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Are famous people together in secret?

From Il Volo to One Direction, the phenomenon of forbidden ships will never die

Are famous people together in secret? From Il Volo to One Direction, the phenomenon of forbidden ships will never die

If, like me, you're old enough to have spent part of your adolescence on Tumblr, then the word ship should make your hair stand on end. It's certainly not a new phenomenon. We've always, when watching a movie or reading a book, thought: these two characters should definitely be together! And if the authors and screenwriters agreed with us, then the ship became canon. Otherwise, we had to resort to writing fan fiction to make it happen anyway, according to our rules and in our world. To solidify this belief and to connect with fellow fandom members who shared our views, we often even created a ship name, which usually was simply a blend of the names of the two characters. As often happens, things got out of hand, and people started shipping real people from real life. And the more the ship smelled of a conspiracy theory, the more it was liked.

The ultimate ship: Larry Stylinson

The prime example is that of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, former members of One Direction. For years, some of their fans hypothesized that there was a secret relationship between them, to be uncovered and revealed by analyzing their movements and interactions, sometimes even looking for examples of contracts similar to theirs to demonstrate that clauses could be inserted prohibiting relationships and controlling their image. Their ship name was Larry Stylinson, their colors were blue and green, their real love stories, paparazzi'd and publicized by gossip and entertainment magazines, just a weak cover-up. The villains in this case were the management members, who for marketing reasons (after all, One Direction had to sell to teenage girls) couldn't let the boys' true sexuality leak out. Clear, right? No wrinkles there, if we exclude the fact that both Harry and Louis are now solo artists, free from the band's yoke. Yet, nothing has come to light.

The Italian version: Gianluca Ginoble and Piero Barone of Il Volo

After the Sanremo Festival 2024, all eyes are on Il Volo, a trio of Italian singers (two tenors and a baritone) who became famous from a young age in the context of the children's singing talent show Ti lascio una canzone. Together, the three boys, named Piero Barone, Ignazio Boschetto, and Gianluca Ginoble, conquered the world, performing everywhere and returning to Italy to win Sanremo in 2015 with the song Grande Amore. Now, social media users are convinced that there's (or was) something romantic between Piero and Gianluca. And so, the ship wheel starts turning. Old footage is taken, body language is analyzed. Girlfriends are false; if they argue, it's because they love each other. The ship name is apparently Pianluca, and if you dig deeper (and shippers are experts at this), you'll find fan fiction about them written by non-Italian fans. After all, the three became famous abroad almost before they did here.

@kellsathedisco Replying to @giuvenescence #greenscreen grqzie amiche del volo #ilvolo #ilvolovers #ilvolofamily #sanremo #pignazio #pianluca #sanremo2024 #ship original sound - kells

Ships and the issue of the forbidden

These "couples" are certainly not the only ones. We've already talked about speculations about the sexuality of Taylor Swift, for example, or even older ones about Duncan James and Lee Ryan of Blue (which have been partially confirmed, contributing to the ships' success). What do all these ships have in common? They're made up of same-sex couples, and indeed their somehow "forbidden" nature, for various reasons (including homophobia), is part of their appeal. Some members of the LGBT community have shown a certain kind of annoyance, finding in these speculations (mostly driven by very young girls) a sort of fetishization of homosexuality, especially male homosexuality. On the other hand, some say it's understandable to project the need for representation onto current idols. A sort of hope that makes us feel mirrored and understood. In between are the unaware, blessed by not being chronically online. The problem, however, is that we're not talking about characters, but about people.

Where to draw the line

Between serious and playful, what remains is that on the internet, in recent years, very young people spend hours and hours analyzing videos, interactions, and footage of other people, hoping to discover something secret and forbidden, or perhaps hoping to find allies in their self-discovery. In absolute terms, there's nothing wrong with that. However, this type of attitude has taught us wrong things. Such as the obsession with the private lives of singers and actors, who owe us nothing but their performances. Or the obsessive search for plots and secrets, for icons and reference points who never asked to be such. We've turned people into characters, puppets of our fantasies, losing sight of the boundary between entertainment and invasion of privacy, imagination and reality. It's time to reverse the trend.