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NOW WITHOUT FURTHER ADO: Fan Fiction, Fred Weasley, and Fake Internet Friends
Hi my name is Ebony Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way and I have long ebony black hair (that's how I got my name) with purple streaks and red lips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don't know who she is get da hell out of here!). I'm not related to Gerard Way but I wish I was because he's a major fucking hottie. I'm a vampire but my teeth are straight and white. I have pale white skin. I'm also a witch, and I go to a magic school called Hogwarts in England where I'm in the seventh year (I'm seventeen). I'm a goth (in case you couldn't tell) and I wear my mostly black. I love Hot Topic and I buy all my clothes from there. For example today I was wearing a black corset with matching lace around it and a black leather miniskirt, pink fishnets and black combat boots. I was wearing black lipstick, white foundation, black eyeliner and red eye shadow. I was walking outside Hogwarts. It was snowing and raining so there was no sun, which I was very happy about. A lot of preps stared at me. I put up my middle finger at them.
So begins the infamous, beloved, despised, known-to-all-corners-of-the-internet fan fiction My Immortal, supposedly written by a thirteen year old gothic (or, "goffik") girl named Tara Gilesbie and published in forty-four (although, technically forty-three? At one point Tara reposts one of the earlier chapters verbatim and lists it as a separate, new chapter) separate installments on fanfiction.net under the user name XXXbloodyrists666XXX. Tara inserts herself into the story as Ebony (or Enoby, Ebomby, Evony, Ibiny, Ebpony, Eboby, or Enony) Dark'ness Dementia Raven Way, a vampire friend of Harry, Hermione, and Ron's (who have renamed themselves Vampire, B'loody Mary, and Diablo), and sometimes-lover to Draco Malfoy. This first passage is representative of the piece with its arduous descriptions of goth outfits, but it is noticeably lacking in the typos and textual abbreviations which make most of the story near-indecipherable (ie: "I whipeed and whipped as my blody eyeliner streammed down my cheeks and made cool tears down my feces...").
This bizarre glimpse into a thirteen-year-old girl's supposed psyche boasts moments of brilliance hiding beneath its preposterous prose, like when Professor McGonagall refers to the main characters as "mediocre dunces," or when Voldemort inexplicably speaks only in Shakespearean "thee's" and "thou's" ("Snaketail, what art thou doing?"). It is sprinkled with strangely depicted sex scenes ("then he put his thingie into my you-know-what and we did it for the first time") and instances of drug use ("We did pot, coke and crack"..."I TOOOK OUT A CIGARETE END STARTED TO smoke pot"...and, my favorite My Immortal passage of all time, "He took out a heroin cabaret and spiked it, and gave it to me to spork"), and, in an attempt to stay true to her "goffik" background, Tara repeatedly references her favorite bands ("Gerard [Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame] was da sexiest guy eva! He locked even sexier den he did in pix"), cutting, self-harm, and suicide ("He stated to run out the place in a suicidal way.").
Do yourself a big favor, and read the entire original.
And I mean the entire thing.
Get yourself a bottle of wine and do it.
Chapters 1-22: http://myimmortalrehost.webs.com/chapters122.htm
Chapters 23-44: http://myimmortalrehost.webs.com/chapters2344.htm
My Immortal came into my life during my sophomore year of college- it was quite the sensation around Northwestern's campus, particularly with the fringes of the theater scene, and after Jonathan and I sat down in his dorm room one night and read the entire thing out loud to each other, I became irreparably obsessed with it. While friends and internet randos alike insisted it was a hoax, written by one or more adults as an elaborate joke, I insisted the author of this masterpiece was a real thirteen-year-old girl. Only a real thirteen-year-old girl could have the depth of imagination, the unique perspective on sexuality, and the brazen self-centered-ness necessary to invent such a creation. Why did I insist this so vehemently?
Because I was that thirteen-year-old girl.
Also during my sophomore year of college, I took a class (famous at Northwestern) called "Storytelling 101," in which we literally learned how to tell stories; mostly fairy tales, myth, and folklore. We followed the tradition of oral storytelling in an academic setting, and our final - very fittingly - was to write an academic(esque) paper (although, the professor called it a final "opus") on a modern phenomenon that continued the storytelling tradition. Fueled by my new obsession with My Immortal, I wrote about fan fiction.
