That's Me In The Spotlight

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Fanfiction
Title: That's Me In The Spotlight
Author(s): burncitybelle
Date(s): 2/6/2014 – 10/3/2014
Length: 212,261 words
Genre: slash, Alternate Universe
Fandom: One Direction
External Links:

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That's Me In The Spotlight (colloquially the Jesus fic) is a Harry/Louis fanfic by burncitybelle. The fic is known in the One Direction fandom for what some thought was a dubiously moral and consensual main relationship, which featured a virgin 16-year-old Harry and a very experienced 32-year-old Louis.

It was deleted from the Archive of Our Own by the author while it was still a WIP in October 2014. PDFs of the existing 28 chapters can be found online.

Summary

"Working in fashion for the past thirteen years has left thirty-two year old Louis Tomlinson privy to the darkness hidden behind glamour, and what he once loved has now left him bitter and jaded. On impulse, he leaves Paris for the very first job that comes along – head of the wardrobe department on a brand-new television show in America. 'Modern Missionary' follows Harry Styles, a religious 16-year-old Texan, on a tour of America. The pitch is simple enough – Harry leads by example, showing the viewers how they too can bring God's light and love to the world around them. Inadvertently, showing Harry to the world also shows the world to Harry; his eyes are opened, not without Louis' help. Harry begins to question everything: his religion, his identity, his values, and his sexuality. How can love be a sin if... cela semble si juste?”

Author’s note:

This isn't any big statement about religion. It's just a story. :) (Maybe a small statement about the small fraction of religions[sic] people who are bigoted etc!)

Deletion

That’s Me In The Spotlight was very popular,[1] but the author received so much backlash from fans who thought the relationship was problematic that it was removed from AO3 before completion. On October 30, 2014, author burncitybelle posted an answered ask on Tumblr:

[flowercrownsandgirlpower]

Where's the Jesus fic gone :((

[zayngeldumottschunard]

Deleted it. Not a single person has approached me wanting to discuss it, but enough are throwing around misconceptions and insults that it’s not worth the stress.

It’s absurd to think that with a major plot point being Harry learning to question what he has been taught, people still think I’m presenting everything in this fic as irrefutably positive. Apparently some folk don’t understand critical thinking or subtext and just wanna be spoon-fed a how-to.

It’s almost the holiday season. Call your mum. Kiss a girl. Don’t be afraid of things that make you think. If you take everything you read as intended gospel you’ll live scared or foolish.

Night night x [2]

Burncitybelle eventually also deleted their Tumblr account as well.

Reactions

The ensuing discussions between those who celebrated its deletion and those who mourned it brought up questions of the author’s responsibility to their audience, authorial intent vs the reader’s interpretation, the role of fiction in shaping a reader’s understanding of the real world, and the place of censorship in fanfiction. These discussions continued for quite a while after the fic was taken down.

Most criticisms of this fic centered around the age difference and wide disparity in experience between Harry and Louis. Some fans interpreted the relationship as manipulative, abusive, or even as statutory rape (the fic is set in the USA, where the age of consent is 18).

These readers were often concerned not only with the fic itself, but with the effect the fic might have on its readers, many of whom were young people, and how these readers might come to view their own relationships due to exposure to the fic:

In my opinion, a 16 year age gap is not something to be condoned, and I’m so tired of people defending it as “it’s just fiction.” Yes, this is on a much smaller scale compared to published work, but it still has influence, just like anything in media. Especially in fandom, where the demographic mainly consists of minors, perpetuating and promoting an age gap this big and influencing the mentality towards it is wrong. Producing any kind of work that depicts children in sexual situations is wrong. Just because it’s fanfiction doesn’t take make it acceptable or dismissible.[3]
i believe it is the obligation of an author, particularly one who writes for a fandom as popular, varied and impressionable as 1d, to do as such. While writing can be an excellent way to explore “taboo” subjects or complex issues, it is important to do so while still maintaining a clear moral, ethical and legal compass.…

Words are not always harmless just because they are words.[4]

what scared me about the fic was not the fic itself, tbh–what i liked about it was well-written smut–it was seeing posts on tumblr that tangibly demonstrated to me that there were young people reading the fic who felt good about getting into relationships with men who were much older than them because jesus fic made it seem like it would all be okay, or even great. it scared me because i know, based on statistics and based on being a human in the world who has experienced things, that for many of them it won’t be okay. young people (especially young girls who make up the majority of 1d fic readers) are sexually coerced and emotionally manipulated by older people every day and it is not sexy and it is not romantic and it is not okay, and the fact that impressionable young people read that fic and might have definitely thought it was makes me sick to my stomach.[5]

Those who did not see the H/L relationship in the fic as inappropriate cited Louis’ initial resistance to the relationship, his habit of constantly explaining everything to Harry, and his waiting for Harry to initiate.

That’s Me In The Spotlight aka the Jesus Fic is like the exact opposite of an abusive relationship. The whole time they focus and consent and freedom and more then anything comfortability. Louis NEVER makes Harry do anything that he doesn’t want to do, gives him full opportunity to say no at any point of there relationship. To do what he feels is best and not continue the abuse that Harry was so used to receiving from his family.[6]
louis was the complete opposite of a predator, he was sweet and caring towards harry and ALWAYS got consent before anything happened between them. not to mention harry is the one who initiated it all to begin with. they talked thoroughly about everything, not just the sexual stuff but their lives and pasts and they really got to know each other and build a friendship. it wasn’t just a grown man seducing a child (except when that ‘child’ clearly and verbally asked for it) it was a story about a man and a boy from two completely different worlds who fell in love and they knew it was technically wrong but still wouldn’t let that stop them from leaning on each other and laughing and growing and learning from each other. it was also very much about a boy finding himself and becoming a better, more mature, and open minded person among the hateful world he grew up in and it was just beautiful.[7]
The jesus fic was a fic called ‘that’s me in the spotlight’ by burncitybelle on ao3. It’s a fic where Harry is a 16yo guy from a really religious family and Louis is a 27 yo (i don’t exactly remember the age tbh) stylist. Harry starts a christian tv show called ‘modern missionary’ and louis is the stylist there. Slowly he understands he likes Louis and he grows up during the story finding what being gay means, that maybe it isn’t a sin like everyone always told him, and that he was born with a really restricted view of life.

