Making the Grades
It is easy to roll your eyes at the thought of another boy band. These types of groups have come and gone for a long time. And yet it seems every generation of girls is as excited as the last to scream and cry and swoon over the next crop of crooners.
Luckily for young fans the new rash of concert movies has made these singers more accessible for the mass audience who can’t afford the price of concert tickets. Not only do moviegoers get front seat exposure to the performers, they also get behind-the-scene coverage of the tour and intimate details into the boys’ humble beginnings.
If it all feels a bit orchestrated, wait. There’s more. One Direction, the latest phenomenon in the teen music scene, is the brainchild of Simon Cowell, the acerbic judge from American Idol and Britain’s The X Factor. After soloists Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson failed to advance to the finals of The X Factor, they were given a second chance at the competition. Put together as a five-member boy band, they competed in the group category. They failed to win the competition again but by that time, their good looks and audience appeal had helped to attract a huge fan base. Following their third place finish they signed a record deal with Cowell’s Syco Records and became an almost instant success in the UK, thanks in large measure to social media. And social media has continued to be the moving force behind the band’s worldwide megastardom. There’s nothing like the quick thumbs of tireless teen tweeters to spread the word about their favorite celebs.
Although the English-Irish band members refute the idea that they are a typical boy band (they don’t dress in identical outfits and their choreography on stage resembles more of a free for all than composed dance steps), they still follow the prescribed formula pretty closely. Each member has his own descriptor—the funny one, the serious one, the flirt etc.—and their pop rock songs are full of sweet and sloppy lyrics that appeal to their young audiences.
However it doesn’t take much trolling of the Internet to know these guys aren’t squeaky clean, but so far they seem to have avoided any paternity lawsuits. And the movie, directed by Morgan Spurlock, does it’s best to promote these performers as the kind of boys you wouldn’t mind your daughter bringing home—at least on her iPod. Their parents, tour director and fans also all get a chance to extol these singers as the documentary intercuts personal interviews with musical interludes from their concerts. Some brief profanities, a few song lyrics and Niall’s proclivity for recording while wearing only his boxers, are about the extent of this film’s content concern.
One Direction: This is Us certainly won’t appeal to all. Still, if you or your daughter is in the demographic niche that can’t help but squeal when someone sings, “You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful”, then an hour or so with this British pop group will probably be worth the price of movie tickets.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about One Direction: This Is Us.
A tremendous amount of fan hype has been created through social media. How has Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media changed the way fans interact with stars? How have users of social media become the real marketing force behind One Direction? Why do these performers worry about being able to live up to all the hysteria when they actually go on tour? Can your mental image of someone be damaged when you actually meet that person?
How are the boys’ parents portrayed in this film? Do you think their families and their backgrounds help keep them grounded? What impact can fame have on a person? What do their handlers, tour guide and other adults on the tour do to keep these singers in check?
How do this band’s song lyrics appeal to the insecurities, aspirations and desires of their mostly female teen followers? Why does one of the singers fear that he won’t find someone that likes him for himself rather than his fame? How can star status affect how people see and react to a person?
What challenges would come with this kind of a lifestyle, including a demanding schedule and a lack of privacy? What are the perks of being on tour? Would you be willing to pay that price to be a celebrity?