Crazed fandom is a very weird phenomenon. For whatever complex reasons, fame—a concept which barely existed 150 years ago—is a very powerful thing and people can act mighty strange when confronted with it or in the presence of someone well-known. A few years back, I attended the premiere of the movie version of the Hairspray musical. After I’d parked the car, it became difficult to get anywhere near the theater itself as there was such a dense crush of fans, tightly packed and blocking the way in every direction. As I finally got across the street from where I needed to be, every time a celebrity would arrive, there would be a ton of flashbulbs going off and loud squeals of delight from the crowd. When Christopher Walken strolled down the red carpet, I watched as five young black girls, all preteens, went completely bonkers for him, even crying and sobbing! Christopher fucking Walken. I kid you not. Does that make any sense? Not really, but that’s just what a brush with fame does to some people…
At the Sheffield Doc/Fest a few weeks ago, Tara and I went to a panel about documentaries that examine obsessive fandom. The participants were Jeanie Finlay, who directed the upcoming documentary on Orion, the masked Elvis impersonator; Lucy Robinson, lecturer on modern British history at the University of Sussex; Nicholas Abrahams, co-director with Jeremy Deller of The Posters Came from the Walls about Depeche Mode fans behind the Iron Curtain; and Daisy Asquith, a Bafta-nominated documentarian who made Crazy About One Direction for Channel 4. During the discussion, Asquith described her experiences getting death threats after One Directioners felt they’d been portrayed poorly—“insane” might be the word I’m looking for—in her film. I made a mental note to watch the doc, which she woefully mentioned was posted all over the Internet, when we got back to Los Angeles.
Admittedly the One Direction phenomenon had already gone from the UK version of X-Factor to Madison Square Garden before I’d ever even heard of them. A few years back, an old friend of mine emailed me from MSG where she had taken her then 9-year-old daughter and I googled them. Apparently they were massive. More massive than massive. As big as the Beatles. I’ve still never heard or know any of their songs, but then again I’m not exactly in their target demographic am I?
Which is not to say that this film wasn’t of great interest, because it’s fucking fascinating.
At the beginning of Crazy About One Direction the viewer is teased with what’s to come, including a glimpse of some homoerotic 1D fan fiction featuring the group’s Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles. The subset of Directioners, as their fans are known, who obsess about Louis and Harry getting jiggy with it are called “Larryshippers,” a portmanteau of both of their names, “relationship” and “worship.”
In case you’re wondering why the teen fans of an ostensibly heterosexual boy band would fantasize about the objects of their own sexual yearnings getting off with each other, this is pretty much the norm for a predominantly female phenomenon known as “slash fiction.” Captain Kirk makes tender love to Mr. Spock. Starsky fucks Hutch, and so forth. There is just no other girl there with Harry and Louis, because THAT BITCH would spoil the fantasy. How actively the band’s management and crack public relations experts might exploit this, or if it began and remains an organic fan phenomenon is difficult to say, but there was much reporting on the (false) rumor that several dozen Larryshippers had killed themselves after watching Asquith’s television documentary (Google #RIPLarryShippers).
The film features an amusing scene of what is literally a pack of Directioners who have managed to get past hotel security and knock on a door they believe Harry Styles is sleeping behind. He’s not, as they soon find out via Twitter (each member of 1D have over ten million Twitter followers) leaving these feral middle class teenage stalkers deflated because their Harry doesn’t even know that they exist. I pondered watching that scene what would have had happened had he been there and opened the door. Probably Styles being ripped apart like a piece of chicken by these daddy-funded she-wolves.
Imagine what it’s like to be one of literally millions of girls who believe that they are going to marry Harry. I’m sure it gets quite fierce in the competitive trenches of 1D fandom. One girl says she wouldn’t want to date one of them because of Twitter bullies: “I wouldn’t like girls telling me to die and stuff.” Because they would! Now imagine what it was like to be Taylor Swift who famously dated Harry Styles and wrote “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” about him. These girls loathe her. The abuse she must have absorbed for that!
After Channel 4 aired Crazy About One Direction, much online hatred was directed also towards director Asquith via her Twitter account. Additionally some of the fans who appeared in the film, especially the Larryshippers and the more stalkery girls, were singled out for insults and death threats for misrepresenting 1D fandom. They take it quite seriously, apparently. I’d better quit while I’m still ahead…
Bonus, a disgruntled Directioner spouts off on YouTube. Hitler gets mentioned: