If you’ve ever watched How I Met Your Mother, first of all, sorry about that. How annoying is Ted?
If I’d met him as a baby, I would have strangled him with my own umbilical cord. As a cat, I would have used my tail. As a grown woman I’ll just write rude articles about him, because strangling people is frowned upon in most sectors of society, and I suspect that includes Marylebone. Second of all, you may have watched the episode that introduced the concept of The Cheerleader Effect – the idea that a group of something (in this case women, naturally) appears more attractive as a whole than the individual things (women, again) can claim to be.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, essentially.
A concept that I find repugnant and unfeminist when applied to women actually becomes kind of interesting when you apply it to everyday life (I’m a hypocrite, move on), and that is why I have decided to call it the One Direction effect – because, despite my best efforts, and all the will in the world, One Direction ARE a part of my everyday life. They’re on the socks I see at Primark, they’re on the t-shirts on the mannequins I walk by in Leicester Square, they’re on the radio in the store and they’re in the hearts and eyes of every teenage girl I glare suspiciously at on my lunch break, because they should be at school.
The thing with One Direction is that they’re much more appealing en masse than they are individually. That’s not to say that they’re not all doe-eyed and chiseled in a way you can only be when your job is your face (let’s not pretend that their vocal chords really play a part here, shall we?) but they’re still just young boys, with the chubby cheeks and awkward skin and confused stance of youth.
Together on stage though, they take on the shine of the completed artifact, the job well done. If you’re sick of looking at one, you just look at another. If the blonde one is hurting your eyes, you can focus on the pubic hair-esque curls of the one next door. One is dressed in black, two in white, three in complimentary patterns.
The Cheerleader Effect, repurposed as the One Direction Effect, makes you wonder why, when you’re a relatively sensible twenty-something with a bank account, you kind of want to run your fingers through your hair while you straddle as many of them as you can physically manage (three, I reckon, they’re quite wee).
The One Direction Effect isn’t limited to boy bands though, oh no. Ever walk into a store, transfixed by colour and pattern, then try to zero in on something and find that actually, close up, they’re all kind of repulsive? It’s just the mass effect that draws you in, convinces you that in a field of product you will find your perfect flower, in the form of a high-waisted skirt that doesn’t make you look like a road cone balanced on top of two doughnuts. Monsoon is particularly guilty of this, I find. Or lipsticks, where the glossy array of tubes makes you want to toss them into the air with gay abandon (Boots frowns on that, however) (not the gay part, to my knowledge, just the abandon part) but the colours, separately, smeared on your face, are nothing special?
It works with trays of cakes, lists of alcohol and Tindr. It’s applicable to anything presented to you in an intimidating and prominent mass, to make you feel small and vulnerable and like you’d be lucky to get one of the many. But don’t be fooled. Slow down. And remember that one in five people have herpes, and that applies to One Direction as well.
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