One Direction fans have been reeling this week after it was announced that Louis Tomlinson had become a father for the first time. You would be forgiven for thinking that One Direction fans would be swooning with happiness and cooing over the new addition to the One Direction family. You would be wrong. Many One Direction fans are, to say the least, sceptical about the news. Some sections of the media report a One Direction story and most readers simply raise an eyebrow, smile and move on. Many One Direction fans however do not trust a word that is written about the band and it’s members.
There is good reason for this. Hit up Google and type in “One Direction,” as Aaron Butterfield writes in Breathe Heavy you will find millions of articles and very few of them are anything to do with One Direction’s music.
Instead you will find thousands of column inches devoted to who One Direction members may be dating, rumors that One Direction members despise each other and in recent months a seemingly concerted campaign to destroy Louis Tomlinson’s image. You will also find many, many stories castigating One Direction fans for one reason or another.
There is absolutely no question that One Direction fans are devoted and in some cases even obsessed by One Direction. Fan accounts proliferate on social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. Make no mistake One Direction fans know what the band members are up to long before the mainstream media ever gets a sniff of the latest news.
Over the past six-months the press narrative about One Direction has changed considerably and as that narrative has changed efforts to paint One Direction fans as deluded, irrational and obsessed schoolgirls have been stepped up. Both the Sun and the Daily Mail have taken an almost exclusively anti One Direction stance.
The Sun has frequently attacked both One Direction and their fans but the rhetoric was ramped sky-high in October when Dan Wootton reported on the “Downfall of One Direction.” The Daily Mail has also run numerous stories that are critical of One Direction and their fans and of Louis Tomlinson in particular. It was the Mail that broke the “exclusive” video that showed One Direction members Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik allegedly smoking weed.
To understand the narrative you need to understand where it comes from and many One Direction fans believe that the narrative comes from Simon Cowell’s Syco. Consider for a moment One Direction’s history. In 2010 five young boys auditioned for Cowell’s X-factor as solo artists, they made it through the first round of selection but were dumped at the “boot-camp” stage, only to be invited back to form a boy-band. Whilst One Direction did not win that season it was clear that they had captured many hearts and Cowell signed them.
The show was barely over before we started to see the formation of Cowell’s branding strategy for One Direction. The ink was barely dry on One Direction’s contract before we saw the first One Direction “sex-scandal.” Just days after One Direction’s debut album Up All Night was released, the Daily Mail was linking Harry Styles with Caroline Flack. Not only was Flack twice the one Direction stars age she was also employed by Simon Cowell on the X-Factor production team.
There can be no doubt over about the success of Cowell’s marketing of One Direction. In five short years One Direction went from being X-Factor hopefuls to one of the biggest selling acts in the world. Members of One Direction have a combined following of over 100 million followers on Twitter alone. Cowell took One Direction from nowhere and turned them into a $1 billion brand.
In the early days of One Direction it would doubtless have been easy to control their image. After all Cowell hand picked their management and PR teams and with strong links between those three teams and sections of the U.K. media, Cowell was able to ensure that he could carefully sculpt a squeaky clean image for One Direction.
It seems that even Cowell was unable to predict that One Direction would become a global phenomenon. It is probably also true to say that Cowell could not have predicted the way that One Direction has become such a huge presence on social media. In 2010, platforms like Twitter were in their infancy, snapchat and others didn’t even exist.
Today Twitter has over 500 million users and One Direction has an incredibly strong following there. Of course it seems likely that Cowell would be terrified by a concept like Twitter because he cannot control the news that is shared their by One Direction fans.
It does seem like Cowell’s reach does extend to Twitter, one fan account has been suspended at least nine-times for sharing information about One Direction that management doesn’t approve of.
The links between Cowell, Modest Management, HJPR, and sections of the media are real and irrefutable. Many One Direction fans are convinced that One Direction’s image is so manufactured that they cannot believe anything that is written about the band.
One Direction fans have no trust in the band’s management and many feel that both they and One Direction have been exploited, lied to, and treated appallingly by a management team who look no further than the next dollar. In short many One Direction fans do not believe a single word that is printed about One Direction.
[Photo by: KGC-161/STAR MAX/IPx/AP]