When I was a young teen my house-proud Mum wouldn’t allow us to put up posters. She said it ruined the walls, but I think she was concerned that we would get ‘carried away’ by fandom.
If I had been allowed to put up fan posters, I would have leapt at the chance of having Bo and Luke Duke staring down at me as I slept. Especially Luke, the brown-haired Duke, he was dreamily interesting. But Mum wouldn’t let us so my devotion as a fan had to go unexpressed.
This unexpressed devotion is possibly behind my stunted growth.
Of course, Mum was probably aware that the Bo and Luke phase wouldn’t last long (it didn’t) and would soon be replaced by a whole crowd of TV stars…
It was. Replacements in my affections and admiration included – Magnum PI (I desperately wanted him to detain me for questioning..), Macgyer (what that man could do with string and a matchstick!), and the older but sophisticated, Pierce Brosnan in his Remington Steele days.
I loved those TV shows and watched each week as story plots weaved around guest walk-on roles and topical tv tropes. I didn’t question the scriptwriters, they had my trust implicitly. If Remington Steele wasn’t meant to get together with Laura his sidekick, then it wasn’t meant to be.
I was such a naiive 80s kid.
Our teens in the 21st Century won’t stand for this religious reverence. They didn’t believe in the all-seeing all-powerful scriptwriters or authors, and they dismiss that divine right of creation, rebelliously introducing alternative storylines.
These alternative storylines have sparked a trend called Fan Fiction, or Fanfic for short. FanFiction has exploded in recent years to the extent that even today’s top 3 on the NYT Bestsellers’ list – The Shades of Grey series – are books that evolved from FanFiction fan labour.
FanFiction is not just poured over by spotty teens any longer, mainstream publishers are starting to take notice.
So, what is it, exactly?
Fan fic is work written (or occasionally drawn in the case of cartoons, manga and anime) by fans of the original work. Fan fic authors attempt to take the storyline in the direction they think it should have gone, or where they wished it had gone.
These writers are motivated, enthusiastic, and what they may lack in talent they make up for in passion. Writers don’t do it for money, they do it for love. Most appear to do it without the aid of a Dictionary or Thesaurus, and the majority have never heard of the rules of grammar.
Fan fic works that bungy from the original are said to belong to the canon. (The religious terminology is not lost on me!) But they are themselves (the new works) are actually called fanon. Confused.com?
Most fanon works on a type of alternative universe (AU) to the original one in the canon story. In some cases everything about the original story remains the same, with the exception of significant plot points. A lead character may not die in the fan fic version of the story for example, where in the original he was toast. Or some other event in the character’s life is changed.
Another canon fan fic AU subtype defines a story when the characters are taken out of their original world and transplanted into another one; maybe even a different time, era or space. These stories may take the Harry Potter stars and put them in a modern setting, where they are pop stars not wizards.
Other types of canon fan fic work can include pre or post stories, or missing scenes from the original story. The Shades of Grey series for example was written as a Twilight fan fic, and pivoted off the somewhat dysfunction relationship of the young Twilight leads. Of course Shades of Grey replaced vampire sex with BDSM, but in many ways the relationship dynamic is somewhat the same!
Crossovers are another popular genre, where characters cross over from one story to another. Harry might meet Bella and get it on, for example. That example completely does my head in, if I’m honest! I somehow get the impression that pouty Bella may very well eat Harry Potter for breakfast!
Sometimes fan fic authors even manipulate their characters into relationships the original work’s creator could never, ever, in their wildest dreams have imagined.
The process where these fantastical (sometimes wistful) relationships are born is called shipping, (relationship-ing). In some cases it’s kind of cute, and in others (The Harry Potter twins in a spot of double trouble?) it is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Stories that feature shipping themes can include Slash (same sex – male) Hetereosexual, Femslash (same sex – female) and General.
This is where it gets a bit interesting.
This is the stuff that I think Mums need to know about their teenager’s fan fic world.
You see, most fan fic stories are easily accessible (eg/ easily read on fanfiction.net) and although they are rated, they are not restricted to underage readers. There is absolutely nothing stopping a young teen stumbling across a fan fic containing an extra0rdinarily pornographic scene.
My young tweenie Miss Fliss, loves I Carly, a fairly innocuous disneyish TV show for tweens/young teens. A quick glance in the I Carly fanfiction section returns over 900 entries rated M – a rating that indicates violence, and sexual themes etc. In one snippet I read quickly, a rather harsh pashing scene ended up with the young girl reflecting that it felt like ‘dominance and she liked it!’
Not exactly the kind of story I want my 12 year old reading!
My 12 year old tells me she’s not really into TV fan fic, she prefers Sonic the hedgehog, but even so..
Given that more women/girls read fan fic than men/boys it is not unlikely that your teenage daughter will stumble across something unsavoury in the fan fic world, just as your teenage son might stash Playboys under his bed (or these days view them online).
Until now, reading this blog post, did you even know this world existed for our teens?
Dark Princess, 16 yrs, tells me that she immediately clicks off any fan fic that makes her feel uncomfortable, and that she has learnt to not seek out the M rated stories.
I hope that’s true. And I try to remind her that once read it’s not easily forgotten.
It seems so far removed from the relative innocence of my teen years with my suppressed desire for fan posters. These days teenage fans can not only have their stars looking down at them from their bedroom walls and acting out alternate scenes in their imaginations, these days, teens can actually inhabit their stars’ Alternative Universe – the Alternate Universe where they don’t settle down, get married and have babies, but rather shack up and have rough sex!
And there’s something about that gossamer thin line between reality and fantasy – already so very thin in the teenage mind – that scares the crap out of me.
Maybe Mum was right, and it is too easy to be carried away by fandom.
What do you think, should we fear the role fanfiction has on our teens?
Whilst you’re mulling that over I’m just going to pop back to fanfiction.net where there’s this really cool story about Bo, Daisy, Luke and Enos.
Apparently the Hazard county “cemetary would soon get a workout…”