Don’t write George Floyd fanfiction

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Title: Don't write George Floyd fanfiction
Creator: u/awk_quirk
Date(s): June 24, 2020
Medium: Posted on Reddit to /r/fanfiction
Fandom: Panfandom
Topic: Respect, Race and Fandom, Real World Events in Fanworks
External Links: the original post, archived version
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Don't write George Floyd fanfiction is a short post by reddit user awk_quirk, posted to the /r/fanfiction subreddit. The post addressed the small number of fanfics written about the recent death of George Floyd. The post was tagged as venting.

Within a week of posting, the post has received over 400 upvotes and over 90 comments, many in agreement with the original post. As of July 1, 2020, 94% of the votes on the post were upvotes. The comment section is full of discussion teasing out the general etiquette of writing about real tragedies and events in fanfiction. Some fans responded with the principle that anything goes when fanfic is used to cope.

The Post

"I’ve been wanting to make this post for awhile, but it’s gotten to the point where I need to make a statement.

There is (was? I’m not sure if the creator took it down.) a fanfiction where the avengers mourn George Floyd’s death, and while I see the sentiment I feel like it’s still an icky thing to do. The focus shifts from racist American structures and police brutality to a group of superhumans mourning this man as if this was an angst fic.

There was another post where someone (who has now apologized and is a minor) posted an elaborate headcanon of their fav BNHA character either stopping George Floyd’s murder or getting his killer arrested, something along those lines.

I mean, I get it. No one wanted this to happen and the fact that we all have to face such a travesty is hard to do. I also understand that fanfiction is a coping mechanism for people to work out their feelings. However, I feel like there’s a certain amount of propriety with a man’s death and fanfiction that shouldn’t overlay. At least, it shouldn’t be expressed online.

Don’t write George Floyd fanfiction and don’t use police brutality as a way to ‘uwu-itized’ your faves. I know there are edgy people who write stuff like that to stir up others emotions, but to the people who think this is the way to go about coping, please do not do it.

I’m sorry if this case out accusatory or if this breaks the rules, but I think enough is enough, you know?"


[u/AdelaCathcart] "It's in poor taste and I certainly wouldn't write it or read it, but I also can't claim to know what goes on in the hearts of people who do. Every time a celebrity dies some mawkish newspaper cartoonist draws Ziggy and the Statue of Liberty and Mickey Mouse weeping at the funeral. Victor von Doom canonically shed tears over 9/11. Let the Avengers mourn George Floyd if that's how some nobody fanfic writer needs to grieve."

"I had to sit with this for a moment because I have a few different thoughts.

I'm old enough that I was reading fanfiction when 9/11 happened, and I remember the AVALANCHE of cringy fics that popped up over the next weeks. So many of them were obviously written by people who had never been to New York, never been in a skyscraper, and never grappled with the idea that not Muslims were hijackers. And a country, even young kids who had never been in a big city had really experienced something that day.

I think that's the difference with Floyd. That's his individual story, and to fictionalize it so soon is wrong. However, I wouldn't have any problem with someone writing about the protests or the fallout, because that's something we are all experiencing as a country. It's the difference between using Anne Frank in your fic and using the Holocaust."
"To be honest, even when real publications like DC and Marvel made issues talking about 9/11 it felt pretty cringe."
"I had blocked that out. There was a lot of cringe tv episodes, movies, et cetera. We will get some cringe-y stuff about the protests, the virus, et cetera in the coming months from “official” channels. I expect an onslaught of quarantine love stories, and love stories set during the protests from traditional publishers."


"I think what makes a lot of us uncomfortable over this, myself included, is that it's a completely different story at that point. Instead of a retelling or contextualizing the story, you essentially erase this person's story. Horrid things happen in life, and I am 100% for using writing as a way to cope, but writing a tragic event so that it doesn't happen is erasure. If it is minors writing these, I think this is a good lesson to learn about what kind of stories you want to tell, but you shouldn't rewrite a real person's story. Maybe retell, but rewriting is in poor taste.

Previous commentors hit the nail on the head by pointing out that if you were to write stories where a shared experience was had by a large group, and use that as context for a story, then the story would have more meaning.

