Much like any other creative outlet, fandom can provide you with the tools to question and explore some of the more difficult aspects of the world around us. There are so many emotive and controversial subjects out there (if not to you, then perhaps to others) that it may in fact be difficult not to come across them in your particular fandom. Issues such as mental illness, abusive relationships and discrimination provoke discussion and critique but they can also provide you with valuable ideas and themes to explore.
In a world already filled with drama and strife, why would anyone want to explore complex and emotional issues when they could just focus on the fluff and happiness? Good question people and one that doesn’t really have a simple answer. There are many reasons why a fan may decide to explore a particular issue in their creative work.
In some cases, it may be an issue which explicitly arises in the fandom’s universe. For example, throughout the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling frequently explores discrimination between wizards and other non/magical beings such as muggles, elves and goblins. The themes of difference and inequality in the Potter verse could prove a fascinating point to start examining similar issues in the real world. In the Being Human verse, vampires such as Mitchell and Hal, often use the terminology of addiction to explain their cravings for blood – this raises interesting questions about the nature of vampires and to what extent their condition is medically comparable to alcoholics or drug addicts. The day to day sexism experienced by Ingrid in the Young Dracula verse may encourage some aspiring authors to explore feminist issues in their fanfiction. The nature of Bella and Edward’s relationship in Twilight has been subjected to intense scrutiny but it could still prompt a fan to question what exactly does romantic love mean to them and what form should it take?
However, sometimes, the issue isn’t directly raised or addressed by the original source material. Instead, an idea or question can be triggered by something in the verse – perhaps a strained relationship between two characters prompts a theory. Two of the best issue-based fanfictions that I’ve ever read focused on the complex relationships between family members. The first fanfiction focused on Percy Weasley and why he appeared to choose his career at the Ministry of Magic over his family. The author took an underexplored character and developed a heartbreakingly believable story about how families can influence and shape a person’s character. In particular, the author paid close attention to the context of Percy’s early infancy and how the war against the Dark Lord impacted on a small child not fully able to understand why their family was in hiding and why his father couldn’t spend much time with him. The second fanfiction examined the fascinating relationship between two brilliant siblings – Sherlock and Mycroft. The author theorised that the Holmes father was physically and emotionally abusive towards only Sherlock and this selective mistreatment of the one brother, alongside Mycroft’s inability, as a child himself, to prevent the abuse, shaped both the characters of the Holmes brothers and the dynamics of their relationship. Although emotionally difficult to read, this piece of fanfiction was excellently researched and sensitively written with the author acknowledging at the outset that they were trying to address an emotive and difficult issue. Although, the two examples I have mentioned focus on fanfiction, it is possible to use almost any creative medium to explore issues. For more information about the different types of fandom activities that you can engage with, why not check out our latest series on Forms of Fandom?
Of course, there are many other reasons why a fan may seek to explore certain issues. Perhaps, you would like to raise awareness of a particular problem such as homelessness or parental abuse. Such issues are certainly becoming less taboo, however they can still be difficult to discuss and there may be any number of misconceptions surrounding them. Fandom may offer you a safe space to discuss or examine these issues. Perhaps, you hope that your vlog will encourage others to re-examine their attitude towards a particular group in society. Or, perhaps, that your artwork will encourage fans to think about a lesser liked character from a slightly different perspective. Perhaps, you want to reach out to others in the fandom (and beyond) and reassure them that they or their families or their friends are not the only ones to experience these difficulties. In my opinion, all of the above and more besides, are excellent reasons for taking a risk, doing some research and trying to create something different.
However, there are pitfalls to exploring issues in your fan-based work. It is entirely possible, particularly on emotive and controversial issues, that others in your fandom will disagree with your interpretation of a character or a storyline. Perhaps, they think that the character would have chosen differently when faced with a moral dilemma or they don’t understand how you have interpreted the storyline from such a different perspective to theirs. It is perhaps inevitable that on some issues there will be differences of opinion. However, by checking out our tips, hopefully you can minimise these risks.
As fans, we are a pretty diverse group of people, with different views, life experiences, knowledge and perspectives on issues within and out of our various fandoms. Films, television shows and books, just to list a few, can all raise some interesting but difficult questions about issues which may be relevant to our lives. As fans, we shouldn’t be frightened of exploring those issues or of trying to answer some of those important questions. After all, who knows, maybe that is exactly what the original creators were hoping for…
Red Hamilton (is in a serious mood this fortnight …)
Looking to explore something serious in your fandom discussions or fanworks? Here are our tips. Because we care.