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fame in an ‘unusually radicalized’ generation in which the youth spoke out against the status quo, the spirit of 1968. The British supergroup were at the forefront, the voice of the generation, with no visible ties to political ideologies. The 1960’s were a turbulent time in society; between the Cold War, Vietnam War, and overall political unease, the band used their music as a microphone. Beatlemania grew from screaming teens at the front row to a new way to channel their opposition of the status quo. John Lennon in particular became very vocal and, “decided to use his media fame on an even bigger scale: to become an advocate for peace" (Syverson, 2014).
Like most in the United Kingdom, The Beatles were affected by political decisions, such as high taxes. As celebrities, not only did they utilize their position in society to voice their opinions, they also spoke on behalf of their fan base. The fans followed the example of their idols to voice their own opinions and question political and societal authority.
While One Direction do not possess the same political drive that The Beatles had, they too have used their status to raise their voices. For example, they teamed up with Global Citizen to promote social activism as a means to end extreme poverty.
Given the political climate when The Beatles gained popularity, their public sphere, a concept from the 18th century was incredibly different than our modern sphere. In contrast to the limiting nature of technology in the 1960’s, modern media is oversaturated with platforms for discussion. The chief difference in the ‘public sphere’ in regards to The Beatles and One Direction is how fans gather and the meaning behind their discussions. Despite One Direction’s wide reach through mass media and their various humanitarian campaigns, their fans – ‘Directioners’ – are still not part of a larger global discussion.
The Beatles had a very dedicated fan base from the beginning. Many people identified with them for two reasons: they popularized rock-and-roll culture and broke down the wall between teen music and adult music, a wall that had been inseparable until then (Tomasky, 2014). In a similar spirit to Beatlemania, One Direction has an extreme impact on their fans that exceeds interest in their music and character. Many Directioners exhibit radical, obsessive behavior and often try emulating the singer they most strongly identify with.
Pinsky (2009) argues that celebrity culture has a ‘mirror effect’ on audiences and fans. The audience imprints on celebrities, leaving an imitation of what they hear or see in the media. This can result in dysfunctional behavior, including excessive drug use and narcissism.
As such, celebrities can positively and negatively affect society. In the 1960s The Beatles impacted society in numerous ways, from fashion, music, and attitudes to class and culture to various aspects of young people's daily lives. The Beatles had a significant social impact as ‘trend setters.’ George Harrison, for instance, helped popularize the Hippie movement. Their support for the counterculture of the 60’s promoted anti-establishment and individual creativity.
Despite being one of the most influential bands presently, One Direction still haven’t impacted society to the same degree as The Beatles. One Direction’s social impact mostly targets young females, as they comprise a large portion of their fan base. The band’s social influence is primarily commercial and media-driven: ticket sales are advertised on their websites along with concert dates and the launch of ‘Action 1D,’ a humanitarian campaign that collaborates with world leaders and Directioners.
The difference between the social impact of The Beatles and One Direction can be found in the origins of each band. Given that One Direction’s career began on a televised talent show, it can be argued that they’re adhering to their perceived role as teen idols. The Beatles were unconventional from the beginning, and existed at a time where the world craved change, thus their influence was monumental.
The relationships celebrities develop with their fans have a knock-on effect on society. This can be studied through the theory of ‘demand side accounts,’ which allows for the emotional meanings behind these relationships to be examined. Though there are four sub-theories of demand side accounts, three will be focused on: Achievement Famine – living life through others’ success, Hero Worship – having excessive admiration for someone, and Religion – pilgrimage. Achievement famine and religion focusing specifically on pilgrimage can be seen through both bands’ accrued fan-bases and by the international stardom they have acquired. Similarly, there are various iconic sites throughout the world that are hotspots for both sets of fans.
Hero Worship is the most common societal effect of celebrity culture. Extreme cases of hero worship can be seen amongst Directioners due to Zayn Malik’s recent departure from the band, which resulted in online outcry and acts of self-harm. The band’s subsequent decision to take a break brought similar reactions (Susan Lee, 2011). The Beatles fans demonstrated more traditional acts of hero worship: people believed they possessed healing powers and fans sought possession of used bath towels and bath water during a tour in New York (Millard, 2013).
The advent of new media has undoubtedly altered communication and the dissemination of information within the twenty-first century. Consequently, information is constantly accessible at all hours and across various mediums. While this new system of information acquisition comes with numerous advantages, with respect to the creation and maintenance of celebrity image, the PR-Media hub must tread a delicate line.
Social media has been successful in catapulting and maintaining One Direction’s career, ultimately augmenting their stardom by increasing their fan base. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook grant fans instant access to intimate details of celebrity life, creating the illusion of intimacy and loyalty via the development of parasocial relationships.
As discussed, there exist numerous differences in the type and severity of influence exerted by The Beatles and One Direction. The media present during each respective time period have played a significant role in each band’s effect on society. The Beatles were born organically whereas One Direction was manufactured and popularized by social media. Social media is quick, fast, and forgetful, while The Beatles were rooted in traditional media that lasts, is revered, and has stood the test of time. Whether One Direction’s popularity will remain timeless like The Beatles’ legacy has yet to be seen.

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