Fanfic Subgenres: Real Person Fics
Posted by Chris Lang on April 14, 2013 at 6:30 PM
Hello and welcome to Fanfic Subgenres, where I take a look at subgenres of fan fiction, and then find examples of those same subgenres in professionally-produced works.
One of the most despised genres of fan fiction is the Real Person Fic. It’s pretty much Exactly What It Says On The Tin. It’s a fictional work involving a real person.
Most of the real people involved in Real Person Fics are celebrities of some sort, be they actors, singers, politicians, or whatever. Some fanfic writer decides to write fics about them, regardless of their being real people and regardless of what the real person, their families, or their lawyers might think about it.
So we have seen tons of real-person fics. Some might be just harmless fluff about a fangirl meeting her favorite singer or something, but some take their obsessions with celebrities in strange, weird, and sometimes disturbing directions.
There have been fics featuring rock stars as superheroes, such as one featuring Gwen Stefani being given Spider-powers. There have been fics where Stephen King encounters a weird creature at a restaurant. And there have been fics where characters from television shows face off against the network executives who cancelled their shows.
Then we come to the disturbing fics. The Paul McCartney male pregnancy fic “It’s All Too Much” (or “It/s All Too Much”, as one fic site called it) is a tame example compared to others (and it wasn’t intended to be serious anyway, as I outlined in my previous article on song-related fics).
Hammohamster has become infamous for writing slash fics involving real people who are NOT gay for each other in real life, such as John McCain and George W. Bush, and Glenn Beck and Barack Obama. But even that’s not as disturbing as ‘Too Weak to Complain’ by Daniela Jackson (supposedly a fan of Michael Jackson) which involves Michael Jackson being molested by his father and his family (all of whom, I feel, would be justified in suing Daniela Jackson for defamation if they read that).
Then there’s the ‘Justin Bieber Daughter Abuse’ fic that appeared a few years ago, painting one of the Jonas Brothers as a sicko (it was removed from fanfiction.net, but might still be circulating on other sites). And even historical persons who died tragically are not exempt from being featured in real person fics — I’ve already gone into ‘Goku and Anne Frank: Until the End Of Time’ in my ‘Top Six WTH Moments In Bad Fanfic’ articles.
Fics like those are probably good enough reasons as to why Real Person Fics are so despised, and not allowed on many fanfiction sites.
However, I would say that another good reason for hating Real Person Fics is because the writers are writing about real people. Mostly people they’ve never met in person, and who they only know by their public personas. It’d be nearly impossible to accurately portray them in a fanfic. So most sensible writers don’t unless they’re writing a clear parody of the celebrities, in which case exaggeration of a celebrity’s public persona CAN work if done right.
However, this is not to say that there aren’t any professionally-done Real Person Fics out there. Far from it.
There’s the movie Being John Malkovich, which is a completely fictitious story involving a real person. However, since the real John Malkovich was on board and played the fictional version of himself, there’s little to complain about here (aside from the various Real Person Fics it inspired with other celebrities having their heads invaded by other people in imitation of the movie’s plot. I’m pretty sure there’s been more than a few of those).
Then there’s the graphic novel that inspired a movie, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This of course suggests that during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was also out killing vampires. We have no idea just what the real Abraham Lincoln would have thought of this movie if he had seen it. Would he have been amused, or would he just shake his head at how people get weird ideas about him?
And of course there’s things like Don Bluth’s Anastasia to consider. It’s largely based on the myth that Anastasia survived the Romanov massacre and went into hiding. And it also portrays Rasputin as an evil sorcerer who cursed the Romanovs and is out to destroy their last remaining heir, Anastasia. Those who studied the history of the Romanovs and Rasputin will know that the film is greatly mistaken about Rasputin’s relationship with the Romanovs.
It could even be argued that the episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess featuring Julius Caesar as an antagonist (don’t ask — that show is just full of anachronisms) are Real Person Fics as well. And of course lots of television shows have featured the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and George Washington in prominent roles in fiction set in historical periods (or time travel pieces, such as Mark Twain meeting the crew of the Enterprise 1701-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation). Those might be considered Real Person Fics as well.
There are no doubt others I could mention here — and I’m not counting things that are based loosely on true events, such as The Sound Of Music, The King And I, Cinderella Man, The Long Riders and many other movies about real persons in the old West. However, things like Billy The Kid vs. Dracula DO qualify as professionally-done real person fics (as I’m pretty sure the story of that film is made up, and not based on an actual meeting between Billy the Kid and Vlad Tepes).
Most of the examples I’ve given of professionally-done Real Person Fics involve historical personages rather than modern day people. But can professionally-done Real Person Fics go too far? Can they be anywhere near as offensive or disturbing as some of the fanfics I mentioned?
Well, a few years back, there was an independent comic book mini-series entitled (and I am NOT making this up) Helen Killer. Its tagline was “See no evil. Hear no evil. Allow no evil.”
And it features Helen Keller as a Secret Service agent with super-powers. The summary goes like this: “At the dawn of the 20th-Century, twenty-one year old college student Helen Keller has a dark secret – science has restored her lost senses and granted her unimaginable power. Will she use it protect herself and her country, or will it destroy them both?”
For those who don’t know, Helen Keller was a real person. An illness caused her to lose both her sight and her hearing, but in spite of her disability, she became a renowned writer, political activist, and lecturer. Her story is considered one of the great inspirational stories, and has been told in biopics such as The Miracle Worker.
However, this four-part independent comic book mini-series from Arcana Studio, titled Helen Killer, portrays her in a truly bizarre fashion. In this series, Helen Keller is given a device invented by Alexander Graham Bell called the Omnicle, which not only restores her ability to see and hear, but gives her super-strength and super agility. She is also given ‘Soul Sight’ which allows her to see a dark aura around those about to commit malicious acts. She uses these abilities to help the government stop anarchists.
The series only lasted four issues, ending in mid-2008, but I really have to wonder just what they were thinking here. Were Andrew Kreisberg, Mark Kauffman, and the others involved in the creation of the series deliberately courting controversy for the sake of getting attention and sales? The basic plot outline sounds very interesting and something that would make for a good story — if it didn’t involve a real life blind and deaf woman as a super-powered secret agent (which she most certainly was not in real life). I’ve only read the plot synopsis, but I still find this to be in questionable taste.
And besides, some would say that Helen Keller’s real-life story of succeeding in spite of disability is awesome enough. There’s no need to make stuff up.
In any case, Real Person Fics, whether you like them or not, exist in professionally-produced fiction too.
Feel free to leave your comments below.