Pop Culture

Is One Direction Taking Us in the Right Direction?

Hello. My name is Caitlin and I like One Direction.

(L-R: Niall, Harry, Zayn, Louis, Liam)

Well before I became involved in this ridiculously intense fandom, individuals from all over the world were interested in One Direction. Their stint on the United Kingdom’s version of The X-Factor left them with hundreds of thousands

of fans and, more importantly, with an enormous amount of exposure before they ever became internationally famous. This exposure, gained through weekly shows and behind-the-scenes videos aired both on television and on the Internet, also lent itself to fans of One Direction “˜shipping’ members of the band together. (If you are not familiar with the concept of shipping, it simply means believing that two characters, fictional or non-fictional, are involved in an intimate relationship.) While all of the members of One Direction have been shipped together at one point or another, two members in particular, Louis and Harry, are undoubtedly the most popular relationship to root for. Their incredibly close friendship has lent itself to murmurs within the fandom of an actual romantic relationship between the two men. This relationship, known to many as Larry Stylinson, is one that has been highly contested and argued about in recent months, largely between those who believe the two are involved with one another and those who believe that the two are simply just very good friends. While I believe each individual is entitled to his or her opinion about Louis and Harry, I do think that the Larry Stylinson ship is interesting and, if I may, a sign of changing times for many reasons.

To really speak to the depths of how important I think Larry Stylinson is, I must go back to my early days of superfanning ““ namely, to my days of being totally, incredibly, absolutely in love with “˜NSync. To say that I loved “˜NSync would be a massive understatement. I was OBSESSED with those idiots. One idiot in particular, JC Chasez, was my favorite. Here’s a picture for reference (you know, for the younger crowd):

Hand to God, I just got teary-eyed looking at that picture. What an angel.

Anyway, I loved JC. In my mind then (and still today – let’s be real), he was one of the most beautiful men that I had ever seen. He had the voice of an angel. He seemed super friendly, funny, unassuming about his whole “˜celebrity aura,’ and was just incredibly goofy and sweet. He was, as I remember saying to my friend Jenn one time, “˜SO PERFECT, JENN, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.’ Simply enough, I was obsessed. I don’t even want to think about how insufferable I would have been if Tumblr would have been a thing back then. I would have been hunched over my laptop making GIFs like the rent was due, writing fanfiction like I was”¦whoever wrote “˜Fifty Shades of Grey.’

You get the idea.

I’m saying all of this for a reason. Back then, if you would have said anything about JC Chasez besides something along the lines of “˜That man has the voice of an angel AND is an absolute Adonis!,” I would have ripped your head off. If you would have said that you liked JC and made a joke about how YOU would end up with him someday? OH, NO. NUH-UH. NOT ON MY WATCH. I was not having it. As far as I was concerned, he and I were meant to be. Furthermore, if you would have told me that he should be/was dating any other member of “˜NSync? My eyes would’ve rolled back in my head. I would have just looked at you like “˜Um”¦bye, bye, bye.

(See what I did there?)

To be fair to myself, my concept of homosexuality was not very broad back then. I would not have understood anything beyond “˜JC Chasez and Caitlin = <3 4-ever.’ The bromances in “˜NSync were NOWHERE near what they are within One Direction, but I honestly would not have “˜wanted’ JC with anyone in the band because”¦uh, duh, I WANTED TO BE WITH HIM. Simply enough, I had no concept of JC (or any member of “˜NSync, if we want to be entirely fair) having 1. a life outside of the band and 2. having a personal life outside of some weird imaginary one that I had imagined for ourselves (and still sort of imagine for ourselves because, let’s be real, that man is flawless).

Let me cut to the chase. There is a very large part of me that thinks the large subset of One Direction fans genuinely wanting these boys to be together is great. Whether it be Louis and Harry or Harry and Zayn or Liam and Niall or Louis and Liam or Zayn and Liam or WHOEVER ELSE BECAUSE GOOD GOD THERE ARE SO MANY PAIRINGS SOMEONE DO THE MATH ON THAT, I love that there seems to be an openness among many One Direction fans in regard to sexuality. However, some fans believe the opposite ““ and, to be fair, I can see their point ““ that these fans might not be supporting the men as so much fetishizing their possible homosexuality. (At this point, I feel it necessary to note that none of the members of One Direction have come out as bisexual, pansexual, homosexual, etc. ““ the idea that any of these boys are in relationships with one another is based solely on what we as fans see in interviews, performances, music videos, etc.) Many feel that those believing these “˜bromances’ to be true are not so much supporting the LGTBQ community as they are just being an overzealous fan. I would like to think that those fans who do support these pairings are in the former category, but I cannot speak for an entire fandom, especially one as vast and diverse as that of One Direction’s.

For me ““ and perhaps I am thinking too optimistically – it speaks to a changing of the times and a changing of fans’ attitudes that we can step back and say “˜Hey, these men might have a genuine romantic interest in one another. In all honesty, that does not affect me and does not affect the way in which I appreciate them and their music.’ While I understand the argument of those who are anti-“˜relationships within the band,’ I think it is harmful to say that we are “˜insulting’ these individuals by believing they could be in a same-sex relationship. Unfortunately, this argument, along with ones similar to it, is one I have heard countless times in the past few months.

