Bandom and the Fourth Wall
|Related terms:||Fourth Wall (glossary term), RPF, Tinhats and the Fourth Wall|
|See also:||Bandom (Decaydance+, My Chemical Romance), MCR, FOB, P!atD, Cobra Starship|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
The Fourth Wall in Bandom has been described as being "more like a fringe curtain." There exist numerous occurrences of bands acknowledging fandom and commenting on fan activities, as well as extensive debate amongst fans as to appropriate behaviour relating to maintaining the Fourth Wall - or not.
Band Member Reactions
On New Year's Eve 2007, a post from the Empires official Myspace to drummer Ryan Luciani consisted solely of a direct quote from a (now-friendslocked) NC-17 Tom Conrad/Bob Bryar LiveJournal fanfic. Furthermore, the timestamp of the Myspace comment corresponds to an anonymous comment left on the fic, containing only the phrase "Just beautiful." It is generally thought that it was Tom Conrad (Empires guitarist, ex-TAI) himself who left the comments, though it conceivably may have been anyone who had access to the account.
Question: What is the craziest rumor you've heard about yourself?
Alex Suarez: What's that stuff called? Fan... Fan fiction. [...] So, there's one that's like, Ryland and Alex got into a fight - cause they always do that. So Gabe says, why are you guys fighting? But it turns out we're actually having sex in the middle of the bunks, I guess.
Vicky-T, in the background: Which, you know, happens regularly.
Alex: [unintelligible] we just get naked and bang each other, which is pretty sweet. But I thought the funniest part about it though is, they really make me seem like a bitch. [...] How do they figure this stuff out? I mean, not that it's true, but.
Vicky-T: You know, Alex after he read it, he wasn't like 'oh, this is so gross,' he was like, 'why do they make me out to look like the bitch? Why am I getting fucked? [...]
Question: Do you guys actually read any of it?
Q: All of you? Do all of you do it?
Alex: Yeah, we usually sit down and read together over like, hot chocolate in the morning.
Question: So what's your favourite fanfiction pairing?
Alex: There's some really crazy ones, where people create these scenarios from their favourite dudes in bands. It's like, I stole Ryan Ross from Pete Wentz. I thought that was pretty funny. I was flattered that they thought of me. Maybe I would steal Ryan Ross from Pete Wentz, you know, why not? So I thought that was pretty sweet. I just got so excited that they were like, "yeah, let's throw Alex Suarez something."
ha, this is amazing guys, a fan sent this to me. You have quite the imagination! Reading this stuff is so entertaining. Stockings are my favorite so good call on that ...
thanks for the entertainment while we're on the road.
If you know the person or are the person who's writing those graphic novels about us, please, keep 'em coming. I want that shit in stores on the shelves because I think it would sell.
Live and Let Live
A number of Bandom members have reacted to fanfiction and shipping in an "as long as I don't have to see it" manner, sometimes acknowledging that fans themselves might prefer to maintain the fourth wall. For example:
In an interview about their responses to fanfiction:
Frank Iero: I've heard about it, I tend not to read it, I don't know. I think that, one, I would be [hesitates] creeped out by reading about myself as a character in something? And then I would probably creep out the kids that write it, because they don't want me to read it.
Ray Toro: I mean that it's cool that kids are being creative and kind of exploring their creativity, so.
Mikey Way: Someone sent me a link to one, it was about me and my brother, got one paragraph in, read something, exited the box and that's the end of me reading fanfiction.
Ray Toro, laughing: Stop making us have sex with each other in your fanfiction!
Gerard has reacted to questions about fanfiction on Twitter emphasizing that he didn't mind as long as it remained fiction and "non offensive" (which obviously is subjective.)
On April 26, 2016, Gerard changed his twitter avatar to a carton of milk, and his name to "Milk Friend." This must have prompted followers to talk to him about infamous P!atD shock fic "Milk", also known as "The Milk Fic." Gerard responded by seemingly reading the fic and giving further opinions on fic and shipping:
My point is, I'm ok with fandoms. I spent a lot of years being upset about fics+ships and there's no point to it. I learned to laugh at it.
And I understand why it exists. People that are fans of something don't want to be told how to enjoy something.
And as long as you remain respectful to these people in person and online, express yourself. Enjoy how you enjoy.
Fall Out Boy
Patrick Stump of FOB has addressed fanfiction and shipping in many tweets, usually to reinforce how fake it is and even to enforce the Fourth Wall himself against fan questions, often in a humorous, meta way.
Panic! at the Disco
Fans will write these borderline — not even borderline — just straight-up creepy stories,” he said. “I read a couple of them and I was like, ‘This is how you’re spending your free time? This is so weird. You have to realize this is weird. It’s very strange.’ But freedom of speech, it’s a beautiful thing I guess.
