Women do not simply get bangs. There’s a very specific process we all must go through. First, we see the bangs on someone else. Next, we agonize over whether or not we have the right “face” for bangs (whatever that means). Then we ask everyone we’ve ever met—and the internet—if we should go through with the change. Fake friends—and the internet—will say, “They’d look so good on you! Do it now!” Real friends will tell you the truth. In my case, they said, “You should absolutely not get bangs. Don’t be ridiculous.” I didn’t listen to my most trusted, and I’ve been growing out my breakup fringe for four years.
What I’m trying to say is that there have always been two categories of people with bangs: (1) Those of us who are going through it, and (2) Zoey Deschanel. However, I’ve begun to notice a third category that exists solely in the world of TV—much like women who enjoy Spinning before work and not having to pee after sex: the Flashback Bangs.
It was not until season two, episode six, of You—Netflix’s hit series that puts a brutal spin on all of Hollywood’s favorite rom-com tropes—that I began to piece together this phenomenon. (Caution: Spoilers ahead.) On the run from his mysterious ex, Candace (Ambyr Childers), Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) has already moved to L.A., locked one guy his new book dungeon, and murdered another. He’s gone from stalking his latest obsession, Love Quinn (Victoria Pedretti), to actively dating her.
Then, over halfway through the season, audiences are suddenly given a glimpse at Love’s past relationship, and BAM: I’m no longer looking at the Love I thought I knew. I’m looking at half her face, with the other half covered in effortlessly styled bohemian curtains. My first thought—besides “BANGS!”—was that I’ve definitely seen this happen before. Flashback Bangs are a thing, and while I did not make up the term, it is the first grouping of words I put together in my Google search. Turns out, there’s even a Twitter account devoted to the television device.
If they’re around long enough, most of your favorite female characters have probably had flashback bangs at some point or another, a tool obviously used to help audiences differentiate quickly between the past and the present (and sometimes the future)—though it’s worth noting that men rarely transform on screen in the same way. Scandal’s Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) has fallen victim to full-frontal bangs, as have Jane the Virgin’s Petra Solano (Yael Grobglas), and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Sergeant Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero). Rachel Green has gone through a variety of Flashback Bangs on Friends...some worse than others.
But do these changes in hairstyles have any further use than as a tool to mark a change in time? Because, honestly, if we can figure out that Joe having a conversation with Candace in the middle of a yurt is happening at a separate point in time than him tackling her to the ground in the middle of the woods without giving him a beard, then I’m sure we could have managed without Love’s ’70s phase. In our culture, hair tends to mean something, and we should expect it to do the same in the media we consume.
The answer is yes, according to You’s hair department head, Brittany Madrigal—who, by the way, loves the term Flashback Bangs even though she’s never heard it before. “We wanted something to distinguish going back in time, and we thought that bangs gave her a younger, sweeter kind of look,” Madrigal confirms over the phone. But it was more thought out than that, she says. Though she could not give me an answer about what motivated Love to choose bangs (she’s not the writer of the show after all), they do give extra insight into the character’s mental state.
“Later in life when she grew them out, she has this tougher personality—she’s out on the prowl and hunting,” Madrigal says. “[In the flashbacks], we really wanted to show the past Love, the sweet, innocent, youthful character.”
But it’s not just the bangs that we should be focused on. “Love’s look later is definitely harder. When Love was going to an event or a wedding, she had a side part, which made her softer. But for her everyday life, that middle part was very hard.” Sounds like a subtle hint at that season finale twist, huh?
Ultimately, Flashback Bangs as a tool is probably not going away, but there’s a variety of ways hair departments can help add to a character’s ethos…oh great, now I have to wonder about my own middle-part and whether or not I’m giving off “will kill for you” vibes. Maybe I should get bangs?
Originally Appeared on Glamour