The Problem With Calling One Direction Gay

7 May

One Direction: More successful than you. But not gay, yet.

For more One Direction and pop cultural musings, you can follow this author on Twitter: Henry Ellenthorpe

Last week, I was trawling my Facebook homepage to see what I was missing out on and apparently my life lacks casual homophobia, sexism and partying. Hot damn, my life pales in comparison. Anyway, one girl had posted a parody of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful (she’s a fan) on a friend’s wall, proclaiming its greatness. And look, when I watched it for the first time I laughed. But then I realised at what I was laughing and realised it was actually pretty shady. And not the kind of shady that can be fixed by an nonchalant ‘it’s only a joke,’ in the same way that calling someone a racial slur can’t be ameliorated by a ‘only joking, bro.’ It highlighted a casual homophobia that is so intermixed with reaction to popular culture and music that it’s become au fait. Read on after the jump. Or don’t. Whatevs, UR so gay:

Here’s the parody (made by a website that’s been fairly sexist and bizarrely, mindblowingly reductive in the past):

I understand the appeal of a parody – because like political satire – they’re comforting. They cut people that are sexier, more successful and talented than us down to size. Just as it’s comforting to make fun of a politician’s ears because they can control our taxes, it’s fun to mock a number one selling band because they’re teenagers and set for life. But the problem with this parody – defined as a ‘literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule’ – is that it ridicules One Direction by calling them ‘gay.’ That’s wrong on so, so many levels (not least because no member of One Direction has announced themselves as homosexual). It aligns weakness – or something to ridicule – with homosexuality. In particular, the ‘characteristic style’ with which the parody associates One Direction is one of a pubescent boy – high voices, escapades with luke-warm beer – is shown to be typically gay. So in a little less than three minutes, homosexuality has been portrayed as feminine, weak and something to be mocked (in the same way that calling someone a ‘pussy’ implies a weakness in being female). It’s a little hard to swallow in light of teenage suicides (and makes you wonder that these sites that would be seen as unacceptable bullies if they were high school students, are celebrated on YouTube).

Because, yes these are just glorified school kids that never left the playground. They’re evolutions of kids who make memes like this (which, depressingly a class-mate of mine has liked). But just as school kids can drive their peers to suicide, these videos have a nasty habit of pervading popular culture and make it the norm to cut down superstars with the throwaway ammunition of labeling them ‘gay.’ That’s unacceptable whichever you look at it. Whatever you think of Justin Bieber’s music, it’s not okay to label him as gay in order to trash it. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with being gay – just as there’s nothing wrong with being feminine – but the way in which it is used as an insult, is small-minded and sad. Some people are never going to change in regards of their view to homosexuality but that doesn’t mean the younger generation should follow. And some parts of this parody are completely fine: mocking One Direction’s tendency to wear trousers to a beach is a slight on the creative team behind the video, and doesn’t reduce anyone’s sexuality to a punch-line. I imagine it must be truly awful to watch such a video as a homosexual, and seeing an unchangeable aspect of your personality turned into a running gag. What’s more depressing is that casual homophobia has become so ingrained into our culture, that they may not be that surprised or even notice it. We’ve a real opportunity to clean up how popular culture is viewed, received and treated. Of course we should continue to criticise and analyse; it’s just as dangerous to take everything laying down. But the trend to associate what is deemed as bad as gay should, and must end now.

But hey, it’s probably a small sector of the internet producing content like this. Unfortunately, it’s a sector that most overlaps with my details; male, teenager (or, in this parody’s case, catering to that demographic). That some fans of One Direction (the top comment belongs to an account who claims ‘I’m a directioner and I can only laugh because it’s a fun video :)) is worrying but probably not unexpected when there are memes like this. So let this serve as a reminder that there are people within that bracket – including all three writers at Can You Hear This – who think it’s totally not okay to to act like these implicitly, and overtly, homophobic videos are acceptable. And I didn’t even get to how freakin’ catchy the damn song is.

One Response to “The Problem With Calling One Direction Gay”


  1. An Ode To JJ – Darren Vincent « Can You Hear This - June 13, 2012

    […] voice heard over here. And if you want a whistle-top tour of homophobia in pop music, here are our thoughts. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make (and it was laboured) is that things move quickly and […]

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