Around the time Brendon began using Vine, he began to interact very directly with fans online through livestreams, on which he read comments and took questions. Coupled with a resurgence of fandom interest in Ryden, this resulted in an extreme breakdown of the Fourth Wall. Many fans had no qualms about asking Brendon if Ryden had been real (which he denied repeatedly), about his awareness of fanworks and his views on them, strange fan interactions, and much more.
The fourth wall around the extremely popular Ryden epic fanfiction The Heart Rate of a Mouse and the many people who appear in it has been broken multiple times. It has been mentioned on twitter by Dallon Weekes, Jon Walker, Vicky T and others. Vicky T and Keltie (Ryan's ex-girlfriend) are said to have read the fic. The writer, Anna Green has asked that fans of THROAM respect and not deliberately breach the fourth wall. Ryan Ross's Instagram comments are frequently inundated with references to the fic and comments about Ryden.
It can be speculated that all popular Bandom members are getting the same kind of questions about fandom and fanfiction, and that those who have not responded publicly have done so by choice. However it's obviously impossible to know whether this means they disapprove or hope that the questions will go away if they never respond.
Excerpt from a 2008 meta post posted by olivia-circe in reaction to Vicky-T's comment on her story:
Once I've written the story, it's out there for the world to see, and as much as I would rather everything was walled in behind enormous signs reading "Fannish Subculture Only," I did know what I was getting into. Kind of. I'm not actually as calm about this as I sound, and there's still about 10% of me that sort of wants to throw up, or go into lockdown, or hide under my bed. Any of those things could still potentially happen. On the other hand, props to Vicky-T for having the guts - or the LJ manners, or whatever - to comment, and to sign her name to the comment. In the end, I don't really know which of us is crazier: the person who wrote the pornographic fanfiction about real people, or the real person person who read - and replied - to the pornographic fanfiction about herself. Let's go with option three: the person who thought it was a good idea to send the story to the story's star.
Have I learned my lesson? Will I stop writing porn about real people? Not a chance. Will I be thinking about what this means for a good long time? Damn right I will.
Meta to be developed:
While people in fandom may write or create things that aren’t rated PG, Flattery said fangirls often have a strong sense of what is appropriate when interacting with band members. For example, she cited the case of a fan comic called The Gay Starfish about an obviously fictional relationship between two male My Chemical Romance members.
“It was extremely popular to the point that the author published it online,” she said. “However, she found out that a fan took that comic and made the band members aware of it. It’s at that point that she basically shut it down.”
- Fan debates: are 4th wall breaks a big deal?
On the one hand: flattered/excited/happy fan comments (cf "you're a hero for asking this", "i love it when bands talk about us," "I wanna know if they've read one of my fics" etc.) in original post of original Alex Suarez discussing fic post
On the other hand:
I worry about people who take the fact that the fourth wall in bandom is more like a fringe curtain and do their best to decimate it. Not because I don't think that the bands are aware of bandom (because all of them have admitted to seeing, if not reading, the fic), but because in the minds of some people if you believe that the fanon is true, it will, eventually, be true. That's my line insofar as I have one.
I don't care if Pete Wentz reads my Pete/Patrick story. I really kind of don't, but I do care if MaryBethSueRogers writes a story and believes it to be true to the point that she's threatening Pete Wentz because he's cheating on Patrick with Ashlee. You know what I mean?"
The main issue for me is which side the fourth wall breaking is coming from. If it’s coming from the celebs? Okay, whatever, Cobra Starship reads fic with breakfast, Franz Ferdinand finds fic flattering (and Alex Kapranos actually seems to understand the workings of the fic-writing subculture, which I appreciate immensely — especially given that they were given rentboy fic, which is not exactly a… gentle introduction???) (also the fic was bad), yada yada. If a fan is breaking the fourth wall? Nope. Stop. DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200, PLEASE RE-EVALUATE YOUR STANDARDS OF RESPECTFUL BEHAVIOUR.
Cobra interviews where Alex complains he’s always written as a bottom was okay, the Ryden Exists signs were not. Let them go as far as they want (or don’t) into fandom cultures, don’t force it on them.
We're dancing on a very fine line with bandom - both on a legal and on a personal level - and I feel some people have yet to develop a sense of tact in this regard. Even if you say that you would be comfortable with having fanfiction written about you and have people come up to you to tell you about it, hand you weird signs, even if you're ok with that, it doesn't mean that those boys and girls in the bands are. [...]
