The Unhinged Reactions I Had Watching ‘The Idea of You’ as a One Direction Fan

I covered my eyes during the August Moon scenes, watching through my fingers, terrified that the One Direction imitation would give me second-hand embarrassment.

The Unhinged Reactions I Had Watching ‘The Idea of You’ as a One Direction Fan

There’s a moment early on in The Idea of You, where Nicholas-Galitzine-as-Hayes-Campbell is strutting around the Coachella stage, and he does something to his microphone that, to anyone who was a fan of One Direction circa 2013, feels positively unholy. Campbell holds his mic in his right hand, but his pointer finger is extended as he gives a quick little flick of the wrist; if you were not reblogging Harry Styles gifs over a decade ago, you probably wouldn’t have caught it, but if you were—like me—this gesture may have prompted you to involuntarily scream at the TV. (For a prime example, please see Styles at the 28-minute marker here.)

I continued watching August Moon’s performance through my hands, which were now covering my eyes, terrified that the movie’s pitch-perfect One Direction imitation could only result in severe second-hand embarrassment. Not for myself—there’s no shame in loving a boyband!—but for my sweet boys. I became a fan a bit late in the game; they formed in 2010, but it was 2013’s “Best Song Ever” music video that did it for me. (As you may have suspected, I then immediately became a Harry girl.)

Despite generally positive reviews, I was worried that The Idea of You would ridicule One Direction. It is, after all, based on fanfiction (about Harry Styles), which allows any and all sorts of assumptions and characteristics to be attached to lightly fictionalized avatars of real people. 

And “lightly fictionalized” they were; it felt like The Idea of You production team worked exclusively from a One Direction mood board. At Coachella, August Moon’s onstage screens were filled with cartoon-y drawings that looked borrowed from One Direction’s 2015 tour intro; Hayes Campbell’s stage outfit (muscle tank showing off multiple tattoos; a ring on nearly every finger) could’ve been pulled straight from Harry Styles’s mid-2010s wardrobe; another August Moon member wore the type of fuckboy fashion hat Harry Styles favored for years. And the music video for “Guard Down” is classic One Direction: all five boys doing goofy little bits before crouching together to sing a chorus. 

Each new reference to One Direction elicited something akin to a groan from me, or an occasional “fuck off”; this movie was not sneaky about what it was doing.

But if you’re an apprehensive One Direction fan who’s been avoiding The Idea of You, I have good news. To my pleasant surprise, the movie treated every 1D reference kindly and tenderly. In a GQ story earlier this week, director Michael Showalter said, “I wasn’t interested in making fun of boy bands or laughing at them on any level”—and it shows. Fake Harry Styles (that is, Hayes Campbell) was at least somewhat multi-dimensional besides being extremely hot and good at pursuing Anne Hathaway’s character (who has the absurd name Soléne Marchand, hilariously explained away due to her having “French grandparents”). The music for the film is also catchy and written by real pop song writers; “Dance Before We Walk” would have felt right at home on a One Direction album. 

Even if I’d known all this going into the movie, though, I don’t think it would have made a difference. I think I still would’ve screamed from the depths of my soul to see younger Harry Styles evoked so well in 2024, and still would’ve clutched my face at each subsequent One Direction reference—including but not limited to the end, which I won’t spoil, but if you’ve followed Styles’s solo career at all… it’s a doozy.

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