Sexualization, Generalization and The Agony of One Direction Interviews

With the promise of an interview from your favorite celebrity usually comes a sense of excitement and an inability to wait until the questions are viewable on video or ready to read in print.  When the boys of One Direction get interviewed – their fans immediately prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

There has been a misrepresentation of Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall from the beginning of their time as One Direction – and alongside it – a misrepresentation of their fans.

When One Direction was first formed and Liam, Zayn, Niall, Louis, and Harry were young and new on the scene, it was very clear that they were 5 heartthrobs who were taking the world by storm.  The cookie cutter, boy-bander image surrounding them was less of a stigma then and more of a way to deal with their overnight fame and the way at one look or listen the world was falling in love with the boys as a band and as individuals.

Sexualization is never acceptable, but at the beginning, the questions were less plagued with lackluster intentions and more geared towards a young teen audience with young teen music sensations.

At the beginning, the questions made more sense.  

As time progressed, the boys grew up, and fans grew alongside them – the desire to know the boys outside of their relationship status and ‘what they like in a girl’ changed into a desire to know about who they were, inside and outside the band, and what drove them to make music that made fans feel safe, secure, and believe in themselves and love again.

Fans stopped caring about what the boys would want their partner to show up wearing on a date after the first time the question was asked, they stopped needing to know if the boys were single and what their ideal girl was – the information was invalid and unimportant.

Fans didn’t then, and don’t now, idolize Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall for the idea or hope of being their next muse, one night stand, or the partner they end up with.  Fans idolize them because for a lot of fans, One Direction became more than a band – the idea of One Direction meant friendship, a sense of belonging, a safe haven, and most importantly; a place to call home.

This is when it became obvious that along with One Direction’s management team, the media and press also stopped caring about not only what the fans truly wanted, but what the boys wanted as well.

It became clear in each additional interview that these questions were asked the boys were growing more annoyed.  It was obvious that they wanted to be seen as more than womanizers, more than lotharios, more than an abstract image to fulfill the fantasies of people around the world.

They wanted to be taken seriously, they wanted to be seen as musicians, they wanted to be respected.

And fans wanted the same.

The Up All Night era was an excusable time for this type of behavior from ‘professionals’ that were given the privilege of interacting with One Direction.  They were new, fresh, and beautiful, inside and out.  As the albums grew and the boys started giving more of themselves to the process, instead of being asked about this and being able to be proud of their accomplishments, they were still treated like objects.  They were objectified as young men that served no purpose other than to sing songs about girls they’d want to fall in love with and answer generic questions that drove these young girls to beg their parents for more cd’s, merchandise, and concert tickets so they had their chance at being noticed by Niall, Harry, Louis, or Liam and their lives changing forever.

It didn’t stop there as One Direction became more of an idea of fame that people could cling to and milk selfishly for their own gain than a group of young men who set out to chase their dreams and ended up changing the world.  The media stopped paying attention to their charity, to their development, and to their growth as people and only focused on their image sexually and how to highlight only that.

These boys are in their early twenties now, they’ve experienced more in five years than most people experience in a life time and they’ve seen the world – both good and bad.  These are the experiences that make the music that matters, these are the things that lead people to write songs that inspire others to change the world, or better yet, grow as people.  These are the experiences that the boys have wanted to write about and have given glimpses fans of in their previous albums – but these are the experiences that are never shown in the spotlight because you can’t dress them up in a short skirt and pumps and turn them into some lust filled attraction.

When Made In The A.M was in it’s early stages of being released the boys said multiple times that this was their most proud moment musically (yes, they’ve said this before and at the time, they meant it) it was clear that there was something different about this album, something bigger than before.

This was an album that wasn’t just a collection of songs that the boys wrote on and were proud of, this was a collection of songs that told a story that Niall, Liam, Louis, and Harry have been aching to tell fans for a long time now – one they finally set to music and gave us as a thank you for the last five years with them.

This was an album that said things the boys couldn’t say and highlighted parts of their stories they couldn’t talk about and served as a reminder – and in the same breath – healing from the things in their lives that hurt.

This was One Direction – this was their love story to the fans and it wasn’t because we all wear short black dresses and look like super models.  It wasn’t because we were the shy quirky girls who made them write songs like What Makes You Beautiful and it wasn’t because we fit the mold of the pathetic interview questions that they’re absolutely sick of answering.  This love story to the fans was given to us, packaged as Made In The A.M, because we overlooked what image of them was presented to us and we fought for the boys that we truly knew.

We fought for the Louis, Harry, Liam, and Niall that exist out of the chairs and couches they’re interviewed on.

With the promise of a final album before a hiatus, with the release of a single in the middle of the night with no promo, and with a year like the ones One Direction experienced together – interviewers were given a blank slate in 2015.  The depth of the questions that the media had at their fingertips was dramatic – these boys could have been asked anything!  They could have been asked about the scary moment where they had to decide what their future was, they could have been asked about the charity events that are publicized and the ones that aren’t.  They could have been asked about what drives them to write songs like Long Way Down and Walking In The Wind.  They could have been asked about what it all meant – and to some degree – they were.

