I usually choose not to get involved in fandoms. If I develop a particularly strong love for a piece of work (whether that be a television show, a movie, a comic - whatever), I normally choose to remain an observer. Simply enjoying the gifsets, predictions, and quips that other people come up with is enough for me. But the explosion that was “Fifty Shades of Fanfiction” has been on my mind all day, and I felt the need to actually speak up.
Unfortunately, I’m noticing a lot uncomfortable feelings from both sides of this event. This post by kinstrife sums up most of the discomfort from the fan base, and Kaitlyn’s response makes it pretty clear that she feels bad about posting the video in the first place. And there’s plenty of other, shorter posts about this subject, but the point of this particular post is not to make a list.
But there’s a very important thing that both those directly involved with the show and those who make artwork and fiction based on the show need to keep in mind as they continue to put their work out there. And this goes for every work of fiction (and even some nonfiction), not just Carmilla.
Buckle up, Creampuffs. I’ve got a quick story for you.
In tenth grade, my lit class was assigned Pablo Neruda’s Ode to a Watermelon. The next day we had a class discussion over what the poem was about, and there were plenty of theories - summer, childhood, someone mentioned a parallel to Lord of the Rings. Finally, my teacher asked us, “What would you think if Neruda came in here right now and told you there was no symbolism in this poem? What if he told you it was just about a watermelon?”
And after a few seconds, a girl answered with what remains one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard. “It doesn’t matter. I looked at his poem and saw childhood, so that’s what it is to me. He put his work out there, and what I, personally, do with it is not up to him.”
Watching a web series about a useless lesbian vampire is a little different from reading a poem about a watermelon, but what my classmate said is still relevant. When the cast and crew of Carmilla were writing and working on this series, I highly doubt that their end goal was to inspire smutty fanfiction. In fact, the thought that their work would inspire smutty fanfiction probably didn’t even cross their minds (or maybe it did, I have no idea). The far more relevant point of this incredible work is that it stomps on virtually every overused television trope ever conceived, features strong feminist themes and a powerful rape culture parallel - and let’s not forget the canon interactive social media which creates a sense of immersion that even some of the larger, more widespread fandoms lack.
But what the fans, on a personal level, do with it is not up to the creators, and said fans should never feel unsafe about posting their work.
If there’s a fan out there who is inspired enough to write Hollence smut, they should be able to do so - and proudly. Same goes for Hollstein and LaFerry and OT3 smut. Same goes for the most innocent of fanfics, artwork, Love Will Have Its Sacrifices covers, and whatever else they feel like making. No one should ever feel afraid of the original creator’s reaction to their work, because by making something and sharing it with us, they have, to a certain extent, handed over the reins. They made something for us to enjoy. Now it’s our turn to take it and run with it.
But by that same token, what the creators, on a personal level, do with the fics, art, covers, and all that other jazz is not up to the fans. If we can gush on social media about how much we love Carmilla, about how well- or poorly-done we thought that last episode was, about how adorable Elise’s velociraptor is or how much of a beautiful talented asshole Annie is, then they are allowed to do the same to us. When a fan puts a piece of Carmilla-inspired work on the internet, they put themselves in the same position as the creators of the series do. They are putting something out there for other people to enjoy. If two of those other people happen to be members of the cast, and if those two members of the cast decide to make a video of themselves reacting to said work, then so be it. They shouldn’t have to feel guilty or uncomfortable for enjoying a fan’s reaction to their show.
(And let’s get real, Sharon and Kaitlyn reacted exactly the same way that any of us would have if we read smut featuring ourselves and our friends. At no point in that video did they say or do anything that could be considered deliberately disrespectful towards the author, who gave her permission for the video to be posted.)
Basically what I’m getting at is this: If you put something out there for other people to enjoy, whether it be as an original creator or as a fan, you should never feel ashamed of that work. And if you are reacting to someone else’s work (and your reaction is appropriate), you should never feel bad about expressing yourself.
Let’s continue to make this fandom a positive place.
This blog will now return to its regularly scheduled programming of filtered photographs, tacky quotes, and pictures of girls making out.
The tree of intense summer, invulnerable, is all blue sky, yellow sun, tiredness in drops, is a sword above the roads, a scorched shoe in the cities: the brightness, the world weigh us down, hit us in the eyes with clouds of dust, with sudden fists of gold, they harass the feet with little thorns, with hot stones, and the mouth suffers more than all the toes: the throat gets thirsty, the teeth, the lips and the tongue: we want to drink rivers, the blue night, the South Pole, and then the coolest of all the planets crosses the sky, the round, supreme and celestial watermelon.