Grace Chelius was wandering around 47th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue in New York looking for a good spot to see One Direction. It was 7 p.m. the night before the boy band was set to play the Today Show and hundreds of fans were already camped out on the street. Some brought sleeping bags, while others brought pizza. All of them though seemed to have homemade signs with clever messages like “I Traveled Myles For Styles” or “I Got An Infection Called One Direction.”
After driving all the way from Florida with five of her friends and two of their moms, Chelius arrived in New York City at three in the afternoon only to find out that tickets for the show had already been given out. Now the 13-year-old was stuck all the way at 42nd Street worrying that she wouldn’t be able to catch a glimpse of the guys.
“We’re pretty obsessed,” she explained. “We came all the way up here just to see them because concert tickets were too expensive.”
To some, the near 17-hour drive would seem a little crazy, but not for a One Direction fan.
The boy band’s super fans–called Directioners–have gotten a reputation as one of the more dedicated fan groups of the Internet age. So dedicated in fact that after a documentary aired in the UK criticizing a certain sect of One Direction fans known as Larry Shippers–fans that would like to see members, Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles get together–they pretended that these specific fans committed suicide, tweeting the hashtag #RIPLarryShippers with messages asking others to pray for those who had taken their own lives. The rumors first claimed that 14 people died, then 28, then later climbed to 42 people, but no deaths were ever confirmed in conjunction with the documentary.
“That’s overboard,” Chelius said in response to the suicide pact, which is now believed to be just a hoax. “I would ask for a photo, but I wouldn’t stalk them. And I definitely wouldn’t kill myself.”
Other fans have managed to pledge their love for the five guys–Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson–in far less fatal ways.
Some have taken to keeping connected with the group via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, while others just spend their time watching their videos over and over and over again. One Direction’s video for “Best Song Ever” garnered 10.9 million views within 24 hours of its release on Vevo, breaking the record of most first day views previously held by Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop,” which was viewed 10.7 million times.
Of course, fans of the boy band still come up with zany scenarios to meet the guys. At a 1D show in New Jersey last month, Gabriella from Brooklyn divulged a rather elaborate plan to meet the group. “I’ve been tweeting for like the last month that I’m going to jump off my seat with a parachute and pick up my friend who’s in the front row and take her onto the stage with me,” she said. But when asked whether she had really brought a parachute with her to the show she laughed and said, “Of course not. I’m not crazy!”
Alison Fitzpatrick said her and her fellow Directioners “will go out of our way to do anything because it’s somebody you love so much.”
“But every fandom has those,” the tween said. “I think One Direction is just more recognized than other ones.”
Fitzpatrick explained that the reason fans are so crazy about One Direction is because they’re different than all the other boy bands. Unlike those boy bands of the past, namely the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC, who used to wear matching clothes and do the same choreographed dance moves, One Direction have managed to bypass all that silliness. One Direction make the same kind of bubblegum pop music as the boy bands of yore, but the I’ll-love-you-no-matter-what message that runs throughout many of their songs including “What Makes You Beautiful” has made them stand out in the hearts of fans everywhere.
Sure, teens think One Direction are cute, but their love for the band runs a little deeper.
As many boy band fans of the ’90s could attest (this writer being one of them), it didn’t seem like we were a fanbase that could articulate the importance of songs like BSB’s “As Long As You Love Me” or *NSYNC’s “(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You” to the female psyche. But the girls (and one guy) I spoke to–ranging from ages 8-21 years old–wanted to talk about the power of 1D’s music and the confidence it had given them.
“The first time I heard ["What Makes You Beautiful"] it really spoke to me,” Mediha Hussain said, noting that the message she got from the song was, “Don’t change yourself for others because obviously people like them will love you for who you are.”
Other girls, like Brianna Cooper, talked about being bullied in school and admitted that One Direction helped her get through the harder times.
“Having being bullied and depressed, I don’t want my younger family to feel upset or feel how bad I felt,” Cooper said while standing with her two younger sisters. “It’s like the way they make me feel happy and make me feel beautiful, I want everyone to feel that way.”
Tim Fitzgerald agreed, “We live in a society that is very, very judgmental. Who doesn’t want to be told they’re beautiful? Honestly.”
Devon Trangone, who showed up to the show wearing a Misfits t-shirt, compared One Direction fandomonium to Beatlemania.
“When the Beatles first started a bunch of gangly, screaming girls liked the Beatles and now they’re the biggest band in the world,” the 20-year-old Brit said. “I think it’s just like a complex that we all have about it. I loved *NSYNC, I love One Direction, I love them all.”
She also loves punk rock and says that shouldn’t be a problem. But if someone does question why she loves One Direction, she’s quick to point out the importance of a band whose music makes its fans feel like they’re worth it.
“There’s so many girls that are insecure about themselves and we have these five amazingly, good looking boys letting them know that everything about them is beautiful no matter what,” she said. “That’s certainly not something to make fun of.”
One Direction’s new documentary, This Is Us, is in theaters now.