Honestly, in light of recent events, I can think of no better way to commemorate this dumb boy band that has somehow managed to mean so much to me over the past few years. And I mean, really – just, Come On. It’ll be fun.
Now, I know what you may be thinking. You may be thinking, “Jenny, what are you doing? Why would you ever even consider recasting this classic of cinematic metanarrative, this masterpiece of feminist iconography, with a handful of white boys and one literal angel from Heaven?” Well, I’ll tell you: there are a number of fascinating parallels between the Spice Girls and One Direction, especially when it comes to the construction of identity for public consumption and capitalism’s exploitation of women. “Okaayy,” you may be thinking, “I mean, that sounds fake, but okay.” So I say again: come on – it’ll be fun.
Short disclaimer: because I have never met any of the Spice Girls or the boys in One Direction, I can’t really speak to anything more than their public personae (basically, y’know, this is the “I don’t own Harry Potter” part at the start of fanfiction). It really is worth mentioning that these are public personae, pure constructions; it’s also worth mentioning that these “personalities” really are/have always been prescribed by the wealthy, white, male record label suits, who, in the case of the Spice Girls, were just bastardizing third wave feminism into Girl PowerTM for the express purpose of pumping money out of young women.
But, let’s come back to why you’re really here: Cute Boys in Tight Pants (aka, how wealthy, white, male record label suits have been pumping money out of me for years). But, y’know, be warned: recasting these girls as white dudes is kind of a massive bummer; it really just demonstrates the extent to which white men are allowed a variety of personalities without being reduced to gimmicks. Because let’s just remember that these girls are, to a much larger extent than the boys, reduced to gimmicks (I mean, they couldn’t even keep their real names). So, y’know: brace yourself for that (and also for some dumb jokes).
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way now. Harry would be Baby Spice. There is literally no alternative for him. A) Spice World features a plot point about Baby Spice’s dimples; and B) Harry is the youngest, so it just fits. The fun part comes in reconciling this pasty lizard man (whom I adore) with the completely overblown presentation of Baby Spice’s sexualized infantilization.
Applying that kind of eroticized helplessness to a man can go a number of different ways:
1) it could just pass by unnoticed, fitting right into a general male entitlement for mothering from every woman they meet (you know, the basics: “Babe, this is so good; you should always cook – I only know how to make spaghetti” “Well, there’s a hole in the pocket, so could you just get me a new pair?” “Haha, how does a washing machine even work?”). A male performance of Baby Spice could easily skew into the “loveable manchild” trope, meant to be played off as endearing; but obviously, it would just be obnoxious and annoying and a huge turn off – except for the part where Baby Spice is always eating a lollipop. I would pay money to watch Harry Styles eat a lollipop.
2) a man reenacting the Sexy Baby trope (one of the more pedophilic tropes of male attraction and one of the more obviously feminine stereotypes present in the Spice Girls) could really do wonders as a surrendering of traditional masculinity, a rejection of gender roles, and an exploration of self-expression. And with everything that I am, I honestly believe that Harry Styles could pull that off.
The parallels get a little less obvious from here on. A somewhat less controversial one: Niall would be Sporty Spice. I’ll admit, in large part I’ve drawn this connection because Niall just seems like the kind of guy who likes Sports and Trackpants, but there you have it. But, you see, Sporty Spice (and Scary Spice, but we’re coming to that) was a character created by applying masculine tropes to a woman, so reverting this “personality” back onto a man is actually kind of boring. There is nothing empowering about a boy who likes Sports and Trackpants.
Just as Harry’s infantilization has the potential to be in no way distinguishable from the general incapability of so many men, making the Spice Girls dudes just makes the Spice Girls boring. Even if the dudes are particularly cute.
For this next one, I’m going to need you to bear with me: Louis would be Scary Spice. “No!” you may be saying, “How could you do that? How could you compare such an amazing and beautiful goddess to an escaped hamster living in the dumpster behind an Arby’s?” Well, I’ll tell you: the parallel between Louis and Scary provides the greatest insight into the masculinization of the group. We love Scary Spice because of her unapologetic ability to tell people to fuck off – we love her because she’s always down for a fight, always down to defend herself and her friends, and that’s fucking rad.
But when reflected onto a male character, this personality loses literally 100% of its charm. In men, especially in white men, this antagonism really just manifests itself as an inability to take responsibility for one’s actions. Contrast that with Scary, the only woman of color; she is assigned a boisterous personality and then deemed “Scary” (can I just say, what the fuck?). But on her it works. Scary Spice owns her expressiveness and sets a marvelous example for young girls to be unapologetically loud when society would have them be otherwise. A white man being unapologetically loud is just a regular Tuesday.
Liam would be Ginger Spice. I believe this in my heart of hearts. Liam and Ginger are both sort of leaders by default. Ginger talks a lot about feminism, and Liam does stuff with charities, like, for hunger? I don’t know. Ginger’s eponymous trait is her hair color and Liam is just a sweet bean of a boy, just the softest lamb made out of doughnuts. They are both pretty leader-y, but honestly, I’m making this decision based pretty heavily on, like, ~vibes~. Like, I just really love both of them, so I think they line up.
And finally, I saved the best for last: Zayn would be Posh Spice. I know, I know, what am I thinking – he’s not posh, he’s just a little boy from Bradford – but listen: Posh’s poshness isn’t what’s important here; it’s her longevity. Posh, after all this time, has managed to remain in the public eye – people know the name Victoria Beckham.
Zayn will be the one to outlast them all. I’m calling it. I mean, really – it’s already happening. Plus, the two of them are totally the prettiest ones (see also: “You know, it must be very hard for you Victoria, having to decide whether to wear the little Gucci dress, the little Gucci dress, or the little Gucci dress” and the oh-so-iconic “Don’t ever claim Gucci as you”).
We may all know that Zayn is actually a very thoughtful person, but I urge you to rewatch the dress-up montage in Spice World. When Posh dresses up as the Bond girl with the blonde wig, she laughs and my heart just melts, okay? She’s adorable. And we are blessed to have gotten a glimpse behind the hard, posh exterior. The vague and threatening white male record label suits (to whom I keep referring) were the ones to decide that both Posh and Zayn should mask their inner sweetness with these prescribed personalities – and yet the two of them are the ones who make it; they are the ones who live on in the constellations and our hearts.
The World of Spice
A few small additions: Simon Cowell as Chief, obviously; Nick Grimshaw as Alan Cumming; all of Little Mix as Nicola. Fight me. Also, all of the celebrity cameos (Sir Elton John, Meat Loaf, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, etc.) remain, unchanged. Also, if we could get an end-credits scene where the two bands meet? I think I might die.
Anyway, what I’m really getting at is this: actually sitting down to watch Spice World as reenacted by One Direction would be lovely for the novelty of it, but slowly, the experience would start to sour and the jokes would start to flatten.
Best case scenario: Harry would make some wonderfully gangly strides towards expanding the patriarchal limits on masculinity, Liam would be Cute As Heck, and, of course, Zayn would shine on in our hearts forever; but, Louis’s performance of Scary Spice would still be horrible and obnoxious (as opposed to her fabulous and amazing original performance), and Niall, as ever, would just always be there.
The experience of actually sitting down to watch Spice World as reenacted by One Direction would turn into an uncomfortable exposé of white male privilege interspersed with Zayn’s beautiful, perfect face.
Which, honestly, is not an argument against it. Plus, One Direction covering a bunch of Spice Girls songs would, frankly, be a Great Boon (one I may not deserve, but one I will covet all of my days). So, Simon Cowell, if you’re reading this, I say go for it. You have the power.