What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been (Sheep Mentality and Hypocrisy)
Launching my first blog has been interesting, to say the least. I learned within a few hours of my first post that I had unwittingly chosen the world’s most thin-skinned author, with the most… loyal friends? No, that’s not right. Zealous, maybe, although going into a fit of rage and accusing me en masse of everything from cyber bullying, stalking, threatening, and plagiarizing the author seems less like zeal and more like a witch hunt. Either way you want to interpret it, we all know what happened.
So, what did I learn? To be honest, nothing I didn’t already know. If I could do it all over again, I would change very little. But that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize how things could have been handled differently.
What brings me here today is a comment by a follower asking me to explain how I feel about fanfiction. When I came up with the idea for this blog, I never anticipated posting anything out of character (OOC). But with that question having been asked, and some of the wild misconceptions and repeated droning of the same things over and over again in the comments, I now understand the necessity of it. I’ll cover some of the things I think went over a lot of people’s heads, as well as the commenter’s question and whatever else I feel like posting.
So let’s start off with the big one: Why the mask? For the life of me I can’t figure out why this was such a big issue. Unless you need to know what I look like because you plan to take out a hit on me, or you need to see my face so you can try to find things to disparage (though I’ve seen a lot of people here are not above personal attacks), there is no relevance as to whether you can see my face or not. None of the vitriol that commenters sent my way came accompanied with a photo of themselves. If they are going to say offensive things, shouldn’t they have shown their faces? It’s a bit of a double standard to demand that of me when no one is posting a picture of their face along with their insults.
I thought that I made it abundantly clear on the “about” page that The Fanfic Assassin is a character that I’m portraying, and that character wears a mask. The only excuse that I can think of for people not having picked up on this fact would be that they didn’t read the “about” page, and I can follow the stats, so I know they at least viewed it, just like they viewed the critique that caused so much turmoil, but the evidence is all over their hate-filled comments that they didn’t even read that before flippantly throwing serious accusations and threats my direction. All the self-righteous rambling aside, after reading those comments, why would anyone in my position ever take the mask off? Regardless, the mask is a part of the persona that will become clearer as his story unfolds.
Why the parody videos? For the assassin, it’s part of his cause. For me, because they were fun to make. I enjoyed recording the audio, acting it out on camera, and then editing the two of them together. I thought people who weren’t turned off by how creepy the character looked would enjoy them, and while I got a lot of messages from people saying they found it all hilarious but couldn’t publicly admit to enjoying the videos because the risk of backlash was too great, the comment section certainly shows the power of peer pressure. This is also symptomatic of the sheep mentality that, sadly, isn’t exclusive to this fandom, but is certainly prevalent in it. Many comments were made about how the video was “nasty,” and how I said so many bad things about the victimized author in it. I find that puzzling, because I say absolutely nothing in the videos other than read the story and act out the characters. Every word out of my mouth on the videos were read verbatim from the story; I issue no opinion in them. Had these people watched the video, they would have seen that. Instead, they followed a link to leave rage-y comments simply because someone told them to, without bothering to see for themselves if the opinions were valid in the first place. In short, they were bashing something they knew little about, just like all those people who bash Twilight without having ever read the books or seen the movies, an attitude that drives the Twihards rabid. But really, after this grand display of blindly following someone’s opinion and acting on it without forming your own proves that the Twilight fans that get so bent out of shape about being mocked are no better. They did exactly what they accuse others of doing against them—they judge without knowing. I find this, at best, hypocritical, and entirely reprehensible.
Will I make more? Probably. I had fun, and I don’t care that people threw a fit. Were the criticisms of the videos even remotely valid? Not really, especially when you take into consideration that (at the time of my writing this) the average time spent watching the videos per viewer was less than 2 minutes (each video is nearly 10 minutes long), 100% female, and the second video was hardly even seen in comparison. No, I don’t place a lot of stock in the validity of the arguments levied against my parodies; the evidence just isn’t there to support the idea that the people complaining actually watched them, neither in their comments nor in the statistics.
