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Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005, 04:25 pm
zubird: RPF?!

hi there, my name's mira. i'm not really an active member of any fandoms; i'm really more a fan of fanculture than anything else. i won't go into why i'm so fascinated with fandom, because it's really not here nor there, but i'm specifically interested in media and cultural studies and how people interact with mass media, blah blah. so when i saw this community i absolutely had to join.

for me, the most important and neatest thing about fanfic is how it personalizes mass culture, which i think is very exciting and a very good answer to pompous cynics who say things about brainless television or movies dumbing down civilization. [for instance, i think the fannish interpretation of Harry Potter is much more meaningful, complex, and all-around interesting than a straight reading of the books would allow; and that even though Law & Order SVU is a formulaic, silly show, fanfic has added vast new dimensions to it that simply weren't there before.] ultimately, i think fanfic is a necessary part of any...umm...pop-cultural object, whether it's a television series, a movie, a popular book, etc; not only does it take the original universe, storyline, or whatever places its creators are unable to, but it allows people to interact with mass culture and brings vitality to it.

i get the idea that fanfic writers, and most fans in general [i'm assuming here, correct me if i'm wrong] would say that characters like Harry Potter or Olivia Benson are not solely a product of JK Rowling or NBC, since they are formed just as much by the perceptions of those who consume them as the motives of those who produce them. for instance -- i know a lot of people [myself included] are irritated by Olivia's recent appearances in clothing that's seen as too femme, because that's "not Olivia" -- obviously, if NBC owned her character entirely, it would be Olivia by definition, because NBC says so; but fans don't see her as the sort of woman who wears pink, so it's a betrayal of her character to make her wear a pink blazer.

so, my question/topic is, what do people specifically find unethical about real people fiction? i've never really believed that celebrities are real people as such; there is a real man called Justin Timberlake, but it's entirely different from the character "Justin Timberlake" on the radio and in magazines. so don't Justin Timberlake's fans own this character just as much as i own Olivia?

full disclosure; the only time i've ever written fanfic was when i was ten or eleven, about a certain popular-in-the-late-nineties boyband [no, not Nsync]; it was all truly horrible, mary-sue type stuff that i slapped up on the Angelfire fanpage i ran with a friend. i'm vaguely aware that RPF has a reputation for being awful, but i don't know that that's necessarily an inherent quality.

ok, that's all. apologies if this is rambly or pompous, i can get that way sometimes. and also apologies if i've assumed things about fanculture that are wrong; like i said, i'm not really active in it, i'm really just an observer. i'd like to hear others' opinions about characterization and such, definitely.
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Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 10:28 pm (UTC)
zubird

yes, #1 & #2 i understand but don't agree with. to fans, to anyone who consumes the image of a famous person, the famous person isn't a real person but a character, just like fictional characters.

(#3 is obviously true, but it isn't really an argument against writing RPF, just against putting it on the internet or spreading it around. i suppose there are other, similar arguments about writing fanfic about specific real people, like comments about the community johnxjohn being wrongheaded because Republicans and swing voters shouldn't think that Kerry and Edwards support deviance. obviously, RPF has practical implications that don't exist with fictional characters, but theoretically, i don't think they're that different.)
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Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 10:20 pm (UTC)
superkupos

Welcome to the community!

i've never really believed that celebrities are real people as such; there is a real man called Justin Timberlake, but it's entirely different from the character "Justin Timberlake" on the radio and in magazines. so don't Justin Timberlake's fans own this character just as much as i own Olivia?

I understand your point, but...yes and no. There's connotations that have to be understood, as well - yes, Justin Timberlake, for example, has a sort of "character" he presents to the media - a persona, whatever you want to call it. But someone made up Olivia Benson - she doesn't have free will, she's not a living, breathing person, in an entirely literal sense. Justin Timberlake is. I myself am a fan of some real-person fic, because when writing these people, we do treat them as characters, because how else can we write fic about them? Nonetheless, to answer your question, I think it's because while Justin Timberlake does have a "media" side, if you will, it doesn't change the fact that he's a real person, believe it or not, with a life and will and whatnot. I guess it freaks some people out to see real, living people being written about as characters - I think most people would be slightly wierded out if they were being written about in a story as a character, in a piece of fanfiction, particularly if they were being slashed with someone else, which is what most of the RPF I've seen is.

And not all RPF is awful ;) There's some quality stuff particularly in the LotR RPS stuff, so they say; never ventured there myself, but I know a few extremely talented writers who have.

Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 10:33 pm (UTC)
zubird

the factor of it just being icky is undeniable, and probably is more influential than i made it seem in my original post. if i were Justin Timberlake, i would feel a little icky about being slashed, but i don't know that that really matters, because that's an aesthetic judgement, just like i feel icky about Harry/Dumbledore slash.

i mean, i think johnxjohn is the greatest community ever, but at first i definitely a little weird to see politicians being slashed. that's part of the fun of it, though, and that it makes me feel weird really isn't an argument against it.
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Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 10:43 pm (UTC)
ginalin

I don't have a problem with it, unless it's badly written. Public figures (and yeah, I think they have a public personna that may or may not have a lot to do with the real person, who I don't know from a hole in the ground) have always been the subject of fan speculation, this is just a new version of it.
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Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 10:47 pm (UTC)
angrybabble

I think RPF is different because, regardless of whether or not you happen to see that celebrity as a "real person" (and there's a whole discussion right there), s/he IS a real person. When popular web personalities like Gabe and Tycho of Penny Arcade or Ed and Dom of Megatokyo see themselves depicted doing things, such as each other, that they would never ever ever do in real life, I think they find it disturbing, and rightly so. I know Dom in real life, and when he happened across some Dom/Ed yaoi, he was a little upset and grossed out, because, you know, he just doesn't see Ed that way thanks.

Olivia is a character; she does not exist in ANY WAY outside of fiction, whether that is "canon" brought to us by NBC or fanfic. Justin Timberlake, no matter how much fans may objectify him, is still an actual human being. As such, it's just ethically questionable to write about him doing things he's not doing, even if you disclaimer the whole lot as fiction. Since it's not based on his personal life or actual doings, why not just write original fiction about a guy who looks like him who is in a band, a guy who DOES do all those things he's depicted doing in the story?

I guess I feel like, you know, would you objectify your neighbor or friend like that, using their actual name and maybe a few random details you'd picked up about their personal life? Or would you just make the character you WANT to write about, who may vaguely resemble that person in looks and lifestyle?

Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 10:58 pm (UTC)
superkupos

My point exactly except for one thing.

Since it's not based on his personal life or actual doings, why not just write original fiction about a guy who looks like him who is in a band, a guy who DOES do all those things he's depicted doing in the story?

Because then it wouldn't be fanfiction, and why do we write/read fanfiction? Cause...it's fanfiction, and the whole point, in general, is the people involved, character or real, because otherwise it would be original work and...not fanfiction. If that makes sense :)
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Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC)
mad_maudlin

Truthfully? I think much of the kerfluffle over RPF has to do with cultural conceptions about fiction and non-fiction. Someone on my flist recently discussed this in terms of the movie Being John Malkovich, and I'm basically going to repeat what I said to her: we define fiction as writing about characters and nonfiction as writing about real people. We assume that nonfiction involves lots of research and factual information, that there is an ethic behind it--that writers of nonfiction (ie journalists, scholars, historians) wouldn't publish something they couldn't defend as true. Whereas fiction writers get a free ride, except as far as the story is good or bad.

The reality, of course, is fuzzier; as you point out, some "real people" have personae as distinct as any character (forget Justin Timberlake, how about Pee-Wee Herman?) and "nonfiction" like unauthorized biographies and tabloids may or may not have any basis in reality. On the other end of the spectrum, there's historical fiction, alternate history, and satire--accepted genera of fiction that incorperate "real people" to a greater or lesser degree. (Although I suspect that within two generations all historical figures become fictional by default.) The movies Being John Malkovich and Adaptation are grand royal mindfucks because of the way they blend factual and fictional. But in general, we maintain the artificial divide between fiction and non-fiction, and treat the two differently: nonfiction, real people and the standards of truth are all intertwined inextricably.

Which means, of course, that RPF just makes everyone's logic circuits combust by straddling that boundary. If I wrote a novel about two popular actors concealing a secret love affair from the media, I could market it easily; if I wrote a news article alleging that Elijah Wood and Dominic Moneghan were lovers, I could get sued easily; but a good Domlijah fic falls into a grey area between the two. RPF people treat their work as fiction (applying standards of literary criticism, inasmuch as fandom ever does), anti-RPF people treat it as nonfiction (applying standard of truthfulness inappropriate to a text that's not necessarily presenting itself as truth).

At least, this is my theory. Have I gotten anything heinously wrong?

Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 11:53 pm (UTC)
vianvamp

I think that is really one of the best discriptions of RPF I've seen.

I really do think that RPF is such a problem because, to some degree, people don't know how to view it. Should the story be viewed through a fictional lense, of which its meant, or taken to task on the non fiction side?

Thu, Aug. 11th, 2005 11:50 pm (UTC)
mab_browne

I don't like RPF myself, but morally how is it inherently different (for example) to an explicit piece of fan art? I know in my little head that it's the characters, but the actors and any mundanes on the street might well say, 'hey, you've got dirty pictures of ...' and how are they wrong?

I like fanfic where I'm familiar with canon and where there's a background of experience between the characters which can be built on to create stories, and I don't see how RPF offers that (although I understand how things like the LOTR dvds certainly offer opportunities) But in the end, I get squicked because I see 'stalkerish' elements in the idea of continually fantasising and writing about real people. I would like to very strongly emphasise that I DO NOT THINK that RPF writers are stalkers, but simply say that is an element of the squick for me. I prefer a demarcation between fantasy and reality (whatever you perceive that to be *g*)

Fri, Aug. 12th, 2005 02:00 am (UTC)
dinpik

When stripped of the long, complicated justifications, RPF comes down to "I'm going to write this about this person because I want to, and fuck what the real person feels about it. (In fact, I'm going to deliberately not ask -- better to get forgiveness than permission!)" An attitude especially ironic since purplepopple pointed out that some RPFers don't like being slashed with their fellow authors.

