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My life as a closet Directioner (and how it’s not “too late” to be a fan of anything)

On the day Zayn Malik left One Direction, I didn’t cry.

I mean, of course I wouldn’t. But my college blockmates did. Flocked in our hallways before History 1 class—a la “Crying Ladies” with fewer steroids—they sat side by side, scrolling on their phones repeatedly as if one word from the headlines would vanish with every refresh: “One Direction’s Zayn Malik Officially Leaves Group.” Me? I just wished nothing from what I studied for the quiz would vanish.

My English teacher in second year high school loved two things: One Direction and having us answer those magical SRA booklets every Friday. (In case you don’t remember, they’re those practice sheets you need to answer under time pressure—and your proficiency level is determined by colors.) To chill the fuck out of us, she’d play the “Live While We’re Young” music video on the classroom TV—on loop, even. Sometimes, she’d put “What Makes You Beautiful” next after five loops, too. I would catch myself staring at the MVs, humming a few lines when I’m done with my sheets. It didn’t exactly ease my tension. But One Direction was alright.

A supercut of Harry’s curls, his criminally disarming close up shots in “Little Things” and interview banters played in my head like an unwelcome meteor.

Speaking of Fridays, I had this friend who probably spent her quarter-life listening to the “Midnight Memories” album. Like any Filipino Y2K high schooler, our portfolios were packed with our obsessions—and hers was Harry Styles. “How about you, who do you like from 1D?” she asked. A supercut of Harry’s curls, his criminally disarming close up shots in “Little Things” and interview banters played in my head like an unwelcome meteor. “Not sure yet, I’ll check them out,” I said. One Direction was alright.

And I did check them out. As a matter of fact, I caught myself watching “This Is Us,” their 2013 documentary that revealed the group’s origins. For more than an hour, I was a giddy fly on the wall of five talented boys on tour, witnessing their antics and hardships all at once. To put it simply, it was an experience. But I don’t remember much about it, really. Especially when I had to turn off the TV before anyone caught me. My review for the docu: One Direction was alright.

My review for the docu: One Direction was alright.

For my mom’s 37th birthday, I made a quick slideshow of photos (disguised as a well-made Windows Movie Maker video), staying true to my love language. She didn’t like rock music as much as I did, but I didn’t want any dramatic Disney OST either. So, I used a song that would potentially give us serotonin: “Kiss You” by One Direction. Because, yeah, the song’s alright.

This year, as I was scouring the interwebs for potential news while on shift, I found out that a One Direction reunion could happen. I immediately dove into the 1D side of YouTube, looked for old MVs and blasted “Strong” and “They Don’t Know About Us” in my room. Just like what I’ve been doing the past years. “Liam Payne Officially Confirms That a One Direction Reunion is Happening,” the headlines said, with no word vanishing anytime soon.

One Direction has been alright… but what if I’ve actually been liking this “alright?”

Growing up, I was knee-deep in rock music more than anything else. I could sleep well while my dad’s punk rock playlists played through the stereo. I was your emo classmate whose skull-designed jacket was confiscated in high school. For a big chunk of my life, I thought it had to be my only personality. (Um, I thought it was a personality.)

This culture of gatekeeping is evident until now—if it isn’t, then why do some people still feel bad for watching “Crash Landing on You” a month after its internet hype?

Looking back, I attempted to profess my love for One Direction multiple times. But I was either held back by: a.) Being called lame for liking mainstream and; b.) Being tagged a bandwagoner for liking mainstream “too late.” And oh, I didn’t really have the money to buy merchandise. Maybe I wasn’t doing “enough” to be a “real” fan.

This culture of gatekeeping is evident until now—if it isn’t, then why do some people still feel bad for watching “Crash Landing on You” a month after its internet hype? Why do some people still throw weird looks at you for starting the “Harry Potter” series in 2020? Whenever bands hold raffle promos for concert tickets, why do fan feuds still happen in the comments section—as if it’s a competition on who became the “earliest” fan?

Gatekeeping is lazy, small-minded, and quite frankly, dumb,” American pay channel television Syfy says. “No fan owns ‘Star Trek.’ Many of us who have watched every incarnation of the show feel a sense of ownership over it, but it’s not ours. It belongs to everyone.”

The “real fan” blueprint can be classist and subjective. Not everyone has the means to go to cup sleeve events or purchase platinum albums or even subscribe to a movie streaming account for a whole year.

Six months ago, a “Star Wars” books co-writer called out a fan who posted some kind of “criteria” on being a “real Star Wars fan.” Long story short, it made fandom culture sound like a thesis requirement.

The “real fan” blueprint can be classist and subjective. Not everyone has the means to go to cup sleeve events or purchase platinum albums or even subscribe to a movie streaming account for a whole year. There’s no point invalidating others’ admiration just because they’ve done “less” than you.

Fans become fans in different ways. You can call yourself a fan even if you just like (or listen) to one album from One Direction. Or even if you enjoy watching their interviews more than their music videos. At the end of the day, every fan has contributed support to their idols.

The news of One Direction’s possible reunion three months ago made me realize that the band has been more than “alright” for me—and it’s okay if I’m late to the party.

My 1D fangirling story may be a slow burn, but it doesn’t make it any less valid. And Harry Styles, if you’re reading this: Yes, you are my 1D bias.

Read more:
Directioners, 1D’s reunion might finally happen
The Next Direction: Whatever happened to the boys of 1D?
The “fake nerd girl” is a huge sexist myth

Still from “Kiss You”

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Jelou Galang
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