I can say this as someone who's been involved in fandom: The thing is that fans have no idea what they look like to outsiders.
I know you. I know from this journal that you're intelligent, creative, tolerant of human foibles, shrewd about human stupidity and malice. You're one of the very few people on LJ that I know to be wiser and more mature than myself (considering that a vast majority of LJ users are young enough to be my offspring). Yet you can make a post like this, and my fannish side is amazed that someone as perceptive is you doesn't "get it". My non-fannish side, however, which is, thank goodness, in the ascendant at the moment, wants to point fandom here and say, "Look. This is what you look like to an intelligent, sympathetic outsider. Do you get it now?"
Writing fanfic has been a great writing workshop for me. But my dirty secret, so to speak, is that I don't write fanfic for the shows for which I have the greatest respect. Weak source material tends to inspire more fanfic, in the fannish mentality.
Thank you for this reply.
I only really encountered fandom after signing up with LJ. It baffles me- And I'm surprised- even a little shocked- at the intensity of feeling within the community. What it reminds me of is the way things were within the pagan community during the 90s- at the height of the witch-hunting craze- the difference being that paganism stands for something rather more important than the right to create porny versions of someone else's fictional universe.
I understand what you say about writing practice. And I like it that you never wrote about the shows you really respect. It sort of confirms my feeling that fandom isn't really fandom at all. If you love an artist's work you don't mess with it.
I must have missed the hoo-hah, but I agree with your point. Why use someone else's carefully crafted characters to satisfy your own prurient sexual urges? Not to mention, J.K. Rowling has copyright over these characters, and could easily sue.
It would be one thing to create respectful, well-thought-out stories to continue a series you enjoy and admire for your own enjoyment, but when you use the characters for publicity and then do a flounce, you lose all credibility.
Go to some other, less scrupulous site, indeed!
Yes. It's parasitical, tasteless and crass.
I'd mind less (though I'd still mind a bit) if these weren't children's books.
I thought you'd approve. :)
2007-08-04 03:14 pm (UTC)
Part 1: Fandom & laws
I am a fan. I have been active in fandom for more than 20 years, and lurking at the edges for more than that. I'm not a "big name fan," and I can't speak for all of fandom, but I can offer my answers.Why would you want to mess with someone else's characters when you can create your own?
Why do kids play with Barbies when they can make their own dolls? Why do you drive a car someone else made, on roads someone else made, when you could be hiking on trails of your own? Why do you watch movies and TV shows--and presumably, talk about them--when you could be making your own? Why do gamers play D&D instead of the game their friends created?
Okay, maybe you don't have the skills to do all those things, and fanfic authors *do* have the ability to write. (Um. The better ones, anyway.) But even directors watch other people's movies. And talk about how they'd've done it differently, or how they liked some part, or how the sets over here could've been different and that would've changed the whole scene.
Fanfiction is exploration of and commentary on
the stories. Like essays in a different format.
About the image:
Snape and Harry were not "modeled on Rikhman and Radcliffe." Have you read the books? Do you know how closely R&R resemble the book's descriptions of Snape and Harry? (Snape is, I believe, thinner than Rickman. Which picture-Snape was.)
I've researched the relevant laws. (1) This picture doesn't qualify as "child pornography," because that would require a real human child
. The fictional character "Harry Potter" is not a person, has no civil or legal rights, and can be killed, tortured, raped, or whatever. (2) In order to involve the laws on "Obscene depictions of minors being abused," the picture would (a) need to depict a child (as you noted, debatable), (2a) be "obscene" by the Miller test (which requires judging it by "community standards"--which DOES NOT mean "these three members of the community found it offensive"... and LJ has repeatedly refused to state which community's standards they'll be using), or (2b) depict graphically (which means "visible genitals," which the pic has) a certain list of sexual or tortuous activities (which it does not).
Legally, LJ had no reason to remove this pic.
Aside from that, LJ's stated policy on Child Pornography--which should be the strictest of their rules--state that f, in Abuse Team member's discretion, there is reasonable suspicion that the poster did not know that the image qualifies as child pornography, suspend the user until the user agrees to remove the images, rather than terminate the journal.
