So…I read fanfiction.
Man, that was actually kind of weird to write. My interest in fanfiction has often been part of my more private side and not something I tended to discuss with people. Like, sure, my mom and my best friends know I read it but, I’m not exactly discussing it with them. It’s more like “Hey I’m going to go read a bit.” “Book or online?” “Online I think.” “Okay have fun!”
Online being total code for fanfiction because someone else in the apartment might overhear and make fun. I guess that’s the reason I’ve mostly kept it to myself: not everyone understands the appeal and fanfiction tends to fall in the ‘Very Deep’ category of nerd. If I let it slip that I read fanfiction to the wrong people, then suddenly I’m a social outcast to them. Somehow, I can’t be properly socially adjusted and read fiction about my favorite books, tv shows, or movies written by other fans. That became real apparent to me the year I TAed at my first university. The school’s paper did a centre fold on fanfiction and did it in bad faith.
They never gave it a chance. They carefully handpicked the horror stories. The big, crazy Mary-Sues that everyone has heard about like ‘My Immortal’ and others based on very specific kinks. They handpicked the pieces that were going to get the most cringy laughter and basically said “Here, look at all these weirdos! Aren’t they funny?!”
It sat poorly with me. Someone had just taken the most cursory glances at something I really enjoyed and wrote it off in the worst way. I can always understand when something isn’t for everyone but there’s a difference between not liking something and making fun of everyone who does. Which is something we tend to do far too much: I look back on my tendency to lump all Twilight fans into one category and cringe at my stupidity. I like to think that I’ve grown and I’m getting better than judging someone based on one single thing they enjoy. Sure, I might view that thing as problematic at points, but I can also view the things I enjoy as also problematic. That’s growing up: you get to the point where you can’t idealize things anymore because you know too much about the world. But you can also get to the point of knowing when to let things go because people aren’t simple one-track minds either.
A, kind of, surprising source helped me realize that. Lindsay Ellis’ video essays have opened the way for asking myself some very hard questions. Her ‘Dear Stephen Meyer’ video (Here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8O06tMbIKh0) really highlighted our tendency to villainize people who create things that we ourselves don’t like. Like, everyone has to love exactly what we love or else you’re wrong and somehow the worst things in the world. Lindsay takes the time to dissect this problematic viewpoint which has also encouraged me to think about my own tendency to reflect on things I don’t enjoy. People are going to like things you don’t. You’re going to like things that other people don’t. You’re going to want to differentiate ourselves from people because we’re ashamed of certain things and society tells us we should be ashamed of other things too.
And that’s only one of the problems. Because sometimes we do have to be critical and reflective on the media too. Lindsay Ellis brings this up in the Twilight movie but she also discusses more positively accepted media and highlights the problems that we aren’t always aware of. Her three part discussion on the Hobbit movie (Part 1, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTRUQ-RKfUs) considers some of the actual physical consequences of holding to media and your love of it to the point that you’re willing to throw everything else under the bus. New Zealand passed a law in order to keep the Hobbit movies in the country and that’s…frightening.
But that’s the difference between good-faith and bad-faith criticism, right? There’s a difference in criticizing something for problematic issues vs. criticizing something because we don’t personally like it.
I like fanfiction. Not all of it. Some fanfiction is bad: badly written, badly paced, about problematic issues. And some fanfiction is about things I just don’t like. There’s a difference. For me to throw a hissyfit because not all fanfiction (or media in general) is about things I like, then I’m being childish. But to discuss the issues of media in good-faith, to explore and highlight not that people are stupid for liking for something but the actual problems of the text.
I guess I’ve kept my interest in fanfiction quiet because I have fully been expecting bad-faith criticism and have been putting weight in that criticism. I haven’t shared something I loved because peoples’ opinions on that subject mattered to me.
But I’ve been trying not to think that way anymore. I’ve been trying to accept myself and better myself and ignore bad-faith criticism directed at me while still being open to good-faith criticism of the things I like. This blog is meant to help with that.
So…I read fanfiction. Don’t be surprised if it comes up again further down the road.