Would you #Cut4Zayn?
Would you #Cut4Zayn?
On Tuesday, the world shook as One Direction announced that 22-year-old Zayn Malik has decided to leave the band. In a statement released on the band’s Facebook page to their 36m Facebook fans, Malik was quoted as saying that his decision to leave the world’s biggest boy band was because he wants ‘to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.’ This came after Malik had been signed off One Direction’s current world tour, “On The Road Again”, with stress.
The reaction to this news was always going to be huge. This is news that will hit the hard core 1D-ers right in the heart; the fan girls that erected a shrine on a freeway in Los Angeles where Harry Styles vomited, the Directioners who wait day and night outside hotels to catch a glimpse of one of the boys, the same people who can get anything trending on Twitter in a matter of minutes if it is to help their favourite band.
As the news broke, BBC Radio One DJ Greg James set up a mock helpline for those struggling to cope with the news. The following morning, another Radio One DJ Nick Grimshaw asked listeners to get in contact and share their #ZaynPain. Footage of Styles crying on stage went viral as did hundreds of other clips of ordinary people pretending to cry and lament the loss of 20% of 1D. For most people, this is the news that they have been waiting for; the demise of someone more successful than themselves on a public stage. The joy of seeing the internet explode with condolences and hyperbolic claims that the lives of 15 year old girls everywhere are over because Malik has decided to retire. Others could not care less.
As Twitter is a Directioner’s favourite battleground the #AlwaysInOurHeartsZaynMalik and #OneDirectionNeedZayn hastags were not surprising. However, the #Cut4Zayn hashtag is totally shocking. The genius behind the madness is that if enough fans tweet the fact that they are willing to self-harm for Zayn then they will persuade him to rejoin the band. This manipulative trend encourages vulnerable people to hurt themselves and by doing so they will be part of a melancholy community of true fans. The sense of belonging has never been stronger. The sense of purpose never surer. The promise of reconciliation never more palpable.
Self-harm is nothing to joke about. Ever.
Some critics have said that this current trend could be a hoax, but there can’t be smoke without fire. The fact is that the power that One Direction have is real. For those of us outside of that bubble it is quite difficult to imagine how earth-shattering this news is. Fans have built up their lives around their devotion to Malik & co. Stories from fans often cite how One Direction has given them a purpose, confidence, and a desire to do something with their lives. This is all down to clever marketing and song lyrics that every girl wants to have sung to her. Fans have invested so much money, time and effort into following these young men that it is not surprising that impressionable young people are going to such lengths, especially in today’s social media age.
Of course, #Cut4Zayn is horrible. I would, however, suggest that what is more horrible is that we live in society where young girls are gaining more confidence, assurance and value from a boy band than they are from family, friends and their community. Is the world really such a terrible place that the quitting of one fifth of a pop group might as well be the apocalypse? Malik leaving One Direction highlights the intense pressure that he has been put under; from an ordinary Bradford teenager to global superstar with that perfect strand of hair over night. It also brings to light the problem that we have in empowering our young people, giving vulnerable people a source of stability and encouragement that is not founded on number-one singles, glossy posters and a perfume campaign.
Nothing is worth harming yourself. It doesn’t prove your devotion. It won’t make Malik tweet you back. People won’t think you’re brave. The public will ridicule you for being so naïve, so malleable and gullible. And very few will look for the cause. Very few will see that this is an opportunity to galvanise all the confusion and turn it into something positive that our young women of the future can be proud of and not cringe at in a few years.
Malik’s departure is sad (he was always my favourite). It’s not as sad as the lengths that some will go to to prove their love for a total stranger, who, it seems like, find this level of dedication and awe difficult to cope with.
Madeleine is a final year student at the University of Exeter studying BA English with proficiency in French who has developed her writing and editing through her involvement with Her Campus Exeter. In her free time, Madeleine loves discovering new music in preparation for the UK festival season and searching for opportunities which can broaden her horizons, most recently this was volunteering as a teacher in Beijing, China, where she was immersed in Chinese culture and tradition. There are few things in this world that bring Madeleine more joy than glitter, velvet and sequins and her ideal dinner party guests would be Queen Elizabeth I, George Orwell and Taylor Swift. Currently, with graduation looming, Madeleine is exploring the idea of taking time out to travel the world on a shoe string before embarking upon a career in international humanitarian aid.