Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Personal Essay by Olivia Evans
Despite the inspiration from my female classmates and the somewhat inevitable phase of middle school girls developing celebrity crushes, I attribute my deep rooted love for One Direction to my older brothers’ devotion to Dave Matthews Band. While I had been exposed to their obsession with DMB since I could form memories, I still didn’t quite understand what it meant to be a fan of something. To love something so passionately you are willing to write about it, draw pictures as tribute to it, hang its pictures on your walls, and research song meanings. In 2009, my brothers even took a day off school to wait in line for their concert when they were in high school. At the time, I remember wondering what it felt like to love something that much– to be willing to wait hours in the Arkansas heat outside of an arena, sweaty and determined, just to see an old group of guys sing some songs. Though I thought some of DMB’s songs were catchy, I never quite understood my brothers’ devotions. But I knew the posters, the collected drumsticks, and the music. Years later, I would discover a real love for an artist and mimic their behavior. Hanging posters, setting my phone’s lock screen to photos of the band and even taking the morning off school to buy a physical copy of Harry Styles’s debut album my junior year of high school.
It was at age thirteen that I found my passion for One Direction. Despite my greatest attempts to avoid becoming a fan, I found the song “Kiss You” very catchy. After a simple Google search for a lyric video, I soon figured out why my brothers went to such lengths for their own beloved band. My obsession was not much unlike that of my brothers’ Dave Matthews Band phase. However, my craze was much more embarrassing than that of my brothers’ because as the thirteen year old girl I was– I fell into the category of a fangirl and One Direction, fell into the category of a boy band.
Fangirls date back for centuries. Although the term seems to revolve around significant teenage boys in the music industry, fangirls have been devotedly committed to their fair share of men since the eloquent poetry of Lord Byron (who supposedly had floods of fan mail from adorning women). Lord Byron, whose poetry is now studied and analyzed in literature classes, was an early 19th century Harry Styles. Throughout history, teenage girls, truthfully, have dominated and decided pop culture. If you cannot win the affections of teenage girls, you can’t have the ability to be truly successful. Yet, many criticize the determination of these young women. Their brilliant level of craze has brought up some of the most successful artists of all time. The most notable comparison to the One Direction craze is Beatlemania, and although many would turn red in the face at a comparison between the Beatles and One Direction- I ascertain their worldwide success is attributed to fangirls. Fangirls are seen as crazy only when their fandom is attributed to boys; and usually it is unrelated men that hold this accusation. However, boy bands are a curation that appeals to the idea of spreading fame quickly (and making money)– and fame spreads through teenage girls.
Modern fangirls have the ability to mass communicate and research with ease that would put music journalists to shame. Our devotion to a band, singer, or actor knows no bounds. One Direction is just a test to this theory. It is impossible to describe the love I had for this band. I found immediate peace in a play of one of their songs. I truly felt like I could get through anything as long as I had the ‘Up All Night’ album to soundtrack it. My days could be made exciting by a Twitter notification. In eighth grade, I scored a 100% on a geography test centered around the Oceania region purely because One Direction was touring there at the time and I was tracking their every move. My older sister once ran into Louis Tomlinson at Lollapalooza, sent me a picture and caused my shy fifteen year old self to shriek the loudest I ever had in my life in a crowded cafeteria with about 100 people I didn’t know. My One Direction phase gave me back confidence that I had lost somewhere in the tribulations of middle school. It was unprecedented for me. I’ve never found a rush like this anywhere else in my life, and I was not alone in my devotion.
On the internet, girls would connect across states and continents to communicate updates about the band– or even make a deep track a hit because it was what Louis Tomlinson rightfully deserved. Their obsession is ridiculed but it is often essential for the success of an artist. It was decided by teenage girls that Justin Timberlake would leave NSYNC with the most stardom– as he was the frontman and most beloved member. Justin Bieber was first discovered by young girls on the internet, before solidifying a record deal. However, despite their ability to spread fame quickly, artists with primarily female dominated fanbases earn little to no respect in the music industry. One Direction, despite breaking many records during their career, were never seriously considered for The Grammys. Both Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber were forced to rebrand to gain respect as serious musicians. Harry Styles has been ignored by the parts of the music industry that his music best fits with because of his history with One Direction. For some reason, male artists are expected to reject their female fandoms in order to become serious artists, but the boys of One Direction never do– only adding to my love for the band. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Styles addressed the scrutiny his history with One Direction has been given, saying “I don’t feel like I was held back at all. It was so much fun. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t have done it. It’s not like I was tied to a radiator.”
Many people believe boy bands are nothing but a recipe to make teenage girls annoying. I will not pretend I was not once part of the problem. Before I became a fan of One Direction, I joked along with the boys in my classes that jealously teased the fangirls. I was naive, I didn’t understand what it meant to love a band so dearly–– the sexism that comes along with being a female fan. In elementary school, I had witnessed the disdain people had for the girls that liked things. If you liked something too much, it was weird. In third grade, I arrived late to the ‘Bieber Fever’ craze and spent many afternoons at my family’s computer watching old YouTube clips and learned all of his songs by heart. However, I never told anyone because I knew the embarrassment that it would entail. I was so scared of being made fun of that I refused to let my obsession with Justin Bieber get out of hand. In middle school, when One Direction entered headlines, I attempted to repeat this cycle. I asserted that I was ‘not like other girls’ because I did not like or listen to One Direction (all while spending time in secret– watching videos and playing their albums). The summer of 2013, perhaps due to the excitement surrounding the One Direction documentary premiere and how good Harry Styles looked at the time, I decided there was no point in holding back anymore. I devoted most of my summer to One Direction and when I got back to school, I proudly spoke about my obsession. I realized how much more fun it was to like something rather than pretend it isn’t cool because of my reputation. I also realized how stupid I was for allowing middle school boys dictate what I liked. I gained some of the best friendships I have had in my life through mutual liking of this band and it has given me insurmountable amounts of joy. I still keep a photo of Harry Styles hanging in my room to this day.
As One Direction reached their 10 year anniversary, the joy of my peak fangirl days rushed back to me. Their anniversary also sadly also brought me back to the feelings of shame I was given by some of my peers. There is something so special about being a fan. Not only for the love you feel for the artist, but the love you feel within its community. It is upsetting that young girls cannot be upfront about their passion toward any given band without being ridiculed. However, I learned during my time of crying over One Direction roughly once a week that the world comes down to slightly more complex versions of two types of people: those who support fangirls, and those who do not. The people that I had to downplay my One Direction obsession for never stayed in my life for long and those that listened to my in-depth One Direction soliloquy of the day or better yet, joined in, are the people that made the most significant impact on me. My passion for 1D knows no bounds, and I will proudly say that I am a fangirl. Fangirls, while seemingly obsessive and crazy, are some of the most tangible representations of passion.
Olivia Evans is a Low Caliber co-founder. She is currently studying journalism and film. You can find her trying to be artsy on her low quality Instagram @oliviaevans13