Note that all of fandom has been demanding STANDARDS for months--we DO NOT KNOW which things LJ finds too offensive to host.
2007-08-04 03:15 pm (UTC)
Part 2: Morality and Censorship
I don't tell you how to get off. I don't tell you whether it's okay to fantasize that you're Marc Antony with Cleopatra or reenacting the rape of the Sabines or pretending to be Judah and Tamar. I don't tell you you can't (or shouldn't) fantasize about being the evil landlord seducing the farmer's daughter, or the Man With No Name who's enthralled the town whore, or the lead singer of a boy-band with one of his groupies.
FANTASIES don't hurt anyone. We know damn well what the difference is between fantasy and reality--and that's part of why a lot of slashfic doesn't appeal to many people; the twists involved in creating an erotic fantasy mean that even if it's in-character and very plausible (i.e. a lot of House/Wilson stories), it just leaves some people cold.
So if, in my mind, I want to pretend to be one or the other side of "the nasty potions master seduces the young hero" or vice versa... none of your business. If I want to share that fantasy with other people who like it, again, it's not doing any damage to you, them, Snape or Harry. (Especially not to Snape or Harry, who don't even breathe.)
Don't like an erotic look at Harry Potter's universe? Don't read 'em. They tend to be labeled. Don't think there should be an erotic look at the Potterverse? Why not? By the end of the books, he's 17... I know what *I* was doing, sexually, at 17, and it wasn't "a single kiss with a friend I'd known for five years." Why would you think the Potterverse is any more celibate than this one?
I don't think anti-abortion-rights speeches are moral; I think they cause great harm to women and families. I don't think "all unbelievers are going to hell" rants are moral--and I *know* those have caused damage. But I'm not trying to get them removed from the web, because I believe in people's rights to have, and share, their opinions... even when I find those opinions offensive, disgusting, or delusional.
I'll be trotting off to a site that doesn't think "if I find it squicky and offensive, it must be illegal. Or at least immoral. Don't want any immoral stuff on our site."
Umm... why did you friend me, if you feel this way? Is my slash affiliation that well-hidden? (These days, I suppose it might be; my interest list has been stripped since the first strikethrough.)
2007-08-04 03:52 pm (UTC)
Re: Part 2: Morality and Censorship
I don't remember why I friended you. I guess you'd written something I liked. Or maybe you friended me first. I don't remember which way round it was.
I don't hate Fandom. I don't understand it. But I don't hate it. In fact I'm interested in it and would be glad to know more. It's a cultural phenomenon and cultural phenomena interest me.
I've no problem with people trading sexual fantasies- but I think if I were hosting a site and found people were trading fantasies on it that were arguably illegal I'd have no problem telling them to go do it someplace else.
I can see why Fandom is cheesed off with LJ for not giving it better warning. But anyone who wasn't living in the cloud-cuckoo-land of Potter Fandom wouldn't have needed a warning. They would have known in advance that that image was sailing very close to the wind.
I completely agree with you, Tony.
I took a look at the drawing in question, too, and I thought it was creepy and sad and not particularly artistic ... but if fandom wants to obsess about stuff like that, I guess it's up to them.
In today's political and social climate, though, it's naïve and irresponsible of them to self-righteously expect other individuals or entities to enable the distribution of such material. The simple fact is that one of the people portrayed is underage in some jurisdictions, and no matter how you parse the law and the definition of "art," there are overzealous law enforcement types in the US and elsewhere who would eagerly and happily prosecute you for possessing or distributing such stuff. I don't agree with that puritanical attitude, but that's the way some societies are right now ... and it would be both foolish and irresponsible for LJ to ignore that reality. Enabling the distribution of such material exposes LJ to risk, and it exposes its members to risk.
Depending on the jurisdiction in which they live, individual members of the fandom should keep that in mind, as well, for their own protection. And more than anything else, they should stop their self-righteous whining -- it's not justifiable in this case, and it's not making them any friends at all.
I agree with everything you say.
I'm fairly certain this image would be illegal under British law. I guess a lot depends on the skill of the lawyers involved, but anyone who allowed it onto their hard drive would be taking a risk. People have been put on the sex offenders register and even imprisoned for creating or downloading similar stuff.