While it is easy to look at One Direction (or “˜NSync or any other boy band or girl group or pop act EVER) and dismiss them as a fluffy, unimportant piece of pop culture, I think the discussion regarding this particular group and the ways in which gender and sexuality play into the dynamics of the group are fascinating. If nothing else, I am glad that we as individuals can discuss this openly, honestly, and in a way that provokes more discussion about gender and sexuality in all realms of society.

As the boys of One Direction would say, my friends, “˜that’s what makes you beautiful.’

(A roll of the eyes here is absolutely permitted.)

By Caitlin

25 years old. Proud Michigander. Lover of Scandinavia, feminism, the Detroit Tigers, and perusing unaffordable real estate.

Du har. Du vil. Du burde.

7 replies on “Is One Direction Taking Us in the Right Direction?”

first of all. i think we need to be friends. i was similarly in love with N*SYNC, though justin was my man, so i think we would have gotten along just fine back in the day. i’m also from michigan and we’re practically the same age. did we just become best friends?

to be fair, i was similarly in love with billie joe armstrong (like, always) from an even earlier age, so make of that what you will.

i know nothing about one direction – the little about them that i do know is just from reading stuff like this. i have never heard any of their songs. but i think shipping is creepy.  especially when it’s with real people – the only other ugly world of fandom (other than n*sync and green day) that i have gotten a glimpse of is harry potter (that is actually where i learned what shipping was).  i think shipping is different when you’re talking about characters…like all the people that wish harry and hermione would have gotten together. they aren’t real. fantastic…rewrite the story a little, it’s basically fanfic that isn’t creepy because again these people aren’t real.

one direction is a group of real human (young) men. to obsess over possible relationships between them is creepy.  i do however, see what you are saying about how this is “saying something” about our current society – that fans are even suggesting there are homosexual relationships within the band in the first place.  i don’t recall anyone doing that with n*sync or bsb (except the boys in middle school that called the band “gay” – which is not the same).  the whole thing is creepy and not something i want anything to do with, but if we have gotten to the point where people would even consider such a thing (because once upon a time they WOULD NOT), then i think that’s step…in one direction. is it the right direction? i think so. i just wanted to say that.

I actually think this is a very interesting phenom, one which I was totally unaware. (I’m feeling exceptionally old right now.) I will say one thing I don’t appreciate about OD is the message of their big song “What Makes You Beautiful”’s the glamorization of low female self-esteem. (There are in fact, a whole bunch of songs like this and it’s on my last nerve.)

I’m afraid I’m being a bit picky, but I can’t help it!

I definitely keep seeing people “shipping” the boys together and it feels more fetishy than supportive. It wouldn’t seem so odd if any of them were out as anything but straight. As it is, it almost feels disrespectful- what if one of the boys (or several of them) are non-heterosexual and isn’t ready to come out and is really uncomfortable with all of this? I also  don’t love the fact that apparently two males having an affectionate friendship has to automatically mean that they’re gay- two guys can’t hug or something without sending up red flags.

That said, if one or more of the guys were actually out and maybe if two were a couple and everyone was excited, that’d be awesome. But as it stands, it makes me really uncomfortable.

I know absolutely nothing about this band, but I’ve always found real people shipping creepy. These people have lives, and so on. As you say, this feels fetishy and disrespectful.

I’m all for a good* bit of slash fiction for fictional characters, but with actual people it just gives me the creeps.

*Ok, so I am actually very persnickety about this. My standards are high and I think most slash fiction is really trite and awful, but the point stands.

This surprised me very much when diving deep into a fandom. ‘Het’ (heterosexual pairings) was by far in the minority. Can you imagine people talking about for example Grease and only offering gay pairings (looking at Travolta ..maybe this is a bad comparison).

I understand that people wanted to underline that homosexuality shouldn’t only be cute when it’s gorgeous young men/women, but that everyone needs to understand that it’s happening, no matter what. But still, it gives me a bit of the happy fuzzies (on the other hand: the overeagerness to turn a bromance into a romance makes me roll my eyes).

To be fair, I can’t speak too much to the first paragraph of your comment – this fandom is the first one that I have been REALLY involved with for awhile – but that is really intriguing. I will say, though, that after seeing ‘The Avengers’ and then hopping on Tumblr to see other reactions, most of them were in the realm of ‘Tony Stark and Bruce Banner should be together!’ or ‘Iron Man and Captain America!’ Whatever. Point being, the heterosexual pairings were not really present. Long story short, surprising!

I think I’m just pleased (for the most part because there are DEFINITELY troublesome aspects of the 1D fandom) because the boys within this group constantly show a genuine love and affection for one another. No ‘No Homo’ or any of that, which is so tiring to hear – just genuine, outward displays of affection with no disclaimer attached. I really appreciate it.

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