The essay (titled The Feather in the Path and the Feather of the Post-Owl: FanFiction and the Folklore Tradition) begins:
When I was thirteen, I had a best friend. Her name was...we'll call her Sarah. Sarah liked science and the colors pink and green and spiky sea-urchin earrings from Hot Topic. We both wore black converse with colored laces and doodles Sharpied all over the white rubber parts (AN: note the detailed description of what we wore...), we both favored Twix candy bars, and we both loved Harry Potter.
The summer between my seventh and eighth grade school years I never bothered to put on sunscreen when I left the house because I knew I would spend the day safely inside Sarah’s house, both of us huddled on wooden stools in front of her parents’ computer, religiously keeping to our well-established schedule of Harry Potter discussion and trivia testing from noon to one, fanfiction reading and websurfing from one to two-thirty, independent fanfiction writing from two-thirty to three-thirty, and team fanfiction writing until five-thirty when Sarah’s mom would call us to the kitchen for a dinner of chicken tacos and a dessert of Twix bars.
We never had any of our fanfictions published on our favorite websites (though to this day, you can still find some of my masterpieces on the non-selective site “fanfiction.net” under the pen name “nollievioletweasley”...click here to read...), probably because they were full of inside jokes known only to us and made-up American transfer student characters who came in and married the Weasley twins. But sometime during that summer, fanfiction ceased to be a joke or a mere harmless hobby and became almost a passion. It became our life. The world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley and wizards and handsome magical red-heads became our reality; we were so immersed in the world and the stories and the characters that we did not know where the stories ended and where we began. The stories became a part of our very beings.
When I was thirteen, I had six best friends: one named Sarah, and five others named Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Fred Weasley, Ginny Weasley, and Harry Potter.
I soon gave up my Harry Potter nerd-dom, but I never completely lost my deep connection with the characters and the stories. I don’t think I ever can.
The only time I have ever experienced a similar feeling of total immersion is when I am telling a story that I have found, loved, and chosen – or rather, a story that has found, loved, and chosen me.
We [the Storytelling class] have defined a good story as one that “the teller cares about, has been touched by and feels a keen desire to share.” When a teller finds a story, she studies it and adds herself to it, morphing it to make it her own, to allow the world to see the story and the characters and the universal truth through her eyes. This is the beauty of storytelling, and the basis for the human folklore tradition.
While the details of our daily fan fiction regime are largely exaggerated for dramatic effect, my passion for the Harry Potter characters and universe (in particular, Fred Weasley), is not.
I don't know what it was, exactly, about Fred Weasley that filled my insides with fire and longing. Maybe it was his humor, his irreverence of authority. Maybe it was his red hair. But whatever it was, every night before I fell asleep, I would imagine what it would feel like to touch him, to run my hands through that shaggy mane of unruly red hair. I imagined how tall he was, how his eyes sparkled when they gazed into mine, the way his smile tilted slightly further up on the left side, and even what he would look like with his shirt off. He was my Hogwarts hottie, my Gryffindor guy, my wizard of love, my soul mate sent to unlock of my chamber of secrets. My sexual awakening had been set off by a magic wand, and suddenly the whole world seemed bigger, and brighter, and full of magic.
But I wasn't crazy- I knew he was a fictional character. So it seemed only logical to create another fictional character, based on myself, who could insert herself into the Harry Potter universe and become Fred Weasley's girlfriend.
Enter: Fan fiction.
Enter: Nollie Jenson.
Nollie Jenson was an American transfer student from a Wizarding School in Washington DC. Naturally she was sorted into Gryffindor as soon as she arrived at Hogwarts, and naturally she became friends with Ron, Harry, Hermione, and Ginny immediately.
What you are about to read is an actual scene, actually written by thirteen year old me, from "Harry Potter and the Spellbound Score," the musical screen play I wrote which featured Nollie Jenson.
The scene: Hogsmeade, where Fred and George have opened their new expansion of their joke shop, and where Nollie and her famous friends have snuck away for the afternoon after a busy week of potions class and defense against the dark arts class at Hogwarts. Nollie, however, has fallen behind her friends, and now is left alone. Nollie Jenson and Fred Weasley are about the meet for the first time.
This is completely unedited (all typos and misspellings are original to my thirteen-year-old self).
(we see Nollie sitting on a bench alone listening to her music. She is bobbing her head and singing along quietly. She begins to read her book, “Jane Eyre”. Fred enters and stands behind her.)
Fred: Is this seat taken?
Nollie: (looks up at Fred) No.
Fred: Whatcha listening to?
