Fan fiction doesn't have to be a punchline
Read to the end for a conversation with The Daily Beast's Allegra Frank
Don’t Break The Fourth Wall
A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a warning on social media. Apparently, someone claiming to be a TV producer was going around and posting comments on Real Person Fiction (RPF) fan fiction on Archive Of Our Own of the British gameshow Taskmaster, asking the author’s permission to use the stories on a “new TV show.” CODE RED! CODE RED! The response within the small community of writers was immediate panic. Everyone responded, “Hell No” to the producer, began locking down their fics, and generally freaked out. As of July 1, the comments have been removed by AO3 for violating their terms of service, which prohibits commercial promotion.
Soon after the alert was sounded on the backend, the news dropped publicly: the show, hosted by British comedian Mel Giedroyc, has the working title of The Really Really Rude Puppet Show and plans to feature new erotic stories written by fan fiction writers (and revised “with the help of top script editors”) acted out by (ugh) puppets, all voiced by the celebrities in question.
My first instinct was to join the chorus of voices going off on Twitter about how catastrophically horrible an idea this is. It is unbelievably condescending and mean. Despite the Channel 4 press release’s sleazy-sounding assurances that the show is a “way of encouraging creative writing, where artistic self-expression will be encouraged” and that they want to “unearth the next E.L. James in the process,” I do not believe for a single second that they’re going to be successful in framing fanfic as anything other than a subject for mockery.
Fanfic and British media, in particular, have an uneasy relationship, historically. The collective ancestral memory of fandom still bears the traumas of not-so-distant times in which their practices were uncovered like gross bugs underneath a rock, lots of exclaiming “eeewwww!” included. Most notably, there was a 2013 incident known as Caitlin Moran’s Fic Stunt, in which the journalist demanded that Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman read slash fiction out loud on stage during a Sherlock premiere event. You can see, in the fallout from that event, a foreboding preview of precisely what will happen if Giedroyc’s show actually makes it to air. Elizabeth Minkel of Fansplaining wrote at the time about how fanfic needed to stop being made into a punchline, and how “it’s shameful to utterly disregard the enormous imbalance of power in this situation: a famous journalist and the famous creators of a popular television show, all on a stage mocking an anonymous woman’s story.”
It’s not precisely the same situation — clearly by making a play at “getting permission” from fan fiction authors they’re thinking A LITTLE bit about ethics — but that cruelty is still present, if buried a little further below the surface. (Sources on the ground tell me the whole thing is “very British.”) Despite quite a lot of progress in pop culture in the decade since the Caitlin Moran incident, with showrunners like Bryan Fuller enthusiastically embracing the creativity of transformative fanbases, and Taika Waititi of Our Flag Means Death talking about saving raunchy fanart to his phone, apparently the people behind The Really Really Rude Puppet Show don’t see the problem with putting together an entire six-episode primetime series in which the very concept of erotic fan fiction involving celebrities is the entire butt of the joke.
Shipping characters has been normalized to hell and back for better and for worse — and so has “self-shipping,” thanks to all the self-insert Wattpad fics getting spun up into movies as of late. But clearly there’s still something about pure RPF that offers itself up to gawkers as mockery material. It’s sort of the redheaded stepchild of the fic world, possibly because it runs closer than fiction-based works to the river of unbridled Id that drives all erotic creative practices. I mean, even within the larger span of fandom itself, quite a lot of people actively believe it’s Weird And Bad to write about celebrities sucking each other silly. Even though that is, if you think about it, what the tabloid press has been making their millions off for decades. And then there are those fans active in RPF communities who wholly disdain and disown the “tinhatters” — folks who engage in conspiracies about celebrities “really” being together IRL, a la Larry Stylinson.
As you can see, it’s turtles all the way down. Naturally if you don’t have someone onside who hails from this world and has an understanding of how it works, you’re going to step in it. (I AM AVAILABLE FOR HIRE, CHANNEL 4!) God only knows how, if at all, Giedroyc and her production team at Channel 4 will respond to the backlash. But here’s my pitch for how to salvage it: take the fan fiction community out of the equation, except as quiet inspiration. Don’t seek out fic writers to get them involved, or make them aware that you are aware of them, or market the series around them. That’s called “breaking the fourth wall,” which in the past has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.
