But don't get me wrong. It isn't about how cute they are - I am of an age where I look at them and think children. It isn't necessarily even about their slightly-higher-than-usual-quality formulaic music - although I have to admit it is better than I ever expected it to be despite the often inane lyrics (thank God for electronic overproduction and autotune!). It's about something that has taken me by surprise: the sense of daring these five very young men convey, the fearless projection of the new values of a new generation. Values that may change the world for the better.
From the beginning, One Direction has - if not in their music, then in their music videos and stage appearances - played with gender stereotypes and with sexual stereotypes. The humor with which these very young people tease our perceptions is endearing and mesmerizing. The confidence with which they do it is the mark of an upcoming generation of youth that refuses to be boxed in.
In GLBT literature we are beginning to see the trend emerging as well. Perhaps more than any other creative medium, written literature demands the open display of ideas - words may be vague, or cloaked in multiple meaning, but at their core they are more naked than say, paint on a canvas. Words can hide behind simplistic rhymes, commercialism, and the overshadowing of a heavy pop rhythm that a song offers. But words in a book most often address the realities of social psyche of a given era. Today, we see literature written by individuals who are now enjoying the latter decades of life, and this literature often speaks of past realities such as the horrible isolation of gay individuals even a few decades ago, consequences of coming out in a largely hostile family environment or greater society, of AIDS and homophobia-bred violence. These elements are still there in the upcoming literature of a new generation of GLBT literature, but to a much lesser extent. Now we see new trends in conversation emerge: thoughts about the nature of gender, the oppression of traditional roles, of carving an identity as a GLBT community.
This trend toward new questions being asked through art is evident across mediums. Take a look at the world of fashion and the current embracing of androgyny-inspired designs. Take a look at music, where more lyrics lend themselves to various interpretations across gender lines - it's no accident that "I Kissed a Girl" launched singer Katy Perry into the stratosphere with her first album: it spoke to a generation that is tired of boxes and labels. Take a close analytic look at the art of the music video - my own favorite growing art form - where increasingly we see experimentation toward challenging the presumptions of viewers. Nowhere is this trend more obvious, perhaps, than in one of the videos by the Ukranian pop music act, Kazaky (below). Here, images stretch gender and sexuality perceptions to the limit and challenge the viewer to a new way of thinking.
In Gentlemen's Game, I stretched some of the assumptions about sexuality. Although response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive - something for which I have been rather surprised and always grateful - it was sometimes met with some hostility. This came from both the straight community, where a true depiction of the variety and nuances of male sexuality was perceived as threatening, and the gay community, where a character refusing to accept a "gay" label was seen as an unacceptable betrayal of an ideology that has long struggled with legitimacy.
But I feel a certain spirit in today's upcoming generation - an exhilarated freedom and embracing of one's true self in all its shades of colors, that is for me exciting and so long overdue. And so I have to smile when I see that figurative open, unapologetic wink in a One Direction video as they tease their audience's perceptions. It's a myth that their core following is made up of only twelve-year-old girls; I see older teens, moms and dads, and young people of both genders openly enjoying their music (let's not forget those male fans in the gay community!). I have a feeling that many more are in the closet with their favorite One Directon CDs. Below is the video from "Kiss You" - watch closely for the surprising gender/sexuality-challenging gags.
Watch some more serious gender-bending by One Direction below:
And here, a blog illustrating exactly what I just said : http://www.buzzfeed.com/lilyhiottmillis/one-direction-is-really-good-at-playing-gay