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I Wanna Be Your Julian Ramone: Reflecting on My Teen Strokes Fandom

By Isabel Corp

I was just leaving a club on a winter night in the Financial District at 1 A.M. when I saw him enter the room. He kept his head down. His brown hair was parted down the middle and underneath his coat he was wearing a wifebeater and leather pants. It was impossible to remove my gaze from his dark complexion and angular face as he avoided eye contact with every observer that he passed.

The next thing I knew, I was sprinting down the carpeted steps of the building. I remember throwing on my sunglasses and hood to conceal my face once the tears had started to well up. Once I’d gotten outside, I collapsed against the side of the building while I cried, my chest heaving while I held my face in my hands.

What was wrong with me? Nobody had died. I hadn’t run into a relative of a friend that I’d tragically lost in a car crash. It was just Julian Casablancas’ little brother. I had no reason to be weeping over the sight of this man whom I had never even met before. But he was the spitting image of his older brother. It felt like I was fourteen again, drowning in a flood of memories that the sight of him had triggered.

The Strokes’ discography was like my personal gospel in high school, and with repeated listens, I still find a great deal of solace in the bleeding lo-fi garage-rock guitars and Julian’s cool-yet-comforting drawl on the titular opening track of Is This It. At 14, I was running fan blogs all over Tumblr and following every members' side projects religiously. It blows my mind to see kids still discovering The Strokes today and starting fan pages of their own on online platforms like Instagram and TikTok. But I didn’t always understand why I was so drawn to this lanky, unwashed, awkward, leather-clad rocker from New York who wore women’s jeans.

I thought I would cringe when I initially looked back at my obsessive nature as a teenage Strokes fan, but instead, I only came away with more questions. Questions like: Why Julian? What was it about this man that I was so attached to? For one, I have nothing in common with him. I am not a multi-million dollar rock star who headlines festivals and flies around the world on a gold-plated jet. I never will be.

But, in many ways, that was also the appeal. Millions of young women all over the globe have been pining after this man for two decades, and in my own way, so have I. The only difference was that I never wanted to be with him; I just wanted to be him. I remember scouring the internet to find an exact replica of the military jacket he wore on MTV in 2002, and I still have it today. Trying on the persona of one of my idols with the way I dressed, the way I acted, the way I conducted myself — trying to replicate this icon who represented the pinnacle of disaffected celebrity and male privilege — was oddly empowering.

In 1996, Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney sang about transforming into a rock'n'roll prototype on their song, “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.” I knew that desire all too well. I was nothing like Julian Casablancas, and that was the very reason why I so desperately yearned to become him. Many queer women, myself included, do not even feel safe holding hands with our partners in public because it’s pretty much a guarantee that we will get harassed or violently accosted, even in New York City.

I often wonder what it would be like to live the life of one of the quintessential cock-rock icons of the early aughts, even just for a day. That type of life would no doubt come with its own set of problems, but at least I would know for a brief moment what it would feel like to have the entire world at my mercy. Imagining myself as a heterosexual rock star who can do whatever he pleases, without any consequences, makes my reality feel less shitty. It’s a form of escape, and also a level of confidence to aspire to. I’m not exactly trying to be anybody’s Joey Ramone, but I will immerse myself in figures like Julian Casablancas because I’ve always wanted to possess that confident rockstar repose mentality that I severely lacked growing up.


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