You might have happened to catch the recent documentary on Channel Four ‘Crazy About One Direction.’ The programme explored the level of obsession among fans of the British boy band One Direction. But the thing I kept finding myself wondering throughout was…why is this such a big deal?
A group of young teenage girls ‘obsessed’ with a boy band isn’t exactly a revolutionary topic. There were the days of N*Sync, The Backstreet Boys, and The New Kids on The Block in the 90’s. Going even further back, bands such as The Beatles, The Monkeys and The Osmond’s had thousands of teenage girls screaming outside their hotel room, chasing their cars and bursting into hysterical tears if they happened to catch a glimpse of their idols. It just seems as by singling the One Direction fanbase out for a documentary based on their love for the boy band, the producers are offering the girls featured in the programme, and all the other One Direction fans around the world, up as some sort of joke for people to laugh at – as something strange. And this isn’t exactly new: fans of everything from TV shows to trains are often labelled ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’ in a derogatory way. Show too much passion for something society has decided isn’t worthy, and you’re a loser. You don’t often get people being mocked for being a fan of art, for example.
Although the documentary supposed to show the difference social media has made to the way fans follow and interact with their idols, it seemed more concentrated on showing clips of the girls sneaking into hotels, reading snippets of fan-fiction, and discussing if they’d like to marry Harry or if they’d ever had a boyfriend. What exactly is wrong with the way these girls were acting? Threatening to kill Taylor Swift if you ever met her over what she did to Harry or being willing to chop an arm off in order to meet the band is quite extreme, and a little bit worrying, I will admit. But the chances are, the majority of the fans (and I don’t doubt the programme went out of the way to find the most outrageous ones) wouldn’t condone that behaviour, and are simply just…fans. They were all young, and were having a great time getting concert tickets and waiting around to meet the boys. One of the girls commented in the show that being in the 1D fandom was kind of like being in a ‘gang’, and it was clear that the shared obsession had formed many a friendship. Of course, there has to be a balance. One of the girls featured in the documentary later complained that “[Channel 4 producers] made out like… I don’t have no life, and that I just sit outside Harry’s house every weekend waiting for him to appear.” 9.99% of the time even an uber obsessive fan of something will have something else in their life, other than what they love. In fact, after the show aired, many One Direction fans took to Twitter to complain about being portrayed in a negative light. It seems as though people are quick to laugh at teen girls who worship a boy band, or even ‘nerds’ and ‘geeks.’
Take football fans, for example. Here, we have grown men who, in some cases, will weep openly when their team wins, who will riot in the streets when they don’t, and who will spend endless amounts of money on football tickets and football shirts. Yet this is considered completely normal. God forbid a 16 year old girl develops a crush on a celebrity and cries seeing him in concert. Fans are fans. Whether you are at a football match screaming on your team, at a concert screaming for your favourite singer, or at a convention dressed up as Doctor Who, or, hell, even getting excited about the new whisk you just bought because you enjoy baking: you are just showing your enthusiasm for something you love.
Author John Green once said “nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. Hank, when people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousnesses.” You wouldn’t call someone who adores football a nerd, yet they would have a similar reaction over the sport as a Harry Potter fan would have over the new book, as a One Direction fan might over the band. All are simply reacting in an enthusiastic way to something they love.
And whether that be sport or a TV show or a cute group of British singers… I really don’t see the problem with it, nor do I see a reason for it to be a subject of a documentary that paints them as something out of the ordinary. Enjoyment for our passions, whether it’s music, art, a television show or a book, are one of the good parts of life. Finding something that makes you excited, appreciating something, bonding with others over your shared love of it – it is nothing to be mocked. So I say, if it’s not hurting anyone, fangirl and fanboy whatever you want, and don’t apologise for it.