Tag Archives: Harry Potter fanfiction

Scared? Representation vs. Cultural Appropriation

The last few days have been very frustrating for me.

Maybe it is the pull of the moon making me feel so off centered. Perhaps I am responding to the building national tensions in the U.S. Maybe I need to take a damn iron suppliment and do some selfcare.

Either way, there have been quite a few events in the last few days that have inspired me to take a long look at racial representation in fanfiction.

The spark that finally set off the brush pile building up within me, each stick representative of a casual racist comment – each as dry and tasteless as the last – was when I saw the following data from Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen on Twitter.

If this horrifying breakdown wasn’t enough for you, someone actually responded to this by saying:

“And if a white person were to write a book like that, you’d cry #CulturalAppropriation, right? Where then are the books meant to come from?”

I will not be listing their name. This is about more than one person.

This lovely person seems to be intentionally ignorant on the definition cultural appropriation and, perhaps even more alarmingly, seems to be living under the assumption that the statistics of authors who identify as races other than white cannot rise to take the place of the white authors who are currently dominating the field to obtain equal racial character representation (if we approach this with the understanding that this person is bringing to the table: that you can only write characters belonging to the same race as you. I’d personally be very interested to know what animal is writing 27% of our children’s’ books…).

Now boys, girls, and nonconforming pearls, we get to the point:

THE BOOKS ARE MEANT TO COME FROM ANYWHERE LINDA.

Ideally we would see a rise in racial representation among children’s book authors too, but as for the books themselves, they can be written by anyone who recognizes the importance of representation. Especially for the kiddos.

Most fanfiction is not something that a child would be interested in. No one wants to be read angsty Drarry before they go to sleep at night. Not even me.

However, the ideology behind the infamous comment is something that we, as fanfiction readers and writers, can address.

The difference between representation and cultural appropriation is incredibly important here. As a white author, I strive to ensure that my characters are diverse and not harmful to any groups. It is a complicated, scary road to walk, but I know that practice and collaboration will ensure that someday all stories will be naturally inclusive.

Cambridge Dictionary defines cultural appropriation as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

It is hard to nail down what cultural appropriation is, exactly. Cultural exchanges are natural and have been happening since people dispersed enough to have distinct cultures. However, cultural appropriation can be very harmful, especially when the culture being appropriated is a minority group that has been oppressed or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.

As fanfic writers and readers, we all understand the concept of plagiarism. Think of cultural appropriation like plagiarism: if you do not acknowledge the community that you are taking things from, you are gaining and giving nothing in return.

This is doubly important if you are privileged, and are able to use that to draw attention to a marginalized community in a positive way.

After taking the time to really learn and inform themselves, white authors of children’s books could use their power, influence, and privilege to share diverse stories and, by creating a place in their niche for these stories, plow the road for authors from within those communities to have a space to give voice to their own experiences.

I do not have a racial breakdown of fanfiction writers; it would be very helpful if I did. Certainly, a huge percentage of fanfiction features white characters and white main characters.

It is hard to say if this is because a majority of fanfiction writers identify as white and chose to feature white characters, or if it is the result of a mainstream society which, by and large, features white characters. Perhaps a combination of the two.

Roughly Three-Quarters of Film Actors Were White in 2014

SOURCE: USC ANNENBERG’S MDSC INITIATIVE

Want to read some more scary stuff? According to Maya Salam with the New York Times, researchers at USC found that of the top 100 films each year from 2007 to 2017 (that’s 1,100 films in total), representation of women, people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. people and the disabled has remained overwhelmingly stagnant.

“Women have never accounted for more than 33 percent of speaking roles in a given year.”

Maya Salam

In short, the representation we see in terms of freaking anything through Hollywood is abysmal. However, as I will state time and time again, fanfiction is about giving a voice to the voiceless and providing some really beautiful representation.

When mainstream media fails anyone, fanfiction is there to help.

It stands to reason then that fanfic writers need to do a better job at including/identifying marginalized people in their stories.

I am guilty of this too.

After just ripping into J.K. Rowling last week for having a gay character in seven books and never indicating that he was gay, I’ve been doing some uncool shit also.

Oh hypocrisy, thou art mine only friend.

My upcoming novel, A Sherlock Holmes Tale of Deep Dark Intrigue (Also Murder) features a black John Watson. He is not the only attempt at inclusive representation I have in the book, however I have released not one, but two fanfics so far that include these characters, and I have made no mention of John Watson’s race.

This is problematic because then the representation that I am seeking exists only in my head *cough* Rowling *cough*.

Due to the original books, and almost every adaptation after, my readers will be assuming that Watson is white.

So it is easy, you see, for even good intentions to fail miserably when it comes to representation.

I am going to take a few steps back and examine how I can do a better job at this. Perhaps read some articles on how to write diverse characters well (I will share any good ones I find over social media if you want to explore this with me).

Looking back at the original graphic, the one that shows that just 23% of children’s books are written about characters who identify as American Indian/First Nations, Latinx, Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American, African/African American, I hope we can all identify the same troublesome statistics running throughout the fanfiction world.

This is a problem because fanfiction is the haven that people turn to when the larger society fails them. It is a place for everyone to feel welcome and, in order to achieve that, everyone needs to be represented.

I think it is to easy for writers to fall back on what’s always been done. What we know. There are no shortage of tales of white experiences out there. We got it. Yet so many stories seem to feature a mostly white cast almost on default.

To combat this, I spend a lot of time with my stories planning ways to make it inclusive and broadly representative.

