Real person fiction

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Real person fiction or real people fiction (RPF) is a genre of writing similar to fan fiction, but featuring celebrities or other real people.[1]

Before the term "real person fiction" (or "real people fiction"[2]) came into common usage, fans came up with a variety of terms, which are still used for specific genres or cultural practices in the RPF community; for example, bandfic, popslash,[3] or actorfic.[4] The genre includes stories about actors, athletes, comedians, historical figures, musicians, newsworthy people, and reality show contestants among others, as well as fiction about the fans themselves.

Description[edit]

In general, the authors seem to adopt the public personas of the celebrities in question as their own characters, building a fictional universe based on the supposed real-life histories of their idols. Information from interviews, documentaries, music videos, and other publicity sources are assimilated into the stories. It is also very popular to write fiction about celebrity couples. Communities of writers build collective archetypes based on the celebrities' public personas. Communities also develop their own ethics on what sort of stories are acceptable – some are uncomfortable with slash fiction, or with mention of the celebrity's real-life families, or with stories involving suicide, murder, or rape. Like most fan fiction, the RPF genre includes stories of every kind, from innocuous to sadistic to pornographic. Like many fan fiction writers whose subject matter is commercially prepared entertainment, particularly before the advent of the Internet, a number of RPF authors report that they began writing on their own, without any awareness of a larger fan fiction community, and were surprised to learn that they were not alone.[citation needed] Many report having been completely unaware of media fandom's taboo towards RPF; that is, many fans believe it is acceptable to write about the characters, but not about the actors who portray them.

Depictions of actors in RPF stories are often heavily influenced by characters the actors portray. For example, in RPF based around The Lord of the Rings, Viggo Mortensen is frequently shown as taking an Aragorn-like leadership role, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are lighthearted Hobbit-like pranksters, and Elijah Wood is more physically fragile and emotionally vulnerable than his colleagues.

A significant minority of such stories take the form of "Mary Sue fanfiction",[5] which feature a "Mary Sue" character, usually but not always female, who is described in extremely idealistic terms and is described as a wish-fulfillment image of the author. A Mary Sue may become romantically involved with a band member or actor, join a film cast, prove to have superior acting or singing ability, and/or possess incredible beauty.

Politician fic is sometimes used as a form of satire, or to highlight the underlying biases or attitudes of the politician being portrayed, although more recently there has been an increase in more 'ordinary' fanfiction about British politicians in particular, with a notable emphasis on slash.[6]

History[edit]

Real person fiction has a long history. William Shakespeare's history plays are sometimes considered early examples of RPF,[7] and the Brontë children wrote RPF from 1826 to approximately 1844. Based on the children's roleplaying game about the Napoleonic Wars, the series featured the Duke of Wellington and his two (actual) sons Charles and Arthur, and their nemesis Alexander Percy, partly based on Napoleon. Over the years, Arthur evolved into an amazingly charismatic and powerful figure, the Duke of Zamorna. Percy became a tragic villain, partly inspired by John Milton's version of Satan from Paradise Lost. These stories were not published until well over a hundred years later, but the children used them to polish their writing skills and eventually all became professional authors.[8]

During the 1940s, the Whitman Publishing Company released authorized real person fiction,[9] possibly as a boost to the careers of the Hollywood stars of that era. Described as "The Newest, Up-To-The-Minute Mystery and Adventure Stories for Boys and Girls, featuring your favorite characters", a variety of famous actors and actresses were spotlighted, including Ginger Rogers, Betty Grable, John Payne, Ann Sheridan, Jane Withers, Bonita Granville, Gene Autry, Deanna Durbin and Ann Rutherford. The hardcover publications had colorful dustjackets with a photo of the celebrity on the front, and several illustrations of the actor or actress inside the volume. Liberties were taken with the identities of the celebrities; for example, in the story "Ginger Rogers and the Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak", the "Ginger Rogers" character is not an actress at all, but is instead a telephone operator who becomes involved in a mystery.

The original edition of the "Three Investigators" children's crime series was billed as "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators", with Hitchcock as mentor to the eponymous heroes.[10]

Jean Lorrah's "Visit to a Weird Planet",[11] published in Spockanalia 3 (1968), was a lighthearted two-parter about what would happen if a transporter malfunction caused the Star Trek characters to be swapped with the 20th-century actors who played them. Regina Marvinny, editor of Tricorder Readings, encouraged fans in the early 1970s to write "what-if" stories about meeting Leonard Nimoy. However, some of the earliest known published cases of RPF come from 1977, when fanzines of the band Led Zeppelin began to print some of the fan fiction being written. Due to the fact that these stories involved real Zeppelin band members, most notably Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, names were changed to pseudonyms such as "Tris" and "Alex".

Starting in 1984, Elliot Roosevelt wrote a series of detective novels casting his real-life mother Eleanor Roosevelt in the role of a crime solving sleuth, with titles like Murder and the First Lady, Murder in the Oval Office, and Murder in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Real person fiction about musicians dates back to at least the 1970s, when slash fiction about bands - particularly Led Zeppelin - became popular. It circulated in fanzines in the 1980s and 1990s and moving online in the 1990s.[12][13][4]

The RPF community was, for a period of time, centered on the website FanFiction.Net. When the RPF section was removed from FanFiction.Net in 2002,[13] the community dispersed to smaller web archives and LiveJournal communities. RPF is generally totally absent from Usenet, especially in older and more established newsgroups. Until it shut down in 2014, Quizilla was a popular website for publishing RPF.

