Harry Styles is Gen Z’s New Internet Boyfriend


What is interesting about Harry Styles being the new internet boyfriend we create an alternate universe that may involve real people but is placed in an escapist daydream, a hyperreality, if you will.


How we may understand this is we may make assumptions about people we don’t really know, like a celebrity or artist for example and we give them personalities and characteristics from what we already know about them and fill in the rest of the empty spaces with how we would perceive that person to be. 



This may come as a type of simulacra when talking about Harry Styles and his fans. Not only would he be the new internet boyfriend who embodies that sweet boy, gentleman, could not harm, cupcake type of personality. That is only one side of what he chooses to present to the media, but there is also a lot that is unknown about him. Having been a fan since his days in One Direction, the way that he chooses to present himself has changed over the years from boyband to solo artist. 



From the very start, he was the perfect example of becoming Gen Z’s new internet boyfriend because instead of capturing and reinforcing the idealized masculinity, Harry Styles is constantly in the media for its deconstruction. We see this a lot more from him in recent years, since becoming a solo artist. He attracts attention for his non-conformity to traditional gender norms, stemming from his days in One Direction to now, we see his character development as an individual navigating gender performance in mainstream culture.



Although he is not the first male artist to make such statements about gender performance through fashion, like many artists before him such as Prince or David Bowie. He has the openness to embrace his fluidity, especially through fashion like wearing feather boas, pink glittery stage costumes, painting his nails, and wearing dresses on the cover of Vogue. And surprisingly this only raises his appeal of him all the more, combined with his wholesome and kind demeanor. 



Though he has publicly only been linked to women, he’s never declared himself straight either and has alluded to bisexuality in his lyrics, e.g. unreleased song Medicine. “The boys and the girls are in, I mess around with him, and I’m okay with it.” This plays an act in creating simulacra because I think people often attribute to this idea that because he may be fluid in his sexuality, this makes him non-threatening or more accessible. And then, therefore, filling in the missing parts that have remained unknown, fans piece in other attributes to how we may believe him to be.



Harry Styles has also been associated by fans and speculators as the idea of a “soft boy.” A term used to describe men who don’t necessarily prescribe to idealized masculinity. “Soft boys”’ or “soft masculinity” sometimes present as more gender-fluid or “feminine” in their style and more openly in touch with their emotions. Connecting this to how his fans perceive him, the simulacra can be seen by the constant argument of how Harry “really” is. It creates the idea or fantasy of what we think him to be versus how he actually is. 


Taking from what we already about him, the way he interacts with fans and behaves in interviews, it creates difficulty to imagine a sweet boy like Harry to be a grown adult man who writes about sex, relationships, and heartbreak. To many fans especially, it contradicts the daydream conceived in their heads for Harry Styles to be so “worldly.” And this creates strife between how much proximity there is between him and his fans, recollecting on how active he is on social media specifically. 



It has always been interesting and slightly amusing to see fans argue over who a celebrity dates or is seen with and the blatant attempts to control them. There is the mentality of “if I can’t have him, no one can” and seeing this, only adds to the simulacra of essentially an unattainable person. And it would be interesting to further discuss how his persona would contribute to the discussions about feminism and breaking social norms. 



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