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The Era of The Girlie: Why “Girl Culture” Reigns Victorious in Popular Media

Photo by KoolShooters for Pexels

From the 2023 Barbie movie to the Taylor Swift Eras Tour to the Twilight Renaissance of the past couple of years; right now, it’s cool being a girl. Whereas before people shunned media that was popularised by girls, now it is celebrated in mainstream culture.

The Girl Culture Podcast answers the imminent question: why are girls leading the culture in terms of music, film, and trends? In this first episode, the podcast gives a brief overview of girl-dominated media as a whole.

What the podcast didn’t touch upon—as this has only been a recent development—is the influence of East Asian media on Western culture. K-pop, K-dramas and K-beauty in particular have taken the West by storm in the last couple of years, though it’s arguable it accelerated in 2020 due to the pandemic. Couch-ridden people needed to find something new to watch and listen to. K-dramas were right there; exciting, fresh, and unlike anything the Western media had to offer. That feeling of newness excited a younger audience that had been stuck inside for months with little to do.

Naturally, this young audience included young girls and women.

Now, K-pop and K-dramas dominate online media spaces. A recent Le Monde article revealed that K-dramas distributed by Netflix have tripled in views between 2018 and 2022. In May 2023, Netflix announced they’ll be investing 2,5 billion US dollars (2,3 billion euro) in the production of Korean dramas. The main audience of K-dramas? Young women.

Additionally, K-pop is everywhere. The influence of K-pop artists goes beyond music, with artists such Cha Eun-woo (K-pop singer and beloved Korean actor) acting as ambassador for renowned brands such as Dior and North Face, while K-pop group Seventeen represented South Korea at the UNESCO Youth Forum. These Korean celebrities are primarily supported by young women, pushed to the forefront through intense support and devotion.

Despite the success of these female-dominated pieces of media, they’re often looked down upon by the general public. Media gets automatically devalued once it is popular with women, as their interests are often seen as ‘unserious’ or ‘cheap’ as opposed to the media appreciated by boys and men. Taylor Swift’s ‘Eras Tour’ made around a billion euro in revenue so far, yet her reputation and value in the music industry is still debated. This is in part because of her success as a woman, as well as her primarily female audience that attends her concerts.

Other examples include the derision towards UK boy band One Direction in the 2010s, young adult literature such as Twilight, and romantic comedies. Movies targeted at women are instantly labelled as ‘chick flicks.’

In terms of the aforementioned Korean wave, only ‘serious’ movies like the widely successful thriller ‘Parasite’ (2019) are respected. However, the statistics show that romantic K-dramas are leaders in the industry. As for K-pop, the revenue that K-pop groups create through interaction with their primarily female audience is undeniably lucrative. For example, Korean label SM Entertainment reported that they generated KRW 266.3 billion (187.2 million euro) for Q3 in 2023, which is 11.3% higher than their Q3 in 2022.

Where there’s a devoted female audience with a disposable income, mainstream popularity and attention will follow. Whether one likes it or not, young women define what is popular. Girl culture is mainstream culture.

Photos by Cottonbro Studio and Polina Tankilevitch for Pexels (edited together)
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