The website The Nifty Archive was a notable repository of boy band and celebrity erotica. Other music-related RPF websites include rockfic.com for RPF involving rock stars (its inaugural story was a slash pairing between Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett), and Metal Fic, specifically for heavy metal artists.

Another popular website for RPF chosen by youth fanfic writers is Winglin.net or Asianfanfics.com, which is more commonly centered on Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese or Chinese musicians and actors, like TVXQ, Super Junior, Big Bang, SHINee, EXO, Mike He, S.H.E, and others.

In 2009, the Organization for Transformative Works launched the website Archive of Our Own, which included categories for RPF.

Controversy[edit]

Morality and legality[edit]

The morality of real person fiction is debated. Most RPF authors state that they have no intent to claim these fictional portrayals reflect the real activities of the "source figure" in any way.

Some authors of traditional fan fiction view real person fiction with suspicion, disdain, or outright disgust. Some feel that fanfic based on fictional characters is on shaky enough legal ground, barely tolerated by the authors, producers, copyright owners of the original works and that RPF, especially real person slash, may turn corporate and public opinion against fan fiction as a whole.[citation needed]

The often included disclaimer in story headers, stating that the work is pure fiction, has so far protected real person fiction from slander and libel.

The first known case of legal action being taken as a result of RPF is from 2003, when FanDomination.net received a cease and desist order from a representative of baseball player Andy Pettitte.[14]

Real person slash[edit]

Real person slash (RPS), also known in some circles as real-life slash (RLS), involves relationships. (See slash fiction for more on the subtleties and variations in definition.) These are usually complete fabrications, not based on any real-life indications of the subject's sexual orientation, but on the fantasies of the author and the desire to experiment with perceived or invented erotic subtext between the idols in question. Slash is roughly equal in popularity to less controversial types of real person fiction.

The content of the stories can range from the mildly romantic, involving deep friendships and innocent crushes, to carefully written love stories, all the way to explicit erotica.

With the advent of bands, fans wrote an explosion of fictional stories about members being involved in romantic relations with one another. In the 1990s, early online RPS communities were devoted to depictions of bands. Most band-related RPF was slash fiction. Older RPF communities also began to see a rise in slash content, in contrast to earlier stories, which had generally featured original (non-"canon") characters as partners for band members.

As slash became more acceptable, the amount of explicit sexual content in the stories also began to rise. Erotic fan stories have existed for as long as other types of fanfic, but they were often a closed-door affair, circulated only in private among friends, and it is unclear whether sexual content was a common theme.[citation needed] With the advent of the Internet (allowing easy distribution of stories and relative anonymity for authors), stories with explicit content suddenly became much more widespread.

Due to the potentially libelous nature of some stories, and the knowledge or fear that some celebrities dislike slash fiction involving themselves, some fan fiction communities denounce RPS fiction and do not allow it on their websites.

This type of RPF also brings up issues of consent[15] and objectification of real people.[2]

Reaction[edit]

In 2008, a man was arrested in the UK for writing and publishing on the internet a story featuring various members of the band Girls Aloud under the Obscene Publications Act.[16] The story described the kidnap, rape and murder of the girls. He was subsequently tried (the R v Walker trial) and found not guilty,[17] and claimed that he had never intended to frighten or intimidate the band members.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fathallah, Judith (2018-12-01). "Reading real person fiction as digital fiction: An argument for new perspectives". Convergence. 24 (6): 568–586. doi:10.1177/1354856516688624. ISSN 1354-8565. S2CID 148751639.
  2. ^ a b Fanlore: RPF. Accessed 2013-01-03
  3. ^ Hirsch, Afua (2009-07-03). "How to police popslash". the Guardian. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  4. ^ a b Hale, Laura (2014-03-21). "Bandfic as RPF". Spacial Anomaly.
  5. ^ Based on a survey from FanDomination.net
  6. ^ Le Conte, Marie. "Members in Parliament: the ups and downs of political porn". The Face. Retrieved 2021-09-07.
  7. ^ Stitch (2021-08-11). "What's the Deal With Real Person Fiction?". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  8. ^ Ratchford, Fannie Elizabeth (1941). The Brontës' web of childhood. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-89231-5. OCLC 565522099.
  9. ^ Valentine, Genevieve (2016-12-01). "Ginger Rogers And The Case Of The Authorized Editions". NPR. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  10. ^ Barnett, David (2010-09-23). "On the trail of the Three Investigators". the Guardian. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  11. ^ Lorrah, Jean, Visit to a Weird Planet Archived 2007-01-27 at the Wayback Machine Originally appeared in Spockanalia 3, Fall 1968. Retrieved on 2007-01-20.
  12. ^ Hoad, Catherine (2017-03-01). "Slashing through the boundaries: Heavy metal fandom, fan fiction and girl cultures". Metal Music Studies. 3 (1): 5–22. doi:10.1386/mms.3.1.5_1. ISSN 2052-3998.
  13. ^ a b Minkel, Elizabeth (2018-11-08). "The online free speech debate is raging in fan fiction, too". The Verge. Retrieved 2021-09-08.
  14. ^ Eric, Littleton, Chad (2011-06-27). The Role of Feedback in Two Fanfiction Writing Groups. OCLC 748282352.
  15. ^ "The Dubious Ethics of "Real-Person Fiction" – Dark(ish) Web – Medium". 2018-03-19. Archived from the original on 2018-03-19. Retrieved 2021-06-28.
  16. ^ Leather, Melanie (2 October 2008). "Man charged over Girls Aloud 'porn murder blog'". The Independent.
  17. ^ "Man cleared over Girls Aloud blog". BBC News. 29 June 2009.

External links[edit]