I watched the utterly bizarre Channel 4 documentary Crazy About One Direction the other day, which can be more or less summed up by Grace Dent’s review in The Independent. I will say that Dent is being glib in relation to how fans of pop groups used to be as I fully remember girls at school being utterly venomous if anyone dared slag off the likes of Duran Duran or going further back, the likes of the Bay City Rollers, and of course the fans reaction to the Beatles and Elvis is legendary so the idea that One Direction fans are more crazy than fans of pop groups past is a tad lacking in fact.
What is different is the ferocity of that insanity which is multiplied through social media to the point where it’s almost cult-like which is what set my Fortean nose twitching as it started to sound like a sort of controlled form of mass hysteria spread via social media mixed in with the sort of sense of entitlement I’ve spoken about previously in regards the world of comics fandom. In fact there’s a lot of similarities between the sort of obsessed fan who thinks that if Batman isn’t printed exactly the way they want it then DC will pay the price, and those One Direction fans threatening the likes of The Who with a terrible price because it sounds as if One Direction nicked part of a Who song.
Then there’s the One Direction slash fiction which is something that was very much part of the SF/comic scene for decades til it sadly broke into the mainstream, and it now forms a part of One Direction fandom.
All this though is either the sort of harmless knicker-wetting we’ve seen before, and will see again, or the sort of mainly harmless antics you get from hardcore fans of whatever, be it a pretty awful manufactured pop band, or a comic, or a film, or whatever you can possibly imagine.
The problem comes when that obsession starts becoming something else. When fans start talking of mutilating themselves, or even worse make up fake suicides to complain about the Channel 4 documentary making them look unhinged. I’ve noticed since then that the #RIPLarryShippers hashtag (This refers to the One Direction fans into the slash fiction fantasies that two members have a homosexual relationship) was trending often in the last few days since Channel 4 broadcast the documentary. A large amount of Tweets have mentioned the ‘fact’ that 42 fans have killed themselves, something which there seems to be not an inch of evidence to show that one fan has killed themselves, let alone 42.
The problem with this, and any form of extreme reaction to a mirror being held up to any sort of fandom is that they react badly to it, hence the reaction and the myth being spread that 42 people committed suicide and have become martyrs for the fans of One Direction and that’s incredibly worrying as a number of their fans have definitely drunk the Kool Aid.