So I was going to leave this alone, really. I was. But as I watch my dash fill with people who are worried because of it what it might bring and as I dwell on it, I just can’t bring myself to let it lie. So here’s a little look at this Storyboard story, from a journalist who isn’t on the outside looking in.
You lot know what story I’m talking about, but in case you’ve been without internet for the past few hours, here’s the link for the article posted today, which will be my main focus.
But firstly, I’d like to start with the one posted yesterday, which you can find over here. It kind of gave me hope for this little series. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been intrigued when the news broke that tumblr would be investigating the fandom and writing about it. In the right hands it could make for an excellent piece (much like Lev Grossman’s piece for Time Magazine). And the first article actually comes quite close, in my very humble opinion. It’s well written, it’s well researched (boasting quotes from fans of all ages as well as quotes from previous boy band members) and it makes sure to point out that this isn’t the only fandom in which any of this takes part in.
Sure, the quotes from the girls exclaiming that they’d die without their computer makes it all seem a touch over dramatic, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from my journalism classes it’s that you shouldn’t pick and choose quotes to make your article biased for you. It’s about telling the cold hard facts, and sometimes the cold hard facts don’t look to good to anyone. So I applaud you, Jessica Bennett, for your story. I just wish the next article was done in the same way.
Now, on to the piece that has my dash in the proverbial fetal position. (Well, probably not so much since I’ve started writing this since a couple hours in blog time is like a decade.) There is a way right way to spotlight something and there is a wrong way, just as there is for just about anything. The right way for spotlighting this fandom? Well, it would have been to do as Bennett had done. With straight facts and not adding her own two cents. You see, because of Erin Brophy and I’m assuming her attempt at humor, the piece suddenly turns from a news story into a condescending piece about the One Direction fans. (Seriously. “Squeals?” I’ve never once posted an Imagine, nor have I ever squealed about one.)
Also, whereas Bennett made sure to speak with a wide spectrum of people, Brophy has lumped us all into one category. Crazed tweens. Now, last time I checked, I was 20 years old. In fact, last time I’d checked, many of the fans are in their upper teens. Maybe not all of them, but most certainly enough to warrant recognition in the making of this article.
On top of that, Brophy has fallen into the number one thing that I have been warned against and that’s the terrible trap of generalizations. Everything she wrote about has truth to it, obviously. That’s how stereotypes and generalizations are born after all. But as a journalist, it is her duty to bring light to every side of story. However, as she claims that everything she’s written is how to be a “true directioner,” it most certainly eliminates me, as well as just about everyone I follow from actually being a “true fan.” (Which, I find kind of funny because I always just kind of assumed true fans were the ones that supported the music, but whatever. Now I’m becoming biased and making the exact same mistake as Brophy.)
The real kicker for me about this whole thing is the section about the Fourth Wall:
The Fourth Wall: Like any devoted fandom, 1D fans are apprehensive about being exposed to and judged by unsympathetic outsiders who may view them as crazy or weird or foolish. They shipping culture of fanfiction involving the boys — especially the erotic fanfiction — adds an extra layer of nervousness. This is because Directioners may feel conflicted by their protective feelings toward the band, while at the same time legitimately participating in a ship that could make the boys uncomfortable if they read it. So, the fandom evolved the psychological defense they call the Fourth Wall — i.e., the principle that fanfiction needs to be kept under wraps in such a way that the boys never know about it. Mostly this meant keeping the ships on Tumblr, as the thinking went that neither the boys nor their management were really aware of Tumblr. Unfortunately for fans of the Fourth Wall, this has not been the case for quite some time now.
There is one flaw with this, at least, that I am most concerned with. I don’t think the fans ever really thought that the band and management weren’t aware of tumblr. It’s on the internet and it’s growing at an alarming rate. For a band to not know about a site in which they could use to further their popularity is, for lack of a better word, silly. It’s more of the fact that the Fourth Wall protected them from knowing if they found it. The Fourth Wall protected writers, shippers and fans in general from being aware of who saw their work exactly, it wasn’t some delusion that the boys were blind to what was happening on the internet. The Fourth Wall is broken when someone knowingly sends that fanfiction/photoshopped photo/analysis to the person/people in it, and as Brophy apparently knows that much, you have to wonder he ethicality of her decision to post about it.
It might seem trivial to question the ethics of an article about a fandom on the internet, but what I’ve learned is that if it can cause harm and it isn’t for the greater good, don’t publish it.
Of course, I’m just a journalism major with one semester left of college who’s writing for three separate publications and battling my own obsession with the boy band from across the pond. What do I know?
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