Grace Dent on TV: Crazy about One Direction, Channel 4

These bedroom-bound boy-band fanatics are in dire need of a new direction in their lives

Grace Dent@gracedent
Thursday 15 August 2013 19:02
Blanket coverage: One Direction fan Natasha
Blanket coverage: One Direction fan Natasha

In days of yore, I was once a young girl. Between bouts of plastering on strawberry lip-balm, winding the waist of my school skirt upwards to display my bum-cheeks and buying Funny Feet lollies from the ice-cream van, I have sobbed and squealed over the mere notion of Duran Duran. Not real-life Duran Duran, just the idea of them, resplendent in tartan box jackets, pouting under the voluminousness of their bouffants. Actual living human perfection. Well, to my girlish mind, anyway.

And the “Save a Prayer” video where they're all simmering and emotional and vulnerable looking? If only I could touch them, in some way – I didn't know what way – not a sexual way, just as a friend; that's it, a really great platonic friend of the band who they would arrive to see in their helicopter and invite me to appear in their next video dancing moodily in a khaki headband and legwarmers and all the other Duranies would be so jealous. I thought about this type of thing for hours and hours until one day I spotted Morrissey, shoved all my Duran Duran records in a drawer and forgot all about them.

Thankfully, this happened before I appeared in a fan documentary like Crazy about One Direction, which followed the daily hankerings and nonsense chuntering of “Directioners”. Some were tiny pre-teen tots. Obviously not so tiny as to manage to download YouTube clips of themselves threatening to pour bleach into Taylor Swift's throat, but certainly too tiny to have enough pocket money to afford the Domestos. Oh, don't fret, it was just one of those semi-serious on-line death rants little girls enjoy these days. Nothing to tip off a child psychologist about. It's her freedom of speech, after all.

Other Directioners like Becky, 19, were frankly old enough to know better. Becky had a tattoo one of One Direction's especially profound lyrics winding up her arm. Becky had been branded a “stalker” by Harry Styles parents who objected to her sitting outside their home. “I don't care,” Becky commented, squarely. I'm not sure I'd want to argue with her.

The documentary also showed several sweet, kind non-terrifying young girls who didn't express a venomous urge to kill or maim, although it could be said that the 18 hours per day they spent incessantly monitoring the vast One Direction Twitter and Instagram network was making them rather bedroom-bound and anxious. I felt glad to grow up in a time when superfans knew relatively nothing about their pop obsession, aside from a tour date schedule, a Smash Hits profile and whatever Mike Read squeezed out of them during their Saturday Superstore appearance.

Today's Directioners can monitor the moment-by-moment movements of Harry Styles and his chums, working like a sinister trainer-bra-clad MI5. They follow the Twitter feeds of the band members, their extended family, session musicians, security guards, stylists and so on, they swap intelligence with other fans, swapping blog links, commenting on blog links, waging war on the disrespectful, clicking and refreshing their phones, then staring furiously, then clicking, then refreshing again, then wailing over a picture of Harry Styles with a model, and so on, and so forth, endlessly clicking with furrowed brows, maybe even posting a tweet to Liam, saying they'll cut their own throat if he doesn't reply about their dying dog. (They don't own a dog).

And not forgetting '''shipping Larry“, the Directioners shorthand phrase for ”promoting and supporting the romantic relationship between Louis and Harry, to the point of writing long-winded graphic fiction about them having it off with each other, because at least while they're doing it to each other they're not speaking to that awful, cold-hearted witch Taylor Swift“.

At least here, I could see glimmers of naive teenage charm shining through in the Directioners. Oh, ladies, please note, gorgeous boys do NOT tend to have sex with each other as they haven't met the right girl yet. And to date, there are no recorded cases of a young gay man suddenly turning straight after spotting a woman with their name tattooed on her arm lurking on their parents' garden wall growling, “I don't care if you think I'm a stalker!” These girls have all this, and much more, to learn. If they ever left their bedrooms, aside from standing outside concert venues screaming at coaches that might, but don't, contain Zane Malik, they would possibly learn it all the more quickly.

It made me think of those lines from Corinthians. “'When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned like a child. Then I grew up and I put away childish things…” but by that point Channel 4 had filmed me acting like a complete tit and it was on the internet for ever and now I'm 25 and my friends still send me .gifs of myself saying, 'I'd cut my own arm off to meet Harry'.“

Actually, that was my favourite part of the show. “If they said chop an arm off, I would,” said one young Glaswegian girl, then she paused for a second to consider if this was extreme, then went with the idea. “'Cos some people only have the one arm, don't they, and they're all right, aren't they?'

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