Fandom 101: One Direction

After five years, more than 50,000,000 (yes, that is 50 million) albums sold, and 325 headlining shows played, it is probably fair to say you’ve encountered One Direction at some point. Maybe you, like me, have been to a show or two . Maybe you’ve heard someone talking about it at the library. Or maybe you’ve just seen the headlines while you tried to catch up on pop culture news. Believe me, 2015 and 2016 have definitely seen some headlines. “Zayn Malik Leaves One Direction,” “Different Directions for One Direction,” so-and-so signed a solo contract, someone else is in the studio rapping.

You may be wondering why you need to know about them if they are on hiatus. You’re busy, you’ve got other trends to keep up with, I get that. But did you know that on January 27th, Louis Tomlinson (1/4th of One Direction) tweeted a picture of himself with his 6-day-old son? Within 20 minutes, “Freddie” was trending on Twitter. 1,652 pieces of One Direction fanfiction were published on popular fanworks site Archive of Our Own (also known as AO3) over a period of just four weeks in January 2016. Those four weeks came after the hiatus, after the last promotional appearance, after the last of the new music had been released. The One Direction fandom is huge, it spans platforms, and it is as alive as ever.

fandom 101 one direction

Let’s start with the basics. One Direction, also known as 1D, started on U.K. reality show X-Factor in 2010. Five teenage boys auditioned for the show and got through the first round only to find out they didn’t have what it takes to make it as solo artists. Tears were shed. Dreams were crushed.


When production asked Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, and Harry Styles back on stage, the boys remember Harry saying it was because Simon wanted to make them cry because it would make good television. Instead he offered them a second chance at their dream. They could continue in the show, but only as a group. A boy band.

What followed was a fever dream of bad performances and terrible outfit choices, but people were captivated. By the time One Direction were eliminated, in third place, the crowds of fans waiting outside had become so large the boys needed security to escort them through and people worldwide were declaring their love for the band on Twitter and tumblr. One Direction went global before they had even recorded a single. They had a tumultuous five years of stadium tours, multi-platinum albums, and famous girlfriends, and then, in 2015, the departure of Zayn, the announcement of the hiatus, impending fatherhood for Louis, and rumors of solo plans for Harry and Liam. Zayn and Louis got into a tiff on Twitter, and Zayn signed to RCA and began working on an album for a 2016 release. This is, in the broadest strokes, the history of 1D.

Let’s talk about materials. One Direction aren’t a text, so there aren’t graphic novel adaptations and sequels and prequels. Instead there are albums and official books, unofficial books, movies and one fanwork-to-professional-publication. I’ll introduce you to some of those. You could find out the album names with a quick Google search, but I’ll make it easy on you. In order, they go:

  1. Up All Night
  2. Take Me Home
  3. Midnight Memories
  4. FOUR
  5. Made in the A.M.

There are concert films available for the tours corresponding to albums 1-3. Up All Night: The Live Tour is pretty self-explanatory, but the other two are a little harder. The tour for Take Me Home was filmed and turned into a movie directed by Morgan Spurlock, director and star of the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me. That movie is called One Direction: This Is Us, and it is practically sacred to the 1D fandom. It charts the band pre- and post-X-Factor and provides behind-the-scenes details about the boys, their friendship, and their relationship to the machine that is One Direction. Last but not least, the Where We Are: Live at San Siro Stadium concert movie was filmed during the tour following the release of Midnight Memories.

There is an official autobiography, Who We Are: Our Autobiography, in which all five boys trade off talking about their lives and the band. It is a quick read, and not terribly enlightening, but it is fun and the real joy is that the audiobook is read by the boys themselves.

In a similar vein as 50 Shades of Grey, although much tamer, the One Direction fandom did give birth to one fanwork that has since been altered for professional wide release. After, by Anna Todd, is the first in a series of novels telling the story of good girl Tessa, who goes to college and falls for bad boy Hardin Scott (originally Harry Styles). It’s usually classified as New Adult, and it has many of the traditional traits of that genre. After has also been picked up for a screen adaptation, although there aren’t many details about the project.

The Adventurous Adventures of One Direction is a web-series about the lads as superheroes created, voiced, and animated by Mark Parsons. The jokes aren’t exactly G-rated (in the first series, 1D are trying to solve the mystery of why all the cats have gone missing, and use a magnet to retrieve them…), but they are funny and well-known in the fandom, with a professional-level sheen that gets them mistaken for official cartoons. Chances are, if someone is asking you about a 1D cartoon, this is what they’re talking about.

Finally, on a closing note: One Direction fandom, like most fandoms, is heavily involved in social media and in the creation of fanworks. Fandoms can be brutal, especially across “ship” lines, so you may want to be prepared to talk about online bullying. If a teen is opening up to you about being really into One Direction, you might find a teachable moment in talking about finding credible sources (a recent joke on tumblr led to actual news sites reporting Louis’s child was named “Conchobar”) or how to craft smart searches to find exactly what you’re looking for (dig into AO3’s search functionality a little!) or finding resources for creative writing, or drawing, or graphic design. Fandoms are creative, vibrant hubs of connection, and although One Direction may be on hiatus, the fandom isn’t.

I hope you found something helpful! If I forgot something totally obvious, feel free to school me, and if you have any questions, I’m happy to answer.

— Kenzie Moore, currently reading I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios