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The girl in red Phenomenon

If you’re anything like me you’ve spent hours scrolling on your phone aimlessly, especially during the pandemic. Being stuck in quarantine caused a lot of introspection and for many people, it led to self-discovery.

The ‘girl in red’ Phenomenon, like most things I encounter lately, was something I noticed arise on TikTok in the early days of the pandemic. Hundreds of comments under videos asking the video creators if they listen to girl in red.

Essentially this was a covert of asking the original posters if they were “wlw” or women-loving-women. TikTok like all social media has its own language developed by users on the app and this was just another addition to the dictionary of Gen Z slang. 

Marie Ulven, or girl in red, is a Norwegian queer indie-pop artist who more often than not writes music about falling in love with girls. Some of her most popular songs are titled “I wanna be your girlfriend”, “we fell in love in October” and “girls.” The internet took to using Girl in Red’s name to develop a way of identifying each other, and in turn, building a community. 

Like most discourse on the internet, this use of the phrase “Do you listen to girl in red?” was sort of led astray with users of TikTok flooding the comments under any video of a person who might appear sapphic, even if they had never openly discussed their sexuality. But of course, that was unavoidable with the lack of boundaries TikTok has created.

Regardless, the girl in red phenomenon isn’t really a new phenomenon as coded language has been used in the LGBTQ+ community since the 1900s and possibly even earlier. Phrases like “friend of Dorothy” or “friend Mrs. King” and even a slang language called Polari, created by gay men in the 1700s UK when being homosexual was Illegal, were used up till the 1960s.

It must have been a surreal moment for girl in red to become such an iconic figure for the Gen Z sapphic community just from writing music about her own experiences.

Music is a huge part of Gen Z culture and because music can play a role in defining your identity as well, what music you listen to might give more insight into your identity without having to be explicit about it. The artists you listen to often let other people know what type of people you surround yourself with or what kind of subcultures you take part in and that’s pretty cool if you think about it.

The real question is…do you listen to girl in red?

Well if you don’t there’s a playlist with music from Girl in Red and other queer artists in honor of Pride month.

By Mitali Joshi

A Senior at NCSU who is an enthusiastic consumer of music and loves writing about it.