I'm not talking about slash, either. I remember one story about Elijah Wood's brother being a dangerous schizophrenic who kidnapped the author's self-insert and killed a couple people being discussed on the old GAFF Voy forum. At that point, the posters who had been defending RPS suddenly fell silent when asked point-blank, "And this is okay, too?" Only one of them eventually said no, it wasn't. (I think it may have been <lj user="darkrosetiger", IIRC) For me, it's a matter of privacy on a very visceral level. There are some boundaries you just don't cross.

Fri, Aug. 12th, 2005 02:12 am (UTC)
dinpik: Third time's the charm.

(I think it may have been darkrosetiger, IIRC).

For me, it's a violation of privacy on a very visceral. There are boundaries you just do not cross, and in my opinion RPF does exactly that.

(First post got cut off for some reason. And the second. Feh.)
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Fri, Aug. 12th, 2005 02:16 am (UTC)
dragonscholar

Welcome aboard mira! You may also want to take a look at Our past discussions as well as we've discused RPF/RPS before.

Fri, Aug. 12th, 2005 02:50 am (UTC)
darkemptyheart

Okay. This is a very interesting subject. I've read a lot of people's arguments against RPF on various mailing lists and I really don't think there is anything wrong with it.

Some have said it's an invasion of privacy but I argue that when you lend your image to a public forum, you're opening yourself up to things like that.

I also feel there are far worser things out their using celebrities' likeness: like say those advertisements to see a Britney Spears nude (which we all know is fake).

I feel that writers aren't writing fanfics about the actual person because they don't know the actual celebrity personally. I understand a celebrity not liking it and they have every right not to but at the same time as I've said before you have to expect it when you become famous.

And as for if I would like for anyone to write fiction about me, honestly I wouldn't care. I'd personally find it amusing and be interested, not to say some of it wouldn't freak me out or make me squeamish but I'd feel it comes with the territory. And besides if a celebrity really didn't want fan fiction written about them, all they would have to do is send out a formal statement saying so. Most fans would probably stop, if they asked, and most sites would stop allowing the stories to be posted. Celebrities have a lot of power. :)

I guess I'm a little biased since I write some RPF myself at times.

Fri, Aug. 12th, 2005 03:08 am (UTC)
_redpanda_

I have no problem with RPF. It's not real, it's just words, and anyone who might confuse it with reality is cracked in the head anyway. So no harm no foul.

Sorry such a short answer, but there ya go. :)

Sat, Aug. 13th, 2005 04:52 am (UTC)
alixtii

"And it harm none, do what you will."

Fri, Aug. 12th, 2005 05:10 am (UTC)
speshulduck

As someone who's written FPS about Olivia Benson and RPF about Mariska Hargitay and then met the woman, that's three different people right there. I have a very specific interpretation of Olivia and a specific interpretation of Mariska's public persona that I now know to be off by quite a bit. Does that mean I'll stop enjoying RPF about her? Hell no. Does the over-feminization of Olivia mean I'll stop watching SVU? Hell yes. Odd what that says about my tastes.

(And actually it's not just the femmed-up Benson that made me stop watching. The overall show quality plummeted in my opinion, so I gave that up and went back to sci-fi where I belonged.)

Fri, Aug. 12th, 2005 05:56 am (UTC)
almostnever

John Stewart wrote and published a book called Naked Pictures of Famous People. The first story describes a visit with the Kennedy family. In the story, the Kennedys keep all the subpar Kennedy children in a dungeon hidden in their vast estate.

Here's the page where Stewart describes the dungeon of deformed Kennedys.

If people have a problem with Real Person Fiction, they can talk to John Stewart, Rob Weisbach Books, and Harper Paperbacks, all of whom made money from a story in which Bobby Kennedy was a childhood masochist who burned himself, Jack was viciously anti-Semetic, and three-year-old Teddy Kennedy was forced to sit on a block of ice for losing a family boxing match. Writing down a few heavily disclaimered sexual fantasies about celebrities that are only put in limited circulation online? Is pretty tame compared to that.

Sat, Aug. 13th, 2005 02:10 am (UTC)
jenlittlebottom

I don't think there's any such thing as absolute morality (not personally bothered by RPF, to add a data point), but as to the legality side of things: Starf*cker.
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Sat, Aug. 13th, 2005 03:40 am (UTC)
jpl_jsfan4ever

I happen to know that there are some celebs that actually read fan fics that have been written about them and that find it flattering that someone would take the time to do that. I am friends with several reality stars and talk to others on a regular basis and none of them have any problems with RPFs.