Thoughts on One Direction’s ‘Perfect’

Usually I retain my critique of the representations gender to film and television, but the sheer ubiquity of One Direction’s latest single ‘Perfect’ compels me to note down some thoughts regarding their very particular strain of adolescent emotions.

Bear in mind of course, the target age group for One Direction, frequently identified to as girls within the age range of 12-18 or around 15 years old. Now of course, targeting this age range is nothing new, although for me, there is something rather untoward about 21 year old men inspiring adulation in young, impressionable girls on the cusp of sexuality.

Which is why the lyrics of ‘Perfect’ strike me as rather more questionable than One Direction’s usual fare. The song’s central conceit concerns the question of an ideal boyfriend. The lyrics make it clear from the outset that the men are never going to serve as the perfect, idealised boyfriend, referencing clichéd images of chivalry and explaining that they will never fit into these versions of men, stating ‘I might never be your knight in shining armour…I might never be the one who brings you flowers’. Yet, they are perfect if the girl enjoys ‘having secret little rendezvous/ If you like to do the things you know that we shouldn’t do .. I’m perfect’. Thus, the girl is reduced to being kept hidden, away from the eyes of the public, engaging acts that are potentially illicit or distasteful, yet this is the only way to engage these men.

Furthermore these men are not going to invest or engage emotionally within this relationship, they ‘might never be the hand you put your heart in/ Or the arms that hold you any time you want them’, they will not be a source of comfort or security. Rather, their only engagement in this relationship is about a moment of connection based on little or any emotion.

I find this message, and this lack of care for the emotions of a young girl, highly questionable. Essentially, for me, ‘Perfect’ is a song that encourages girls to place regard on the attention they receive from men, to hold these men in high esteem and count themselves lucky that they are deemed worthy. Certainly not the message that should be conveyed to young, impressionable girls who are trying to figure out their position in the world.