In the first semester of my third year of University, which has just passed, I have done a lot of thinking around the idea of the authentic versus the fake. I devoted a whole project to the idea of fandom. I explored the idea that fan work is considered false as opposed to the authentic show, animation, movie, music, or book. I questioned the idea of this opposition. Through this kick ass book, Remix by Lawrence Lessig, I managed to gain a few insights.

First of all, why does fan art exist? Nobody pays anyone to make fan art, even though some of the works will have taken dozens of hours to complete. There must be some passion that is kindled in people, and something releases it with ferocity like the Incredible Hulk.

Secondly, Western media generally works like a one way street. Movies, for example, do an awful lot of work to communicate their story-lines efficiently and clearly. The story being told by the film makers is the one the viewers must read. Very little imagination is needed from the audience.

Thirdly, Japanese media often encourages its viewers to interact with it. Kids are meant to watch Pokemon, but they are also meant to collect, trade and personalize their own set of pocket monsters. They themselves become a Pokemon trainer. They become part of the story.

So it all lead back to the idea of storytelling. In Hollywood they tell the story and you shut up and listen. In Japan they start the story and you join in with it. Ultimately the passion that turns an ordinary viewer into a fan artist comes from the desire to tell stories. I proposed at the end of my project that the very reason for fan work is because it allows anyone to not only view a story, but engage with it on a much more personal level.

The allure of fan work is heightened by the Western media phenomenon of one way traffic. Only the very best get to direct and write Hollywood movies, so their version of the story should be upheld religiously, because it is the best, right? However, in the domain of fan fiction, fan art, or fan comics, any average joe can tell their own version of events. They can say ,” I have another idea.” Then they can create their own art.

There can be no harm in the telling of new stories. The notion that there is a black and white divide, an opposition, between real media and fan media, is an oversight. It will only fuel fan art more and more, because making fan work feels naughty, it’s like a cheeky pick-pocketing of the good art, and anything that’s naughty is usually fun.

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