Crazy About One Direction, Channel 4 | reviews, news & interviews
Crazy About One Direction, Channel 4
Crazy About One Direction, Channel 4
Lazy and shallow look at the fan phenomenon surrounding the world’s biggest boy band
Sandra, 14, has worked out what it will be like if she marries One Direction’s Harry Styles. “His morning voice would be amazing,” she says, thinking forward to when the first thing she hears each day is the croak with which he greets the morning and her. Pop groups with fans are nothing new, and with them come ranks of the obsessive. Crazy About One Direction's twist was to explore the fresh landscape of Twitter-aided, light-speed-connected fandom of girls and young women under the spell of One Direction, the world’s most popular boy band.
The film wasn’t really about the X Factor-created quintet who inspired Sandra’s fantasy, but instead sought to reveal what the fans get up to – and how they get up to it. There was a massive problem though. It was hard to take the programme as a face-value, verité-style account of this world due to a sequence following a group of fans into and along the corridors of a hotel the band may have been staying in. The hotel’s staff appeared. So did its brand name. Permission had to have been sought from the hotel to make this – what was seen cannot have been entirely spontaneous and must have had at least some pre-planning. The naturalness of those on camera was called into question.
Most fans seemed articulate enough to express who they were. But they weren’t given the chance
Even without that terminal weakness, this programme was hardly more than a surface-level canter through the world of obsessive fandom. That can be fine, as is revisiting the hoary chestnut that a fan’s relationship with their idols is akin to a form of religious worship, but the 10pm scheduling implied this was meant for an adult audience, or at least one older than One Direction’s demographic. Should it have actually attempted some analysis, rather than adopting a "gee-whiz" tone? Was it telling parents what their kids were up to? Was it meant as sociology? God knows. And with no conclusions, it certainly wasn’t the latter.
The fans – often vulnerable, often emotional, sometimes feeling slighted by their idols – themselves deserved better than having their rawness exposed with nothing else of their lives offering any balance. It was genuinely sad to see Natasha's hurt at not being able to afford tickets for the band's tour. Despite the shrieking, Jafaican-speak and single-minded focus, most fans seemed articulate enough to express who they were. But they weren’t given the chance.
At Crazy About One Direction’s core was the notion that Twitter brings fans closer to their idols than ever before. Does it hell. Just as Facebook friends are not necessarily actual friends, receiving a message sent – or purportedly sent: members of the team surrounding One Direction could just as easily send these messages – by one of the band is not aimed at anyone in particular, but at their 10 million-plus Twitter followers. Good for the spirited contributor who said she had met the band 64 times, but internet platforms are a cost-friendly means of marketing the band and their brand, not a true two-way path.
Others have declared that 'I would like to see Harry Styles dead'
But messaging technology has sped up the processes intrinsic to fandom. “You log on to Twitter; it’s feeding your addiction constantly.” In their bedroom caves, fans and their laptops or hand-helds are as one, sending a constant stream of One Direction-inspired stuff out into the world. The fan-conceived fantasy that two members are in a gay relationship repeatedly fascinated the programme’s makers. As did the fans' attitude towards the band’s own personal relationships.
One of them, Styles, was linked with the American pop-country singer Taylor Swift. “Every time they get a girlfriend they [the girlfriends] are told to die [via Twitter],” declared one fan. “I’d step on her [Swift’s] eyeballs,” offered Sandra.
Via Twitter, other fans have asked the band “should I kill myself” and if an answer came, we were not told. Others have declared that “I would like to see Harry Styles dead.” In the Stone Age of, oooh, maybe five years ago such extremes of expression used to be confined to letter-writing or limited groups. But internet platforms and their responsibility-shirking owners have, terrifyingly, allowed the deplorable to become normalised and endlessly regurgitated – as we have seen in the past few weeks in the UK, with public figures threatened with rape and murder, and the issues about the website ask.fm. Crazy About One Direction questioned none of this and should have, regardless of events occurring after it was completed.
Those at Channel 4 who allowed this lazy, shallow, muddle-headed, irresponsible programme to be broadcast in this form should hang their heads in shame.
Watch a fan-originated fantasy video of hypothesised relationships between members of One Direction
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?