If you haven’t noticed by now that Liam Payne did an interview with Attitude Magazine, you must have been living under a rock for the past 24 hours. Or, you know. Actually been doing stuff that wasn’t on the internet. However, I’m not here to talk about anything regarding gay issues – there’s been more than enough coverage of that, even on our very own website. No, Liam’s article lit up a discussion all over the internet that has been on my mind for a very long time even before all of this happened. I thought it deserved some attention after all this craziness.
What I am talking about: The relation between fanart and celebrities.
Fanart – and fanfiction in particular – has been around for as long as we can remember. We’ve all heard of it, or might have even stumbled across a certain fanfic that we can never forget about, introducing us to new pairings that we might not have picked up on at first (Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, anyone?).
What you might not know, is that fanfiction in this form has been around since before the internet was even a thing. Back then, it was published in fanzines that were self-published as a way of spreading their fictional stories. Think Star Trek fanzines. Those Spock and Kirk shippers were hardcore, guys. We could learn a thing or two from them. These fanzines were so low-key that most people didn’t know about it, unless they were involved in the scene. What most people don’t realize, is that even some of our classic literature is in essence a fanfiction version of an older classic. Adaptions exist. Did you even know that Tristan & Iseult is, at its very core, a fanfiction version of the ancient Persian love story Vis and Rãmin? Exactly. Fanfiction is as healthy and normal as it is old.
So why do people still tend to take fanfiction as something that should be ridiculed? Maybe they didn’t mean to make a mockery out of it, but fact is that most of the general public doesn’t understand its use. The discussion that sparked in the past 24 hours is the prime example of this. It happened because of Liam’s quote in Attitude magazine.
He said: “I get a lot of drawings sent to us on the internet. I get tagged in drawings of Louis and Harry being together. I remember this one time, I was sitting next to my dad and I see this picture of me on top of Niall, which was quite intimidating. It’s just really weird to have people drawing these sexually explicit pictures of us in strange situations.”
Fair enough. I’d probably find it a little uncomfortable if I saw explicit pictures of myself and a friend whilst my parents are sitting next to me as well. I get that: fourth walls are important. It’s what he said next that really lit the fire, however: “I don’t think it’s the right hobby for these girls to be enjoying. I find it very strange that someone so young can think up these stories or even imagine these things are going on. That for me is the sad and sorry side of what we have done.”
He isn’t the only celebrity who feels that way and that, exactly, is what the problem is. Because even as old as fanfiction is, there’s the misconception that it is nothing more than explicit drawings from fans who only care about a ship. Fanfiction (and fanart as well, have you seen the talent of these artists? I can’t even draw a stick figure that beautiful) is a lot more than that.
It is an art form that is provided by fans for other fans and, on top of that, is completely free. No one forces these fans to write these stories, no one gets paid. It is essentially art in its purest form. There’s endless stories in endless forms with different sort of poetic structures that I admire more than some of the novels I have waiting for me in my bookcase. Fans find themselves in fanfiction and are able to relate to it: it is young girls, exploring their sexuality in a safe space and learning about sex and life in general in ways that school would never be able to teach them. Fanart is a journey of self-discovery and recognition like no other. Does that really sound like “not the right hobby for girls to be enjoying”?
The drawings that get sent to celebrities on Twitter are only a small part of the story. They don’t tell how the artist of those drawings has spent years and years perfecting the anatomy of the human body. It doesn’t show how many hours they have spent trying to get the drawing just right. It doesn’t show how these artists are cheered on by fans and only because of their peers find the courage to pursue a career in art.
Celebrities don’t know any better, is the thing. They don’t spend their time scouring the internet for beautiful stories about their favourite beautiful people and finding art that goes along with it. How could they? They’re busy enough with their ridiculously controlled lives as it is. They just see the explicit drawings a small portion of the fans are sending them through Twitter (which a lot of artists aren’t comfortable with and should probably not be done in the first place, but that’s a whole other issue). However, it is important that we all become aware of the hard work that lies in fanart, and how it isn’t something to be mocked or you should be made to feel unsafe for.
Of course, there are celebrities that are more conscious of it than others. Dougie Poynter from the band McFly (now part of McBusted) even appreciated it by saying: “The Japanese do manga pictures of us having foursomes – I have so many photos on my phone. Incredibly detailed!” Clearly, he doesn’t mind all that much and understands it’s something that should be admired, despite its sometimes explicit nature and his on-going relationship with singer Ellie Goulding. It’s still not nearly accepted enough, however. We have a long way to go.
If you are a creator of fanart in any way, know that you are appreciated, respected, and most of all admired.There is absolutely nothing wrong with reading, writing or drawing fanart. You are absolutely normal, and remember: don’t ever stop pouring your heart into it, because one day, you might just write the new Tristan and Iseult or become the new Van Gogh.
Wouldn’t want to miss out on that because of some people not understanding what you do, would you?