I Don't Believe in Real People

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Title: I Don't Believe in Real People
Creator: Justine
Date(s): March 4, 2003
Medium: online
Topic: Fanfiction, RPS, RPF
External Links: I Don't Believe in Real People, Archived version
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I Don't Believe in Real People is an essay by Justine. It considers RPF, actors, the fourth wall, and personal fannish boundaries.

It is part of the Fanfic Symposium series.


I was just now pointed toward a very nicely done piece of fan art, and ran screaming.

The piece in question is a HP photomanip, called "Disarmed," and you can find it from [link offline]. But the part you need to know is that it is a Harry/Snape photomanip (or electronic portrait of some sort), based on images from the films. Whomever X is, X is very talented. And X is even very careful to subtly age the character, so that the Harry in the photograph is, presumably, Old Enough.

But you know what? He still looks an awful lot like Daniel Radcliffe, who at 14 is Not Old Enough. And this made me yelp and close my browser with an eeee! and start thinking again about my Real Person Issue.

I am as far from a Real Person Fan as you can get and still be in fandom.

I mean, I'm not interested in RPS of any sort, but that's not the weird part -- lots of people don't care for RPS, lots of people do, have it your way at Burger King. But I also have no interest in conflating actors and their characters in any way, even for fun, even as a jest or an in-joke or a lark.

In fact, I can almost always tell between photographs of an actor playing a character and actors being people (either selling the show or caught candidly), and do not find the latter pictures remotely intriguing, even the ones of Alyson Hannigan in dishabille. In fact, I don't even like fan art if I can recognize the photo reference and I know that the original picture was not of the character.
... when people start talking possessively about their actors, or start hunting actors down at cons, or -- so help me -- showing their slash to an actor!?! Ye gods, I want nothing to do with these people. I want them confined to a desolate island with no internet and no hope of TiVo.

I mean, I like certain actors' work and find certain actors attractive, but I just don't interact fannishly with actors. One day I might possibly send a professional whose work I really, truly admire a note saying "I really, truly admire your work. Best wishes." I haven't yet and don't think it's likely. I have written to executive producers, however, to say that I like such and thus a character, and that they'd better breathe life back into that character's corpse next season or I'm buying my dishwashing detergent elsewhere.

Speaking of which, let's consider my undying love for Blair Sandburg. He looks a lot like Garett Maggart, because Garett Maggart played Blair and therefore instilled him with certain admirable physical qualities (a rough-sweet baritone voice, and a high-pitched funny laugh, and an ass that never should have spent three seasons covered in flannel). Because I liked the way he played Blair, I'll take a look at the next bit of work Garett Maggart gets. But he's not Blair Sandburg -- not my geeky anthropologist-turned-cop with a collection of Zuni fetishes and weird taste in food and inexhaustible courage and fiercely beautiful anger. He's just the actor who, with his reasonable amount of talent, conveyed those things on camera.

Richard Burgi and Garett Maggart are two guys with agents and a job. Pet Fly is a production company that needs to associate itself with a reliable scriptwriter. UPN is a deservedly failing network. The city of Cascade, the fates of Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg (and all their strange associates) belong to the realm of story. I sense a difference there that allows me to be a media fan and sincerely not believe I'm stealing anyone's livelihood.

I think this is why, over time, I have become a fan of increasingly text-based fandoms. I'm a fan of archetypes (Buffy, TS, SG-1, DS), of comic books and novels. One of the things I love about comics series, for example, is that we don't exactly know what the characters look like. This is one of the reasons comics superheroes, drawn by different artists in different styles, have such vibrant costuming -- we all agree that Batman is the guy in the cowl and the cape, and that Superman is the guy in the red undies. If you dressed one artist's picture of Superman up in Batman's clothes, well, Clark Kent could own Wayne Manor.