest instalment in the history book of one of pop culture’s most iconic fandoms — and it’s seen exponential growth in 2022 as a result of a slew of new Beatles content. While 2021’s The Beatles: Get Back existed as a highly-anticipated glimpse into The Beatles’ creative process for old fans, it also served as a high-definition introduction to a Gen-Z audience, who now anticipate re-issues of 50-year-old material with the same fervour as the BTS ARMY counting down to a music video.

It was The Beatles: Get Back that ignited the initial spark for 22-year-old Jasmine, who runs the account ‘@lennonswalrus’ from her bedroom in the US state of Georgia. It’s from there that she guides her laptop webcam around the purple walls she’s slowly concealing with Beatles memorabilia. She points out a calendar hanging among the substantial collection of posters and album artwork already acquired in her short time as a fan: “It goes through different years of their career, so in January it starts when they were formed in 1962 and overtime it goes through their career. Right now we’re in October. We’re almost at the end of the year so we’re almost at the end of The Beatles,” she says with a sigh.

Though their time together equates to a minuscule fraction of history, there is a seemingly endless expanse of Beatles content to mine — something that is fundamental to the fandom’s survival. And, as with any Stan community, members intertwine shreds of their real lives within the stream of fan content. “I just got into university!” tweets exist alongside lovingly curated photo collages of George Harrison — taken half a century before the poster’s birth. “What colour should I paint my nails?” is tweeted with the same importance as “I hope George Martin got his ass ate for producing this album!” It’s this sense of shared adoration that Jasmine was initially drawn to. “I needed a place to kind of let all of that out. So I was like, why not do it on Twitter? Is there even a community here for this? And it turns out there is,” she explains. “It’s not the biggest community compared to someone like Taylor Swift, but I like the fact that it’s smaller because you get to know everybody.”

19-year-old Ariana, who runs the account ‘@beatussy_’, agrees, admitting to finding solace among other fans who are unapologetic in their boundless enthusiasm — something that was lacking in her immediate surroundings: “In real life, it can be a bit lonely because you don’t find many people who are fans just like you, but people all over the world come together and talk about [The Beatles] on Twitter.”

The Beatles’ immense success has often been attributed to their ability to capture the zeitgeist of 60s youth culture. But, even with many generations coming of age and later slipping out of adolescence in the years since their break up, they somehow still maintain their grasp on a certain demographic: young women. It’s this demographic that primarily, but not entirely, makes up the ever-growing Twitter community.

Dr Christine Feldman-Barrett, author of A Women’s History of The Beatles’ argues that this is a result of the group’s early adoption of progressive gender ideals: “Compared to many of their male contemporaries, the Beatles were more forward-thinking in their attitudes towards women during the 1960s, and this is something that is still appreciated by female fans today,” she explains.

“These girls were starting to dream about adult lives that potentially encompassed something other than being a wife and mother. Today, when young women already have many more choices of how to live their adult lives, the Beatles still evoke those connotations of freedom, fun, creativity, and adventure — qualities that are timelessly attractive.”

Beatlemania was one of the first instances of fan culture existing at the epi-centre of a band’s story, with young women initially berated for their intense interest. Despite slow progression in gender equality since, the pattern of dismissing the interests of young women, only to later recognise them as trailblazers, remains. Recently, Taylor Swift’s music has been accepted by leftfield music publications that rejected her in the years prior — years when her majority-female online fanbase relentlessly championed her, now acclaimed, lyricism. BTS Stans are currently unfairly referred to in some media quarters as ‘toxic’, despite their clear role in shifting the modern pop culture landscape through fan-organised, political activism.

Modern internet fandoms are worlds from the duvet-clad, incessantly online stereotypes of days gone by. Instead, they operate as organised communities that strive to fully immerse themselves in the culture and music of the artists they admire. In this way, Beatles Stan Twitter exists as a full circle moment for a fandom that has historically prevailed, undaunted by the prospect that some don’t take them seriously.

Christine explains: “If girls or young women love something in popular culture, it’s presumed that it cannot be something of quality because anything driven by emotion is not concerned with ‘quality.’ This is a false assumption, of course. Even the loudest screamers of the Beatlemania era were usually engaging intellectually and creatively with The Beatles’ music.”

It’s this ability to intellectually engage with the music that is inherent to Jasmine’s experience as a fan. Though she and others in her circle have favourite members and frequently tweet about how attractive they are, it’s not the foundation of their interest, nor the only thing up for discussion: “We talk a lot about the band’s history. We go back and we watch interviews of them or read things that other people wrote about them. We try to analyse things and see what we can learn,” she says, detailing the discussions in her current Twitter group chat. “From an outside perspective, it could seem like we’re over-analysing, but they were known for putting these kinds of messages in their songs, so you really have to dig deeper to find different meanings in them.”

Though Beatles Stan Twitter is reminiscent of online communities such as the BTS ARMY, in their adoption of behavioural patterns like photo edits and memes, fans are limited in that they can’t really celebrate their interest in person in the way that original fans could. So, a sense of hostility towards those that got to experience the prime era of The Beatles may be expected. However, the community instead describe a sense of kinship with Beatlemania-era fans. “It’s really interesting because we all have gone crazy over something we like, and us all liking the same band, regardless of the time and age makes us similar,” Marina explains. 

And, although Stan Twitter seems to be a product of modernity, it actually doesn’t stray too far from the origins of fan culture. For decades, people have united in their urge to indulge in the shared euphoria of fandom — a communal excitement for something that permeates the mundanity of day-to-day life. 

“The interesting thing is that the Beatles were never just a band but a highly mediated cultural phenomenon. Even during their relatively short tenure as a touring band, most fans did not have the pleasure of seeing them live. The way most fans have connected with them has been through media content, whether magazine articles, photographs, TV appearances, film, or digital spaces,” Christine elaborates. “In that way, platforms like Twitter are simply the latest in a long history of media spaces that drive and perpetuate Beatles fandom.”

It’s this attitude that fuels the Twitter community. Ariana argues that, despite existing in an entirely different century to her favourite band, her experience is just as fulfilling as those in fan communities for modern artists: “I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much because, contrary to the people who were around when the Beatles were still active, we have all the albums out. We have movies, books, and articles about them. Every piece of media imaginable we have at the palm of our hands. Plus, you can listen to it at your own pace; there’s no need to wait for years for the next release,” she explains.

This month, however, Beatles Twitter eagerly awaits the ‘Revolver’ re-issue, punctuating the timeline with daily countdowns from across the world. It’s a rare occurrence for the fandom, being one of a limited number of releases they’ll be able to anticipate in this way, as the finite pool of unheard music left from those eight years slowly dries up.

“It is definitely sad,” Jasmine admits, her unbridled excitement briefly threatening to falter. “John died like 20 years before I was born, and then I was only one year old when George died. So I never even got to experience really being alive with both of them.”

But the overwhelming sense is that the digital friendships formed through the fandom eclipse any notion of being born too late: “It feels different than I think it would when they were still together. But having people around me that still appreciate their music, it feels really nice,“ Marina says. And, with the unapologetic joy of Stan Twitter stretching out the band’s legacy, it seems that Beatlemania will never truly die, as she adds: “It just kind of feels like they are still all here together in some way.”

‘Revolver’ (Special Edition)’ is out now.

Words: Laura Molloy // @lauralouise_m

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