I don't get it either. I also don't ever *want* to get it despite all attempts for people to want us all to understand why we should.
I will go on record saying I am very against people showing even "fantasies" of any sexual/violent acts with people who are not minors but made to look like minors. In a word, creepy. They can defend themselves until they are blue in the face but I don't want any part of hearing about it. Call me fandom intolerant and thankful.
Like you, I'm not too interested in splitting hairs.
This is an inappropriate image of well-loved characters from a children's book. It exists to be wanked over.
And it makes me angry.
Not sure where I stand -- as with any sane person, I detest child pornography, but I'm not quite sure how harry potter slash [which as various people have pointed out is just one niche of fandom] relates to it. I'm also always a little nervous about labeling other people's desires illegal just because they seem to resemble illegal ones (it's the kind of slippery slope logic that leads people to think BDSM enthusiasts are all rapists in training or something) -- and also nervous about labeling other people's writing reductive or pointless if it uses an author's material without respecting the author's wishes or intentions (it's an over the top example, I know, but Shakespeare took an awful lot from other people, and sometimes in ways they might not have liked).
But that is just my unformed reaction. More to the point, I wanted to see how you'd factor in the following: hasn't daniel radcliffe appeared nude, in sexually charged scenes, on stage?
I'm also always a little nervous about labeling other people's desires illegal just because they seem to resemble illegal ones
Actually, there are no illegal desires. You can have any desires you want, you just don't get to act on all of them.
And that's where I draw the line. If material is fantasy, and it isn't violating anyone else's rights (i.e. having real children do obscene acts) then it shouldn't be illegal. You can hate it, you can be offended by it, and you can rail against it (as poliphilo does here). But you shouldn't put people in jail for it.
I don't get fandom either. For me, the joy--and challenge--of writing fiction is in developing my own characters. I don't have a problem with other people doing fanfic, but I have no desire to write or read it myself. I don't get the thrill.
I don't totally fault LJ for covering their asses, either. They have the right to determine what they will and won't allow on their site. It is infuriating however that they won't provide a clear definition of what those things are to their users. If you have rules, you should share them with the people who are expected to abide by them. And if you don't want to specify your rules because you want to take things on a case-by-case basis, then you can't just jump in and delete people's journals without warning, simply because they didn't know they'd crossed a line.
As for whether people just shouldn't create this stuff given the current political climate--I heartily disagree. Here in the U.S., at least, freedom of speech is being eroded out from under us every day. Not just sexual speech but political speech as well. The solution to this is not just to slink off and refrain from saying anything that might offend someone. That only allows the government to further erode our rights. I realize that most people don't consider slash fiction and criticizing the Bush administration to fall in the same category, but if you stand by and let people silence speech that *you* don't like, who is going to stand up when your speech is being silenced?
Granted, I'm coming at this from a U.S. legal perspective. I'm pretty ignorant about free speech laws in other countries. You mention a man being arrested for downloading fictional child porn, so clearly there are differences (and I'd be interested in hearing about free speech laws in the UK).
I don't get the thrill.
I have no idea why people would want to get up on a stage and say lines and do movements that have been done a thousand times before by different people, but they do, and pretty much every acting department does some Shakespeare plays. You don't have to understand the thrill to understand that some people enjoy it greatly, and others like to see the results.
As for whether people just shouldn't create this stuff given the current political climate--I heartily disagree.
I get tired of hearing "well, they're cracking down on porn--you'd have to be stupid to post it!"
And if you don't want to specify your rules because you want to take things on a case-by-case basis, then you can't just jump in and delete people's journals without warning, simply because they didn't know they'd crossed a line.
That's what the current outcry is over. Not over their actual standards (which would cause plenty of wank, but we're fandom, we'll wank over anything, and we know the difference between "wank" and "real discussion")--but over their refusal to give examples, guidelines, or rules, followed by suspensions that violate their own stated standard procedures.
When pressed for more specific guidelines, they kept hedging with things like "well, graphic descriptions of rape of an 8-year-old..." which in no way relates to this image.
If you want to get an American all lathered up and incapable of rational thought, bring in the concept of rights. Americans will insist, violently and without the least legal justification, that They Have The Right to do whatever they bloody well want to. The actual law or their real rights never get a look-in. It's our national mania, I think.
