A necessary space to explore needs and desires

While trawling the internet recently, I came across an unattributed quote that has been rattling around my head for days. The quote reads: ''To love One Direction is to love teenage girls.''

I've made no bones about my weakness for this one particular pop sensation, but with brain space to spare I've been mulling over why it is that I find this seemingly inane and innocuous group of young men so interesting.

It would seem that it isn't just their infectiously catchy tunes and outstanding production that gets me going, but also their relationship to the much maligned group of people otherwise known as teenage girls.

I acknowledge that being a teenager is universally awful.

You're flooded with hormones and your knees hurt because you've grown four inches in as many months and your parents are dull.

On top of all this you have to spend all day with a horde of other people your age whose knees also hurt and whose parents are as boring as your own.

But being a teenage girl is the absolute worst.

Adolescence for girls is the time when you realise the boys in your class have not and are not going to improve with age.

And, to add insult to injury, you begin to learn that nobody is going to take you or your interests seriously.

As a teenage girl, if you are excited about something you are hysterical, and if you don't care about something then you obviously just don't have the depth required to appreciate it.

This is the time of your life when you are labelled shallow and vapid and deemed singularly unimportant.

It is in equal measure frustrating and confusing and so totally unfair.

How does this relate to One Direction, and why do we care?

Well, no doubt everyone is familiar with footage of thousands upon thousands of teenage girls screaming and crying over their favourite pop icons.

They did it for Elvis and the Beatles and they do it for One Direction.

At first glance, this overwhelming adoration of something that seems so silly to any post-pubescent individual is perplexing.

And this confusion leads to dismissal of whatever it is the girls are enjoying and a gleeful shaming of their enthusiasm.

The shame, however, really lies with the adults who partake in this sort of damaging and belittling behaviour.

Anyone with half a brain cell should be able to work out that everything is confusing when you remove it from its context.

Of course these girls are going to look silly if all you show is their (extreme) emotional responses without properly examining what they are responding to.

It only takes the smallest amount of probing to reveal that girls freak out over One Direction because, on a simplistic level, they are fulfilling needs and desires.

Now most people don't react so passionately to having their basic needs fulfilled, but the difference here is that often teenage girls don't have many avenues available to them to fulfil their needs in their day-to-day lives.

Obviously, what teenage girls actually want and need outside of a capitalist, patriarchal society is much debated and contested, but within the current social climate what a lot of them seem to desire is five fresh-faced boys singing about love, and I for one support that desire wholeheartedly.

While there are aspects of One Direction that are problematic, I personally applaud One Direction and their marketing team for providing (whether intentionally or not) a malleable, idealistic, safe and remote space in which teenage girls can explore their emotional and romantic needs and desires.

These spaces are so sorely lacking in our communities that if it takes a semi-problematic boy band to help a young woman work herself out then I'm OK with that.

Plus you get to sing along to a catchy song while you're at it and that's pretty great.

It might seem counterintuitive and a little silly to think that appreciating a group of young men equates to appreciating teenage girls, but taking what they love seriously or at least not deriding it is a big leap in the right direction.

Just trust that if a teenage girl likes something, she has her reasons - as well as the capacity to work out what is going to be of value to her and her development.

Millie Lovelock is a Dunedin student.

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