Have you ever watched something — a hobby, sports team, musician, style or anything else — go from just being known among a few people to becoming wildly popular? Have you ever felt like you were an early fan or participant in something that became a craze? If so, how did you feel as more people got into it? Did the popularity make you more interested — or less? Why?
In “Finland’s Hobbyhorse Girls, Once a Secret Society, Now Prance in Public,” Ellen Barry writes:
It is impossible to say exactly when the Finnish hobbyhorse craze began, because it spread for years under the radar before adults became aware of it.
In 2012, a filmmaker, Selma Vilhunen, stumbled across internet discussion boards used by hobbyhorse enthusiasts and was enraptured.
Teenage girls had invented a form of hobbyhorse dressage, in which the rider’s lower body pranced and galloped like a horse, while her upper body remained erect and motionless like a rider. This evolved into an elaborate network of coaches and students and competitions, but it was discussed only online, for the most part.
“It was like a secret society,” Ms. Vilhunen said.
One of the girls she sought out as a guide to the hobbyhorse scene was Alisa Aarniomaki, a teenager from a city on Finland’s west coast.
Leather-jacketed and fuchsia-haired, Ms. Aarniomaki was a celebrity in the online world for her hand-sewn hobbyhorses and riding videos, but she was apprehensive about letting her classmates know about it. When she was 12, some friends happened to spot her practicing in the woods near her school, and teased her for playing a child’s game.
When Ms. Vilhunen’s documentary film, “Hobbyhorse Revolution,” was released in 2017, it captured its subjects in long spells of raucous joy. This was important to the filmmaker, who has made adolescent girls the focus of much of her work.
“Little girls are allowed to be strong and wild,” she said. “I think the society starts to shape them into a certain kind of quietness when they reach puberty.”
The hobbyhorse pastime is now celebrated as a national export, with national championships held every summer and Ms. Aarniomaki as its unofficial spokeswomen.
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— What are your thoughts on the hobbyhorse craze? Do you think it could catch on where you live? Why or why not?
— The article mentions that some of the girls were teased for being hobbyhorse enthusiasts. Do you think that still happens now that the pastime has caught on among more people? Explain.
— What do you think it’s like to watch your “secret society” become interesting to people in other places — or actually be featured in a documentary film?
— Do you have any similar instances in your own life, such as when your favorite little-known band, video game, book, movie or anything else became popular? How did your experience compare to the stories described in the article?
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