It’s been a big day for the One Direction fandom—but not for the reasons you probably think.
If you thought Directioners would be losing it because of band breakup rumors, think again. What’s really got them excited is this cuddly gay S&M-gear teddy bear:
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The bear, whose “official” name, according to its mysterious Twitter account, is Rainbow Bondage Bear—RBB for short—is by far the most important thing happening in the 1D fandom today. That’s because many fans believe that RBB and his companion Sugar Baby Bear (SBB) are the key to unraveling the elaborate queer conspiracy that is Larry Stylinson—the alleged secret romance of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson.
As it often does whenever boy band news is afoot, the Internet is currently teeming with stories of histrionic fans distraught over rumors that One Direction is turning their temporary hiatus into a permanent split. Though other rumors quickly surfaced to debunk the breakup rumors, it seems as if some sites have already declared the band dead and deemed the fans to be in hysterics.
But the anticipated meltdown is strangely absent social media. No 1D hashtags are currently trending on Twitter, and Tumblr fans long adept at parsing doomsday rumors about the band seem to have reacted with a giant collective yawn.
Instead, fans are freaking out over this tweet from Rainbow Bondage bear:
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Fans on Tumblr have been excitedly celebrating the tweet all day:
So what does it all mean? And why is it the most important thing happening in the 1D fandom today? You might want to strap in for this one.
The epic saga of Rainbow Bondage Bear and Sugar Baby Bear
Rainbow Bondage Bear first appeared in 2014, when a Manchester fan threw it onstage during a concert. The band members or someone in their production crew then apparently adopted it and added a smaller bear, dubbed Sugar Baby Bear (SBB) by the fans, to its entourage. The bears have frequently been spotted backstage during tours and regularly appear on or near the stage during concerts, often in elaborate posed positions—like this one in which the bear can be spotted reading a memoir by UK drag queen Danny La Rue:
Many fans are convinced that the two bears have been adopted by band members Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, and that Tomlinson is behind most of the staged poses—complete with all the references to gay culture and bondage gear. That’s huge news for the hordes of Larry Stylinson shippers—”Larry Stylinson” being a portmanteau of Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson.
Larry shippers earnestly believe that Harry and Louis are locked into a strict contract with the band’s management that prevent them from ever being open about their love. Many fans who buy into the complicated conspiracy theory believe that not only is the pair in a longstanding secret relationship, they’ve been sending secret messages via elaborate codes to their fans to let them know that their love is standing strong despite the pressure to remain in the closet.
Enter Rainbow Bondage Bear.
Yahoo! UK, which has faithfullytracked appearances of the bears and their significance to the Larry Stylinson conspiracy, notes that the bears are often posed holding books or other items that reference closeted UK celebrities, like John Inman, and Larry Grayson—both men who were reportedly pressured by their managers at the BBC to remain in the closet. The Larry Stylinson conspiracy theory likewise argues that everything from contractual restrictions to arranged straight relationships and faked photos of the men with various real-life girlfriends have been painstakingly put in place to keep Styles and Tomlinson in the closet.
“It’s FUCKING ABSURD that there is a couple in this band that is so heavily and cruelly closeted that they have to communicate with us through teddy bears,” wrote Tumblr user srslycris last year about the bear situation.
Naturally, the idea that the boys are using the bears to quietly rebel and send hidden messages to fans about their closeted plight is pretty irresistible—especially if you’re one of the many fans who already believes the duo has been sending coded messages about their love all along, in everything from fashion choices to matching tattoos. Fans have analyzed everything from the bear’s fashion choices to their stickers for clues about what kinds of messages the bandmates are sending to fans.
Thanks to the old ‘telltale reflection in the sunglasses‘ routine, fans are convinced that Louis Tomlinson himself is the one running Rainbow Bondage Bear’s “official” Twitter account. If true, he’s most likely the one posing the bears onstage for fans to analyze.
Of course, it’s also equally possible that Tomlinson is trolling the heck out of his fanbase. This is the same guy, after all, who spent years angrily denying the relationship rumors, while bitterly discussing the Larry Stylinson conspiracy and the way it negatively impacted his real-life relationships. If he’s finally found a way to joke about Larry through the use of the teddy bears, it seems only fair—even if using queer identity as a punchline doesn’t exactly make us feel like laughing.
Rainbow Bondage Bear is for everyone
But today, in the middle of a run of confusing news and updates for fans, Rainbow Bondage Bear evidently made many Directioners feel better. After all, if the band is breaking up, it would be the worst possible time to break out RBB and SBB, right?
Instead, whoever’s behind the mysterious colorful bondage bears has given Directioners a cheery, hilarious distraction from the far more depressing topic of the band’s potential breakup.
Rock on, Rainbow Bondage Bear, and may you live to tease us at many more One Direction concerts to come.
Aja Romano is a geek culture reporter and fandom expert. Their reporting at the Daily Dot covered everything from Harry Potter and anime to Tumblr and Gamergate. Romano joined Vox as a staff reporter in 2016.