A Thing I Do Not Understand

Honestly, I could just make a recurring feature on “Things I Do Not Understand,” like course distribution requirements, dubstep, the Republican Presidential candidates, and when boys are flirting with you and not just saying absurd things. For someone who considers herself basically intelligent, there are many many things I don’t understand. But today, we’re going to talk about fan fiction!

Disclaimer: If you write or enjoy fan fiction, and I’m sure one or two of you do, I have nothing against you. I would love to get coffee sometime, and listen to you explain why you love this medium, and how it helps you express yourself. My lack of understanding is not meant to offend or judge.

I just have a lot of trouble getting why people do it. I am a self-identified fan girl of a variety of things, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, a variety of superheroes (BATMAN), and such fan fiction-friendly properties as Harry Potter and the CW’s Supernatural. But I have never felt like I could improve upon, or expand those stories with any sort of authority. Maybe it is some sort of weird, misplaced reverence for the writers and the canon material. I just don’t believe that there needs to be more to the story if the creators decide to end it.

What bothers me more than that though, is the fact that most fan fiction revolves around the character’s love lives. Some of these characters do not have long-term romantic partners in the original story like the brothers in Supernatural, or are paired with someone the fan fiction writers do not deem worthy or something like Ron and Hermione, who are featured often in fan fiction but rarely together. Fan fiction writers come up with such cringe-worthy pairings as Hermione and Draco Malfoy, two sworn enemies who treated each other with contempt in the books and movies that some seem to identify as sexual tension. My least favorite pairing by far has to be the icky idea that the two main characters of Supernatural, Sam and Dean Winchester, who are most definitely BROTHERS, are somehow attracted to each other. Fan fiction seems to be based around making couples out of every character available, even taking characters from different books or movies and deciding that if these two met somehow, they would be perfect for each other.

Entertainment Weekly featured an article recently that interviewed a few fan fiction writers justifying the whole “pair everyone off” mentality. One woman was particularly adamant that fan fiction explores potential romantic tensions that the television shows should. I disagree. Exploring romantic tension works great for publicity, and its nice to see your favorite characters happy, but shows that pair off every character just to “explore the tension”  can’t maintain a sturdy plot. Take Glee and Gossip Girl for example. I love both of these shows, but now that every conceivable couple has explored as much tension as possible, it is almost hard to believe all these characters are still friends. Glee especially suffers from insufficiently established romances between just about everyone. Putting everyone together all over the place does not add to the plot, but confuses it.

The thing is, while many people watch shows purely for the love interest story lines, there has to be other things going on. What about the unexplored tension of friendship or family? Why can’t the Winchester brothers have an intense bond in a non-sexual way? What is wrong with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and her mentor Giles having a real friendship based on mutual respect and love without romance? I think this speaks to the way that our society devalues friendship and family compared to romantic lovers, and it is a sad trend. Some of the best scenes in Glee feature Rachel, Kurt, and Mercedes watching musicals together or discussing their fears about the future like normal teenagers. I think that friendships and family dynamics are much more interesting than romances between increasingly absurd couplings, and looking at those make for much more compelling writings.

That’s all for Things I Don’t Understand, Issue 1, Volume 1. How do you feel about fan fiction?

One thought to “A Thing I Do Not Understand”

  1. I love this post for so many reasons. First, great to explore/ask questions about a genre that you don’t “get,” and second, even better to extend your thinking about that genre to its larger social significance. Really engaging post!

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