Is This Real Life Or Just Fantasy?: On Real Person Fiction

Following last week’s post on fanfiction, I decided to revisit the topic in this blog to talk about RPF, or real person fiction.  It’s a touchy discussion, especially for those finding themselves to be the subject.

For those who haven’t come across this before, it’s a type of fanfiction which involves real people (obviously), usually celebrities.  And yes, it does include those historical romances you’ve been reading.  Frequently it will involve alternate universes (AUs), for example where the characters meet in a coffee shop, or stories about relationships between two people who are not platonically, romantically or sexually involved.  You might think it’s a ludicrous idea.  You might just see it as an expansion of regular fanfiction.  After all, modern famous people put themselves out into society, and their public persona becomes a brand or a character of sorts.

RPF has been banned on popular site fanfiction.net since 2002, although stories about wrestlers are still allowed.  Other sites such as Livejournal, Archive Of Our Own and Dreamwidth permit RPF.  Readers and writers of fanfiction are split about whether it is wrong or not, often leading to divides in fandoms.  There have been a few incidents where the world of RPF and the “real people” have collided, not always with great results.  Fall Out Boy with Jensen Karp announced last year that they were to host a comedic reading of the “most ridiculous” fanfiction about them.  It was cancelled two days before its announced date after fans reacted very negatively, not wanting to become the butt of a joke made by people they look up to.  This was following a video the band did in which they read out posts from a “confessions” blog on tumblr.  Not only did fans feel belittled by this, but the owners of the blog weren’t even notified or asked permission.  Fanfiction is routinely ignored or derided by people until they want to make an example of it, embarrassing those who support them.  The majority of fanbases try to keep fanfiction away from actors, bands and singers etc. for good reason.

This begs the question, should fanfiction authors not have the right to separate spaces for their writing, away from those in the public eye?  Do subjects of fanfiction have the right to broadcast and comment on various works of fanfiction?  Do they also have the right to force authors to cease completely?  Aside from issues of safe spaces to learn and grow, and given the media seems free to spread their own stories about celebrities, I’d say no.

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The image posted on various social media

A major part of RPF is band orientated.  There is an interesting Fanlore Wiki page about band fanfiction here.  Many band members are understandably very vocal in their opposition to fanfiction (Patrick Stump for instance).  Nonetheless, some take part in this aspect of fandom by reading or referencing fanfiction about themselves.

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Gerard Way tweets about fanfiction.

For instance, Gabe Saporta of Midtown & Cobra Starship once went as far as to write his own fanfic (view here).  While the article is patronising and seems to look down on the – largely female, teenaged – writers of fanfiction, the story itself is amusing.  Saporta and William Beckett of The Academy Is… both played up the Gabilliam ship for fans, although since they are both married with children, it clearly wasn’t happening.  It was all for entertainment.  Which is what fanfiction critics need to remember: it is all just for entertainment.

I will freely admit to reading RPF, because I don’t see it as inherently wrong.  I know it’s not real, nor do I expect it to become real.  As long as you don’t try to pass it off as truth, and you keep it away from people who don’t want any part of it (e.g. the subjects and their families), personally I don’t think that it’s a terrible thing. If reading and writing what’s essentially fanfiction about Henry VIII is acceptable, what’s the difference?  As an author, you usually don’t know the people you’re writing about personally, and they basically become characters.  Just keep it respectful and know when to draw lines.  Ultimately it is your decision which side of the fence you fall on, but please, whatever your opinion, respect each other for goodness’ sake.


Other fanfiction posts:
On Fanfiction & Divided Opinion – #1

 

Further reading:

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