The inside of someone's head is their own. I don't give a rat's hat if people want to wank over images of Julia Child doing the nasty with a stuffed chicken. But to insist that they have a right to publish their private fantasies on LJ, and that they have the right to do so counter to LJ's TOS, smacks to me of the child who deliberately uses profanity in front of visiting clergy. It's fundamentally an insistence on proving that nobody can stop them from doing what they want to do. (Remember the Flanders & Swann song about the kids running out into the back garden and shouting words they thought were obscene?)
As far as fandom goes, I admit I don't really get it either. I wrote a bit of Star Trek fanfic back in the day (jeez --- twenty-five years ago?), but ultimately _for me_ writing other people's characters amounts to a form of intellectual masturbation. It doesn't do my own writing any good, and any satisfaction I derive from it is fleeting at best. I know this is not the case for some of my friends, so I've decided it's a matter of horses for courses.
In terms of respect/disrespect, I know that for some fen writing fanfic is intended as a deep act of homage. I don't agree with it, but I understand that they truly feel that way. But if I had any of my fiction published and someone wrote any kind of fanfic about it that was not in keeping with my own sense of the story and characters, I would feel raped. And if someone wrote fanfic porn with one of my stories I would feel gang-raped. I can only imagine how JK Rowling must feel about juvenile porn fanfic of her work.
Nobody's saying we have the right to do stuff counter to the TOS. We've been requesting, for MONTHS, clarifications on the TOS. The owner of the community where the two pieces of artwork were, had asked for more details about the TOS.
But if I had any of my fiction published and someone wrote any kind of fanfic about it that was not in keeping with my own sense of the story and characters, I would feel raped.
Matel does not get to tell people "you may only dress Barbie in our outfits, and you may not show her in suggestive poses with Ken. Certainly, you may not pose her naked with G.I. Joe or shave her head and make a mini-crackpipe for her." (They've tried. They're unhappy with the results.) Whatever you intend for the work to inspire, once you release it into the world, it's other people's choice how to react to it.
JKR does not like the erotic stories based on her works--but all her comments have sounded like "Oh, I wish they wouldn't do that," not "those perverts! How dare they!"--possibly because she understands, on some level, that when you create a work for other people to react to and be inspired by, you don't get to choose the reaction.
I don't get it, and never have. I even tried to write fanfic recently and decided that I wouldn't, that I would create my own character, and she turned out to be more interesting and more human than the inspiration. The characters and the story took on their own lives and wandered far away from the original inspiration, becoming themselves and revealing a world that I had no idea was there in my mind.
Writing porn stories using someone else's characters is just crass, to me. It's like those T-shirts they used to sell in the '70s that showed Wile E. Coyote gripping the Roadrunner by the neck with the caption "Beep Beep, My Ass." Or the nauseating bumper stickers in the 80s with Mickey Mouse shooting the bird and something about "Fuck You Iran," or the truck decals of Waterson's Calvin from "Calvin and Hobbes," pissing on everything from Ford emblems to Osama Bin Laden - or worse still in a way, Calvin kneeling before a cross. It's just crass.
I can't imagine wanting to write fanfic. Parody, yes- fanfic, no. There's been a lot of argument (see above) about fanfic being homage and lit crit and parody and whatever- but I'm not convinced.
Fanfic is parasitical- and I'm too proud to be a parasite.
I came here from a link in some comments to a fannish community. I found it interesting to read your perspective, especially since you're looking from the outside. Your reaction is understandable, but I'd like to cross the bridge, if I may.
Now, I am in fandom. And I've been fannish all my life, as in I've been a huge fan of Star Wars
since I was a small child and kept asking my mother to put it on for me. XD But all this censorship and free speech nonsense from other fans is driving me nuts, especially since LJ is a private site and can do as they please with their rules. My main problem is that LJ won't take a stand and just say, unequivocally, what is and what is not allowed. That, and the staff are amazingly unprofessional.
