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Larry Shippers and the case of the crazy fans

3 years ago

Tom Baker writer
Tom Baker Staff Writer Derby, UK
Directioners, Beliebers, Little Monsters, Jcats, Katy Kats (a surprising amount revolve around cats): it's fandom, Jim, but not as we known it. It seems like fans of pop music just keep getting all the more... fanatical. And younger, too. What's the deal? Oh and btw, we're called Trekkers, Trekkies is a derogatory term.
Now without wanting to play with fire here, fans of the boyband (and occassional writers of a catchy tune) One Direction are probably the best example of the modern pop fan. They're young, they're active on social media, and they... well, they're very devoted to 'their' band. Very. In the case of Directioners, this goes as far as threatening to burn down the offices of GQ magazine for reasons I don't quite understand and, more recently, sending death threats to a footballer that injured a band member in a charity match, or can be as 'tame' as, erm, trying to get Harry Styles to follow you on Twitter after a pet's died.

The 'Larry Shippers' phenomen revolved around the slightly 'fanfic' desire by some 1D fans to believe that Harry Styles and bandmate Louis Stevenson are in a romantic relationship. Larry Shippers being a subset of 1Ders who frequently clash with other fans who do not believe that afore-mentioned bandmates (both of whose relationships with women have taken up oodles of column inches) are an 'item'. Sigh, confused yet? 
It's probably a result of two things, as I see it: one, 'following' bands and musicians on social networks makes you feel a lot closer than signing up to S Club 7's fan club and getting a quarterly newsletter written by their manager did and, therefore, you feel more 'connected' and therefore willing to defend your faves. Two, well, the same reason people troll online, namely the mistaken sense of anonymity and 'online disinhibition effect'.
Now, to give a bit of historical (which I just Freudian slipped and initially wrote as 'hysterical') context: yes, we've all seen the screaming fans that drowned out The Beatles' live performances. Yes, the Samaritans set up special phone lines for distraught Take That followers when they first broke up. Crazy pop fans have existed for about as long as pop music has. But before when people got insanely devoted to a particular act, that devotion was as easy to forget as tossing your homemade collage of Robson and Jerome in the recycling. 
But these days everything is recorded, and everything's online, and nothing really disappears: will kids growing up today, once they (presumably) get over their flame wars with Katy Perry/Lady Gaga fans (depending on whose side their on), be slightly embarassed to carry that past on their Twitter account forever? 
Things took a darker turn last year after a documentary on One Direction fans aired on Channel 4 and it was claimed several such fans killed themselves after seeing it. Except then it turned out that it was more of a 'pseuicide', as in, killing of their online persona; extreme, yes, but maybe necessary unless you want to explain to your kids why you were threatening to strangle iluvharry94 over photos involving a Kardashian, and what is a Kardashian anyway?

Are modern teens any more bonkers than we were in our day? Or is social media just giving them a new platform to showcase their fandom?
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