Opinion | Fanwork is not bad

By Jameson Keebler, Staff Columnist

Most people in Gen Z have probably gone through a fandom phase at some point in their lives. It is a great conversation to strike up between people you do not know very well yet. You will be able to learn a lot about someone just from knowing what their hyperfixation was in middle school. Fandoms are accompanied by people creating fanwork — original art that uses the subjects of the work that is loved by the fandom. 

Even though fanfiction is something that is heavily associated with recent eras of the internet, it goes back to the 1960s. It started as fanzines that were passed around amongst Star Trek fans. Once the internet became more widely used, fanwork became easier to circulate within their communities and grew in popularity. 

Fanfiction used to be something taboo that people kept on the internet and away from their real lives. This changed when popular fanfictions got published in novels and films, with varying degrees of quality. Some other fanfictions that became popular as traditionally published works include The Love Hypothesis and Fifty Shades of Grey. 

Many people read the book After and thought that it was a horrible novel with terrible writing that mishandled sensitive subjects like domestic abuse. It didn’t take long for people to realize that it was originally Harry Styles fanfiction.  

Fan work is a chance for creativity. These communities are places where people make things purely because they want to. There is usually no motive for money or fame like there is in more traditional media. Legally, it is very difficult to make money when the work does not center on the original characters.The Mortal Instruments series, which was initially fanfiction based on Harry Potter characters, was later turned into books and movies but with the Harry Potter character names changed. Until very recently, fanfiction was almost entirely accessible for free online, before select works started to get published like traditional novels with slight changes to the characters.

Works like After have given fan-created media a bad name. Fanfiction, especially work featuring real people, shouldn’t get published for profit. Publishing fanfiction can be a messy legal issue and is only safe on the sites designated for it. It also needs to be free so it doesn’t cause issues about splitting profits. At this point, After is only viewed as a joke and the movies are only getting made because people hate watching them. It’s a gross waste of resources, especially when there are good stories out there that could make really impactful and interesting films. 

Fanfiction itself is not the problem. When it is consumed on the platforms that were made for it, fanwork can have a positive impact on the creators and consumers. Even if it is cringey or embarrassing for some people, if it exists in its own sphere then there really is no harm in it, especially if it makes other fans happy. 

Fanfiction can also be used for improving the creative writing skills of those who contribute. Even if the characters are not original, writing fanfiction still requires storytelling skills. It can be a tool for writers to work on writing without the pressure of having to create every aspect of the universe themselves. Also, writing with established characters almost guarantees there will be an audience for the work, meaning that the writer will get feedback and satisfaction from sharing their work with the community.

Fanfiction also creates opportunities for representation for groups that lack visibility in the media. The characters created by the author can now be from any background and exist as any sexuality in fanfiction. These works can circulate in communities that will appreciate and benefit from consuming these works. Harry Potter is a franchise that has inspired a lot of fanfiction, with much of it featuring characters belonging to different minority groups. In this particular fandom, fanfiction has been a way for fans to reclaim the series from JK Rowling, who has been discriminatory against transgender people. Rowling has also faced criticism for including racial stereotypes in the original Harry Potter series. 

Fanfiction should not be shamed because it is something really special. It is the product of creativity and passion, where people can create purely for themselves and others in their community. 

Jameson Keebler writes primarily about pop culture and current events. Write to her at [email protected].