It is VERY hard to tread that thin line of using real life historical or current figures in a fictional setting, especially if it's a retelling of their story. Usually I only see this done well when it's a historical character but in a fantastical or sci-fi setting, without completing erasing their story."
"I agree with all of this. Writing a story about this is incredibly tasteless and makes the deaths of so many Black Americans into a joke - or it feels that way."
[u/faithcathh] "yeah, this is something that's happened for YEARS. i was just starting to read fics when the sandy hook school shooting happened, and i remember someone wrote a fic about that rise of the guardians movie that came out in 2012 where jack frost like saved the victims (they used the real names and everything) and... needless to say it wasn't handled very well. that's not to say that fic writers can't tackle issues like this though. there have been professionally published books and tv shows/movies tackling events like school shootings, 9/11 and other things in this category that are pretty well done imo. i think there's a difference between telling the story and, as others in the thread have said, using your faves to change history, especially since we're still living through the effects of that event today."

[u/Melosthe] "I do think people should be allowed to write what they want to write, but to think more about posting it or not.

I can understand the idea that writing this "power fantasy" might help you cope with the situation, but as soon as it's posted, there's this intent of your story being "seen", being "read".

It goes over the "coping" method because you're trying to get readers to see your story. As doing so, you're at risk of having readers who are actually deeply concerned and/or traumatized by those real life events and feel like their pain / their issues are being co-opted for a few kudos and comments.

I'm always cautious about using real-life events in my writing. Especially some as "fresh" (sorry if it's not the good word, not native speaker) as George Floyd's death. Jesus, I feel like it just happened. It's disturbing.

Long story short, I'm all for "write what you want", but know that once it's posted, people will read it and it might be potentially triggering / upsetting.

I have myself written a few things that I never posted because I knew that I didn't want anyone to read it, but it made me feel good to write it."

"There's definitely a conversation to be had about when and how it's ok to use real, traumatic events in fic. Like, depending on how it was done, a fic featuring the Avengers dealing with the reality of racism and police brutality in the US, and their part in that system as (onetime) members of SHIELD and how to address the issues without centring themselves could possibly be a nuanced look at current events. On the other hand, rewriting history so your fave singlehandedly stops racism by saving Floyd is super tone deaf and completely misunderstands what's going on.

Fansplaining talked about this a while ago, and they discussed who gets to write about traumatic events. For someone who's been through Katrina, setting a fic in that time and place might be a way of processing and contextualising their experience through a fannish lens. On the other hand, the infamous Supernatural Haiti Doctors fic was super exploitative of an event that devastated an entire country and continues to have ramifications to this day. When an event is so global, who has a legitimate right to write about it, and in what context?

I think it's fine as long as it's carefully and not frivolously done. If our characters are based in the real world, real world events are going to effect them. I may be biased though, because I do have a fic centred around a similarly awful event. I still waffle sometimes on whether I should have kept it to myself, but ultimately I felt that we as a fandom had to reconcile the character we love with the reality of the organization he works for. And through the character, I wanted to say goodbye to childish notions of the Mounties as a slightly goofy force for good.

I guess my thoughts are that people need to tread very carefully when the topics include real events and very real trauma, but like everything else, it's hard to be gatekeepy about this because we can't know where the author is coming from."
"That’s an interesting point. Plenty of novels reference events like 9/11, natural disasters, school shootings, etc. I think there’s a big difference between writing about the aftermath of a tragedy versus using your faves to rewrite history. Obviously, in both published works and fanfiction, when real events are involved, things are often altered and edited to fit a narrative, but something so specific (such as George Floyd’s death in this case) just feels icky to me. I agree that we all need to be very careful with how we address real life events, while also avoiding complete censorship. There’s a line a balance to be kept between creativity and being tasteful, and ultimately that’ll be different for everyone."
This is a big assumption that rewriting history is the intention of these writers. I've said elsewhere that the Jewish writers of Superman in the 1940s weren't expecting to end antisemitism or rewrite history when they drew him punching Hitler in the face. Same goes for Captain America. We also don't know if these writers are black and using fanfiction as a form of escapism where a super hero (someone who is strong enough) is there to bring justice to the world. And frankly, an anime fanfic posted on tumblr or a fanfic site can't rewrite history.