This is the plot more or less. A lot of people complained abot the age gap and the religious kink that sometimes is in te fic. I want to tell that this is not about pedophilia, THIS I NOT AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP AND HARRY IS NOT MANIPULATED BY LOUIS in any kind of way. I’ve seen blindfolded people cryticizing it for these reasons, saying that the age gap implies a manipuled realtionship. THIS IS A HIGE BULLSHIT. You can have an abusive realtionship with a person of your same age, that doesn’t mena nothing!!!! I had this friend that when she was 16 she had a 30 yo boyfriend, yeah it seemed weird at the time, but met her last year and now they are merried with a child and really happy, and it’s great to see. I hope you understood the problem [8]

This could be met by other readers claiming that Harry could not be truly informed enough to make a consensual decision:

everything harry knows about sex, he knows from louis (and some brief conversations with his awkward uncle). everything harry knows about being gay, he knows from louis (and again a little bit of uncle action). but nowhere in all the “the sexual ethics you were brought up with are fucked up, be free!!” talk is there a single instance of “hey, you’re probably not going to burn in hell for eternity because you jerked off in a sock, but there are other consequences to being sexual with someone, both physically and emotionally, that you should be aware of in order to make an informed decision about whether or not you’re ready to be intimate with them.”

no, instead tmits!louis encourages harry in his lust, tells him that it’s natural (which it is, for him, cool), and that all he has to do is decide whether or not he wants it. but the whole reason statutory rape laws exist is that young teens don’t have the life experience to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to consent, because they aren’t aware of the fallout that poor sexual choices can have on a person. all tmits!louis seems to do is talk about consent, but he still takes advantage of harry’s inexperience/confusion of lust and consent for his own sexual gratification.[9]

Another opinion usually voiced by the pro-TMITS crowd, even those who admitted the age difference was inappropriate, was along the lines of “don’t like it, don’t read it”:

if you don’t like something, don’t read it. it’s really that simple. there are plenty of underage fics that are actually gross. fanfiction is FICTION. people who write and read it understand, or should, that certain things in fic sometimes aren’t acceptable irl.[10]
Reading it was fine. Why? because you can actually read problematic shit knowing it is problematic.…reading a fic that is problematic is not a problem, not even writing something like that is bad. … So yeah, reading the Jesus fic was not nasty, it was in fact a well written fic…what was nasty was thinking it was not problematic.[11]
Some people obviously thought that their religion (Catholic or Christian in general) was being offended and felt as if they had to defend themselves and their religious beliefs. I think that all the hate mainly was based on people not getting the concept of “don’t like, don’t read”. [12]
It was such a good fic and they destroyed it for us. I really don’t understand why they sent so much hate that she had to take it down. I mean, it’s fine if someone doesn’t agree with underage sex and connecting religion to sex but seriously - what about books? There are also books about these topics, there are books about rape, criminality and brutal stuff so what the hell is a fanfic compared to this? If you don’t like it, close the tab. Stop reading. It could have been so easy. I would have loved to know the end …[13]
i hate that burncitybelle had to abandon and delete the jesus fic (and her entire blog fuck) because of hate

there are fics about rape and murder and people got upset over a 16/32 age gap

let’s talk about Haroline. 17/32 age gap. Or, let’s not, because I don’t want to be that guy but I’m pretty sure that the fact it was a gay story influenced it whether people realised or not[14]

TMITS was also defended on the basis that the author’s intent was not problematic.

they said gazillion of times how things are and they are not how people make them out to be. … , I went to the source,asked about the fic and it’s nothing like people made it out to be.[15]
Now that it’s been established that any claims that this book endorse a manipulative relationship are shaky, I want to say this: when an author puts their work into the world, it immediately becomes the property of the masses.

People can and will interpret (and misinterpret) something in every way possible. This is why an author is sort of responsible for the effect their book has on the world, but not really. You can’t control what other people think, and so as long as there is no solid proof that the material is inherently problematic, the author should not be held responsible for how readers choose to interpret their work. Neither should their work be censored because of misinterpretation.

Saying that you’re “glad the fic has been deleted” is like standing and watching someone burn a book and applauding.[16]

Further Reading

See Also

References

  1. The last snapshot of the AO3 title page from the Wayback Machine on 29 August 2014 shows 107974 hits, 2829 kudos, 696 comments, and 834 bookmarks – and this was two months before it was deleted.
  2. Author's statement, preserved in digginginfluff's reblog (also deleted).
  3. tommostea, July 2015 Tumblr post
  4. lou-makemetea, October 2014 Tumblr post
  5. socioeconomicallygay, October 2014 Tumblr post
  6. larryxlarrie, March 2015 Tumblr post
  7. bus1forlife, October 2014 Tumblr post
  8. aki-anyway, October 2015 Tumblr post
  9. socioeconomicallygay, October 2014 Tumblr post
  10. loucherri, October 2014 Tumblr post
  11. mommyeleanor, 2015 Tumblr post
  12. writing-about-larry, February 2015 Tumblr post
  13. lovemylarry, May 2017 Tumblr post
  14. grilledisak, January 2015 Tumblr post
  15. karukara, September 2014 Tumblr post
  16. bakagamieru, October 2014 Tumblr post