First published by Independent Voices with a shorter version appearing in the i Paper, 29th May 2014

One Direction’s 2013 film This Is Us has a notable lack of sex, drugs, swearing, smoking, or even squabbling. As one reviewer noted, on a hiking trip the quintet “sit around a campfire like good Boy Scouts, contemplating the future and declaring they’ll always be best mates. This is the rock revolution reduced to the level of the Eurovision Song Contest”.

But some of the good Boy Scouts have shattered their clean-cut image. A video leaked this morning apparently shows two of them lighting up a joint. On the Peruvian leg of their 2014 Stadium Tour, Louis Tomlinson films the band’s journey to Lima’s Estadio Nacional, while sharing a dubious-looking rollie with bandmate Zayn Malik. Tomlinson jokes “so here we are, leaving Peru. Joint lit. Happy days!” And with that, the internet erupts.The members of One Direction are reportedly worth £14million apiece– making them the richest boy band in British music history. They have attracted legions of loyal ‘Directioners’, as their fans call themselves, who are mainly teenagers and pre-teens. Parents are happy to buy their children ‘1D’ annuals, sticker books and concert tickets because they believe that these particular teen idols won’t pollute the minds of their impressionable offspring.But the heavily manufactured tween-safe image, put together by puppet-master Cowell, is just that: a plastic veneer fabricated to sell records in their millions, merchandise and films. We shouldn’t blame the 1D boys for failing to maintain the fantasy.

Fans are reportedly burning their concert tickets, and bemoaning the negative effect that the joint-smoking will have on younger Directioners. But by setting fire to their tickets, the fans are actually acting more ‘rock n roll’ than the band ever have.In any case, any joint smoked by Malik and Tomlinson is far less of an issue than the poisonous egotism of teen heartthrob Justin Bieber who visited the Anne Frank Museum and wrote in the guestbook that he hoped she ‘would’ve been a Belieber’, or the offensive minstrel shows that ex-Disney darling Miley revels in, using the bodies of black women as her personal props. There’s a difference between being a cultural or racially insensitive idiot and lighting a spliff.
Teen idols have been mired in drug use, from the Beatles onwards. Did anyone really think that ‘Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds’ wasn’t about LSD?

We bemoan the bland, colourless nature of One Direction, but when they start acting like pop stars instead of plastic figurines, the weight of the concern-brigade crashes down on them. “What happened to rock n’roll?” people ask. Well, given that we act like an outraged school-teacher the moment musicians go even slightly off the rails what complaint can we really have?

I remember listening to the Sex Pistols with my dad, age 11. We talked about the things they did – like Sid slashing his chest on stage – and shouted along to ‘Anarchy in the UK’. My dad wasn’t concerned about my ‘exposure’ to the filth and the fury of 70’s punk, perhaps because they weren’t sold to me as sterile role models.

Worried parents should remind their children that their idols are simply humans, and when you put a bunch of young men on a pedestal, there’s a long way for them to fall.

Posted by:harrietpwilliamson