We can’t say that every person who interviews the boys does a horrible job because that simply isn’t true.  There are interviewers like James Corden, Nick Grimshaw, Jimmy Fallon, and Scott Mills – to name a few of the few – who have respected Liam, Niall, Harry, and Louis and have brought out questions that are deeper than girls and sex; they’ve given spotlight to the importance of what they do, how they do it, and the lives they change in the process.

Fans have taken note of these interviewers and have made it clear that they desire more situations like this, more interviews where the boys get to be proud of what they’ve accomplished and get to be comfortable hearing about the respect that they’ve earned.

These interviews are still few and far between.  These interviews are still the ones that only happen once in a blue moon.  These interviews are the ones fans are begging for and denied of at the same time.

Our voices do not go unheard, not by the boys or the people behind them.  Fans have been told this in a number of ways by a number of people.

The desire of the fans is not unheard – it is simply ignored.

It is ignored because there do remain, although small in number, a group of fans who sexualize the boys.  There are fans who cross boundaries when they’re lucky enough to meet the boys in interviews or in public.  They inappropriately touch, pull, and even kiss the boys in an attempt to gain their own 5 seconds of internet fame where they look less like fans and more like uncivilized people who never learned boundaries or personal respect.  Unfortunately fans like this exist, and they do in every fan base, and when they feed into the notion that all we care about are the looks of the boys or getting them into bed; well – that notion is thrown forward and banked on.

In the true desires of the real fans being ignored we continue to get interviews where Harry is touched inappropriately by interviewers, co-hosts, and guests.  Where Louis is asked about his party boy ways and made to look like the resident bad boy that all the girls want to change.  Where Liam and Niall aren’t seen as members of a band, but attractive young men who’s talent has been reduced as the level of their importance is based on what they’re wearing and the way they look.

These boys have been repeatedly subjected to sexualization and rumors and the most negative images that have ever been placed on a group of people who continue to be as successful as they are.

It is 2015 and Harry is still asked about Taylor Swift and women twice his age.  It is 2015 and we don’t know more about Niall than his love for Derby and the fans.  It is 2015 and we’re made to believe that Liam is close-minded and ready to break out on his own.  It is 2015 and Louis is nothing but a party boy, father to be who dislikes his band mate because the fans ruined their relationship.

This is ridiculous.

Another sick but necessary topic of conversation is that if the roles were reversed in some of these interview situations – the boys of One Direction would be seen as disgusting pigs of men.

If Harry reached over and caressed the hair or face of an interviewer – he’d be touching a woman inappropriately and overstepping boundaries.  If Harry straddled the lap of a woman and took her value from a person to an object for any amount of time, he’d receive nothing but hate and negativity.  If Louis asked women only of their sexual conquests he would be invasive and misogynistic.  If Liam asked interviewers what they look for in a man he’d receive backlash for not treating women as people.  If Niall asked invasive personal questions of women and pushed labels upon them without proof he’d be a pig who didn’t deserve his job.

If the roles were reversed this wouldn’t be happening because the idea of young men treating women like that would just be absurd.

So why does this keep happening to Harry, Louis, Niall, and Liam?

Because the idea that fame has made them circus monkeys is an idea that people actually believe.  Because they’ve been sexualized so much since they were young that it’s become normal to the people who have the great privilege of being in the same room as them with an open floor to ask them anything.  This keeps happening because when one rumor is released about the lads and it takes off, thirty more of it’s nature come out of the wood work too.  It happens because when one rumor about the lads is released and it doesn’t sell – they have to go back to the ones that did.

It’s a vicious cycle with absolutely no end in sight. 

This keeps happening because people who should respect them simply don’t.  They don’t respect them as a band, they don’t respect them as individuals, and they don’t respect the fans who support them.

The only light in this situation is that the boys are as sick of this situation as the fans are – we see it on their faces when they’re asked these same questions – pursed lips, furrowed brows, absolute disgust and distaste at being treated the way that they are – but we also see faked smiles, huffed breaths, and nods to each other and themselves to just keep going; to push through one more and hope for better the next time.

The boys deserve better the next time, they deserve better this time.

Louis, Liam, Niall, and Harry have changed the world for their fans; they’ve literally kept some of the people who look up to them alive.  They’ve made a home for fans who do not have safety in the walls of their own houses.  They’ve given a place to belong to fans who feel like there is nowhere else in the world for them to go and more importantly than any of that; they’re the reason that people have taken a chance on love.

And at the end of the day, isn’t love the most important thing we’ve got?

So to Harry, Louis, Niall, and Liam – we are so sorry for the questions that never change, the rumors that never die, and the way that you’ve been boxed into cardboard cutout images of who you were projected to be when you were younger.  We’re sorry you’ve not been seen as the talented, gifted, loving young men you’ve grown into and above all of that – we’re sorry that you fight for love, equality, safety, and acceptance while you’re treated as sexual objects to fill fantasies of not only your fans, but some of these interviewers themselves.

When the sun goes down I know that you and me and everything will be alright
And when the city’s sleeping
You and I can stay awake and keep on dreaming

Written by Ashley

Writer, coffee drinker, mother.