It is long since established that “fandom culture” for musical bands is looked down upon by those who exist outside of the bubble that fans create. Additionally, if these fandoms consist largely of younger women, they are discredited in more severe and often misogynistic ways.
Despite criticism, these pop culture factions inspire individuals to write stories, publish artwork and even fundraise for charities that the band members support. Unfortunately, artistic talent and philanthropic work is overlooked, especially if you are a fan of the band One Direction.
Forget if you think that two of its members, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson are in a relationship.
The relationship, dubbed by Styles and Tomlinson in the band’s early days as “Larry Stylinson” became a conversational point in interviews.
“The fans say that you two are dating.”
“Is it true that you and [Harry/Louis] are in a relationship?”
The band’s main “ship”, as fandom lingo once phrased it, was thrown around as a joke by those surrounding the two directly involved. However, once Tomlinson was linked to former University of Manchester student Eleanor Calder, and the tabloids linked Styles to a string of high-profile female celebrities, the tone shifted.
Subsequent years included extraneous social media denials and rewritten history that claimed Styles lived with British producer Ben Winston after the band’s formation on X-Factor rather than the verified knowledge that he and Tomlinson lived in a North London flat together.
Additionally, as of July 24, 2017, Seventeen published the article, “Louis Tomlinson Confirms That Larry Shippers Ruined His Deep Friendship With Harry Styles”, and re-shared it on their Twitter as recently as Jan. 7.
The article focused on the long-run narrative that fans ruined Styles and Tomlinson’s friendship, which appeared visibly strained from 2013 until mid-2015. Whether it was separate interviews during promo for their 2013 documentary, This Is Us, the stark lack of acknowledgment on stage in contrast to previous behavior or articles similar to Seventeen’s that tension led to the band’s indefinite hiatus, one question is still raised by fans.
How strong is a friendship if it can be “destroyed” by rumors that were deemed unfounded?
One Direction is not the first band that fans believed had members in a secret relationship. Fans of the British pop rock band McFly believed that Harry Judd and Dougie Poynter were hiding a relationship. These rumors were exacerbated by Judd and Poynter’s flirtatious banter that fans compiled in video montages.
Yet, despite these rumors and their committed relationships with women, their behavior toward one another did not appear to change based on how others perceived them.
So, it stands to question why in 2018 — when the last time Styles and Tomlinson were pictured together was in 2015 — the media is still talking about what their team deemed a “fake ship.”
Since the hiatus, Tomlinson was shown to have “reconnected” with Calder after the two were reported to have separated in March 2015, followed by a publicized stint with American Briana Jungwirth, which resulted in the birth of Freddie Reign Tomlinson.
Why then, with a girlfriend and child, is it still paramount for the publication of articles about a band that was divided by a “fan theory”? Why also does the media insist that fans are fetishizing the two men, rather than the reality that most fans believe they are in a committed relationship?
The first question is even more questionable when considering that toward the end of 2015 and during the hiatus, there does not appear to be any bad blood between the two members.
As alluded to previously, toward the end of 2015, it was clear to fans that Styles and Tomlinson were just as comfortable around each other as ever before. They were back to sitting next to each other during interviews, visibly engaging during their promo for “Made In The A.M.” and Styles, along with the rest of the band, supported Tomlinson during his solo debut for his song, “Just Hold On” with Steve Aoki on the X-Factor U.K. just after his mother died.
Fast forward to 2017, Tomlinson then spent his promo for his first official solo single, “Back To You” openly praising Styles for his role in Christopher Nolan’s 2017 film, “Dunkirk.”
None of these instances indicated a divide, despite what articles might have one believe. In reality, it is unclear why any team would want to publicize a division when there is no clear business benefit from fans thinking that two members hate each other.
That much can be reaffirmed from the discovery that Styles and former bandmates Zayn Malik were not on good terms during a significant period of time in the band. However, the news about that tension only came to light in the last year.
Rather, as Styles and Tomlinson's teams try harder to gaslight fans into believing that they despise each other — and have since the band’s early days — their ham-handed attempts reveal one truth: the music industry’s underlying, yet ubiquitous homophobia, and the media's willing involvement.
Regardless of any truth to a romantic relationship between the two — that is up to the person who takes the time to observe their interactions and the media storm around them — the vehement pushback indicates their teams' deep-seeded desire to market them to a young, female audience.
So, as 2018 continues to be as messy as the year we left behind us, people need to reach their own conclusions rather than rely solely on the media. Moving forward, perhaps the question to ask is, how does a musician’s team benefit from having their client be viewed as homophobic?
Many of the fans will not accept it, potential collaborators that their clients could work with on future projects will not accept it — so who is really benefiting from the image?