However, fandom is not about porn. The sexually explicit material is part of it, yes, but hardly a large portion. I think this is another problem I'm developing over this situation. Suddenly, everyone thinks that everyone in fandom is there for the porn. I don't even read the stuff, most times (unless an author I favor writes it). I usually read gen, which typically is story, plot, and/or character-focused. So, I know it's hard for you see that in the news
post, but I swear not all of fandom is obsessed with porn, and furthermore, even a larger part is not into fanfiction/fanart. Fandom, technically, includes all fans.
Fandom is about keeping things alive. It allows you to explore what the creators didn't explore, and usually couldn't explore if they were bound by a plot. It's a way to find more of what you love. Now, I do tend to actually write fanfiction for sources I find flawed. I still love them, but that doesn't mean I pretend they're perfect. Either I think they don't tell me the whole story, or I like parts of the story and want to explore more of those parts. If a story is flawless or close to flawless, I am simply content with the source. And fandom is also about community. What's better than getting together with fellow fans to discuss something you like?
As for original characters, I consider fanfiction a sort of testing ground. I've learned a lot of wonderful advice about writing from fellow fans, readers, and even the occasional troll. And the more you write, the better you get at it. So, for me at least, it's like practice. Besides, I'm a college student, and I want to hone my craft a bit before I have to stand before a panel of critics to defend my thesis. XD
I can see how you might find it disrespectful for fanworks to be created, but fandom isn't about the creator. They care about the story. Furthermore, most creators are ambivalent towards fanfiction. They recognize that fandom generates excitement, new fans, more revenue, etc., and so long as it keeps out of sight and mind (to them) and doesn't make a profit, most creators/companies turn a blind eye. Well, most of the time. Yet, they never successfully have squashed fandom, and I doubt they ever will. It's silly to alienate your fanbase.
And while I understand your "moral" point (though I don't really agree that it is a moral point), there are adult fans of children's books and movies, and sometimes they want to explore the more "adult" side (not saying necessarily porn, but also more nuanced emotions and aspects of the stories and characters). I am not defending the piece of art in question, nor am I condemning it. I'm simply trying to explain the mentality behind it.
Also, I fail to see how depicting a character that you play in a movie is defamation of character or libel. The actors lend their appearances to the characters, but do not become the characters. Harry Potter and whatnot don't really exist, so how can you defame their character? XD It is, probably, a copyright issue, and in some cases, an "obscenity" issue.
Mostly, I'm just sad that other fans are overreacting so badly that they're embarrassing the rest of us, and giving outsiders such an awful impression of the entire group.
I think there's a difference between Harry Potter- with it's single creator- and franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars and Dr Who which have multiple creators and a ceaseless flow of product. Is an officially sanctioned Star Wars novel so very different from a piece of fanfic? Maybe, but not by many degrees.
I've never had a problem with Trekkers or Star Wars fans. I'm not attracted by the world of fandom but I can see how it might be fun to go to conventions and learn to speak Klingon and all that kind of thing. Fanfic in these fandoms is legitimised by the encouragment and indulgence of the franchise holders.
Rowling, however, is closely identified with her creation and has kept fairly tight control of its development; she has even- as few writers do- supervised the making of the films. I think her ownership of the work- her artistic integrity- should be respected. If I were her I'd be annoyed and upset by fanfic that plays fast and loose with the characters.
I don't believe in censorship. If I'd run into the disputed image by chance I wouldn't have gone running to the cops. By the time I arrived on the scene it was already controversial. There are times to take a stand and there are times to bow out gracefully and I think- as I believe you do- that this particular image wasn't worth getting into a fight about- and that those who are getting all huffy with LJ about it aren't doing themselves any good.
Maybe the image isn't illegal under US law (though i think it would be in the UK) but I reckon LJ was wise to take it down before the question was submitted to the courts
Congratulations on finding a topic with some real legs under it, but with tempests like these blowing through, you might consider relocating to a bigger teacup.
There seem to be two issues coming to the fore in this lively exchange: acceptable depictions of sexual activity and the exclusive rights of a writer to the characters they create. The first is disposed of the easiest: if prevaling laws or mores frown on such things, it may and probably will be restricted. The reasons don't particularly matter. In Iran they'll say one thing, in the UK another. There will never be any sorting it out to everyone's satisfaction and in my experience the claim that "we must protect our precious sprogs" is often just a thin veil for enforcement of local social norms.
