The blessed are those who go their whole lives without ever hearing the phrase "fan fiction." Not to disparage its practitioners, of course, but for those of us uninitiated in the world of Ron Weasley erotica, it's an odd concept: A writer chooses already-established "characters," either from real life or someone else's fictional work, and creates their own stories around them.
In some cases – Twilight, Star Trek , One Direction – it makes a strange kind of sense: Fanfic is a way of expanding an otherwise limited universe, imbuing it with your own imagination and (usually sexual) fantasy. In other cases, the motives are a little less obvious.
Take, for example, "The Chosen One," published on the website fanfiction.net. Its subtitle: "While Obama fights TIEs in space, Joe Biden becomes the new Kira." It's 3,818 words long, and was posted in March 2009, about a month after Barack Obama's was sworn into office as the first black president of the United States—a historic milestone in the country's national narrative.
If Obama's inauguration felt like fiction, this story is like dropping acid at Comic-Con if Comic-Con were held on the floor of the Democratic National Convention. From chapter one: "The delicious chocolate man heroically leapt, aided by the all-powerful Force, and landed akimbo on the TIE's cockpit. The door atop its roof opened with a single wave of his fingers, making for a very surprised pilot, dispatched without a hitch."
"When Mitt saw Barack standing there in his elegant silk evening suit, his heart pounding, and his head started spinning."
As much as it seems to be just a weird aberration of the Internet, this is all complementary to what Garance Franke-Ruta wrote about last year in "The Fanfictionalisation of Politics" for The Atlantic . There, Franke-Ruta discusses the ways that we project our own imaginations and beliefs onto serious considerations of political figures and issues. We do the same with our coverage of sports, culture, and viral news as well – we're constantly granting individuals and events symbology, emotional impact, and an imaginary, packaged takeaway. There are many ways to do this – especially online, where we can create an identity more in line with others' than our own more easily than we can in real life. But fan fiction might be the most extreme example: You are, literally, taking control of reality.
"The Chosen One" is one of four stories that come up on fanfiction.net when you search for "Biden." Another has the vice president auditioning for American Idol – I think it's a joke, or maybe just fanfic spam. A third is called "Republican Sexy Rumble Time," and its synopsis is, "Biden-kun meets his match when left alone in the White House with rowdy Republican men! What is a kawaii kawaii Biden-kun to do? (Biden harem, slight smut in name only, and WILL contain the blatant sexualization old white Republican men in which anyone who has a problem can suck my ass?)" I got about halfway through. It was like being screamed at by a naked man in a language that doesn't exist.
"The hot dog, like so much else, was gone from Obama's life... Obama fell to his knees and wept."
A search for "Obama" goes deeper, displaying the full span of American weirdness, depravity, and idle preoccupation. There are 168 hits, ranging in date from around his inauguration to just days ago. A particularly upsetting example involves Jack Donaghy of 30 Rock lusting after Obama's preteen daughters. I can't, in good conscience provide you with a link to this. There are other, slightly less depraved, stories about Obama in love ("How will the country and Michelle respond?"), and Obama in love with Mitt Romney. "When Mitt saw Barack standing there in his elegant silk evening suit, his heart pounding, and his head started spinning," the piece begins. "'Wow,' he thought. 'This is what it must feel like to meet Nixon.' Mitt was in love."
In another piece, titled "When the Oval Office Is Barackin'," aliens fall in love with the president while touring the White House ("They did not make politicians like this back in the colonies.") Others include Obama meeting Hellboy, Obama meeting Gilmore Girls protagonist Rory Gilmore, Buzz Lightyear saving Obama, "an Obama/America Hetalia fanfic," and, of course, Harry Potter and Obama. One particularly poignant piece involves the president becoming disenchanted with America and "disgusted with the American people." He stops sleeping, starts seeing things, and then, in an odd twist, he buys a hot dog that cures him. And because this is fanfic, he realizes "he had to make love to the hot dog." It all ends sadly: "The hot dog, like so much else had gone from Obama's life... Obama lowered his head to his hands and wept."
Other politicians are featured in fanfic as well. Newt Gingrich shows up in one where he runs against, and then marriss, Mitt Romney during an anime election ("'I AM A UNICORN!' Romney yelled at the top of his lungs, shattering the eardrums of 23 people. 'Not again!' Newt yelled.") In another, perhaps less surprising, piece, Romney and his 2012 running mate Paul Ryan fall in love. (Hillary Clinton is surprisingly scarce, though, as are many of the other buzzier 2016 possibilities: Elizabeth Warren, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz. These figures may not have trickled into the consciousness of the mystery authors who write these.)
"'I AM A UNICORN!' Romney yelled at the top of his lungs, shattering the eardrums of 23 men."
These stories seem to be examples of people – the fanfic community tends to be young, but it's hard to know who these writers are – trying to imprint some ideas of their own on American politics, an often inaccessible, almost mythic aspect of culture. The idea isn't to get politicians to notice them: It's to make these political figures a part of their lives, their fantasies. As incredible and incomprehensibly bizarre as some of these narratives are, it's an understandable impulse. Why go through the trouble of writing Barack Obama into a Star Wars mash-up, as a hero in cartoon terms, the kind of hero who hijacks spaceships, unless you're trying to reckon with the fact that you think he's a hero?
The instinct isn't limited to freaky fanfic. While Franke-Ruta sees it in the mainstream media, it's also present in online inspiration shops like Upworthy, Elite Daily, and their imitators. In these viral corners of the internet, you can see publications essentially ascribing narrative and moral takeaways to political events or individuals. Nothing just happens: It happens and it's supposed to make readers feel happy or sad, or teach them something. These emotional signals aren't actually part of the story – they've been added to make the topic more easily understood, and therefore readable. The point is the experience of reading, and less what is being read. That's exactly what's at the heart of fan fiction: It's supposed to entertain or titillate or satisfy you, not provide information or clarity.
With politics as gridlocked and esoteric as it's ever been, there's a growing tendency for people to fill that void with their own impressions and imaginations. If the age of fan fiction has just begun, politicians can now expect to be along for the ride.
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