Aged Up

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Synonyms:
See also: futurefic, de-aging
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Aged Up is the term for a character in a fanwork who's been set to an age notably older than they are (or appear) in the original media.

This is commonly done in fandoms where the characters are children/teenagers, to show them as adults: having jobs, relationships, and/or living conditions that are not plausible at their original ages. Futurefic often involves aging up characters. Aging up is also used to avoid depicting underage sex or intimate relationships that aren't appropriate for the canon ages. And sometimes, the fic or art maker just wants to explore an older version of a character.

Works that involve aged-up characters sometimes have author's notes explaining the change and their reasons for it. Some fans consider aging-up a form of universe alteration.

fan design of an Aged Up Dipper Pines by life-writer which gained over 60k notes

Example Fandoms

This trope is particularly popular in fandoms where a large number of characters are children.

  • Harry Potter: before the release of the last books, it was common to age up certain characters such as The Golden Trio or the Slytherin students;
  • Boku no Hero Academia: focused on high school superhero students, the majority of aged up works in that fandom are set after the characters have graduated and are working as Pro-Heroes;
  • South Park's main characters are all small children, so its common to age them up;
  • Gravity Falls has many future fic and fix it stories in which the characters are older;
  • Steven Universe's fandom sometimes ages up Steven and Connie, but not usually for NSFW content;
  • Invader Zim: a science fiction story about grade-school students and aliens, so aging up the characters for fanfic is common;
  • ASOIAF/Game of Thrones: many characters are in their teens (or even early teens) in canon, so it is not unusual for them to be aged up.
  • DC Comics has several teen superhero groups; aged-up fics where they are now the adult superheros are common.

Fan Opinion

Controversy

In the late 2010s and early 2020s, this trope generated a lot of fannish controversy. Some fans believe that the purpose of aging-up characters is to justify erotic stories about child characters. That is, these fans believe that aged up fanworks are stealth underage fanworks. They are suspicious of any fan who creates adult content based on characters who are children in canon. Despite there being no evidence of any connection between aging up characters in fanfiction and any form of child abuse in real life, some fans even go so far as to label fans of aged-up characters "pedophiles" or "child molesters."

This belief has led to conflicts in fan communities, leading some authors and artists to abandon public participation in fandom. It has also inspired new discussions about "the content we create doesn't reflect our opinions" and "not everything we consume is wrong," especially when antis see "pedophilia" in works without any sexual content.

Comments

Some comments from Reddit users in the article the whole aging up characters debate and Is it really wrong to age up characters to adult age in fics?:

I feel like if people are allowed to de-age all the characters from something so everyone is in highschool it shouldn't be a debate on if we're allowed to age up characters for whatever reason we want. So you do you. It's fine. Just state clearly what you are up to at the start.
— minor character[1]
If you're aging up your characters for other reasons, and your story includes themes about being an adult or adulthood that aren't about sex, I feel as though it would take an enormous leap of logic to arrive at 'aging up these characters and writing about them boning is pedophilia/pedophilia apologism/whatever'... But antis aren't exactly known for good-faith logic so I don't know whether that will shield you from them.
— ArchAngelleofJustice[2]
But I can see the logic of people who find it creepy, I think they're thinking that the author was watching this show with 10-year-olds and thought to themselves "wow they're hot and it would be hot if they banged each other." Like they figure the idea to write a fic like that wouldn't even come into your head if you weren't sexualizing these child characters as you watched the show.
— unnamed user[3]
Basically the only reason people like you age characters up to write/drawn porn of them is because you are thinking, “I would create porn of these children at their canon ages if I didn't get backlash for it” so you age them up to avoid being called a pedo. Do you get it? Fucking child molestor.
— unnamed user[3]

Aging Down

The opposite can also be found. Sometimes when there is a large age gap in a pairing the older character will be aged down slightly in fanworks, to make the pairing more palatable to some fans. Another reason is setting, if it is a High School AU or College AU the age gap has to be restricted to make the scenario plausible.

Archives & Links

References

  1. ^ Comment on the whole aging up characters debate by reddit user minor_character, 2019.
  2. ^ Comment on the whole aging up characters debate by reddit user ArchAngelleofJustice, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Is it really wrong to age up characters to adult age in fics?, Reddit. May 19, 2019 (Accessed 8/2/2020)