Hi, my name is Natasha and I am a Directioner.
That was somewhat hard to admit on the internet. It’s frightening to admit a fandom, especially a current one. It’s easy when it’s a past one because one can just say, “Well I was young and impressionable. I didn’t know any better.” But a current fandom is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s now. There’s no excuses. Now, I’m not talking about “cool” fandoms like alternative music. I’m talking proper embarrassing fandoms, things that you just know people will judge you for. The funny thing is; everyone is a fan of something. So why are we so embarrassed about our guilty pleasures?
The book The Adoring Audience: fan culture and popular media has some interesting insight on this. It says that:
“The popular press…has stigmatized fandom by emphasizing danger, abnormality, and silliness. . And the public deny their own fandom, carry on secret lives as fans or risk the stigma that comes from being a fan.”
I particularly liked this statement as I absolutely agreed with it. In the media, Directioners are usually represented as a huge screaming mass of teenage girls. There is no rationality shown, just pure hysteria. And this just emphasises the authors’ first point in this extract. The media often misrepresents fans, giving viewers the idea that fans are weird and sometimes dangerous.
The second point that they make is that because of this misrepresentation, fans either keep their fandom secret or they risk the judgement of others. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve had to hide the One Direction pillow on my bed when a friend comes over to my house, or blushed when somebody discovers the many One Direction songs on my iPod. It’s silly but I’d rather hide my obsession than be subjected to the obligatory eye roll. When I do admit my fandom, I usually follow it with justifications like, “I know they’re music isn’t great but they’re just so attractive!”
This isn’t the first time that a hot boy band has sparked a fandom. During the 1960s a phenomenon called “Beatlemania” arose. The Adoring Audience states that:
“One of the most common responses to reporters’ queries on the sources of Beatlemania was, “Because they’re sexy.”
Just like the “One Direction Infection”, Beatlemania was represented by masses of screaming girls in the media. The Adoring Audiences explains that at the time young girls were not only meant to stay virtuous but “enforcers of purity within their teen society.” So Beatlemania was in some form an unconscious protest against the sexual repression of the time. Freud commented on this hysteria, saying that it was a form of sexual release. However, adults found it offensive to say that young girls has any sexual desires to begin with and because of this moral panics appeared; some adults feared that the young female followers of The Beatles were at risk of corruption. The Adoring Audience explain that:
“To adults, Beatlemania was an affliction, an epidemic…At risk were ten- to fourteen-year-old girls…”
Often the popular media had to reassure adults that the girls who screamed for Sinatra had grown up to be responsible housewives and that there should be no cause for concern. If the fans of The Beatles weren’t been shown as victims, they were being represented as dangerous. The Life reported that:
“A Beatle who ventures out unguarded into the streets runs the very real peril of being dismembered or crushed to death by his fans.”
A bit extreme don’t you think? This reminded me of some of the media coverage of the premier for the One Direction movie This is Us. This article describes the Directioners as ravenous, terrifying cultists. Ouch. That hurts my feelings a bit because honestly we’re not all like that. I must admit there are some fans out there who are a bit on the crazy side and will do anything to get near the One Direction boys, but that’s not all of us. What I find is that the media doesn’t show the other sides of the fandom; where fans share experiences online and create friendships. If you search Twitter and Tumblr for tags on the band you’ll find a whole load of content that fans are sharing with each other. This isn’t the exception either. Beatles fans were known to have a running conversation with each other on the band. A woman from Orlando, Maine who recalls at 13 she would have long conversations with other fans about the members of The Beatles is an example of this in The Adoring Audience.
Here is a comparison between the two bands: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPSv-CZRhp4
I love the thought that even in the 60s, girls were partaking in the same fan activities as we are now. I hope in the future the media representation of fans does change so we’re not all seen as crazy or obsessive. But in the meantime I think I’ll proudly fly the flag of fandom.
I’m a Directioner. Deal with it.
Lewis, Lisa A, (ed.) 1992, The Adoring Audience: fan culture and popular media, Routledge, London, UK.
Suebsaeng Asawin, 2013, “Morgan Spurlock’s One Direction Documentary Is a Threat To Democracy And Safety”, Mother Jones, 30 August, viewed 8 September, <http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2013/08/one-direction-this-is-us-documentary-threat-democracy>