The fact that they don't openly protest against this when confronted with fandom - albeit, Panic, at least, has expressed their dislike in interviews before - doesn't mean that they approve, encourage or even agree. It just means that they're not lacking the sense of politeness and tact that some fans seem to be missing.
I don’t think I’ve been this viscerally embarrassed of a fandom since the “Ryden Exists” sign, jfc.
Ryan Ross has nothing to do with the Ryan Ross that I write about, beyond a physical resemblance or a few biographical similarities; so why the hell would I want to show the character that I write to the real person?
The Ryan Ross (or whoever it is that day when I open up Word to start writing) in my head is not the same as the Ryan Ross walking around on stage.
He's a patchwork Everyman of thread and interviews and stage appearances and seminude pics he posted to a comm when he was 16.
they are different, obviously. as a writer, of fiction, previous to this, and of RPS, these people are a base. just like the writer who bases a character in a novel off of a friend that they once knew, or the elusive neighbor down the street, we use their papercut appearances, parts of their life experience, things that we can piece together of their personality, but we take liberty. we extend and shift and fill in the holes until this two dimensional persona is a three dimensional person.
IMO, when it comes to rps/rpf, in general you have about 5% reality, 75% assumption, and 20% copying from other people's assumptions. This is actually awesome for readers because you get a broader array of stories to read.
Adjusting Fandom to Tumblr
Zack Hall, Panic!’s tour manager/nanny, was a member of the first (now mostly dead) Panic! fan community. He commented occasionally. We knew he was there. He technically kicked a little hole in the fourth wall, doing that, but it was a tiny hole, and also, not the same as a bandmember displaying awareness of the community by commenting.
His presence enabled the flow of information: he could tell us what kinds of things to bring to M&Gs, we could sound the alarm if we (collectively) thought there was something hinky going on. He could also, presumably, pass our reactions to merch and songs on to the band.
Now we have Tumblr, where the tags are the community, and the collective effect is the merging of personal journals, fan communities and fanwork communities into one diffuse cloud.
Track the tag, and you get it all: cooing, grumbling, criticism, derogatory comments about partners and friends, fic, news announcements, etc.
The problem with this is that anyone who tracks the tag - even the performer or his/her people - get all of it, too. The fourth wall effectively falls down.
Some Bandom fans responded to all the fourth-wall-breaking incidents by writing fanfiction about it.
- gibson-fic, Meta: What About RPF?
- kalpurna. Just beautiful. 4 January 2008. (Accessed 23 January 2011.)
- pyraterose. Cobra Starship Discusses Fan Fiction Youtube video, posted 25 November 2007. (Last accessed Sept 14, 2014)
- victoriaja. from Vickyt. 13 February 2008. (Accessed 23 January 2010.)
- tobykins. All Time Low Talking About Fan-Fic. 19 January 2008. (Accessed Sept 14, 2014)
- Frank Iero, Ray Toro, Mikey Way in MCR responds to fanfiction, posted on YouTube June 13, 2007 (last accessed Sept 14, 2014)
- Gerard way tweet, Apr 26, 2016, 17:57, retrieved May 3, 2016
- Gerard way tweet, Apr 26, 2016, 18:00, retrieved May 3, 2016
- Gerard way tweet, Apr 26, 2016, 18:05, retrieved May 3, 2016
- Brendon Urie, in John R. Kennedy, WATCH: An interview with Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, published Sept 16, 2013 on globalnews.ca
- @DallonWeekes have you ever read The Heart Rate of a Mouse, DEC 2015
- ...what is Throam?, JAN 2018
- The heart rate of a mouse ... 😈, MAR 2018
- citations needed
- olivia-circe, An Essay on Fandom and Celebrity Interactions, posted to LJ Feb 14, 2008 (Retrieved Sept 14, 2014).
- afangirlperspective, Interview with a Fangirl: The Basics of Bandom
- gibson-fic, Meta: What About RPF?
- frailspells (deleted URL) response to 'Am I the only one who thinks this fourth wall shit is exactly that…shit?' Tumblr post, preserved in May 17, 2012 reblog
- winterfuckingsoldier, Tumblr reblog & commentary
- flimsy, do NOT break the fourth wall, posted to LJ Aug 28, 2013
- swansontammy in response to Glee fourth wall breaks, Oct 31, 2011
- Thinky thoughts about the Wall Of Some Kind, stele3 (13 August 2008)
- Comment, Magdalyn (14 August 2008)
- Comment, gingerrstar (14 August 2008)
- Comment, IAWTP (13 August 2008)
- sailorstkwrning, thoughts on the loss of the Internet fourth wall, posted on Tumblr Nov 3, 2013 (accessed Sept 20, 2014).
- later posted to AO3