In our digital age, there are increasingly more ways for young women to become famous. Perhaps the fastest growing exposure industry is YouTube, where content creators in their early twenties cosplay “high school life” for a legion of pre-teen viewers. “I hope your message is that this is fucked up,” a mom of a 10-year-old YouTube fan told me Monday night.

We were both weary attendees at “Girls Night In,” a live performance put on by the YouTube creator network FullScreen. The show is currently making its way to 20 cities around the country, and its players are some of the most popular young women producing makeup tutorial, DIY, and “lifestyle” videos today: Eva Gutowski, Meredith Foster, Alisha Marie, Sierra Furtado, and Mia Stammer. These women, all in their early twenties, have a combined total of over 14 million followers on YouTube.

But only around 200 pre-teen girls, moms in tow, showed up to the Marlin Room at New York’s Webster Hall on Monday to watch Eva and the gang act out videos IRL. (“Girls Night In” was originally scheduled to play the much larger Best Buy Theater; FullScreen wisely changed the venue last week.)

My sister, a girl with whom I’ve spent countless nights in, agreed to go with me to the show—a favor I will be paying back in ways big and small for the next several weeks.

“Everyone move back! I will stop this show! Move back!”

In a teaser video announcing the “Girls Night In” tour back in July, Meredith described the show this way: “We love meeting you guys, and we love being creative, so we thought we’d put the two together, put on a show, and go on the road.” FullScreen President Ezra Cooperstein promised in a press release: “Attendees will see their favorite creators perform and share experiences with the wider community like never before.”

Neither of those statements mean anything, of course, so when my sister and I showed up at the Marlin Room at 7:15 p.m., we still had no idea what we were there to see. Were they just going

Whatever was about to happen, there were a lot of pre-teen girls excited about it. The fans crowded around the front of the small stage, prompting a stagehand to come out and instruct the girls to move back. “I will stop this show!” he yelled. “Move! Back!”

One young attendee, clearly panicked that this unknown authority figure might follow through with his threat, looked around wildly and screamed, “We gotta move!!!!”

Her cry did not resonate with her fellow tweens, and the stagehand did end up stopping the show, many times. Each time the girls were reprimanded, they would move back two feet and then slowly creep forward again. The stagehand seemed nervous that someone was going to get trampled, which I guess was fair.

The girls’ chaperones, who were almost exclusively moms, lined the perimeter of the room.

“Life’s too short to be sad...EVER”

Before Eva, Meredith, Alisha, Sierra, and Mia took the stage, singer-songwriter Andie Case—whose renditions of pop songs regularly rack up millions of views on YouTube—played a five-song set to warm up the crowd. Backed by two male guitarists and a drum kit, she sounded good and ever-so-slightly punk. In between songs, she flipped her long, blond hair around and shrugged her loose-fitting grey t-shirt off one shoulder, while spouting off blindingly positive maxims like “Good vibes only!” and “Life’s too short to be sad...EVER!”

“This is like an episode of the O.C.,” my sister said. “Or a Hollister ad.”

The fans, high off the suggestion that they need never be sad, screamed with wild abandon after each song.

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When Andie launched into a cover of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams,” they all sweetly sang along, getting a little tripped up when she segued into Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” for a few bars at the end.

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It was a cute moment before a long series of cringeworthy and bad ones.

“We shouldn’t do Snapchats, they’ll start screaming”

When Andie left the stage and it became clear that the real show was about to begin, the fans’ screams registered at a damaging decibel level. One of the “Girls Night In” players noticed this and gave the following order to her fellow performers backstage: “We shouldn’t do Snapchats when we go out, they’ll start screaming. Just speak your lines.”

I know this because she said it on a hot mic and everyone heard.

Then Eva, Meredith, Alisha, Sierra, and Mia all bounded onstage, wearing PJs. They did not do Snapchats. They spoke their lines. The fans screamed anyway.

The opening act, in which the players presented the show’s premise—the girls meet a magical YouTube queen who orders them to create five videos in one night to “save the Internet”—was stilted at best. To me, it was reminiscent of the plays my sister and I used to come up with in the backyard when we were 10.

