Jocelyn's Other Desk

The writings of Jocelyn Smith, aspiring author, soon-to-be lawyer, once and future politician, all-around opinionated twentysomething.

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Location: Orlando, Florida, United States

I'm a lawyer in Florida, working on three novels, a screenplay, and half a dozen pieces of fanfiction at any given moment.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Dark Side of Fandom...

No, not pornography (this time.) I mean the OTHER dark side of fandom. In my own fandom, no less! Be warned, readers: this post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Please proceed accordingly.

As most of you know by now, I am a 24-year-old woman, starting my third year at one of the country's finest law schools, one year away from graduation and recent recipient of a job offer from a large and wonderful law firm for whom I just completed a summer associateship. And I am also an active member of the Harry Potter fandom.

'Tis silly, I freely admit. But a lawyer-to-be needs a little silly in her life. I'm well aware that amid the fun of writing fanfiction and going to Midnight Magic release parties, many of my fellow Pottermaniacs are much younger--or not much younger but still less mature.

In this case, the dark side of fandom is in the actions of fans demonstrating a belief that they are somehow ABOVE the original author of the books, J.K. Rowling. (In other words, proving Lee Goldberg and his ilk right in all the worst assumptions they make about fans and fanfiction writers and readers in particular. Knowing me, as most of my readers do, you can imagine why I consider this a major sin, the worst that a so-called "fan" can commit.)


Even those of you who loathe the Harry Potter books will be hard-pressed to avoid hearing of the "shipper" phenomenon, and the great debate amongst the fans of these stories. But for those who have by some miracle managed to avoid it, a "shipper" is a fan who desires to see a relationship between a particular pair of characters: ie Ron/Hermione, Harry/Hermione, Harry/Ginny, etc.

For roughly the past seven years, author J.K. Rowling has hinted rather strongly that Harry Potter's two best friends, Ron and Hermione, would become involved before the series was over. Many fans squealed with delight, searched the books for clues of the impending teen love story, and wrote fanfiction speculating on how the momentous event would come to pass. There was also much speculation that romance was in store for Harry and Ron's little sister, Ginny.

However, there was another group of fans who "shipped" Harry and Hermione...vocally. They insisted that a wealth of evidence existed in the books of the chemistry between the two characters, pointed to "hints" in the text, and protested that the personalities of the two characters was such that Harry and Hermione belonged together in the books.

Finally, with the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling's hints (which she described in an interview with as "anvil-sized") were confirmed, and Harry/Hermione shippers' hopes were dashed: Ron and Hermione paired off, as did Harry and Ginny.

And all hell broke loose in the Harry Potter fandom.

Even in a fandom comprised heavily of teenagers, it is hard to imagine so spectacular a display of apparent mass psychosis that is not connected with politics, economics, or religion. The Harry/Hermione shippers went absolutely ballistic.

Fandom_Wank, a web journal that tracks (and mercilessly mocks) the shenanigans of bickering fans of all books, movies, games, what-have-you, has kept a running record of the histrionics that resulted from the pairings in Book 6.

The Harry/Hermione shippers began by:

1) Declaring that Rowling's pairing of Ron and Hermione over the objections of the Harry/Hermione shippers demonstrates a "lack of craft."

2) Calling Rowling a "traitor" and "unwelcome". (In art, no less.)

3) Declaring that Rowling is a lousy writer who developed the Harry/Hermione romance "inadvertantly."

4) Calling the site owners of Mugglenet and The Leaky Cauldron every name in the book because they referred to the Harry/Hermione shippers as "delusional."

They soon graduated to...(wait for it)...

1) Comparing the Ron/Hermione shippers, the Mugglenet site owner, AND J.K. Rowling to slave traders, and the Harry/Hermione shippers to slaves:

Ya know, come to think of it, people like Emerson [Mugglenet site owner who called Harry/Hermione shippers "delusional"] were probably the kinda people that started slavery. I mean, think about it, they thought the slaves were animals, just because they had different colored skin. Emerson thinks we're stupid and delusional for having different beliefs. Get the similarities here, people? Now, I'm not black, but boy, do I feel for the black people. If I lived in the 1800's, I wouldn't keep slaves, and if someone has a difference of opinion than me now, that's fine, believe what you want.
2) Comparing themselves to victims of religious persecution...
I can see where they were going with this...a different analogy would probably have been better.Maybe the religious persecution during Mary Tudor's reign, or the Salem Witch Hunt/Trials, the religous crusades, the wars in Bosnia etc. We harmonians are being "persecuted" for our differening viewpoints/perspectives...Of course no one is dying because of this, but all in all we are being persecuted for our different beliefs. "Bloody" Mary Tudor, killed Protestants because she so hated their different views on Christ. This is an extreme indeed, but the mentality behind it, the vitrol, is the same.

