“We laugh and f*** and play and write and plot and say goodbye and never worry.” – Halsey, circa 2014. But she wasn’t considered the famous alternative singer that we know today. She was regarded as Ashley Frangipane, or as other emo kids referred to her, @se7enteenblack on Tumblr.
Frangipane walked as se7enteenblack so that “Euphoria’s” Kat Hernandez could run. She paved the way for her music to break the alternative scene and explore mainstream media. Her love for Matty Healy, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for The 1975, blossomed on blank text boxes and was reblogged thousands of times over. Rupi Kaur didn’t create the poetry craze with “Milk and Honey,” Frangipane did with “I just care THAT he is.”
Without Tumblr, there would have never been an alternative scene, or what I’m calling it: The 2014 Renaissance.
The year 2014 was a weird time. After the economic collapse of 2008, Instagram’s founding in 2010 and Obama starting his second term in 2012, it was only a matter of time that 2014 had some influence.
Fashion and music turned dark as the political landscape grew more unstable. The soft-grunge aesthetic arose from quirky hipsters’ ashes. Black winged eyeliner, opaque ripped tights, cherry red Doc Martens, fur boots and cat-ear muffs. Black broken hearts stamped on cheeks, paying homage to Marina and the Diamonds’ (who has since changed her stage name to MARINA) song “How to be a Heartbreaker” lyric: “Wear your heart on your cheek / but never on your sleeve / Unless you want to taste defeat.”
Lorde, twenty one pilots, Melanie Martinez, Lana Del Rey, The Neighbourhood, MARINA, Arctic Monkeys, Halsey, Panic! at the Disco and The 1975 encapsulates the 2014 music scene. Our little emo anthems produced a pop culture shift. Imagine your middle school self on the back of a bus on a rainy day, the droplets gliding down the glass, and “Robbers” is on full blast in your wired headphones. Drowning out the rest of the world, the smudged eyeliner being your sword and an “AHS” Landon-styled garment as your armor.
Everyone wanted to be or be with a Tumblr girl. Icons like Effy Stonem from “Skins” and Aria Montgomery from “Pretty Little Liars,” were influencers before these TikTok influencers were a thing. They were not like other girls. They were rebellious and mysterious. They wore black and blue and hardly ever pink. They were artsy and discontent with those around them. I wanted to be them — minus the overdosing and the weird grooming from Mr. Fritz (how the hell did we allow that?).
The “not like other girls” complex consumed media, especially fanfiction.
Ah, 2014 fanfiction. As Tumblr belonged purely to teens at the time, it was the place to discover sex and being an adult. Soon, lemons and limes lapsed into the full-out label of smut. After the Tumblr NSFW ban back in September, other fanfiction websites like Wattpad and Archive of Our Own (Ao3) became the main source of free erotica.
Along with the whispered notion of reading something you weren’t supposed to, these sites quickly became popular but for the wrong reasons. It glorified misogyny, practically filtered with aesthetic noise — but I ate it up. They were brunette, I was brunette. They wore glasses, I had glasses. They liked reading and listening to music like everyone else, but were shy and unpopular. They were unseen yet male-approved. Tumblr and most importantly Wattpad made this complex into a full-on genre and trope. From high school and mafia romances to dystopias and the “Chosen Ones.”
Young adult dystopian novels turned into million-dollar blockbuster movies. “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent” and “The Maze Runner,” to name a few. Wattpad has continued to produce YA entertainment, such as the “After” series and “The Kissing Booth” movies. The entertainment industry was at its peak because of the 2014 Renaissance, and it will never reach that again.
These TikTok and influencer stars turned actors and singers will never have the same effect. I don’t think they will ever be able to replicate the influence these early 2010 artists had and that’s okay. I don’t want them to. It needs to stay in the past. Unlike twenty one pilots’ song “Stressed Out,” we can’t “turn back time to the good old days.” We must progress and learn from this period, but perhaps keep the winged eyeliner and Docs.