First things first, I'm the realest.
Second things second, I ship for Larry.
Yep, I'm admitting it. Ever since I was introduced to the idea of a secret love affair between Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, via a rogue trip into the dark excesses of tumblr, I've become a bit obsessed with them.
For me, it's a funny joke. There is something amusing about fans creating conspiracies and fictional tales of romance and sexual desire between two popstars, solely based on photos or GIFs of stolen glances or knowing looks between the two singers at concerts or in interviews.
The humour is in the depth of the fandom. It's so extreme, and based on such flimsy, manipulable 'evidence', and yet reproduced on such a large scale; how can that not be funny? If anything, I admire the imagination and creativity of the fans. They truly go deep.
It seemed fairly harmless to me. But not everyone agrees, in particular a certain Zayn Malik.
In an interview with The Fader, when asked about relationships within the band, the former 1D member had this to say: "There’s no secret relationships going on with any of the band members. It's not funny, and it still continues to be quite hard for them."
He continues: "They won’t naturally go put their arm around each other because they're conscious of this thing that's going on, which is not even true. They won't do that natural behaviour. But it's just the way the fans are. They're so passionate, and once they get their head around an idea, that's the way it is regardless of anything. If it wasn't for that passionate, like, almost obsession, then we wouldn't have the success that we had."
This 'harmless' fun doesn't seem so harmless anymore, does it?
While we have huge empathy for our Ziam comrades (that's Zayn and Liam, for the uninitiated) at this deeply distressing time, this does complicate matters somewhat.
The idea that they might be changing their behaviour or restricting themselves from displaying physical affection towards each other because of obsessive fans is, well, sad.
Imagine you can't hug your friend because you know someone will take a photo, post it on Facebook, and accuse you both of f*cking. Perhaps not everybody would mind that, but for a lot of people that would create awkwardness. And, because of that, you might not want to express intimacy with that person anymore.
Now imagine thousands of people doing that every day. Literally thousands of GIFs, photos, merch, fan fiction, and tumblr posts every day about a fictional relationship between you and a friend. You can see why it might be disturbing.
Zayn has provided a glimpse into the strains and pressures that the band must face every day. You've got to wonder if this contributed to their 'hiatus'. I think the answer would be yes, if even only marginally.
But perhaps this shouldn't be so surprising. Not a single day goes past when a member of the band doesn't mention how much they 'love their fans'. The Directioners are a powerful fandom and that has been built on a mutually beneficial outpouring of affection towards the band and their fans. The band are on Snapchat, giving glimpses into their lives; fans can tweet to them; and sometimes – but rarely, they might receive a tweet or a follow back. You can watch their glamorous lives slide down your Instagram feed every day, if you wish. The point is, because of social media, the relationship between fans and bands has never been closer.
Despite this, some fans still insist on treating them like fictional characters, ready to bend and warp around their fantasies. To put it another way: would you ever write erotic fiction about your best friend? Probably not. You probably wouldn’t write it about any of your friends either, or even acquaintances. It would feel a bit weird because they’re real people, and real people are weirded out by that sh*t. The shipping phenomena reminds us just how artificial relationships can be between bands and fans, and it isn’t necessarily a one-way street. Do fans want a real relationship, or do they just want somebody to fanaticise about?
At this point we should defend the large majority of Directioners who do not ship for any of them. There are plenty of fans that find the shipping thing as strange as the band finds it.
There are, however, proponents of shipping who, for various reasons, participate heavily in this phenomena, particularly on YouTube.
Troyler, Phan, Jaspar and Zalfie are all shipped for. The latter, Zoella and Alfie, as most of you are probably aware are, an actual couple (which happened after people began shipping for them). They are essentially the Posh and Becks of the Internet. They appear in countless videos together, sharing much of their life together with their millions of followers on YouTube.
Jaspar (Joe and Casper) are an interesting example of youtubers who play on their bromance. Having made their names on the platform, they live together and are, from what we're told, straight (at the very least, they're not an actual couple - forgive me for not following their personal lives religiously). Their videos often involve skits about their bromance, teasing viewers with details about seeing each other naked, kissing, or filming each other naked in the shower (or so it seemed from the two videos that I watched today).
Jaspar appear to have made a career out of it. I wonder, given how difficult is it for the 1D boys, whether that is easy to maintain? And is there anything wrong with that? Questions for another time, I think.
While I do definitely feel for the 1D boys, part of me is still sceptical about how damaging shipping by (primarily female, teenage) fans actually is. But, if it does make them feel uncomfortable, then perhaps it’s not the best thing to do, even if you feel their discomfort is a little OTT. Everybody has triggers.
So, for the grieving Larry, Ziam, LiLo, Narry, Zarry, Lirry, Zouis, Ziall, Niam, Nouis shippers, my only recommendation would be to change over to Jaspar. At least you can get a lot more bang for your buck over there, completely guilt free.