“I don’t mind them writing about the characters, but when they write about us, doing things, with each other… It’s, it’s just, it’s uncomfortable. It’s way too far. ‘Cause it’s like, I mean like, they’re co-workers, they’re like siblings, y’know, you don’t want to read things about you… doing stuff. It’s, oh, god, it’s just, no, terrifying.”
Chris Colfer on fanfiction (x)
Are people actually surprised about this quotation? I know I’m not. Of course he is uncomfortable about it (and I’m pretty sure he’s more repulsed and disturbed than just uncomfortable).
RPF is a part of the fantasy life of a lot of fandoms. Lord of the Rings had a particularly active RPF sub-fandom that almost seemed to dwarf (pun intended) the textual movie fandom, but pretty much every fandom from Supernatural to Smallville to Angel has had its own RPF going on. It’s a fantasy based on the public personae of the actors, another kind of transformative work, and of course it’s a little iffy. You’re putting words and actions onto a real person. But when written and shared properly, it’s no more iffy than a mystery novel about Napoleon or Lady Jane Grey. Everybody agrees that it’s not actually really what happened, even when you get a lot of the situational facts correct.
The problem that every fandom in the social media age and particularly the Glee fandom gets into is that the rules of RPF for so many years have been to draw a very firm line between the fandom and the subjects of their RPFing. The first rule of Fight Club and all that. Fans who have mentioned RPF to actors at cons have been hissed and booed at by the people in the room. It’s for us, not for them. Of course it’s going to make them uncomfortable. If people were writing fic about you having sex with your co-worker or friend and sharing it everywhere, you’d be uncomfortable, too. Napoleon probably wouldn’t like being characterized as a bumbling sleuth, either. We shouldn’t talk about it with them. It’s not about them; it’s about our perception of who they are in public.
But where Glee fandom fails and fails spectacularly is that not only does some subset of Glee fans seem to believe their own RPF fantasies are real (although it’s the scope in our fandom that is new, not that behavior) but that they also batter the subjects of these fantasies - Chris in particular - with them online and in person. They aren’t just asking a single inappropriate question at a con; they’re sending tweets and IG messages, they’re sending hate to real people, and even when they’re sending supportive messages within that fantasy construct they’re breaking that wall and sending them at all.
Look, I’ve been in fandom a long time. I’m about to hit eleven years here, shockingly enough, and I’ve been part of a nice double-handful of fantastic fandoms. I’ve read quite a bit of RPF, once I got over my initial discomfort with it, and when I started reading Glee fic I read RPF, too. Some of it is amazing and really pulls out some interesting issues around celebrity and personality. They’re transformative works.
I’ve backed way, way, way off from reading it, though, to the point that I pretty much only read one author’s (very clearly not meant to be real) works, because of how our fandom blurs the lines between fantasy and reality to their faces and because of how utterly disrespectful I find that kind of behavior.
I’m sure people are going to unfollow me for writing this post, but honestly if you can’t look in the face how rude it is to tell people that you spend a lot of time thinking about them fucking their friends or even their RL significant others I don’t know how to have a conversation with you, anyway. We all have our fantasies. We all have things we like to think and read about. We can’t police that, even if we don’t all share the same fantasies. Believe and enjoy what you want.
Just don’t talk about it to the actors. And don’t expect them to like it.