My Top 5 Alternate Universe Fantasy Scenarios About The Boy Band One Direction
While performing at a sold-out show in Kuala Lumpur, the “one direction” is revealed to be “to hell” as the members of the band are devoured by the earth’s gaping maw while holding the final note of their encore song. The note reverberates hypnotically as the audience processes what they have seen, and a strong, sulfuric odor slowly permeates the venue. Excavation of the area underneath the stage wields no leads. The hobby of making YouTube videos exposing celebrities’ Illuminati activity gains sorely needed prestige. Obsessive poring-over of candid photographs of the band reveals occasional pentagram-esque shadows and blemishes. A generation of girls seems touched by a startling-yet-wholesome darkness as they enter puberty. Hot Topic posts its best quarter since 2007 and opens a megastore in Newark. Forever 21 declares bankruptcy. One Direction reappears intact ten years later at the exact location of their disappearance, which has been converted into a megaplex, membership-only gym, and children’s theme restaurant/arcade. They claim to have no recollection of the events of “One-D-Day” and appear not to have aged. Their musical career flourishes once more, but ~20% of units moved are purchased in hopes of discovering hidden Satanic messages when songs are played backwards. Although there are many such discoveries made, none are particularly convincing to the greater public.
The band One Direction is an elaborate cover orchestrated by Simon Cowell to allow what is in actuality a team of elite, sexy-yet-wholesome art thieves access to the world’s most glamorous and exclusive fine art communities. The members of the band have been trained since childhood in the art and science of theft at a facility where Cowell, the only publicly visible member of a shadowy syndicate, hopes to churn out groups like this on a yearly basis if the trial run is executed successfully, and quickly amass enough wealth in priceless gems and artifacts to become a global political player on par with more traditional governing bodies; the endgame, re: accumulation of power, is as yet unknown but presumably sinister. Each One Direction member has a specific, essential heist skill: Liam specializes in intelligence-gathering and planning; Harry in technology and hacking; Zayn in extraction of targets; Louis in getaways and, if needed, liquidation of witnesses; Niall is bitterly relegated to lookout and earnestly considers letting them be found out for ~1-2 tense seconds per job. The closest the team ever comes to blowing their cover is when Zayn, apropos to nothing, says that the movie The Thomas Crown Affair is “total bullshit” in an interview and then haltingly declines to clarify. Their success as art thieves blooms as beautifully as their success as international singing sensations, and they retire to full-time singing after a miraculous last job, the theft of “Winged Victory” from the Louvre.
Niall struggles with a mostly-imagined perception of his place within the group as the “dumb blond.” As a result he resolves in 2013 to bone up on continental philosophy but becomes frustrated by what he perceives as an insurmountable mental block on the works of Hegel. His attempts to engage with his bandmates on the subject are non-starters apart from one protracted conversation with Taylor Swift, a self-professed Kierkegaard devotee, which has aggressive undertones neither will admit to inciting, undertaken from 3 to 4:45 a.m. in a hotel room in Anaheim, accompanied by her on-again boyfriend Harry, who struggles to concentrate, mostly consumed by meta-analyzing his own feelings of resentment at not being made to feel included while touching Taylor Swift’s knee at six-minute intervals. Niall loses interest in continental philosophy in favor of Theravada Buddhism after ~16 weeks. Two years later Louis begins trying to talk about Kant over dinner and Niall’s half-imagined perception that Louis is receiving more attention and respect for his dilettantism that Niall had only two years before is the fourth “straw” on the camel’s back; the “final straw,” six months later, is a difference of opinion on the merits of incorporating a dubstep track into their next rebrand. Some members of the band think it passé; others charmingly retro. Skrillex’s production fee seems prohibitively steep. Harry feels embarrassed at the possibility of his off-again-permanently-girlfriend Taylor Swift, who has by this point already released and toured in support of a dubstep concept album, interpreting the song as a nostalgic reference to her. The band dissolves before a consensus is reached and reunites for two charity benefits over the next six years. Louis eventually explains his understanding of Hegel to Niall while both are stoned. Louis will remember what was said; Niall will largely forget.
Prior to December 21, 2012, Liam’s obsession with the end of the Mayan calendar and subsequent doomsday seemed lovable to the other members of the band and they encouraged it, even sometimes privately feeling that they were beginning to believe in it themselves, allowing this giddy excitement/fear to inform the frenzied-yet-wholesome carpe diem vibe of the chart-topping hit “Live While We’re Young.” The band threw a raucous “end of the world” party to this effect, which reached its apogee when evidence of a doomsday/Armageddon scenario failed to materialize at the stroke of midnight. In the months following, Liam develops a mild case of Cotard delusion, believing that he is living outside of time in an extended hallucination of the life he would have lived if not for the apocalypse. No event in the band’s seemingly endless upward trajectory can convince him that these are the happenings of a stable reality and not the fantasies of a dying man’s final synapse-firings as he perishes. He becomes withdrawn and unreliable. The other band members are initially discouraged and confused by his behavior and lack confidence in how to proceed. They attempt to “snap him out of it” by bombarding him with phrases from their own “Live While We’re Young,” Ke$ha’s “Die Young,” Fun.’s “We Are Young,” and other life affirmation truisms currently prominent in the culture, even going so far as to hire Drake to say “#YOLO” to him in person. These hip and relevant messages of positivity have little to no positive effect and seem to drive him further into despair, but he is eventually able to recover via arduous months of therapy with his bandmates’ support. Afterwards, to their disappointment, he embarks on a second career as a motivational speaker rather than returning to the band.
Through an unwise and eye-opening exploration of their Tumblr tags, the members of One Direction familiarize themselves with the fandom surrounding their band and become first ironically, then genuinely obsessed with One Direction fan fiction. As their involvement with the fandom begins to tax more and more of their time and attention, they begin to forgo practicing, media appearances, and finally even concerts in favor of keeping up with news about themselves and reblogging gifsets of themselves smiling at each other. They immerse themselves in the traits and quirks the fandom has assigned to each of them and, some more consciously than others, subsume their personalities in these new characters, attractive in both their simplicity and larger-than-life bombast. But as their public appearances dwindle, so does new fan material, and the ecosystem of One Direction worship begins to fail. Finally, One Direction resorts to writing fan fiction about themselves in the absence of good new material about them, and discover that through this medium they’re able to explore and share their thoughts and feelings with more precision, depth, and candor than they ever did in person. They grow closer in this way, but find that their intimacy is only available when they interact online, and they no longer have any chemistry when standing together in a room. They decide to capitalize on their newfound comfort zone and become the true heirs to the “Tumblrcore” concept, a band which functions only through social media and does not exist IRL, and are never seen in public as a group or individually again.
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It started with a right swipe, a little green heart. Tinder of course.
Though I acknowledge and appreciate the differences in human experiences, and while your heartbreak is (and always will be) uniquely and completely your own, I must urge you to consider that I have been where you are.
With his hat cocked back, body tilted away from his cane, and right forefinger pointing directly at his audience, Joseph Ducreux commands the attention of those viewing his self-portrait.
I was born in 1990; he was born in 1973. I’m 23; he just turned 40.