(Nollie says nothing but puts one of her headphones to Fred’s ear. He begins singing along also. The song ends and Nollie puts down the headphones.)
Fred: Excellent choice, I must say.
Nollie: I think so. I’ve been bored out of my mind back at Hogwarts. iPods don’t work around there. This is the first time I’ve been able to listen to anything. I’ve had to sing it all.
Fred: Wouldn’t bother me. You have a nice voice.
Nollie: Thanks. I’ve been working on the choral group for some time.
Fred: Ah, the good old frog choir. Does need some help, I should say.
Nollie: No crap.
(Fred moves closer)
Fred: So, Hogwarts, eh? What year?
Fred: Top of the totem pole this year.
Nollie: Yeah. I just came here from the US. Merlin/Marywell, actually.
Fred: That would explain the accent.
Nollie: I’m Nollie.
(They shake hands)
(Nollie looks him over)
Nollie: Fred, huh? Red hair, look about nineteen. Well, well, well, I think I have myself a Weasley.
Fred: My reputation proceeds me.
Nollie: Actually, I’m friends with Ron. Ginny too.
Fred: And Hermione and Harry?
Nollie: Of course.
Fred: So why are you out here all alone?
Nollie: Oh. See that top (AN: presumably, thirteen year old me was talking about a spinning toy top, though why I was talking about a spinning toy top, twenty-six year old me has long forgotten) over there, in that window? It’s evil.
Nollie: Yeah. I was walking behind everyone, and it caught my eye. I was dazzled by its perfect sparkliness and had to go inside. Well, since I’m broke, it was too expensive. And when I came out I couldn’t find anyone. So, here I am.
Fred: That was mean of that top. You should go kill it.
Nollie: I thought that too, but you know how all the shop owners feel about us Hogwart’s kids already.
Fred: Yes. Say, you seem like the kind of girl who would like cheese.
Nollie: Of course. Cheese is full of cheesy goodness.
Nollie: That was quite a random conversation.
Fred: Randomness is good.
I compiled entire notebooks, entire binders, dedicated to the love story between Fred and Nollie. During eighth grade English class, or yearbook class, I would write story after story, scene after scene, song after song, about my fictional fantasy man. In some ways, writing about Fred Weasley taught me how to write.
But the real reason I became so fixated on Fred was because, developmentally, I needed Fred. Women, and young girls, are sexual creatures- we have sexual desires, and needs, and fantasies. But to explore that sexuality in real life, with real boys, in the case of straight girls like me, is scary. It's dangerous. So we pick a boy whose far away, a fictional character, an actor, a singer in a popular boy band, and we insert him into our rich fantasy lives so we can have control over our first encounters with love and sex. That's why our love for these far away boys doesn't feel fake. It isn't fake. It's real, and its ours. And it's safe. Because once it does become real, literally real, once it isn't a fantasy boy but a real boy, once it isn't just ours anymore, it isn't safe anymore. We have such a small window during which we can control ourselves, our bodies, and our sexualities, and the window comes when we are about thirteen, and it only comes when the boy exists in our heads, as a part of our bodies. One day a girl is twelve and carefree and happy, and the next she is thirteen, and suddenly doctors call her fat, and boys call her a slut or a prude or a tease, men whistle at her when she walks home from school and her boyfriend shoves her head down to his crotch and won't let her up until she starts crying and hits him. Suddenly she no longer belongs to herself. She will never feel safe, ever again. Not like she did with Fred Weasley. Not like she did with Vampire, Diablo, and Draco Malfoy. Once she learns that "doing it for the first time" is not as simple as putting "his thingie in my you-know-what," sex will never seem quite as empowering.
My essay continued (complete with fancy, official MLA source citations):
The modern phenomenon of “fan fiction” is largely ridiculed, and generally regarded as void of literary merit. However, fan fiction as a concept and in successful practice represents the digital age continuation of the human folklore tradition, in which listeners feel moved by others’ stories and, feeling compelled to retell them, shape these stories to make them their own.
