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He appears in a lot of fanworks.
Image and Harassment
Zayn was cast as the "mysterious bad boy" in accordance with the boyband tradition of differentiating the personalities of each member. The media and parts of fandom appear to have bought into this conceit and run with it. However, many fans have argued that he is a sweetheart and "bad boy Zayn" contradicts everything the other band members say about him as well as his own actions (for example, he bought his mother a house). The origins of the "bad boy" image may include stereotypes about introverts and the fact that he was a smoker, but fans and other observers have argued that this image is perpetuated by racism and Islamophobia.
Zayn was the only non-white member and the only Muslim member of the band. He also seems to have borne the brunt of negative comments from fans and the media. Rumors seem to stick to him more than the others. For example, some fans pointed to the unfairness that Zayn was singled out for smoking pot in the infamous May 2014 weed video, in which Louis was not only also smoking, but also could be heard using what most people think was the N word. Media outlets focused on Zayn's behavior, and suggestions that he should go to prison trended on Twitter. Perhaps based on this video, or perhaps based on the media's requirement for boyband narratives, rumours that Zayn had a drug problem circulated when he had to skip a public appearance due to illness. Meanwhile, it appeared that Louis was very possibly a pothead, and no one cared.
Many RPF fans accepted the "mysterious bad boy" characterization and wrote it into their fanfic. However, this does not mean that every fic featuring "bad boy Zayn" is evidence of racism. A lot of fans learn about canon through reading existing fic and then go on to write their own fic using what fanon they know.
- Sugarscape: Zayn Malik: People called me a terrorist (September 30, 2012)
- Racialious: Zayn Malik And Racism In One Direction by Marwa Hamad (October 3, 2012)
- untitled Tumblr meta by amazonpoodle (February 25, 2014)
Reactions to Departure
Fandom had a variety of reactions to the news that Zayn had left the band: on top of overwhelming sadness and grief, many felt betrayed and angry. Despite statements from Zayn and the band (specifically Liam) assuring the fans that both sides remained on good terms, the messiness of the situation in the days immediately following created a lot of tensions within the fandom. Both ex-fiancee Perrie Edwards and producer Naughty Boy were the targets of vicious attacks on social media, blaming them for the decision.
Round 3 of the One Direction Big Bang, which was posting during March 2015, allowed authors and artists to change their posting date or even to refrain from posting entirely after Zayn's departure.
Fans' reactions to the news were the focus of quite a lot of media attention in the days following, as mainstream media reported with varying degrees of sensibility on the fans' collective grief and its various manifestations.
See for example:
- The Best Reactions to Zayn Malik Leaving One Direction, CBSnews.com, posted March 25, 2015,
- The Best (And Most Emotional) Fan Reactions To Zayn Malik Leaving One Direction, Capitalfm.com, March 26, 2015,
- The 11 Best Pieces of Fan Art Dedicated to Zayn Malik, cosmopolitan.com, March 27, 2015.
As of May 9, 2018:
The most popular Zayn het ship on the archive is with his real-life ex-fiancee, Perrie Edwards of Little Mix: in 2018 there are 1562 fanworks tagged with Zayn/Perrie. However, the vast majority of these fanworks appear to include them only as a side pairing.
Tropes & Fanon
- When the band was first starting out, Zayn was stereotyped as the "mysterious" one of the group. He is quieter than the rest of his bandmates and is less likely to speak up and answer an interview question first.
- Zayn is a known fan of comic books. His likeness is used as the inspiration for the current iteration of Ghost Rider, Robbie Reyes.
- In AU's, Zayn is often cast as a professional artist or art student, due to his canon artistic interests.
- In fic and art, Zayn is portrayed as sleepy or sleeping a lot. Example art: One Direction Movie Night by LikeATowtruck
- A Bed With Six Legs, fic by hostagesfic. Canon compliant fic that explores Zayn's relationship with childhood friends Anthony and Danny Riach. (posted 2012-11-28)
- And If the Hook Sets In, fic by sunfair. Illegal underground boxing AU with Ziam as the main pairing and side Zayn/Danny Riach and Larry, written for Round 1 of the One Direction Big Bang. (posted 2013-02-23)
- fooled around and fell in love, fic by tachycardia. A pretend couple Zayn/Liam AU where Liam needs Zayn to marry him in order to inherit. (2014-10-14)
- Tower, fic by threeturn, podfic by aethel. A Fairy Tale AU where Liam is a knight and Zayn, as usual, is unreachable. (fic 2014-09-03, podfic 2014-12-30)
- lost in the world, fic by ymorton, hookerfic where Zayn and Harry are high-class escorts. (Zayn/Harry, Zayn/Ben Winston, Zayn/OMCs) (2014-12-15)
- like any real love it's ever-changing, Zayn/Louis fic by annemari, where Zayn turns into a cat. (2014-10-28)
- If it wasn't for you meddling kids, fic by becka, in which Louis/Zayn have stoned sex in their Mystery Machine van. (2013-10-08)
- Split, fic by threeturn, Zayn/Niall(/Niall) fic where the two sides of Niall's personality split, and Zayn wants to fuck them both. (2014-09-19)
A lot of heart-breaking fanart was posted in the days immediately before and after Zayn's official announcement that he was out of the band, for example:
- Remember no one's feelings are more important than your own by jaesama, posted after he left tour "due to stress" and shortly before he left the band (29k notes as of April 3, 2015),
- good bye Zayn I wish you the best of luck in the world by cargsdoodles, posted March 25, 2015,
- we love you, Zayn by artofobsession, posted March 25, 2015 (36k notes as of April 3, 2015),
- I'll eat you up by kendrawcandraw, posted March 26, 2015 (57k notes as of April 3, 2015).
- Fanworks tagged Zayn Malik at Archive of Our Own
- #Zayn is days, or how my life is in shambles by gentlehousing, on Tumblr (August 2012)
- See this Bambi comparison gifset by harryxzayn, July 15, 2014.
- 1dbigbang.tumblr.com, March 25: Because this is such a tough time for all fans of One Direction, we have notified all remaining authors and artists that they have the option of changing their posting dates to allow for a “moment of silence,” so to speak, so that everyone (contributors and readers alike) can regroup, and participants can put their works forth when people are feeling less shell-shocked and May 5: Some authors decided to withdraw/not post or delete their fics, with our express permission, after Zayn left the band, largely because their posting dates were so close to everything that happened in March (though some were no longer interested in sharing their fics at all, which is entirely their prerogative and which we fully support).
- After using the "search within results" feature to exclude as many other pairing tags as possible, less than 100 works remained.
- AO3 data as of 14 September 2014: 4855 works in the Zayn/Liam tag; 1185 in the Perrie/Zayn tag. Of the 20 most recent works tagged Zayn/Liam, seven featured them as the main pairing. Of the 20 most recent works tagged Zayn/Perrie, none featured them as the main pairing.
- "Zerrie is fake" Tumblr tag
- Hugh Armitage. One Direction's Zayn Malik inspired All-New Ghost Rider design. Digital Spy, Mar 15 2014.
- archived. posted to DeviantArt on July 17, 2012