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My sister and I, however, performed our dramas gratis for our half-asleep parents. Tickets to “Girls Night In” were $25—or $100 if you wanted a meet-and-greet with the YouTubers before the show. Judging by the exclusive, neon green meet-and-greet bags in almost every mother’s hands, nearly everyone paid $100 for “Girls Night In.”

And yet, as any Evanator or Sierranator or Mere Bear or Mac Baby or Miatary member will tell you, it’s a small price to pay to see your idol live. As if to convince the adults in the audience of this, the players performed a mildly sexy dance to real girl band Fifth Harmony’s “Worth It” shortly after the opening act. (Mia face-planted at the end.)

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This 20 seconds of day camp talent show fun was the most choreographed and professional part of the evening’s performance.

The rest of it was the Just Girly Things Tumblr come to life. There was a twerking contest. Then there was a lip synching contest. Then there was a smoothie-drinking contest. By the time the players got to the karaoke contest (different from the lip synching contest), my sister began faking a cold. “I think I might need to go home early,” she said.

[There was a video here]

The majority of the show—the twerking, the smoothie-drinking, etc.—did not seem to be scripted at all. The players just sort of shimmied around onstage, making dry, performative conversation that was always punctuated with a “yeah girl!” or “goals!” They were just hanging out, on stage, for over two hours.

But maybe that’s the appeal for a 10-year-old viewer—to watch thin, pretty “high school girls” (who are actually thinner, prettier, and four years older than anyone in high school right now) act out an all-girls sleepover. The players don’t need to sing or dance to be entertaining. They’re just goals.

“We’re not nerdy moms, but this is ridiculous”

What was likely supposed to be the emotional climax of the show was a 3-minute, never-before-seen animated video that played on the big screen onstage in between contests. In it, cartoon versions of Eva, Meredith, Alisha, Sierra, and Mia explained to viewers that they, too, have hard times, and that their goals status did not always come so easily.

One cartoon revealed she was bullied for playing the clarinet in middle school. Another confessed to once feeling insecure about being so thin. Each girl found their happy ending, however: YouTube. A place where they can confidently be themselves.

“I mean, that’s bullshit,” a mom of an 11-year-old fan told me at the show. “They all said they were bullied. Look at them. I know that’s bad! But what message does that send?”

She, along with four other moms of young fans, stood on the sidelines near my sister and I during the show. When we started chatting towards the end of it, they all told me they didn’t know what to expect from “Girls Night In” and were both awestruck and disappointed that this was what their daughters have been watching all this time.

“It’s just mindless,” another mom of a 10-year-old said. “It got a little better after my second vodka.” When I told her I was writing about the show, she said seriously, “I hope your message is that this is fucked up.”

“We’re not nerdy moms,” she assured me. “But this is ridiculous!”

The first mom revealed that during the meet-and-greet, multiple fans cried. “I cried when I met Steven Tyler,” she joked.

Another wondered aloud when the whole thing would be over. “They would have to walk on water to make this good,” she said. “Or turn water into wine!”

Then the first mom then asked me where I thought the career of a YouTube star would be in 10 years. I told her honestly I didn’t know. When I turned my focus back to the stage, the girls were doing the Nae Nae as part of a truth or dare contest.

[There was a video here]

After the show finally came to an end with one last rousing sing-along to Eva’s original YouTube song “Literally My Life,” my sister and I wandered outside, ears ringing. She asked me if this had been the first performance of “Girls Night In.” “Maybe they could still work some things out,” she offered.

I told her that no, it was not their first stop—they only have six shows left. “Oh,” she said. “Well, that’s bad.”

It was bad, but it didn’t matter. As we walked to the train, a tiny girl who couldn’t have been more than eight literally skipped along in front of us, next to her mom who was carrying a big bag of YouTube merch. “Alisha looked right at me!” the girl screamed at her mom, stopping to hug her. By the time we reached the train, it was 10 p.m.—a little late for a school night.

GIF by Jim Cooke via YouTube. Contact the author at