The cultural economy of Real Person fandom, or how I learned to love the Joe Biden toploader TikTok.
Oppenheimer will probably win some Oscars but the lasting impact the movie has had on me, a person who never got around to seeing it, is the encouragement it has provided to a small community of people on Twitter who are yaoi-fangirl-obsessed with the scientists of Los Alamos and associated political figures of the mid-20th century, including Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. As the poets say, when God sings with his creations, will a fujoshi not be part of the choir?
I’m not going to blow up their spot by linking because I’m not about that, but you might have already seen this one, which if you believe X’s view metrics has been seen over two hundred eighty thousand times:
If you’ve been online for any amount of time, you’ll have learned (willingly or not) that people can be fans of anything, and with all the fixin’s: from collecting memorabilia and media on the low end of the scale, to writing slash fic way up there on the high end.
Politician fanfic is one of those things that gets dug up every election cycle to point and laugh at for clicks—can you believe that someone is writing Donald Trump/Vladimir Putin on AO3???? Wow fricking bonkers!!!! Meanwhile, one might be tempted to say, Curtis Sittenfeld is sitting on piles of cash from doing essentially the same thing. But one would be incorrect to say that. While mainstream fiction about real people might have some passing similarity to the fanfiction subgenre of “Real Person Fiction,” they’re created for different reasons, written for different audiences, and exist in completely different contexts. And my argument here is: that matters. Things fans do, which are superficially the same as things non-fans do, are in fact different because they are being done by fans in a context of what John Fiske in 1992, drawing on the work of Bordieu, influentially dubbed the “cultural economy of fandom.”