The use of fanfiction, of any fiction, to illuminate a larger truth is so important. The older I get the less comfortable I am rationalizing away the celebrity obsessed side of our culture that seems to think its okay for people to make a living through aggressive stalking. I get that celebrities make quite a bit more than I do. And, when they are promoting a project, their public lives are fair game. But their economic structure is cyclical and the smart ones have to learn to invest and find other revenue streams. That doesn’t mean they deserve to be hunted so someone else can make a few hundred? thousand? dollars off of their private lives.
It’s not just celebrities who are targeted in our brave new world. We have Big Brother watching us in the guise of the NSA or cameras posted on our streets and algorithms that track us for various corporations. We Little Brother each other every time we post a recording or picture of an acquaintance, stranger, or “friend” online. Consent is so important in all aspects of our lives. We should be teaching our children, reminding our youth, and reminding ourselves that it is not okay to take away other people’s choices even in as simple an act as taking/posting/tagging a picture. In order to live with each other, certain rules have developed, some becoming laws and others relegated to “common courtesy”. This becomes ever more important as we are deluged with information and with platforms on which to express ourselves.
When I started teaching twenty years ago, my personal goal was to help my students learn to think for themselves and be able to communicate their ideas in a variety of settings and situations. Because I am a supremely flawed human being, there was a huge learning curve which reminded me that failure is an important part of the learning (and thinking and growing process). For the last few years my focus has expanded to include teaching my students to become smart consumers of information. Certain skills are vital to successfully wade through life and all the information available online and offline. My students still need to think critically, but I now try to teach them to look at the sources of information, how to check information, how to weigh and measure the information, how to take it in and incorporate it into their frame of reference, how to use the information, and how to (still) effectively communicate that. This is an ongoing process for my students and for me. One of the ways I do this is through the use of literature in all its forms.
Stories matter so much in our world. We tell them all the time. We absorb them as we move through our days. Some stories are true, some are truthish, some are lies, and some are fiction. We have all these stories to entertain us, to teach us, and to inform us. We share these stories for all sorts of reasons. And today I was reminded by reading a tumblr post by @jasminekor and a fic/response by @ionaonie the impact not thinking about all the stories we consume can have. This is why we read and watch and talk and write fanfiction and care about popular culture. This is why we discuss stories and poems and movies in classes. This is why we find lessons we can apply to our lives. This is why each person telling their story in whatever format is so important.
I appreciate each person who has taken the time to write for fun. I appreciate each person who has shared their joy and pain openly. I appreciate the passion people throw at bands or television shows or book series or fanfiction writers. I appreciate the fact that I won’t always agree or be entertained or get to see how it ends. I really appreciate it when I read something that shifts my perspective. I know I’m not alone in this as academics like @deleted-scenes analyze the where and the why of emerging communities and cultures and their stories.