Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Euphoria
Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson as portrayed in a fantasy sequence by HBO’s “Euphoria”

Throughout their time performing in the boy band One Direction, former bandmates Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles were often “shipped” together in fan-fiction stories about them secretly being in a gay relationship. And now, HBO’s new teen drama Euphoria has illustrated one such story as an animated cartoon depicting the two men having sex backstage at a concert… and some One Direction fans are not happy.

Before the animated sequence begins the scene, one live-action character tells of a teen girl named Rue who became internet-famous after writing fan-fiction online. In fan-fiction stories, often written in real-life by queer women, celebrities or fictional characters often fall in love or have sex. Writers create these stories to explore the homoerotic subtext in predominantly heterosexual mainstream pop-culture.

In the sequence, Tomlinson nervously waits backstage as Styles seduces him, embracing him for behind before going down on him. When Tomlinson expresses worry that someone might see, Styles says he’d be okay if someone discovered them in the act.

Here’s the animated scene:


One fan wrote, “This is disgusting. They are being sexualized. And they do not even know about this. It’s humiliating, I hope and L & H will take legal action on this.”

But is this sort of depiction of pop stars wrong? It depends on your outlook.

For one, it’s entirely possible that Styles and Tomlinson might’ve known and even approved of the animated sequence. And if not, there are at least legal defenses that allow works of art to portray public figures in scenes that are obviously untrue. But being legal doesn’t make something fair.

Related: Harry Styles says he’s a little bit gay

The larger issue is that neither Styles nor Tomlinson identify as gay and it’s uncool to call straight guys gay and even less cool to show them 69ing in a cartoon viewed on a mainstream cable network.

But Euphoria’s scene is also comical and doesn’t take their lovemaking too seriously. The fact that it’s recreated in an anime style shows that it’s a nod towards yaoi — a genre of Japanese cartooning also known as boys’ love which depicts homoerotic relationships between two men, often drawn for and by women — shows that it’s obviously a dumb, thirst fan-fantasy and to be taken lightly, even comically.

The fact that the cartoon ends with a starry outlines of both men’s spinning bodies as they 69, reflected in the glasses of a teenage girl watching them says much more about the female character in the show than it does about the real life stars.

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