Friday, September 21, 2012

When Fandom Moves to Real Life

'Edward & Bella Fan Art' photo (c) 2009, Angie22Arts - license:
Anyone who has spent any time in fandom has seen how very very attached fans can get to their One True Pairing (or OTP) - entire fandom wars have been fought over which couple is the bestest, most truest, most romantic and, of course, hottest of them all. A lot of this just results in lots and lots of fanfiction battles and the ship wars that are sometimes fun and often cringeworthy to witness - but rarely troublesome (though they certainly can be).

But sometimes it’s as though these people have forgotten that the sources of their obsession are fictional characters. And there’s no clearer evidence of this than when those pairings spill into real life and people invest their OTP love into real people - and when those real people disappoint them we see:

Celebrity couples are always going to be fodder for gossip and entertainment rags, but when it comes to couples like Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder and Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer, fandom creates an extra level of scrutiny because they become invested in the actors as though they are  living the lives of the characters they play. When these relationships end or have a public meltdown, it threatens the fantasy that people have come to embrace. While, again, this is usually just fun fulfillment, it can also go to very unpleasant places, as is seen by some fans' reactions to Kristen Stewart cheating on Robert Pattinson - causing her to apologise to the fans for some bizarre reason.  There was even speculation that this incident could seriously impact her career.  Really people? 

There seems to be little separation in the mind between Robert Pattinson and Edward Cullen, or  Bill Compton and Stephen Moyer, or in fact, any of the other actors, who happen to be on a show which is based upon the supernatural.  Once you are typecast in this kind of circle, it can be really hard to escape the association in people’s minds. Haven’t you ever wondered what goes through the mind of the fan who thinks it’s a good idea to walk up to an actor who plays a vampire and ask to be bitten?  BITTEN. It’s one thing to get a little squee when meeting an actor one admires and another matter entirely to have a complete break with reality.

I am particularly amused by the fans who throw outright tantrums when an author does not end a series the way that they wanted or expected (Harry Potter fans on the last book, anyone?) It takes some kind of nerve to tell the author that their ending was wrong. It’s wrong I say. Shame, for very shame. It’s one thing to be irritated by massive cliffhanger followed by a long wait for the next book (Diana Rowland, Nicole Peeler, yes we’re looking at you, yes yes we are! Making us wait! Don’t make us fanpoodle!) or even complain when an author seems to be throwing their own cannon and characterisation out the window (Charlaine Harris) and quite another to tell an author that they’re Writing Their Creation Wrong.

When it comes to speculative fiction, fandom takes at times what could be considered to be unreasonable ownership of the characters, actors and writers.  This is all deemed okay because one had declared oneself to be a fan. To be a fan of speculative fiction, one has to suspend reality to invest in werewolves, vampires, fae and magic. The very nature of the genre encourages a disassociation with reality but there should be limits. Yes, love the fantastical, but remember that you are dealing with real people.  Just because this is a fantasy that you have come to embrace does not mean that the actors have.  When you look at the blending of reality and fantasy, Daniel Radcliff’s hunting down nude roles to try and flee the shadow of his Harry Potter character, seems much more understandable.