We’re not band-aids; We’re a soft place to land: How the fandom isn’t guilty of Destroying One Direction

There’s an article going around about how One Direction’s fans “loved and destroyed One Direction” and while there are some points in it that are made with accuracy; over all it’s full of media driven misconceptions and blame placed wrongfully on a group of fans instead of the team who are lazily in charge of One Direction, and have been for the last five years.

Not even two paragraphs in to the piece and the writer leads her readers to the biggest misconception of One Direction fans to date – that their fan base is composed of people that are just “too young”.  This writers argument?  That most of the One Direction fandom is too young to be interested in sex.  She brings this up in relation to her beginning statement about Almost Famous – a film in large about groupies and what they mean, or don’t, to musicians.

Was she sleeping when we orchestrated a fan release of their song ‘No Control’ which then went on to win a VMA without even being released properly as a single from their label?   The entire song is about sex. 

“Waking up beside you I’m a loaded gun, I can’t contain this anymore…I’m all yours I’ve got no control…no control.”

“The heat where you lay, I could stay right here and burn in it all day”

We didn’t fan release a song about puppies, kittens, and nap time after school and that’s because most of the One Direction fandom is well beyond the plagued image of 13 year olds kissing posters of teen idols in their bedrooms.

The next paragraphs are filled with even more misconceptions about this fandom and is made to be a piece to guilt fans into thinking that One Direction’s impending hiatus is our fault and that if they don’t come back – well we’re to blame for that too.

She says that fans of One Direction have a blurred sense of where they are and what they are to the boys and that in turn, the boys have spent years, albums, and tours feeding helplessly into the desires and wants of a bunch of young girls.  Thus suggesting that all One Direction fans want from the boys is more, more, more.  More tours, more albums, more singles, more videos, and more of themselves too.  It’s implied that fans have an insatiable thirst for the boys and wouldn’t be happy until they were fed to their full capacity – even if it meant draining the lives out of Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall.

This is where the blame is wrongly placed into the hands of the fans instead of the money hungry ones of their “team”.  

If you look at any fan base; it doesn’t have to just be music, you will see that erratic behavior exists in a small number of people who call themselves fans everywhere.  Let’s look at sports.  In the USA Professional Football is taken VERY seriously, as well as College Basketball.  I live in state where two college teams who battle each other is a highly televised event and one that people have been arrested over.  A city that houses one of those teams has even been known to set fire to couches and cars outside after the big game.  Do those fans who riot stadiums and courts or act outside of “normal” fan behavior reflect the fan base in it’s entirety? No.  So why does it with fans of One Direction?

In the One Direction fandom – there are fans who desire too much from the boys; there are fans who rush them in public, who mob them when they are trying to leave a hotel to get to the stadium or leave a restaurant to go home at night.  There are fans who are demanding and cross over personal lines – we’ve all seen it, but it is unfair to say that the entire fan base is like that, and it’s even more unfair to say that we are the reason behind the ones who are.

Let’s look at this a little more closely.  One Direction, upon their beginning, was a 5 piece group of young men who were getting ready to embark upon the journey of a lifetime, and they had no idea.  They were signed with a team who gave them their lives for the next 5 years.  That team set the standard for number of records, that team decided how many tours would exist, and that team set them up to be run into the ground.

We didn’t want to see them break under pressure in interviews, to look physically ill at some of the questions they’re asked.  We never wanted them to be so exhausted that we saw them with bags under their eyes, with weight lost from their bodies, and with stress coming off of their bodes – and we wished desperately that we could stop it.  The fans, if you want to say we assisted in hurting them at all, only did so by buying albums and buying tickets – but it wasn’t to make the boys dance until they were hurt or sing us love songs until they lost their voices.

It was because, from the beginning, we fell in love with who they were, and we saw cracks in the foundation.  We saw a lack of formal effort being put into their wellbeing and more concern being placed into how they looked and what molds to put them in and instead of buying that, in large, fans just wanted to show them support because they weren’t getting in places they should have been.

If you talk to most One Direction fans they’d tell you that if they had the chance to meet Louis, Harry, Niall, and Liam – they’d put their phones away and just want to hug them.  They’d ask about their dreams, their lives this far, what makes them happy, and what doesn’t.  They’d tell them how important they are, how they’ve saved lives, inspired hope, given fans a second chance at love and happiness.  They wouldn’t bombard them on the street and force them into a state of nervous anxiety; they’d just want to exist with them for a few moments, relishing in their company.

One way that’s never shown is in these specials on TV, in these tour diaries, in these shows that glamorize the lives that Liam, Niall, Harry, and Louis lead.  What you do see, however, are fans in masses crowded outside of hotels and beating against car windows, and screaming and crying when one of the boys walks out of a building.  This is shown in a way that makes fans think this is what we should be doing, this is what the boys expect, this is how a fan base works.

Who’s behind all of those things; the specials, the DVD’s, the footage show on television prior to interviews?  Their team, again.

This is what people want to say but won’t, it’s what fans feel, but can’t put into words, and it’s where we’ve wrongfully taken the blame for what One Direction has become ourselves.

