In 2016, when I was 17 years old and still wearing tie-dye unironically, I went to the Reading Festival. If you’re also from the UK, then you’ll understand that this pilgrimage was a rite of passage for any British youth wanting to spend a long weekend drinking warm cans of Strongbow cider and venturing into the town centre in search of a Wetherspoon breakfast buffet. During my festival free-for-all, I stood among my fellow sweaty gen Zers, and witnessed my first-ever The 1975 set. Having already been a fan from afar since the days of ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’, seeing them live was a mesmerising experience.
Fast forward to 2022, I don’t have the same boyfriend as I did that wild summer, and I’m back to square one when it comes to my music obsession. Which is what brings me here. I currently suffer from a disease many of my fellow gen Zers can relate to—an inherent and psychologically-confusing diehard fixation with The 1975 frontman, self-proclaimed messiah, and cigarette-infused indie ‘rockstar’, Matty Healy.
For those of you who share this affliction, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that, at first, I tried fighting it. I pondered self-reflection, bought bottles of wine, and tried to unlearn the hype. I distracted myself with memes of Harry Styles dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and clips of Julia Fox dominating the talk show universe, and then, I ultimately accepted that no one quite does it like Matty.
Even today, he seems to hold this bizarre power over me, almost as if I’ve accepted the fact that while he would definitely mansplain guitar chords to me, he’d then serenade me, wink, insolently smile, and I’d go weak at the knees.
I suppose the one saving grace to this ongoing epidemic is the fact that I’m not going through it alone. You only have to spend a few minutes on TikTok to discover a cohort of 20-something gen Zers who are also contemplating this mania and seeking immediate treatment.
Some of my favourite videos jump straight into the point: “Why is he so annoying, but so fucking hot?” Don’t we all wish we had the answer.
Other videos delve deeper into the Healy hype: “I’ve been fighting the Matty Healy hype appeal for so long but today I let my guard down—I had a moment of weakness. I can’t explain why it bothers me,” a creator captioned her clip. “I just feel like it’s not very slay to thirst over him because he definitely brushes his teeth once a week but here we are guys, there’s no saving me. I’m resetting my Tumblr password and polishing off my docs as we speak.”
The consensus seems to be that, while Healy has many obvious flaws, we can’t help but stay invested despite a series of problematic incidents including not crediting a photographer and subsequently telling The Guardian that he felt it was his duty to “guide women.”
It should also be noted that the lead singer has been criticised for a history of problematic and performative activism. Most prominent is his tendency to preach a holier-than-thou attitude, while simultaneously remaining ignorant of how his actions or words impact others. For example, in 2020, he used the tragic death of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter movement to promote the song ‘Love It If We Made It’ on Twitter.
Online, fans remain torn over whether or not Healy deserves such a warm welcome back into their lives. In order to try and understand more about this generationally shared affliction, I scoured the internet for fellow Matty-maniacs to try and figure out the exact science behind this man’s puzzling appeal. Naturally, Reddit was by far the most helpful source of information.
One netizen was clearly going through peak confusion when asked if they found him attractive, writing: “Yes, which is nuts because he is not my type at all. My friends and I had this convo. One of my friends is lesbian and said she would go for Matty. I don’t know what it is about him. I literally cannot pinpoint it or explain why but I’d have his children any day.”
Another overly excitable fan shared: “Matty Healy could punch me in the face, spit on me, degrade me to the fullest extent, and bring up all of my daddy issues and traumas and I’d still say ‘Thank you’.”
Redditors also had a lot to say on the recent kissing debacles taking place during The 1975 shows. After a number of videos surfaced of fans being brought up on stage and snogged by Healy during ‘Robbers’, it became clear that some gen Zers had mixed opinions on the matter.
While most found the kisses to be inoffensive due to circulating rumours that participants had consented prior to the concert, others pointed out the fact that it just felt wrong. Some referenced a reoccuring theme within the industry of male singers abusing their positions of powers, while others just jumped on the cringe train and questioned why the world was reentering a 2014 Tumblr multiverse.
Either way, no one can deny the sheer impact this Healyssance is having on the state of online discourse.
Interestingly enough, TikTok has served as one of the major driving forces behind Healy’s resurgence in the minds of gen Zers and millennials alike. Having been served thirst traps and dancing videos of Styles for months on end, the algorithm retreated and decided to offer up something entirely different.
Almost overnight, the former One Direction popstar was replaced by a much seedier and anti-menthol indie frontman. While, of course, The 1975’s latest tour serves as a natural answer to why we may be being served far more Healy content, it’s still a curious shift in trend. Perhaps we should also consider how the takeover of fashion aesthetic indie sleaze may have impacted this recent U-turn.
Gen Zers have always had an affinity for British indie boys who eat cigarettes for breakfast. There’s Alex Turner, Jamie Campbell Bower, and Pete Doherty, to name a few. Nevertheless, the impact Healy had on our lives is undeniable—from skinny ties to romanticising robberies, he was our blueprint. May he live on, like one Reddit user put it, “[as] our pretentious king.”