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.)