We write a lot of posts on Crushable about crazy fans, because crazy fans are always doing crazy things for us to write about. Well, get ready for another one of those posts, this time inspired by a trailer for a new documentary on British network Channel 4 called Crazy About One Direction. It’s an appropriate title because, as I just explained, crazy fans be crazy. In just two minutes, this trailer beautifully encapsulates the problem with teenage fans these days. You know the kind. The ones who throw tampons at their idols and send death threats to people who had the audacity to criticize their favorite celebrity and shamelessly share explicit fan fiction involving members of their favorite boy band. It’s a style of fandom that I never exhibited or witnessed when I was a pop culture-obsessed teenager, and I think social media is mostly to blame.
I’m not the only one linking the presence of Twitter and Tumblr and various other interwebby outlets to the new style of celebrity obsession. In the trailer, one of the Directioners being interviewed explains, “One Direction’s fame is down to Twitter. 100%.” Another girl blinks her eyes before the glow of her laptop and announces, “I’m part of a fandom that could kill you if they wanted.” How lovely. We now live in a world where teenage girls speak matter-of-factly about their ability to kill for their favorite band.
There are wonderful benefits to social media, but as with anything, people have found new and disturbing ways to abuse it. Having greater insight into a celebrity’s everyday life and a means of communicating with them through their social media presence seems to give fans a sense of entitlement and familiarity that didn’t exist when fan letters and magazine headlines were the closest fans could get to their idols. Having that direct link to the person you obsess over, as well as the ability to communicate with other people who share your obsession no matter where they live, makes things so much more personal. Plus, as is said in every article on the subject of online bullying, the anonymity involved makes saying crazy and abusive things that much easier.
I was never like this when I was a teenager, and that was not long ago by any means. This could be because I was a responsible, introverted kid and the people I obsessed over (Elijah Wood, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Franco) were actors and not musicians — which seems to be a big factor here, probably because it’s easier for fans to stalk musicians through concert-going. But I also didn’t witness this type of behavior from friends or classmates. Additionally, correct me if I’m wrong, ’90s kids, but fans of the Backstreet Boys and similar bands didn’t give themselves nicknames and turn themselves into cyber gangs, did they? That’s not to say that unhealthy fan behavior has never existed in decades past or that all fans these days — of One Direction or anyone else — act this way. But it’s clear that technology, especially social media, has really changed the way we look at celebrities, and for impressionable teenagers, that spells disaster. We have to find a way to give these girls a reality check.
Warning: The trailer contains some NSFW images of One Direction members in photoshopped or artistically rendered sexual situations. Enjoy.