The second point, whether Rowling or any writer can reasonably expect her characters be kept pure and pristine, baffles me and is in any case effectively moot. People of whatever age read material like Harry Potter for the escape from reality they provide, not because it qualifies as Art with a capital "A". I don't think it particularly surprising that some fans would filch a few elements here and there and press on further into fantasies of their own, even those that others might find unwholesome. The originating author has cast her bread upon the waters and reaped the reward she sought in doing so. It's a little late to worry about unintended consequences.
Saying that Harry Potter is children's literature and therefore somehow sacred is a very thin reed, I think. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland was also kiddy lit, authored by a man of kiddy-twiddling tendencies, and is beloved and kept alive perhaps more by adults than kids. The Tale of the One-Thousand Nights and A Night, once the sexy bits were edited out, became a mainstay of children's literature, but was not composed with that exclusive end-use in mind. For the Bedouin sitting around a campfire, it was quality family entertainment, sex and all.
Apparently Rowling is happy for people to write fanfic so long as it isn't porn. She could probably enforce her wishes through the courts if she wanted to- but she hasn't and I think that's because she's a fundamentally nice person. I think it's good manners to respect her wishes.
Carroll was a paedophile, but one who behaved with the utmost decorum and rectitude. Paedophilia is a psycho-sexual condition, those who suffer from it can't help it and those of them (like Carroll) who control their urges and never harm a child deserve to be honoured. There's nothing remotely creepy about the Alice books and I'd be cross with anybody who used Carroll's imagery to create paedophile porn.
I've no problem with kids reading the 1,000 and One Nights or other books with sex in them. I think that's a different issue altogether.
Ah, various different issues here. Two of them come down to roughly the same thing - definitions. Is something obscene or art? Depends on your definition, as someone pointed out earlier. Is something fan fiction? Depends on your definition. Think of Jill Paton Walsh's follow-ups to Sayers' Lord Peter novels. The Oz books not written by L Frank Baum. The Heidi sequels. Or what about fictionalised historical characters? It's pretty much the same thing. There are (blurry) legal divides, but I don't think they mark an artistic or even moral line.
I like reading fan fiction because it's easier to get involved with the characters, because you already know them. And you get to play with them, like dolls. I don't think it's disrespectful, I actually think it's one of the highest marks of respect you can have for a creator, that their characters are good enough that you want to see them having other adventures. I'm quite surprised that you're so squicked by the fact that it's sex, because you normally seem down to earth about sex, but you haven't specified that you have so much of a problem with general fan fiction/ fan art. I mean, presumably someone could draw a picture of Harry casting a spell and you wouldn't object, it's just when he's doing something sexual that it's wrong?
That brings me on to the "children's books" thing. I don't like that kind of arbitrary divide anyway, unless it's, you know, Peter Rabbit, but I'd say that Harry Potter, and definitely the later books, are family books in the same way that Doctor Who is a family show. And there's been Doctor Who slash fiction out there for decades. I wouldn't like young kids to get hold of the R-rated fanfic for either fandom, but that doesn't mean I think it shouldn't exist.
And somebody's already mentioned it, but late teenager sex just isn't paedophilia. If they're pre-pubescent, it's paedophilia; otherwise it's ephebophilia, and whether it's morally wrong or not comes down to context and background of the relationship and the country they live in. (I remember huge arguments about whether it was OK to fancy Dawn from Buffy, because the actress was 17, so the Americans thought it was paedophilic and the Brits didn't, much like Harry Potter.)
I tend to regard books as canonical only if they're written by the original authors. For example I think there's something a bit naff about the modern "sequels" to Austen's novels- even though they've been written by reputable writers. This is a personal thing. I don't suppose I want to elevate it into a general rule.
And someone has pointed out- earlier in this thread- that Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea- universally regarded as a modern classic- could be classified as Bronte fanfic.
Dr Who slash doesn't bother me. I don't want to read it, but I don't think it's morally objectionable. But there's a miasma of paedophilia round Potter slash that makes me queasy. I've read all the arguments about the image in question not being paedophiliac, but I suspect they wouldn't necessarily hold up in a court of law.