Occasionally checking my phone during breaks and passenger-seat time on a road trip last Friday, I kept seeing the same phrase over and over on Twitter and elsewhere: “RIP Larry Shippers.” It was a trending topic for much of Friday and Saturday, sometimes proceeded by the number 42.
“Who is this Larry Shippers?,” I wondered. Some long-ago athlete who I didn’t remember, who wore the number 42 and just died? A fictional character on some TV show or movie I don’t watch?
Actually, it’s something way, way weirder than I could have imagined. Here’s what I pieced together, from various tweets and media accounts in the International Business Times and Hollywood Life:
There’s no such person as “Larry Shippers.” Larry Shippers is a term referring to fans of the boy band One Direction, who wish for/hope for a same-sex relationship between One Direction members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson (Harry + Louis = Larry.)
Last week, the BBC aired a documentary, called “Crazy About One Direction,” about obsessed fans of the group, and according to Twitter lore, the documentary caused multiple “Larry Shippers” to commit suicide.
There does not, however, appear to be any evidence that any such suicides actually took place. It’s also unknown where the rumor about the suicides- whether there was one, two or 42- originated, aside from merely “on Twitter.”
“Crazy About One Direction” is not to be confused with “One Direction: This Is Us,” the authorized documentary coming out in the U.S. this month. That film, directed by Morgan Spurlock, could probably only hope for this kind of viral publicity.