Holy shit, if I was eight years younger and wandering into fandom for the first time, I can guarantee that the culture right now would’ve fucked me up and ground me down and taken away all my healthy outlets.
Picture: you are a girl at the tender young age of mumbledyteen. Up until this point you have been taught that all dark thoughts are literally hand-delivered into your head by the devil, and that the only correct method of dealing with negativity is to ignore them and pray harder. Concentrate on what is good and righteous and pure to the exclusion of all else, this is how you be a good person.
You are also a fully-functioning human being, one who can feel stressed or lonely or angry or any number of bad things. Mostly, with emotions that are still working themselves out, you feel this rumbling, white-hot white noise under everything, all the time. Sometimes it rolls in like a thunderstorm and everything else gets drowned out, and sometimes it’s only quietly muttering in the distance. Either way it’s always there, and the sound shreds uncomfortably at the inside of your brain.
When you were younger, before you were in charge of your own media consumption, your brain would shred up a myriad of saccharine stories to try and match the noise of the shredder in your head. Bad things happening, people getting hurt, characters trapped in unhealthy relationships of all kinds.
Fanfiction, the product of a hundred thousand other mumbledyteens whose brains are all screaming the same way, makes something in your brain go ping.
Unfortunately, if the planet had ever been united on any single message, it was probably that no matter how you feel: 1) your feelings weren’t unique 2) they didn’t matter 3) they didn’t matter because they weren’t unique, they were shared among millions of hysterical, worthless teenaged girls just like you.
Fandom was confirmation of the first, but (with some hiccups along the way) outright rejection of the last two. Fuck you, our feelings do matter, and this is a story just for us.
A disclaimer: these aren’t good stories, otherwise they wouldn’t have to be defended. Their flavor of topic is not within societally acceptable bounds. Fictional characters have sex and get tortured and raped and abused, but their screaming harmonizes with the pitch of the shredder when it’s burrowing deepest.
As a teenager I never thought that my feelings were important enough to deal with, but these stories let me look at them sideways. Audience catharsis is the whole point of tragedy, after all.
And hell, these days I’m a happy, healthy adult who barely even has the urge to go looking for whump fic when I’ve had a bad week. I’m not going to forget just how much bad stuff that fic helped me air out, though, not ever. (Not to mention that thanks to all of those abuse!fics, I can recognize an unhealthy relationship at 500 paces, even if the fictional abuse was depicted as something loving and romantic. Abusers in real life don’t go around with helpful warning tags on their sleeves anyway.)
But holy shit, can you imagine if I’d found fandom as it is today.
Yes, your church is right, your family is right. Horrible things in stories are only there because they were written by horrible people, and they’re only popular because horrible people read them. The very concepts they address corrupt everything they touch.
That shredder in your head, the one that takes innocent cartoons but then shits out sadness and mayhem? That’s disgusting, you’re disgusting. How dare you think about minors having underaged sex, you minor? How dare you consider another person getting hurt? Your feelings don’t matter, they aren’t unique, they’re shared with all kinds of worthless shitbags just like you.
Every ounce of what you read and write and enjoy is going to be weighed for sin and tested for purity. You know, just like the rest of your life, except this time there’s no deity who’s handing out second chances.
Maybe that’s what bothers me most about all of this. It’s the same petty fandom bullshit as always, but “you’re wrong for liking a ship because IT WILL NEVER BE CANON” is a hell of a lot easier to laugh off when you’re young than “you’re wrong for liking a ship because YOU’RE AN ABUSIVE PEDOPHILE AND IF SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS IT’S YOUR FAULT FOR PERPETUATING IT.”
My fault, my bad thoughts, no outlet for any of them. The message to repress all the bad things so I can look like a good person, but my brain is so full of unprocessed shit that it’s solidified. Nobody actually saved any real children, but my brain sure is getting a second dose of fucked-up.
Are the people getting attacked going to be okay, will they be able to go and address their braingremlins somewhere else? I’d also ask if the people doing the attacking are okay, with all of the denial and repression they must deal with, but it seems like they’ve got venting pretty well handled by taking it out on strangers.
Hey, c’mon, calm down friends. I bet I’ve read a story that’s got a character screaming at just the same pitch you are.
It helps to read one of those and harmonize your voices, I promise.