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[personal profile] randomramblings
Disclaimer: There are always exceptions. In no way is this writer pointing anyone out.

First off, my thanks must go to [personal profile] hellkitty  for inspiring this.  She handled my mass communication geekery with splendid grace and agility.  She also brought up the point of the third-person effect in relation to writing fanfiction as a current trend.  Any mistakes you find and controversial opinions that offend you are mine and mine alone.  Our late-night conversations bring me far more enjoyment than you may ever know.

Fanfiction, most of us know, is an outlet for our emotions, our ideas, and our dreams—it is what we want to see happen (or sometimes rather not see), but know will never exist.  But if you delve deeper, one may see that it is a reflection of ourselves and our attitudes towards media.  Mass media, as a whole, is able to shape and change our society and culture.  From magazines, young men and women have garnered what is "real" beauty.  From movies, the younger generation is being taught "appropriate" ways to look and act.  And from the internet, we are moving away from face-to-face communication and exercising our power of free speech.  However, for those who have not yet developed their media literacy, we may wave this off as nonsense.  Instead, we will take upon the "third-person effect".  "These ideas the media portrays affects them, not us," we might say.  "Our ideals certainly aren't affected."  But are they really?

I have previously mentioned that fanfiction provides an outlet to express ourselves as writers, but, even indirectly, it also is a reflection of our ideals.  Whether we like it or not, we are shaped by at least some kind of mass medium.  The role fanfiction plays in this can go one of two ways.  We can either brush off the fact that the fandom we are writing in, as well as the influence of other media we partake in, shapes what we write about, or we can admit that we see how the media affects us and use fanfiction to fight against that.

We can see examples of the former in fanfiction nearly all the time.  This isn't to say that those who do not go against the norm write bad!fic, necessarily, but many times, we see fanfiction labelled with the "American Dream" in an indirect fashion.  A happy family, a child (or expecting a child), and true love.  In this essay, I'm not going to go into the fact that this notion usually provides for very OOC characterizations, but the point is that this is how many of us have been raised.  The opposite, in modern media, is also true.  Feminine characterizations usually prove, especially in romance pieces, that the male needs to dominate, that women play coy and hard to get—sometimes even unaware of the other's advances, despite blatant meanings—and that one-night stands are no big deal.  The most recent trend that has been seen in publishing is the genre of "teen goth"—stories geared towards the eleven to seventeen year-old demographic dealing with topics such as death, gore, suicide, and depression—and this inevitably influences the work of younger generations (I am, hypocritically, not excluded from this trend).  We all want to emulate our favorite author somehow.  By going with the flow of mass media trends and genres blindly, however, seems to create the idea that, "well, just because I write it doesn't mean that I actually feel the subject matter I'm writing about."

Now, this isn't to say that one has to be media literate to write fanfiction, not at all (I, myself, have been writing fanfiction since before I even knew what media literacy was).  Nor am I saying that writing about any of these subjects are wrong.  Media trends and subjects shift over time, covering practically any subject there is to know or consider.  The problem lies, however, when we begin to make light of subject matter that media has come to allow our society okay to portray.

Let us take, for instance, rape fic.

Recently, a disturbing trend that rape should be glorified has appeared in media.  Perhaps it comes from bodice ripper novels, or maybe all the violence and allusions to it on television programming, but wherever it comes from, many rape fic either is not actual "rape", boarding on the line of dub-con, or the writer does make it the filthy, dirty topic that it is, it is not always met with disgust.  If we look in the "Pit of Voles", we will find glowing reviews for many a rape fic, including comments that state "this is HOT!"  Can rape be handled to make a good plot device?  Certainly.  But because of the third-person effect, most of the time, the point of the story is not being received properly by the audience.

So how can we rebel against the ideals of mass media with fanfic?  For one, being media aware.  By developing media literacy, you will be able to achieve a more appropriate reaction from your audience with your writing as well as what reactions you can expect.  Secondly, you can incorporate something that is the opposite of the trend you are trying to reflect.  I think of Desire Under the Elms when I state this.  This play rebelled against the "American Dream".  Finally, and this should be obvious, you can incorporate your own ideals.  In this, you can influence others with your contribution to the internet and fanfiction as a mass medium.
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