Another accusation thrown around was that I plagiarized the author. I don’t think the people hysterically screaming that word at me understand what plagiarism means.
Nowhere did I claim the stories belonged to me. I made absolutely certain that the original authors were credited for the work (incidentally, the original authors themselves don’t have any rights to their fanfics in the first place because they’re derivative work, but that’s neither here nor there.) When you open the New York Review of Books, do you go around yelling at the top of your lungs that they’re plagiarizing the authors they’re critiquing? Their point of view and style are different from mine as well as the base material, but the premise is the same: critiquing a story/book/article is not plagiarizing it, and to think so is just one more symptom of the zombie-like way people follow in blissful ignorance whoever shouts their bullshit the loudest. Someone—without knowing what the hell they were talking about—said that what I did was plagiarism, and that’s enough for everyone else. No need to see for themselves; one person says it, and the herd takes it as incontestable truth.
That being said, let’s not kid ourselves. No one legitimately thought that this was plagiarism. That accusation was only used as a scare tactic to shut me up, right along with the threats that the authors could take legal action against me, which they can’t, by the way. Parody and critique are protected speech, and rightly so. Can you imagine a world where the people producing the content have all the power over what is said about it? I’m sure some of you can, as we’ve seen it before. It’s called fascism.
Now to my follower’s questions: Do I hate all fanfiction? Is there any I like? Yes, in fact, despite their astounding number of flaws, I enjoyed both of the fics I’ve reviewed thus far. Not that I think either of them are good, far from it. Winchester Steele/My Rook Takes your Knight had me howling with laughter. It was bad in the way that it was so ineptly written. The comedy came from how serious it seemed to take itself. It’s similar to how the movies “The Room” and “Birdemic” are so enjoyable. Though people worked very hard on them and intended the result to be taken seriously, the product was just so abysmally sub-par that it came out funny. I feel the same way about Love is Stronger than Pride, though to a lesser degree. It isn’t as bad when it comes to the technical aspects of the writing. This is, unfortunately, not a detail that works in its favor. The corny and campy nature of it is endearing, but there’s an underlying “soap opera” feel to it that detracts from that “so bad it’s good” je ne sai quoi. The damsel in distress cliché (one amongst the many this story boasts) downgrades it from a “so bad it’s good” story to just another mediocre fish in the ocean. Its only saving grace for my purposes was that the whole story line was so trite and Mary Jane (take out main character, insert self) that the plot alone pushed it into “bad enough” territory to merit a review from me. It’s a good read, but I enjoy the colossal failure more as opposed to the humdrum one.
I need to make it clear that I don’t only like bad fanfiction. There are some excellent writers out there, and they deserve the praise they get. This brings me to another question: what is my take on fanfiction? I think it’s great. It’s a good place to figure out if you have the chops to be a professional author, or only a hobby writer, but I also have some serious reservations about it. You’ll notice on my blog that I’m writing a fanfiction based around The Fanfic Assassin, aka Edmond Carmichael. It’s actually quite a challenge for me to do this, as I do not like the idea of using someone else’s plot, setting, or characters. So I’ve come to a compromise with my own creative principles, and I’m doing it halfway. Most of the story will be completely original, and the parts that aren’t will be little more than brief cameo appearances.
Finally, I’d just like to make one point: I am NOT The Fanfic Assassin. He’s a character I created and pretend to be on occasion. I’ve got skin so thick that elephants get envious of me, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy needless personal attacks. Yes, the reviews are critical, rude, and crass. I am aware that I already have — and probably will again — let personal insults slip past my censors. It’s not the intention of the blog or the character to attack anyone personally, but sometimes we don’t know exactly how others are going to interpret what we say. As someone pointed out, you need to be very careful what you say in the Twilight fandom. As a free thinker, a person who finds no train of thought to be out of line or inappropriate, I find this most unfortunate, and while I respect the tip, there’s no humor in precision dialogue that perfectly avoids hot button issues and overly sensitive people. Comedy is provocative, and that’s how it will remain on my part.