Friday, 13 April 2018

One Direction and The Trivialisation of 'Fandoms'

If there was ever a perfectly apt outfit to coincide with the content of a blog post, this would be it. I'm uploading this on the morning of the 13th April- the day after attending two of Harry Styles' O2 arena shows as part of his extra 58 date tour this year, and I feel both euphoric at the incredible experience I had on both nights, as well as the inevitable post gig sadness that the show you've counted down to for so long has been and gone. 2018 marks the eighth year that I've been a fan of One Direction, a fact I find so overwhelming to fathom, as it really only feels like yesterday that I was first voting for them on the X Factor or watching their back to back interviews on YouTube. Pop music and its young, often female fanbases have long been a focus of the media, depicting their dedication to their chosen artist/s and documenting the trials and tribulations that come along with such intense and passionate support. Yet the obsessions of such demographics are often disregarded as trivial, or frankly, over the top and crazed in their commitment to said band or artist. For me, music has shaped a huge aspect of my teen years- as is the case with most- and so the idea of my tastes being less valid than those with a perceived more mature or ~better quality~ music taste is a BAFFLING one to me. Along with art, and interiors and fashion- music is subjective. Of course it is not expected that everyone will enjoy the same genres and consider the same lyrics to be beautiful or meaningful, however the attitudes towards teen girls in particular and their idolisation of bands and solo artists alike has often given young and excited females at concerts a bad name- a lazy stereotype I'm eager to dismantle. 

It seems clear to me now, as I've grown older and become more educated on the subject, that the mocking I experienced in my younger years as a fan of boybands was largely a gendered one. Teen females are often mocked for their love and adoration of male artists, and their passion for such music is disregarded as invalid, purely because of its popularity. What is it with those things that are popular that suddenly translate to the status of 'guilty pleasure'. Along with the likes of The Kardashians, The X Factor, TOWIE, 50 Shades of Grey and more, it seems the rise in their popularity has equated to a feeling of disdain in which these tv shows/artists/films/books are not worthy of our time- and note that the majority of those enjoying the above media, are women. 

Since beginning their hiatus in 2015, the members of One Direction have taken a variety of paths in beginning their solo careers, and upon writing this piece, it seems to me that most members of the band are still looked upon as not worthy of popular appreciation, other than that of Mr Harry Styles. As a dedicated fan of the band who loves each member for their own talents and pursuits, it's exhausting to me that simply because the audience of the band has changed along with the individual paths of each member, it is now popular and acceptable to be a fan of Harry in particular. Perhaps his acting debut in the critically acclaimed film Dunkirk has something to do with his impressive, now more widely popular status, or could it be his change in fashion that now sets him apart from the usual boyband aesthetic. Maybe its his move away from the classic pop sound to a more individual and personal style of lyric, or perhaps its simply the abandonment of a boyband status that means its cool to be a fan. I'm over the moon for Harry and his success since going solo, yet the niggling feeling that the passions and excitement of young women not being taken seriously in their support of popular culture icons is one that continues to contribute to the patriarchal society in which we live. 

When the truly awful Manchester bombings happened last year at Ariana Grande’s concert, my heart fully ached for all those affected and the joy that had been stripped from what should have been the most exciting and carefree of events. The largely female fan bases of popular artists such as One Direction means their concerts, meet and greets and events feel like the safest of spaces, in which young women can unapologetically be themselves, with no fear of judgment or trivialisation of their passions. Whilst I might ordinarily panic at the idea of crowds and travelling to new venues and places, if it is ever for a One Direction concert, my fear evaporates because I know of the type of fans that will be attending. What is more empowering than singing (or crying) along to your favourite album, being sung by your favourite people, surrounded by likeminded, equally as passionate females who have SO much in common with you. The concept of a pop concert is one that will never grow old for me, and I cannot express the joy that these events have brought to me, even in the darkest of times. One Direction were a part of my life when I struggled in school, when I went to prom, started my A-levels, moved to university and everything in between. What others fail to consider when they scrutinise the fan bases of popular artists is the community that has been created through their existence, failing to note the support systems that have been established through a band and their social media following, and the friendships that have been founded and adored along the way.

The One Direction fan base is a real testament to itself, and Harry’s slogan of ‘Treat People With Kindness’ that is branded across his merch and branding couldn’t be more accurate in  describing the personalities of those that share a love for 1D. The first Harry show I went to last October was for free, thanks to the kindness of an incredible, selfless and down right amazing gal called Emily who contacted me through Twitter after I shared that I hadn’t been able to afford a ticket when they originally went on sale. I had a truly magical time that night, made even more special by her incredibly kind offer, and I’ll never forget the sentiment behind this. What I'm trying to say is, the community that One Direction have created is second to none, so when people continue to slate them for the music or image, its often without recognising the support that they have provided to so many. 

I'm on such a high from the past two nights of incredible live music that honestly nothing could bring me down- there's truly nothing like belting out some of your favourite and most emotional lyrics, especially at a venue as magical as The O2 Arena! I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts on the idea of the trivialisation of fandoms and your experiences with this- it's a topic very close to my heart and something I'm so passionate about discussing because music is, like so many other people, such a big part of my life.

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