Can somebody explain the point of that ‘One Direction’ Channel 4 documentary to me, please? At the moment I feel as though I’ve completely missed something, somewhere.
In case you’re wondering what I’m referring to; a week or two ago Channel 4 ran a 60 minute documentary about the female fans of the group, ‘One Direction’. It’s on 4OD right now, which is where I watched it. Titled ‘Crazy About One Direction’, which should kind of give you an idea in which editorial direction they were headed, the programme followed a group of fans while they wept, laughed, got excited by and generally fangirled over the band.
So far so normal, right? But that was it. End of. No talking-head psychiatrists, drafted in to give us an overview of how and why crushes happen. No insight into the security guards, employed to keep the wily young things at bay.
I mention the security guards because one of the most fascinating things I have ever seen up close was during a book signing by ‘The Wanted’ at Waterstones, Piccadilly. Elisar and I were on a night out and we stopped in at 5th View, the bar and restaurant on the top floor of the store. On arrival, it was plain that something was up, as the store was full of squealing teenage girls and beleaguered looking middle aged male security guards. There was some kind of cordon around the lifts but, I assume because we don’t look like screaming teeny boppers, we were waved on through. After we settled ourselves in the bar, we slowly became aware that the tables around us were filling with teenage girls, who were whipping each other up into a quiet frenzy. The over 18s were buying the cheapest thing on the menu and splitting it between four, or six, or eight of them, whereas the under 18s were chased out, only to sneak back in, to be chased out again and so on, like some weird human cat and mouse game. After about 20 minutes of this, the lift doors opened and a group of spotty, gawky, distinctly average young boys came self-consciously shuffling out. They were quickly ushered into the restaurant by a bunch of meaty bodyguards, while assorted teenage girls screamed/fainted/giggled/cried etc. We observed how difficult the bodyguards’ jobs had to be, somehow having to physically remove pre-pubescent females from these boys, who barely looked of legal age themselves, while avoiding any accusations of inappropriateness, assault, etc.
As we were leaving I struck up a conversation with one of the bodyguards, mainly because I didn’t have a clue who the boys were and wanted to ask, but also because I was curious about the job. Sure enough, this poor guy was full of tales of over-eager young women and their various schemes to get to the band. The guy marvelled about his own teenage daughters, in a vaguely sad way, only hoping that they didn’t behave in a similar matter.
But they probably do. For years teenage girls have fallen in love with pop groups, actors, models and so on. It’s not new, and it’s not news either. What I recall about my brush with ‘The Wanted’ isn’t the reaction of the girls, but watching the machine around the band deal with it. That was what was so fascinating to witness up close.
So why did the documentary makers, on this occasion, see fit to give us 60 minutes of what really tantamounted to nothing more than an opportunity to laugh a bit at some young girls in the grip of a hormone-induced fever?
Okay, so it was a bit disturbing when some of the girls professed their hatred for the band’s girlfriends, and openly discussed death threats, but point a camera at a pubescent and you’re going to get bravado. Jesus, I remember as a young teenager hating Dusty Springfield because she got to sing with the Pet Shop Boys and I was jealous because I thought they might fancy her, or something. Seriously, can you even begin to work out how much is wrong with that picture? You’d need a flowchart. My father did actually attempt to sit me down and gently explain that Dusty really wouldn’t be interested in Neil and Chris and, honestly, they wouldn’t be interested in her either, but I didn’t want to know. Of course, Twitter didn’t exist then. The Internet didn’t exist then either. We all wrote on chalk and slate and went to school in horse and carts, or something.
But my point is that girls throughout the ages have been silly for boys. In the same way that boys obsess over comics, or football (and sometimes other boys), girls obsess over boys (and sometimes comics and football and other girls). When I was 15, I queued all night with a friend for tickets to a Jason Donovan gig for Christ’s sake. At 16, friends of mine would camp outside the family homes of Matt and Luke Goss. Take That, Oasis, Blur, Guns and Roses, show me men in a band and I’ll show you a teenage girl convinced she is their one and only. I’ll also show you fanfic, fanart etc. Especially of the homoerotic variety. In fact, show me ANY band, TV show, play, film where two popular people of the same sex appear and there will be gay porn on the web about it. Guaranteed. The stuff I’ve seen Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler do online would make your eyes pop! As for The Master and The Doctor. Actually, I quite like the Master/Doctor stuff. I’m totally convinced there’s some UST there….sorry I digress.
So yes, what was the point? I came away feeling it was all a little bit nasty and…superior, I guess. Like ‘look at these weirdos’. I felt sad when the girls were crying who couldn’t afford tickets to the big arena gigs. I didn’t want to see the camera shoved in their faces. I wanted to hear from doctors and psychologists about how and why these crushes happen and what they mean. About how they seem to be a very female thing, and why this is. I wanted to hear from venue staff, hotel staff and police about how they prepare and deal with this level of crowd control. I’d have loved to have heard from the band, or their ‘people’ about it. But, instead, I felt as though this was nothing more than a freak show, comprised entirely of young girls. Because young girls don’t have enough to worry about already, without being ridiculed for what is, quite simply, normal teenage behaviour.
I don’t really know much about One Direction, to be honest. I know they came from X Factor, there’s one called Harry (I only know that because he dated a bird around my age), and they did a song about being beautiful, or something. I know they have fans who are pretty devoted and make them trend constantly on Twitter. That’s the sum total of my knowledge. And after watching that documentary, it’s still the sum total. What a shame.