The other major social advent that has significantly contributed to the rise of the formal fanfiction internet community is the rise of mass communication and mass internet culture. Today’s younger generations are defined by social media and social networking sites, by Facebook and Twitter and the new “blogging” phenomenon (AN: LOLOLOLOL). This generation carries on the natural human tradition of storytelling in the cultural arena they are most familiar with and most comfortable with, adapting the forms and mediums of storytelling to accommodate these new forms of communication. This generation speaks the internet language, so it makes sense that their interpretations of stories lead them to creating diary blogs for their favorite Star Wars characters or creating Facebook pages for their Hogwarts House of choice. Sarah and I spent hour upon joyful hour making up lengthy AIM conversations between our six wizard friends, complete with well-thought-out screen names for each (Harry was “BroomBasher07.” Ginnie was “StrawberrySweet16”). San Diego State University professor Louise Ellen Stein discusses the rise of “fannish storytelling” through new media and technology, stating that the emerging new narrative forms “draw on generic structures within popular media and culture in general” and thus that “as fan cultures and fan creative texts evolve online, the histories and traditions of fan fiction intersect with broader cultural discourses” (Stein, “This Dratted Thing”: Fannish Storytelling through New Media, 186-87).
Homer wrote epic poems based on established and well-known stories. Milton retold and interpreted a tale from the Bible in his masterpiece Paradise Lost. Shakespeare’s most famous plays borrowed plots and characters from earlier texts. “Fanfiction” has been around since the dawn of time, before the internet made fan communities possible, before copyright laws made the preservation and the personal embodiment of story illegal. Media scholar Henry Jenkins links the impulse to create fanfiction with the desire to use storytelling as a means of preserving cultural tradition and claims that the “process of circulation and retelling improved the fit between story and culture, making these stories central to the way a people thought of themselves…Contemporary web culture is the traditional folk process working at lightning speed on a global scale.”
We use stories to discover and understand who we are, to explain the human experience, to deal with common themes and feelings in a creative and moving way.
Stories have been used throughout centuries to describe natural and spiritual phenomenon, to help people make sense of the world. Stories are comforting. When I was thirteen, I found solace in Harry Potter, and so I shared the stories. The rise of fanfiction is not a new social construct but the reinvention of a timeless social tradition: the tradition of cultural preservation and self-expression through storytelling.
These excerpts from my earnest nineteen-year-old "opus" (read: final paper required in order to pass my class), unravel as a celebration and defense of the fan fiction phenomenon. But part of the story of my friendship with "Sarah" is noticeably missing from this essay. At the end of a paragraph detailing the social benefits of joining an online fan fiction community, I allude to this other part of the story, writing: "Long after I had given up my sojourn into the fanfiction universe, Sarah continued with the hobby-turned-obsession, primarily because she had made so many “friends” online in the fanfiction forums." I used this fact as a positive example of how fan fiction and fandom can be helpful for a person's social development, the passive aggressive quotation marks around the word "friends" only hinting at my true feelings regarding "Sarah's" descent into the depths of fandom.
The truth is, after that summer, I barely saw Sarah ever again. She transferred to a new school, and despite my best efforts to maintain our friendship and get together regularly, our friendship faded away. The distance between us grew as she withdrew further into her internet world. When I did manage to get her to leave her computer to spend time with me, her conversations were limited to telling me about the funny things she had talked about with her fan fiction friends. As I grew out of my fandom phase, she grew into hers. I still loved Harry Potter and what my participation in that fandom had done for me as a developing young woman, but I started to feel that there was a dark side to fandoms that I hadn't seen before, particularly when these fandoms are maintained by grown adults rather than children and teens. Now, being in a Disney show and experiencing first hand the dangers of adult super-fans feeling too much ownership over the objects of their obsession - dangers like fans meddling in and commenting on performer's private lives, throwing things onstage and being obnoxious in the audience, and at it's most extreme, showing up at performer's houses and threatening to commit suicide if not let in - I find myself wary of the fandom phenomenon.
For now, I'll let this blog post continue to be a celebration of the positive aspects of fan culture. But consider this a cliff hanger, a "to be continued"- more criticisms of fandoms' dark side to come in my next blog post.
In the meantime, Facebook message me or email to tell me about your experiences with fandom- the good, the bad, and the embarrassing. How has participation in (or reception of) fandoms impacted your life for the better or worse? And also in the meantime, visit my patreon page, consider becoming a patron (https://www.patreon.com/prettylittleloudmouth), and spread the word! You can support me and this blog by sharing with your friends and helping me build my audience!!
Love you all. As a token of my appreciation, here is a picture that combines my junior-high (and current, let's be honest) obsession with cheese and a bizarre representation of the strange things Disney and Frozen fans are capable of producing on social media (sorry, Donna).
I don't know if you got it, but it's a version of Frozen in which Elsa has magical cheese powers instead of magical ice powers.
Eat the cheese with your wine while you read My Immortal.