The Value of Fan Made Works
There are a myriad of ways that we as people express art. Painting, drawing, and writing are examples of the different ways that people express their creativity and passion. But there is a subculture within these various mediums and that subculture are fan produced works such as fan fiction, fan art, and other fan reproductions. These fan productions are works that are based off of novels, TV shows, or movies and are oftentimes regarded as inferior to so called “original” works because of that fact. It is no secret that the general public views things made by fans as something to be looked down upon and the general public just accepts it because after all it is just some childish hobby that has no place in the “adult world”. But why do we think like this? Isn’t it odd that we think that something is less valuable simply because a fan made it as homage or reinterpretations of the fandoms that they are a part of? I say that this sort of thinking is a misjudgment and that these fan made works are not inferior to their source material but instead, should be, regarded as important as the sources that they are based on.
The one of the most common things that people say about fan made materials are that they are childish and immature. They are things that people write, draw, read, make, or view simply for leisurely purposes and are not “serious” literature or art. But that sort of thinking is, to me, a fallacy because some of the most celebrated works in history can be considered fan works and have also come to be regarded as influential and “mature” work. For instance, Paradise Lost, the epic poem detailing the fall of Adam and Eve, is basically a fan fiction based off of the Bible and yet despite that it is regarded as a serious and influential piece of literature that is even on high school required reading lists. People have written essays about it, have analyzed the meaning behind it, and have even been inspired by the epic and people do not see it as some sort of inferior work despite being an imagining of the Bible. But Paradise Lost isn’t the only thing that has been adapted from something else, many paintings and sculptures made during the Renaissance are also taken from images or events that were described in the Bible and yet would anyone dare to say that Michelangelo’s Pieta is undeserving of being an incredible work of art because of this fact? Of course one can argue that the Bible has both religious and cultural significance and therefore any material derived from it shouldn’t be classified as fan made, but isn’t that what it really is? After all isn’t that what all fan productions are classified as, something that is made that uses and depicts characters or settings from already published media outlet?
Another argument against placing value in fan productions is the fact that they don’t make any money and are not marketable. While it is true that many fan artists and writers don’t charge to view or read their work, fan works are indeed marketable. Quite a few fan artists offer up their art for sale to the general public at conventions and on the internet. The artists depict scenes from games, movies, TV, and other media and can make a decent amount of money off of their art. If that is not enough to convince people that these fan productions can make profit then what about Japan’s doujinshi industry. Doujinshi is a term used to describe manga comics made by fans that are usually based off of manga and anime series’ made by “real” authors and artists. The creation of these fanmade manga is not only common in Japan but also accepted as a practice with many people buying doujinshi even if they are not official manga comics with some doujinshi creators’ even recording sales of over 1000 copies in the space of a single convention. This goes to show that, while many fans may not sell their work, there is some profit that can be made from the fan works which makes the argument of them having no worth, because they don’t make money, a baseless and unfounded accusation.-
But there are those that argue against it due to the fact that fan made creations can encounter copyrighting issues I must acknowledge the fact that occasionally there will be people who will cross the line and eventually encounter legal problems. Due to their very nature, fan produced works can be considered a copyright violation especially when it comes to writing fanfiction. There are not many legal issues with fanfiction, fan art, and the like when they are being published and made for nonprofit and for enjoyment as the fair use laws protect such publications so long as they don’t attempt to deprive financial rights from the creators of the original sources, completely copy or attempt to pass of their work as the original work. But this is a different story for works that are sold to the general public. Copyrights can be violated easily especially when people are not careful if the makers of the fan works are not explicit in the fact that they themselves do not own the rights to the original source and don’t credit the ones who did. This problem has become such a big deal that a few authors have requested that people not make fanfiction of their work in respect for their original content. However, there are others who do not mind when fans make their own stories or artwork of their creations. In fact quite a few endorse the practice and consider it free advertisement which benefits them. But the fact that fan made works have generated so much consideration just proves how much of an impact that it has and just emphasizes all the more that it is not something that should be dismissed so casually as unimportant.
Of course there is the argument that things produced by fans are just not good. After all many are amateurs or just are not skilled to produce works that meet standards of today’s society and I agree. Of course not everything made by fans are amazing masterpieces that should be regarded as the pinnacle of creative expression. If one were to call the senseless erotica Fifty Shades of Grey, which was originally a Twilight fanfiction, one of the greatest accomplishments in literary history then I would be one of the first in line to argue otherwise. Not every fan produced work will be award worthy and some are genuinely bad but there are also bad books, movies, tv shows, and the like and yet we don’t think that there are no great movies or that there are no great books and so on. It just doesn’t make sense to consider every bit of art, novel, film, and the like to be regarded as great works that deserve accolades and acclaim throughout the world and many are just simply good not amazing not terrible just decent and this same thought applies to fan produced works and yet only one is looked down upon. So why don’t we just stop considering fan made materials as something that is inherently inferior to their original sources and just accept the fact that they are things made by fans that should be thought of as something that can be significant and not as terrible as one might think.