3) Comparing themselves to the victims of international government conspiracies...
Most people cannot find Iraq on a globe or have any idea how Patriot Act I and II turn the US into a police state but all those people still have their opinions about politics. :blink: Also, JKR fueled prejudices against people who investigate political and economical conspiracies, scams and cover-ups. JKR created Luna and her father as stereotype tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy nutcases who run stories entirely based on rumors and laughable
witness-accounts.I am thankful for all the brave people who have risked their carreers and even their lives to investigate the truth. People who were slandered as nutcases for investigating issues that are now today totally admitted facts. Like Operation Northwoods for example, the pentagon-plans to conduct real and staged terror attacks against the US-population and blame the attacks on Cuba to have a pretext for invasion. Or read how the US army blew up their own ship around 1900, the USS Maine, and blamed it on Spain as a pretext for war.Check out the investigations of people like Alex Jones and judge for yourself. read that right. (Don't believe me? You'll find the above two comparisons and other asinine declarations of victimhood here and also here, with links to the message boards where the original conversations took place. Thank you again, Fandom_Wank!)

Then Fanfiction...or Something Like It...Comes Into Play.

Anyway, just when we thought they could not grow any more obnoxious, arrogant, or bratty, another clique of Harry/Hermione shippers in extreme denial decided to "rewrite" Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with "corrections": namely pairing off Harry and Hermione rather than Harry and Ginny Weasley.

But why would I, a die-hard fanfiction lover, object to this? Well, at face value, I don't. Or I wouldn't...if it didn't remind me so much of this post at Lee Goldberg's blog, satirizing the arrogance of fans who take it upon themselves to "correct" an original author's work as if they know better.

But isn't that what all fanwriters do, you ask? No, certainly not. Most fanwriters acknowledge that their work is mere speculation or fantasizing or wishful thinking, and willingly surrender their daydreams to the "real thing." Until the Harry/Hermione phenomenon erupted in its full, ugly glory, I would never have believed even if you told me that my fellow Harry Potter fans could descend to this.

But they did. And it's darn embarrassing to be a fan of those books at this moment.

Because those so-called fans have declared their preferred pairing to be "right," and J.K. Rowling, the author, the creator, and the one who knows better than any human being on the face of the earth which character belongs with which, to be "wrong."

So they're going to "fix" it for her. Shamelessly. Resolutely. Arrogantly. Disgustingly.

I react so strongly because of my status as not only a Harry Potter fan, but a fanwriter, who is immensely grateful to Ms. Rowling for the support she has shown for fan hobbies. The acid those "shippers" have flung at her since the sixth book was released is astonishing. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes not so much.

You may attack a writer for writing badly, but to declare your "right" to dictate to her where to take her plot is the absolute height of arrogance. Rowling owes those brats nothing, in the way of plotlines or (even less) apologies.

I've been accused in debates past of lacking a "writer's soul," (as the reason for my writing fanfiction in lieu of original fiction only.) I think the reason I am so outraged by the Harry/Hermione crowd's actions is that as a fanwriter, I react with both a writer's soul AND a fan's soul. A writer has the "right to write," whatever she chooses, without interference or demands from the public, whether those demands are based on politics, prejudice, or simple fannish desire. A fan has the right to enjoy the written work, to speculate, to hope for this plotline or that--but not to INTERFERE with the writer's right.

I seriously doubt that the shippers' actions will hurt J.K. Rowling, billionaire that she is, having already survived the hysterics of religious objections to her books, and I doubt she will feel any real pressure to change her planned plot for the seventh Harry Potter book.

But as a fan and a fanwriter, I remain embarrassed.


Blogger Skrike said...

I plan to link to this post...tomorrow, when I am awake.

Did you mention the racist comments against Katie Lueng and the desire to do bodily harm to Emma Watson?

Excellent summary, however.

1:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, it's been a crazy ride. I followed all of those, of course, most of them as-happening from f_w.

There were bigger issues with the HBP re-write, too. I'm not sure you got to look at it before it got taken down, but the massive majority of the text up there was verbatem from HBP itself. They posted chapters and chapters of it, nearly all unchanged, just, in later ones, giving Hermione Ron and Ginny's lines.

So besides the fact that they're not doing fanfiction, they're doing flippin' alterations to the book, they have the whole thing where I'm pretty sure it's illegal to post whole chapters of the book on the net. I'm almost sorry it got taken down before lawyers stepped in, but fandom as a whole did react strongly against them.

On a self-satisfied note... it's really a good time to be an R/H fan. I mean, you don't even have to gloat. You just have to stand back and survey the chaos around you. Then read HBP again. :)

(BTW- did I read lower down that you have an LJ?)


2:13 AM  

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