Production: The Power of a Woman on GeoCities’ Fan Spaces
Around 1995, the idea of regular people being creators on the internet was extremely uncommon. But just a year later, the methods of consumption and production of content on the internet faced a major shift: GeoCities and Tripod were created. These were companies that allowed anyone to host a website for free, making the production of websites accessible to people, unlike the companies who dominated the internet prior. GeoCities particularly fostered an interesting community with the idea of “neighborhoods” based on your website content (i.e., movie fan pages were in Hollywood, country music was in Nashville). These neighborhoods fostered websites made by specific people, who enjoyed specific things; these were some of the first fandom communities on the web. The content was new and different, made by fans for fans. Anyone could do it and gain a global audience for the first time without even having to leave their home. GeoCities was shut down in 2009, but what remains is a large archive of these obscure and trailblazing websites.
This leads us to Amanda: a normal 18-year-old girl living in Canada. She was a fan of metal bands, and so as many did then she made a website about her favorite band: My Ruin (and specifically Tairrie B). They were an alternative metal band created in 1999—right around when GeoCities was really hitting off. And what remains today is an archive of her website, The Power of a Woman.
Looking at The Power of a Woman, you can easily understand the experience of using a fan site and how they supported fan culture. After entering past a landing page, you’re met with a home page and many sections of the site.
Many musician fan sites at the time had content like this, with them being home to lyric pages, discography lists, and fan made content similar to how fan accounts on social media run today. But unlike most accounts today that usually focus on solely art or updates, websites like Amanda’s tended to be a one-stop-shop for all your fan needs. Amanda would almost regularly update the website with news on My Ruin, post fan art submitted by others, and other site related maintenances to keep all the sections updated. She even managed to get an interview with some of the members of My Ruin, including Tairrie B herself, which can be read under the “Press” section. This leads me to believe her site was popular among the My Ruin fans at the time. If this is true, her site would have been a prime spot for fans to look to for information on the band aside from magazines and the band themself—an impressive feat for an 18-year-old at the time.
Web design wise, Amanda doesn’t attempt anything crazy. Many GeoCities websites can be found with crazy text colors and fonts, wild backgrounds that border on illegible; many people were trying out web design for the first time. They experimented with what would work and what wouldn’t. But Amanda doesn’t do any of that: she keeps it simple with a black and maroon star patterned background and bright red text in a simple Arial font, though sometimes Times New Roman or even Consolas. Regardless which of the three fonts she picks, it’s a simple style that’s easy to read. Nothing about the website design is overly flashy or coming off as try-hard. Everything feels in the right place, the right color—the user interface is intuitive. The most complex design element is her scrolling text on the homepage, impressive for someone’s first website without any coding experience (generally anything moving is difficult). It’s likely that, similarly to many GeoCities users, this was her first website, which could be why the site doesn’t do anything extravagant. It was difficult to find resources and references on web design at the time. While she has a “Me” section, the information is limited and she only provides her name, age, location, and a pixel-y picture of herself at the time; it’s hard to gage her experience but it’s likely she had very little based on most of GeoCities’ userbase. Whether her simplicity is purposeful or due to lack of resources, it works well for getting her information across without fully compromising the aesthetic of the site.
Amanda’s aesthetic of the site is kept cohesive with the red and black: one that matches the alternative vibe of the band. Users can immediately tell what type of website experience this will be from the color palette and minimal graphics used, regardless of if you know My Ruin. It caters specifically to alternative metal fans, feeding into that aesthetic not only to attract other fans but because Amanda herself enjoyed working within that aesthetic being a fan herself. Because this site is dedicated to a specific fanbase, she keeps the alternative metal aesthetic not only visually but with small references littered around the site, such as her update footnote being phrased “last ruined on: [date]” or the hit counter “x ruiners have been destroyed.” These small additions further the idea that this is a fan site—where there’s the opportunity to reference My Ruin, it’s there.
The archives left behind of The Power of a Woman prove to provide a look into early fandom spaces for bands, particularly the alternative landscape of metal bands. Being created by an 18-year-old at the time, the site is incredibly simple—but keeps a good enough aesthetic throughout that it feels intuitive despite the financial and technological limitations its creator almost certainly faced as a younger person on the early web.
Amanda. The Power of a Woman, April 17, 2001. https://www.oocities.org/thepowerofawoman/.
“Welcome to Valentineger’s Homepage.” A hOMEPAGE u Will never Forget! Accessed November 4, 2022. https://geocities.restorativland.org/SouthBeach/Lagoon/4243/.