Instead just do it yourself. Try to expand your mind to imagine what it’s like to be a writer of erotic fan fiction about British comedians. You can do it! Unlock that sincerity and intensity and passion within you. Get your guests to write the scripts for each other, even. I understand if that’s a tall order, so plan B: you ought to hire professional erotica authors who do this sort of thing for money regularly and have made a career out of it, in lieu of fic writers who really and truly just want to be left alone to vibe and do their thing without being subject to unwanted public scrutiny.
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A Thought-Provoking Tweet
This was dropped into the Garbage Day Discord by ADH. Much to think about here.
Reels Are The Future Because They’re All Meta Has Left
This was first spotted by social media strategist Christina Jovanna Olivarez earlier this week and TechCrunch confirmed it. Instagram is testing a feature that turns normal videos posted to the platform into reels. It’s a signal that Instagram is still betting the future of the app on the success of its Reels product.
This is not the first time Instagram has aggressively reinvented its core experience, whether users wanted it or not. In 2012, it pushed a big update that basically killed Foursquare overnight, allowing users to add geographic data to their posts. Then, in 2017, it took Snapchat’s core product, Stories, and integrated it to pretty big success. And now it’s doing the same to TikTok with the forced mass adoption of Reels. In fact, if you look at a timeline of Instagram adding new features, it’s pretty much a graveyard of once hot new apps.
The Crypto Winter Is Getting Colder
The ongoing bloodbath in the crypto/Web3 world keeps getting worse, which means it’s probably time to share a little theory I’ve heard whispered in various crypto group chats with increasing frequency: The biggest investors and boosters in crypto are not investing in crypto in the present, and never were. They are investing in the crash. What I keep hearing is that the venture capital firms with the biggest stakes in crypto have actually been hoping for a dot com bubble-style pop all along, hoping they’re insulated enough to ride it out and buy up crypto assets for cheap when the dust settles. Anyways, that’s just a rumor and there’s no evidence that that’s the case. On a completely unrelated note, yesterday, crypto exchange FTX announced that it was buying crypto lending company BlockFi for $25 million, which is 99% lower than its most recent valuation of $4.8 billion.
Oh, also, in case you’re curious, Martin Shkreli is out of prison and back as a moderator of Reddit’s r/wallstreetbets, which, if you didn’t know, he was one the original subscribers.
The Bodega TikTok Guy Got Fired
@grifgreen20, the guy who made a bunch of very ill-advised TikTok videos about moving to New York City for his new job at a startup, was fired by that startup according to the company’s Twitter account. The company is called Outreach and they’re basically an AI-driven sales platform. They tweeted Wednesday that @grifgreen20 was no longer an employee there. Story as old as time really.
There was one point I wanted to make about this whole incident, but didn’t have the space for on Wednesday. The thing that I think is not talked about enough with regards to Gen Z and internet use is how posting content is no longer for nerds and/or influencers. Everyone is online now. Ten years ago, there were definitely videos of finance bros doing or saying something insane — or the occasional story of a guy having a meltdown on Facebook and not knowing someone had screenshot it. But now everyone is a poster and it has opened up a whole new world of self-own potential.
If you’re looking for a good take on the actual content of @grifgreen20’s video, here’s a real good one:
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The Morbius Guy Ate At Every Rainforest Cafe In North America
Back in May, I wrote about YouTuber Eddy Burback who went to see Morbius in theaters five days in a row… for some reason. Well, Burback is back with another absolute scorcher of a video chronicling his 21-day roadtrip to every Rain Forest Cafe in North America… for some reason. The video is incredibly good.
Burback completed his Rain Forest Cafe odyssey with another YouTuber, Ted Nivison, who actually has an extremely funny video from last year about the time where he accidentally ate a 400mg edible that you should really watch too.
Another Thought-Provoking Tweet
BONUS: Here’s Allegra Frank’s Biggest Pop Culture Blindspot
Everyone loves to ask the internet’s most-plugged in writers and creators questions like “what are you reading,” or “what’s in your bag,” or “what’s your money diary,” etc. So I decided to do something different: What aren’t you paying attention to?
I’m a huge fan of writer and editor Allegra Frank. She previously worked for sites like Polygon and Slate and is currently an editor at The Daily Beast. I think she’s a real expert when it comes to the world of pop culture and web culture. So I was curious what kinds of things she wasn’t paying attention to. And it turns out she and I share the same blindspot: Lord Of The Rings. Neither of us have ever read or watched it. You can read all about our absolute disinterest in everything Tolkien after the paywall jump!
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