I would be very interested to hear how you think we can increase representation in fanfiction. Please share in the comments below.

Call to Action:

We all need to be discussing this issue in order to create lasting change. There are so many individuals in the fanfiction universe, each with unique approaches and ideas. Only together can we be impactful.

Please share your thoughts below. We can tackle this problem.

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M.




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Drama, fics, and really good pics

: from learning about ships to writing their own, this fanfic writer talks about their Fremione obsession

Hey there ficfans, it’s finally here! A weekly segment I like to call: “A Short Look into the Many Marvelous Fanfic Writers, the Extra Exciting New Things they are Working On, and What Inherently Inspires them” but was forced to cut down to “Weekly Writer” when my friend said she would literally barf if I chose the other name. Rude.

But on with the show!

This week’s writer is new to the scene, but started out strong with an already lengthy and oh-so-popular Fremione fic starring this dynamic couple in a post-war universe, trying to navigate the twists and turns of their new lives. They bond over shared experiences and their old school-day antics, and struggle to define their changing relationship even as evil stalks this peaceful new world.

Even in the Darkest of Times is being written by MischiefProlonged, and has reached almost 70k words in less than a month. This is one author who doesn’t leave their readers hanging!

I sat down (figuratively. Don’t go meeting up with strange internet people, no matter how good the fic) with MischiefProlonged, who explained to me where their passion for this ship came from.

I think that Hermione and Fred are like perfect compliment. Hermione is always seen as this bookworm and then Fred is the prankster. But he is also super intelligent to be able to come up with all of the products for the shop he has, and Hermione can be pretty f*cking devious with all the crap she and the other two have done. So it’s like they both have the same trait but opposite reputations for them.

As MischiefProlonged had only very recently started writing fanfiction, I found myself curious about their new experiences with this crazy world.

I first found fanfiction when a special family member introduced it to me. She told me about ‘an archive of our own’ and then I got bored one day and tested it out. I used to read books, now I just read stories online. It’s a problem.

I’ve mainly stuck with the Harry Potter fandom since then because none of the other books I really enjoy seem to have a large following. Then I started looking up specific characters.

When I discovered people were writing about “ships” (and I learned what a ship was) I really got into it. I love a good romance so I got sucked into my favorite ships and just kept reading everything I could find on them.

I now know everything I ever need to about Fremione. And I still have no idea about the lingo. Someone commented on my story that they “stan” my character and I had to google it. Who the hell comes up with these words? Was it Stan? Can we call something a Kaila? I KAILA your story.

Official motion to begin using KAILA as a term. What will it mean? Only time will tell.

Someone second this motion, fast.

Next, because I am a nosy person at heart, I asked MischiefProlonged why they chose to start writing their own fic. What inspires a new user to write a 70k ode to their favorite ship?

I JUST WANTED FRED AND HERMIONE TO LOVE EACH OTHER LIKE WAS INTENDED.

Relatable.

MischiefProlonged also mentioned their frustration when reading other fanfics. It’s a feeling every fan knows all to well: you want very specific things to happen, and when they don’t, you get frustrated. Isn’t that what inspires all of us, at the end of the day?

I bring an actual f*cking plot line. That’s part of what bothers me with some fanfics is that there isn’t an actual story behind the ship. Like it’s cute at first but it doesn’t make me want to keep reading scene after scene of cute shit. I want an underlying story that will keep me intrigued.

What does the future hold for this budding writer?

In the grand scheme of things fanfiction is just something fun I got into because I was bored. It has developed into more of a hobby now that I’ve started writing my own, but it’s not something that has changed my life by any means.

I really enjoy reading other people’s stories but wish that if they started writing then they would finish it. One of my favorite stories was updated three years ago and I’m pretty pissed about it. Can I just finish it for them? I’ve got some ideas…

Oh the agony. I still cry over my favorite unfinished fics – floating forever in the land of misfics toys.

Given that I just discovered the fanfiction life a few years ago, I don’t really know where this is heading. I am mainly just a reader who comes out of the woodwork when I’m bored to gorge myself on stories.

I’m not usually one to comment on people’s stories, though now that I am writing my own I may have to start.

I think if more people got into it that would be cool because it would give me more stories to read!

My my.

So after flying through the twenty chapters currently posted of MischiefProlonged’s fic Even in the Darkest of Times, I was dying to know what is going to happen next.

Instead of begging in the comments for updates like I normally do, I had the opportunity to just flat out ask them!

Unforuntatly for us all, MischiefProlonged was not keen to share to many deets.

With my current story, I just want to keep writing until I think it can be the end. I don’t have a specific ending in mind, just certain scenes that I can write about. I’ll make ’em fit chronologically somehow.

Also who knew that smutty scenes were so much fun to write?

I’m not sure if I’ll ever write another story after this one honestly. I just love my current characters so much that if I wrote another story it would just be them doing different stuff.

Okay maybe I will write that.

That sounds fun…

Ah, the tentative wonderings of a writer who hasn’t quite realized how addicting it is to write fanfiction. It brings a joyful tear to my eye.

Any last comments, MischiefProlonged?

Can you make me famous? I feel like I could be famous.

MischiefProlonged

Honestly, after reading that wonderful fic, I believe you really could be!

I will be following MischiefProlonged on AO3, because I am eager to see what they do next!

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Well, that’s a wrap on the Weekly Writer. Be sure to check out MischiefProlonged’s fic.

Also can we give them a shout out for those amazing photos?!

Follow me too! M. Grace. The fanfic activist. Keep track of this site’s adventure’s by clicking that follow button.

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M. Grace