Should we apologize on behalf of the fans who can’t respect boundaries, who demand that the boys stop for them when they’re with their families and friends?  Of course.  Should we apologize about fans who seem to think that because Niall, Liam, Harry, and Louis are in a band that they’re also preforming circus acts who should do what we say when we say it?  Of course.  For those fans – we are truly sorry – but they make up such a small number of who actually exists in this fandom.

Fans of One Direction do NOT want over-sexualized young men who are so uncomfortable that they can’t leave their hotels for days at a time.  One Direction fans do not want interviewers to ask questions about what their idea of a perfect girl is, or what they like a girl to wear or how they like her to style her hair.  We do not care.

This is what’s been fed to fans since day one – this is what narrative fits the images that were thrust upon these boys before they even had a chance to truly figure out who they were themselves.

Harry Styles – lethario and womanizer, the one you want but aren’t pretty enough to have.
Louis Tomlinson – bad boy type with a long term girlfriend who he never paid enough attention to.  You want him too, but you couldn’t ever be that perfect mix of sultry, sexy, and smart for him.
Liam Payne – under educated, speaks his mind too freely, doesn’t want to apologize but is made to because he’s got to maintain his super sweet image somehow.
Niall Horan – derby loving party boy who has blonde hair and blue eyes and is every 13 year old girls teenage dream

Does this sound like what fans of One Direction truly want for the boys they have grown to love?

No.

It does, however, sound like the image of a boy band with enough scandal to always have their names in the press somehow, thus getting a rise in interest due to pathetic stunts they’ve had to subject themselves to just to sell records.

And who benefits most from that?  Not the fans, that’s for sure.

It’s almost as if their team doesn’t believe their talent, writing, and passion alone can sell records.

In truth – they don’t believe it, but the fans do. 

The boys have grown as young men, despite the storm that’s surrounded them from the beginning and along with it, their music has grown too.

The writer brings up their songs as being perfectly sent odes to every swooning young girl out there that they’ll be there for you and protect you and that you never have to worry because they’ll love you no matter what.  She brings up the lack of a concrete love interest in their videos and says that they’ve only written less than a handful of songs not directly desired by the fan base.

These are points with mixed accuracy – Liam, Harry, Louis, and Niall know they have to aim songs at a target audience and even though that audience is growing and changing – and they boys definitely recognize it – they are still meant to be writing for people who have now honestly, fallen out of that target range.

There are young One Direction fans but they are, in large, the minority now.

The songs that aren’t written directly for the girl who needs to be loved are some of their best songs.  The ones without gender pronouns, the ones that speak to a deeper issue of lasting love even through trials and upset.  The songs that speak of soul mates and wanting someone you can’t have but still trying anyway – those are the songs One Direction fans love.  The songs that speak the truth that the boys haven’t been able to tell us themselves.

We’ve seen Louis Tomlinson break up with his girlfriend of years and write love songs directly after.  We’ve seen him write about the perfect person while rarely actually being seen with Eleanor outside of PR heavy events.  We’ve seen Harry with a different girl every winter but write about long lasting love that transcends.  We’ve seen Niall who is linked to party girls and a laid back life write about not forgetting where home is and loving in spite of what comes your way.  We’ve seen Liam with one girl for most of his time in One Direction and being hailed one of the nicest guys by the people he knows but in the public he’s the one who says the wrong things and does so without giving it a second thought.

Who the boys are, and who they’ve meant to be sold as, are two different images, and who discovered this?  Not their team but the fans who are wrongfully accused of being the ones who actually want them to be sold as these far lesser versions of their true selves.

The writer goes to say that One Direction has made promises through their lyrics with little credibility to fans who thanked them for loving them when no one else did.  This is one of the most unfair statements in her piece.  The boys do love the fans with all they’ve got, and it may not be in a romantic way – but the love they have for fans from thankful, true, honest loving hearts is more important than the idea of a night or some summer romance with one of them any day.

In all – the boys of One Direction do deserve a break, a lengthly break.  They deserve months if not longer to just be themselves, to take a break from the constant demands of life on the road and in and out of studios.  They deserve to be at home with their families and their loved ones, and they deserve time to explore the relationships that exist between them as well; they’ve spent so much time working together that they haven’t had a lot of time to just live and be what they’ve grown to be – best friends, more than that in some ways.  Their career is a dream, they’re called lucky, blessed, fortunate – and while those things are true – they deserve time to be young, to be alive, and to be free.

So while the boys are deserving of this break, it does not signal their end.  This isn’t where One Direction goes to find a comfortable place to  die.  This isn’t where Nial, Liam, Louis, and Harry go to retire; never to take the stage as One Direction again.

This is where they go to find freedom.

This is what gives them the strength to come back to us in time, and hopefully what they come back to is a genuinely excited fan base and they do so with a truly supportive team behind them.

We didn’t destroy One Direction – in large – we gave them hope for a future that enables them to let their true hearts show and to admire them through it.  Their return will be legendary and we’ll be there for it – with more grateful hearts than before.

Written by Ashley

Writer, coffee drinker, mother.