As everyone knows, fans can be crazy, but how crazy? And why do they feel the need to be this way? We have all heard crazy stories of what lengths fans will go to regarding their idols, but when do you cross the line from being a fan to becoming a stalker? It seems to be a very common factor with young, good looking boybands.
In recent years fan culture has changed and grown, especially regarding bands and artists like Justin Bieber and One Direction. Yes, I know, male singers and boybands have always gained a large, dedicated fanbase, I mean, look at The Beatles, for god’s sake! However, times have changed and so has the things some fans do… Justin Bieber’s fans have self harmed in the name of Bieber because he was caught smoking a joint, which is very normal behaviour for a 19 year old boy. Not only did they self harm, the fans tweeted pictures with the hashtag “Cut For Bieber” showcasing it to the whole world. Even though in 2013 this was an extremely serious issue, Bieber never put out a statement about it, not even one tweet. This is very eye-opening and worrying considering a large amount of his fan base were very young at the time. Shortly after Bieber was branded ‘irresponsible’ in the press and by multiple celebrities.
But it wasn’t just Bieber’s fans who crossed the line. When Zayn Malik left One Direction for personal reasons, five suicides were allegedly reported. Yes, five young people appear to have killed themselves because of his departure from the world famous X Factor band. Madness, I know, but absolutely devastating that these young girls felt that was the only thing they could do in response to the his departure.
After speaking to a lot of people regarding the One Direction mania, it is clear that it is insane and a lot to handle for the boys. Zayn has already cracked under pressure and left, and the rest of the band are soon to follow. One Direction plan to take a two year hiatus after five years of non stop mayhem and they definitely deserve it; let’s hope when the day comes, all the fans will take it well.
Laura, a fan from North London. expresses her opinion on the matter; “I feel that it’s a bit drastic and extreme but for them to have gone to that extent they must have had encountered psychological issues in the past I guess?’’ Laura claims to have met 1D 25-30 times and revealed to me that, “at meet ups, girls would get jealous if the lads didn’t speak to them first or if they spent more time with other groups”. So maybe this was a last cry to gain attention from the band along with other issues.
But at what point does it actually start becoming a life or death situation? Obsessive fans gain such an attachment that it physically/mentally hurts them and sends them into a breakdown, but on the other hand a lot of fans thank bands and artists for their music and believe that it saved their lives. “I just want to thank them for being them and the great music they have put out. I want to tell them how much they mean to me and how they have genuinely saved my life.’’ Honestly stated one fan. “One Direction have saved my life because I am diagnosed with severe anxiety and moderate depression and whenever I’m sad or not feeling right I rely on their music for support”. The fan continued, confessing that for her 1D help her cope with her mental illnesses.
However can being so infatuated with a idol cause these mental illnesses? Pop music fan, Aiden, who has overcome depression before says,“I think being part of this kinda of fandom at a young age can cause mental illnesses because you’re too busy living in a fake world where everyone you look up too is perfect, you need to concentrate on your-self. Whatever drastic lengths you go to for your idol, it will never be enough, it can only end badly with any obsession”
Laura opened up to me about how easy it is to get sucked into the fan culture when you are 14, 15, 16 years old and how competitive the fandom is. As a by stander, I was under the impression that it is like a family and very close knit, well apparently not. “With One Direction it is really bad and confrontational with other fans and there is definitely a jealousy thing, girls would stare you out and think they were above you because they have liked them longer or met them more times. It was crazy’’. But now I think about it, it’s not that shocking, Directioners are well known for the abuse they throw about online especially on Twitter. Online stats show that 95% of this abuse is done by young, female fans. “I swear if you do anything bad to Niall, we will kill you. I’m not kidding”. This is just one of many tweets posted when any band member goes public with a girlfriend or is even seen with another female. The fan base is extremely protective and clearly feel an attachment to the boys.
I recently got the chance to speak to 16 year old Julia from New Jersey USA, who has followed the band for four years now since they broke America. “I became a major fan in 2011 on the boy’s first year anniversary, I saw people posting online about it and I looked them up and got hooked within an hour from youtube videos and such”. Social media has helped One Direction take the world by storm. Julia is now also a administrator for a 1D fan account on Twitter, which has a huge 100,000 followers and are very efficient, constantly tweeting about what the band is doing every single day.
It’s clear that many of hardcore fans like Julia invest a lot of time and energy into the band, but more than anything, her money, “I have slept out on the streets of New York City for 12 hours for them and I have paid over the course of four years over two thousand dollars in ticket expenses’’. This is a rather extreme measure for anyone around age of 16 to take, and must be classed as an obsession. She is investing into the band at such an extent and I’m guessing ‘no’ was never an option for her parents.
A lot of dedicated fans would attend meet and greets or find out where the band were and wait outside for them. I see nothing wrong with this, you have to expect things like this when you’re enormously famous. However the security did not have the same opinion, “Security would say to us that everyone has to pick up one piece of litter off the ground, otherwise i am not bringing the band out,” claimed Laura who had admitted to meeting 1D 25-30 times. She then carried on to describe to me some of the things the security did;
“Security told everyone to line up on the side walk, and the band came out, everyone started screaming, Paul the security guard started shouting at everyone to stay on the side walk and told us we could only get a picture of Harry, then Harry asked him why they can get a picture with him. The Security were horrible.”
Laura told me quite a few stories of security pushing and shoving fans who could be as young as 13 years old. Certain guards have apparently taken advantage of some female fans who were trying to get close to the band. “Scary and power mad” is how she described the security and felt that she had to personally try to stay out of their way. So where do you draw the line between being a fan and having a full blown obsession?
This completely depends on the type of person you are. If you are spending every waking moment obsessing over the band and its effecting your quality of life by putting the band before yourself and missing out on real life, you certainly do have an obsession.
You can’t stereotype all of these fans as one big crazy bunch. Yes, some fans genuinely believe they are going to marry Harry Styles one day – even though they’re not even legal for another three years – but everyone is different and has overcome obstacles through life, so if being a bizarre fan makes you happy and helps you, and doesn’t effect your day to day life, then go for it.
Words by Lydia Smedley