While screaming during popular music performances (at least loudly amplified ones) has become unremarkable and even expected, the mid-twentieth-century United States witnessed a series of debates over the appropriateness and significance of screaming. These debates, fraught with moral judgment and often open panic, focused on issues central to American popular music: sexuality, race, class, and the rights and responsibilities of the individual. Tracing the discourse surrounding screaming audiences from the nineteenth century to the present reveals that observers have associated female screamers primarily with sexual impropriety while male screamers more often have been depicted as a potentially violent mob. While commentary on screaming often reinforces racial and gender stereotypes, screaming maintains its subversive power because it effectively dramatizes the tension among social expectations, group solidarity, and individual freedom.

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