Being as I am easily amused by celebrity frivolity (my one and only letter from a Guardian reader described my writing as "erudite yet pedestrian" – an incredible backhander if ever there was one), the news that the Spice Girls musical Viva Forever! is finally here has got me quite excited. I'm not usually a fan of musicals – they're usually too hammy, too religious or too feline-orientated. I fell asleep in front of Mamma Mia!, a show the teenage me found entirely baffling and geared towards, as I explained tactlessly to my mother, "women of a certain age". Viva Forever! may be by the same producer, and may have been panned by the critics, but still, I'm enthusiastic. Finally, something for us.
The people who go to see the Spice Girls musical will also be "women of a certain age" – about 25; long-time fans who, at primary school, dressed up as Sporty, Scary, Ginger, Posh or Baby and mimed along. When Wannabe came out in 1996, I was nine, which it turns out is the optimum age to be targeted by a manufactured pop act in which each of the group's members plays an archetype. I'd missed out on Britpop, and Take That left me cold, but the Spice Girls were mine. In fact, they belonged to every 10-year-old girl in platform trainers who preferred her friends to boys and had a Spiceworld tour ticket to distract her from her parents' imminent divorce (maybe it was just me). Those five women were genuinely the be all and end all of my existence for about two years. That was until Geri left, and I cried inconsolably to Goodbye on repeat. As the cheekiest, she was always my favourite, because she seemed to embody the "Girl Power" manifesto-cum-marketing ploy wholeheartedly.
best tourbus ever
Female columnists have not been kind to the group in retrospect; Caitlin Moran basically blamed "Girl Power" for the loss of interest in feminism, while Grace Dent went further by saying that "any student in 2012 who regurgitates this Spice Girls-helped-feminism baloney in a dissertation should have the whole thing shredded and be made to wear a dunce cone in graduation pics". Well, hand me the dunce cap Grace, because I must respectfully disagree. Were it not for their kitschy pop antics, I might not be the massive feminist I am today.
Women come to discover feminism for a variety of reasons, some intensely personal and some less so. I'm a feminist because of my mum, the existence of the Child Support Agency at a crucial time in my development, the Tories, an incident that I cannot discuss for legal reasons and, you betcha, the Spice Girls. And despite what Dent might think, I'm not an idiot; I know that the whole "Baby Spice" shtick is paedo-y and problematic, and that aligning your feminism with a group of women who let Meatloaf drive them over Tower Bridge while it's open makes you look like a bit of an arse. But I also know from the comments on this article that I am not alone. Like the author, I can still smell the limited edition Impulse Spice Girls fragrance from here, and it doesn't half bring back memories.
The Spice Girls sent their fans the message that female solidarity was more important than any man. As a group, and despite Geri's jawdropping cleavage, they were strangely sexless. Platform trainers are hardly A-grade pulling garb, and 2 Become 1 is probably only slightly less erotic than Meat is Murder. I'm willing to put money on no one ever having humped to it. Sure, there were elements to the Spice Girls that were very obviously contrived and "for the dads", but compared with Christina Aguilera gyrating in a puddle while wearing crotchless leather chaps, which I got to witness a few years later, they practically belonged in a nunnery.
The Spice Girls were manufactured, wholesome fluff, but if we ever felt bitchy there was always Alanis Morissette. Meanwhile, modern 10-year-olds get Taylor Swift, who, when asked if she was a feminist, responded "I don't really think about things as guys versus girls". Or they get Rihanna. Give me Girl Power any day. It has shaped me, and while I can see its flaws, it remains the only discourse surrounding female empowerment that is accessible to a seven-year-old. You can't just jump straight into Greer telling you to taste your own menses. You need a gateway drug and mine was Spiceworld. For that, I feel I owe them a lot.
Have at it, ONTD.
Or come talk about other childhood cultural influences over your life.
'The Sound of Music' bred my obsession with WWII fiction and/or anything involving Austria or unrealistically placed dance sequences and what